the weblog of Alan Knox

Patrick of Ireland Was No Saint

Posted by on Mar 17, 2011 in church history | 6 comments

Patrick of Ireland Was No Saint

I mean, how could someone who is celebrated with large quantities green beer and corned beef and turning rivers green be a saint?

But, in reality, my status is both true and false.

First, it’s true because Patrick was never canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, and so he is not officially a “Saint.” However, he does have a feast day (March 17, of course).

You see, Patrick lived in Scotland and Ireland around the 5th century (~387 – ~493) before the Bishop of Rome (Pope) formally sent a representative to the British Isles. (Of course, Christianity was already there, but that’s beside the point.) There were no bishops or cardinals or any other church officials to officially canonize Patrick.

So, while Patrick is venerated by the Orthodox Church (especially English speaking Orthodox churches), the Roman Catholic Church never granted sainthood status to him.

This is very interested to me. Besides St. Nicholas (Santa Clause) and St. Valentine (who is probably a conglomeration of many people), more people in American culture probably know “Saint Patrick” more than any other “Saint.” In fact, many people now call “Saint Valentine’s Day” simply “Valentine’s Day.” But, it’s still “Saint Patrick’s Day.” Except, Patrick is not a Saint.

Or is he? You see, in another way, Patrick is a saint.

While the legends state that Patrick removed all snakes from Ireland, he is actually known most for his evangelism. In fact, he was an apostle, being sent from Scotland to Ireland to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, where did Patrick go first? To his master.

You see, when Patrick was a teenager in Scotland, he was not interested in God, although his parents tried to teach him.  He was captured in a pirate raid and sold into slavery in Ireland. While he served his master as a shepherd, he began to pray fervently and developed a deep love for God.

After six years of slavery, he escaped (or was released) and returned to Scotland. Once he returned, he sensed God telling him to return to Ireland and to proclaim the gospel there. So, he went.

So, by all accounts, Patrick was a “saint” in the sense that the word is used in Scripture. That is, Patrick was one of God’s children who are set apart from the world. He was a “holy one” – a saint.

Was Patrick a saint? Well, not officially according to the Roman Catholic Church.

But, he was a saint in the only way that’s really important. He was a saint because God called him out of the world to become one of his children.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-17-2011

    The crazy thing about this is how accurate the kids Veggie Tales story on St. Patrick is! Prior to reading this post, the Veggie Tales story was the only history I had ever been given on the guy and I literally knew everything you said in this post! So funny!


  2. 3-17-2011


    I’m not familiar with that Veggie Tales video. Which one is it?


  3. 3-17-2011

    you can watch it here but I just rewatched it and it does imply that he was made a Saint although it never does say that exactly. Funny though!

  4. 3-17-2011

    St. Patrick is a saint. The formal canonization process didn’t come about until about the 12th century, at which point St. Patrick was already said to be a saint by his own Bishop. Saints (with a big S) are simply members of the body of Christ in Heaven. So yes, Catholics consider him to be a saint.

  5. 3-17-2011


    Thanks for the link.


    I knew I could count on your for straightening out my Catholic history. :)

    You said, “Saints (with a big S) are simply members of the body of Christ in Heaven.” I didn’t realize that. I can’t wait to see Saint Mary and Saint Mildred (my grandmothers) – among other Saints – when I get to heaven. So, what’s all the stuff going on with the previous pope?


  6. 3-18-2011

    Getting Church history straight is my thing.

    I don’t presume to know the state of your grandmothers’ souls. It’s not my place to judge that.

    Your last question is too vague for me to answer. Happy feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem!