St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain..
Around the age of fourteen, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland (at this time a land of Druids and pagans) as a slave to herd and tend sheep. There, he learned the language and practices of the people who held him.
During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote:
"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same...I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."
Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, where he reunited with his family.
After a dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more", he began his studies for the priesthood.
He preached and influenced all of Ireland for 40 years. He is said to have worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461 at Saul where he had built the first church.
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God encourages me to be totally devoted to God. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God and commitment to his mission!
Why a shamrock?
According to this source, Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and it has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.