Stained glass picture of St. Patrick.
St. Patrick, stained-glass window in the Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, California.

The Legacy of St. Patrick

For many people in the US, St. Patrick’s Day is a day to wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage, and enjoy a night out with friends. But did you know that the day actually celebrates an extraordinary man with a heart of obedience? The background of St. Patrick’s Day is the story of a fourth-century missionary whose life exemplified the self-sacrificial love for God and others that we strive to emulate here at Cross Catholic Outreach.

Who Was the Real St. Patrick?

Before St. Patrick came to Ireland voluntarily as a preacher of the gospel, he came against his will in shackles and lived there for a while as a slave. This injustice could have embittered Patrick toward his captors, the Irish people, who had kidnapped him from his homeland in Britain. Incredibly, after escaping on a boat and vowing never again to set foot in Ireland, God gave Patrick supernatural compassion for his pagan captors who desperately needed Christ and so in obedience he eventually returns.

“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea, and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.’”

After years of study for ordination to the priesthood, Patrick returned to Ireland to share God’s mercy with the people who had enslaved him. There are many accounts of what happened next, but some legends say that Patrick was confronted by the leader of a druid tribe who wanted to kill him. Instead, God rescued Patrick and the druid chieftain, after many conversations with Parick, eventually converted to Christianity (Catholic Online).

During his 40 years of evangelizing famously, Patrick used the three-leaf clover to explain the foundational doctrine of the Trinity to the people he encountered. One plant, three leaves. Because of his obedience, the message of the gospel spread throughout Ireland.

How We Can Follow St. Patrick’s Example

A family stands in front of an old home with rotting walls and a roof.
Before: The Placide family used to live in this crumbling home with a mud floor and a leaky roof.
A family stands in front of a new home constructed with cement blocks and a solid metal roof.
After: Through the support of Catholics like you, the Placide family was given the priceless gift of a new home.

It’s easy to have compassion for a friend or for those who suffer by no fault of their own. But Cross Catholic Outreach aims to do more than this, because when we come across people who do not share our values or faith and who have made choices that have worsened their situation, Christ’s radical love compels us to show mercy like St. Patrick. Jesus said, “but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). We are called to not only serve those who are kind, hardworking, intelligent and attractive but also all people, including those who are different than we are.

Share Christ’s Compassion

This Lenten season, follow St. Patrick’s compassionate example of showing mercy through our Easter Catalog. Your support can build homes in developing countries such as Haiti or Guatemala for families currently living in crumbling houses, sometimes made from mud, sticks, scrap metal and tarps. By building these homes for those in deep need, our Catholic ministry partners can shine Christ’s light where it’s needed most. As Matthew 25:34-40 reveals, when we reach out in love through a tangible act of mercy, we are serving Jesus himself.

Donate to Make a Difference


Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2024, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.