ALTHOUGH today Patrick is rightly revered as the Apostle of Ireland, there is a sense in which the ‘Patrick Story’ embraces the whole of the British Isles in a great circular movement. The young Patrick was captured by Irish pirates somewhere in the West of England and sold into slavery for six years. Having trained for the priesthood, and, being made bishop, perhaps in Gaul, he returned to Ireland. A first fruit of Patrick’s Church, St Columba, born in Donegal, sailed for Scotland in 563 and landed on Iona, where he established a monastery which became a centre for the conversion to Christianity of the Scots and the Northern English. In 635 Aidan, a monk of Iona, set off across Scotland and South into the North-East of England, where he established his see, as bishop on Lindisfarne. St Wilfrid, born in 633, a monk initially of Lindisfarne, left for Canterbury and then Rome. After championing Roman customs at the Synod of Whitby, Wilfrid finally travelled South, preaching in Sussex, the last stronghold of paganism in England, and as far away as the Isle of Wight. In the course of about 300 years the ‘Patrick Story’ had almost gone full circle. Starting in the West of England, Patrick’s spiritual sons had taken Christianity to Scotland, the North East of England and down as far as Sussex and the Isle of Wight.
Yes, of course, Patrick is the Apostle of Ireland, but in his origins and in his legacy he embraces the whole of the British Isles.