St. Patrick, his life, his heroic virtues, his labours, and the fruits of his labours
by Rev. Henry Gibson, 1881
The great St. Patrick, who was sent by the Pope, four hundred years after our Blessed Lord, to preach the gospel to the Irish, found them a prey to gross superstition and idolatry. In the course of his apostolic journeys, he arrived at the hill of Tara on Easter Eve, the very day on which the false priests of the country, called Druids, were performing on that sacred spot the ceremonies of their false god Baal, in presence of King Leogaire and all his court. According to the ancient law of the country, no fire could be lighted on that day before the sacred fire of Baal had been kindled ; and the Druids had warned the King that, if this were done, the person who lighted the unlawful flame would subdue the land, and change the customs and religion of the people. St. Patrick, however, in performing the solemn office of the Church, blessed the sacred fire, as is usual on Easter Eve, and lighted the Paschal candle. The Druids, observing the strange light, came to the King in the greatest consternation, and begged that he would immediately order it to be extinguished. Thereupon the King, summoning his armed horsemen, rode in anger to the spot, but was met by St. Patrick and his attendants, who came forth in procession, singing the praises of God. The King, touched by God’s grace, received him with courtesy, and granted him an audience, which took place on the following morning. At this conference, which was attended by all the chieftains and Druids of the neighbourhood, St. Patrick delivered a full explanation of Catholic doctrine, which was followed by the conversion of many of his hearers, and soon after by that of the whole island.
It was on this occasion that St. Patrick, while instructing the people in the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, gathered from the ground a sprig of shamrock, to explain to them more clearly the doctrine of Three Persons in One God. “Behold,” he would say to them, “this little plant, which bears on the one stalk three small leaves, the exact copy and resemblance of one another. They are distinct and separate, yet they are one, for they form but one sprig, and rest upon one stalk. So is it, my brethren, that I preach to you a God one in nature and three in person, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, each equally God, but possessing one undivided Godhead.”
Since that time, the faithful people of Ireland have loved and cherished this little plant, which their great apostle made use of in the conversion of their forefathers. They have never ceased to glory in it, as the fittest emblem of their country and their faith.–Life of St. Patrick.