ENTERED HEAVEN IN 461
When Patrick came to evangelize Ireland (which means he brought the Christian message to the Irish), The Celtic priests had a lock on the people’s hearts and minds, and the many small kingdoms were ruled by fearsome, power-mongering kings. They terrorized the neighboring islands by raiding villages near the sea, killing the men, abusing women, and enslaving the children. Some sources indicate that they practiced human sacrifice; all agree that magic of an advanced degree was the order of the day. Hardly the portrait of a people primed to welcome the gospel. In fact, a few years before Patrick began his mission, Pope St Celestine had sent the learned and talented Palladius to preach to the Irish, but he made no progress and saw no good prospects. After less than a year he retired hopelessly to Scotland, where, miserable, he died.
So why was Patrick able to make so much progress? Indeed, why did his thirty-year missionary effort result in the wholesale conversion of all Ireland to the Catholic faith (as all historical witnesses concur)? If you read his “Confession” (a sort of autobiography and description of the work God had done in and through him), one characteristic stands out: his utter confidence in the love and the power of God. He wrote it in his later years (he died when he was about 70), but even just a couple sentences hint at the immense challenges that he constantly faced, as well as the secret to his inexhaustible determination and incomparable fecundity: “Daily I expect either a violent death or to be robbed and reduced to slavery or the occurrence of some such calamity… I have cast myself into the hands of the Almighty God, for he rules everything; as the Prophet says, ‘Cast your cares upon the Lord, and he himself will sustain you.’”
This wisdom had not come to him easily. Growing up in England, he had learned the basics of the faith, but had no interest in it. When he was 14, an Irish raiding party captured him and made him a slave. He spent the next six years of his life as a slave to a sheep owner in Ireland. He lived outdoors in the harsh mountains where he tended his master’s sheep. There, in solitude, he learned to pray and open his heart to God. He ran away from his slavery when he turned 20, and returned to England. God put it in his heart, however, to return Ireland in order to bring the Christian faith. It seems he went to France (called Gaul then) to study, learn to deepen his spiritual life, and become a priest. At about the age of forty he returned to the country that would ever after claim him as their own, sent by God to lead them into Christian light.
That is a Christian apostle. The growth of Christ’s kingdom won’t come from those who merely dream about changing people’s hearts while doing nothing, but it will come from saints, because only saints trust more in God than in themselves. (Source: Emails from Uncle Eddie: catholic.net)