St. Patrick and I go back a long way. It was as a choirboy that I sang in Armagh Cathedral, which he called “my sweet hill.” This sweet hill has deep historical roots and is where the ancient High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, is buried in the churchyard.

It is easy enough to learn about the life circumstances of St. Patrick but what does it mean to be St. Patrick beyond the mask of a personality known as Patrick? What is to be a saint? Is a saint’s life important to modern day living? Why do we celebrate the life of the national saint of Ireland?

Saints are people just like you and me with one exception. They tend to be very focused on something that we have forgotten. They have glimpsed what it means to be a servant of love and dedicated themselves to such service. They have entered the beauty of at-one-ment, beyond the normal human experience that tells us we are all separate and that we need to get what we can while we can.

Of course, Patrick in all probability did not set out to become a saint. To set out to become a saint smacks of egomania and that trait would probably have put him out of the running for canonisation.

By all accounts he was a large man but his largeness in size was not only physical. He had a strong connection with the source that gave him the authority to do what he had come to do. He came to unify that which was not in unity. All over the land of Erin were tribes lead by ambitious chieftains. Each had his own agenda. There was much fighting, cattle raiding, much division and consequent suffering. He will have seen and felt this suffering at first hand.

I suspect that he was a sensitive and intelligent man. He was a scholar but more than this he was a knower of the hearts of men and women. He would be a diplomat, an intuitive. He would know when to act and when not to act. Patrick did not impose the teachings of Christianity upon the Irish. Rather he shared his love, which is at the very heart of Christ’s teachings. The Irish do not, as most peoples do not, take to something readily if it is forced upon them.

Patrick would have embodied what he returned to share with those who had enslaved him. He was not someone who came to preach the gospel. He was not someone who knew only the words. He would have been the embodiment of the presence beyond the words. He would not have been as this beautiful story shows, someone open to the new.

It is said that St. Patrick chased snakes out of Ireland. It has been suggested that the snakes represent the Druids, the priests of the old religion. However, my own feeling is that the snakes are a metaphor for a temptation from the Christ Path. Only a true saint would not chase any creature because a saint knows the meaning of the spiritual teaching “Resist not evil.” This does not mean that one does not act in the face of suffering but one knows that there is only one way to overcome evil and that is with love in action. A saint knows how this action is best effected in this world. They know the meaning of charity.

This story about the snakes is, like many stories, an add on to another legend. Someone writing with what I call institutional mind has added it to the story of St. Patrick. This is the collective ego of an institution, which is attached to the Christ Path as being the only path up the Mountain of At-one-ment. This mind is attached to dogma that soon becomes a prison house of separation from what it is to be love.

Patrick’s life following his escape from Ireland and slavery is one of atonement. It came out of an experience of guilt and became at-one-ment. He could only have done as he did by connecting to the power of presence, which would have pervaded his being. This was this true power and is what is known as the Christ Consciousness. This is the consciousness through which love in action operates. It is not just Christian but universal.

So what is his legacy? For me, he is the white at the centre of the Irish national flag. On one side there is the green representing the Catholic tradition and on the other is the orange representing the Protestant tradition. Patrick symbolises the unity between these traditions. He does not preach this unity; he lived it. He would have been a man beyond labels as all saints are men and women beyond labels, individual human beings who were great nobodies claiming to know nothing more than the power of love beyond words. They could embody that power and allow it to walk in the world for the highest good. This is beyond Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim good. It is beyond any good limited or conditioned by labels or concepts.

So on this St. Patrick’s Day, a day when the shamrocks are on show, remember Patrick, the man who was a being just as we are but who glimpsed the knowing of who he was and was faithful to his unique song. He allowed that song to sing in his heart. Honour this day by giving yourself permission to know that you are just as powerful as Patrick. You are only different in the faithfulness to what is your own heart’s song.

© Tony Cuckson 2007 - 2009

Author's Bio: 

Tony Cuckson launches his latest e-book this St. Patrick's Day. "An Irish Heritage: Songs, Stories and Blessings" includes favourite stories like Return to Tir na Nog and King of the Fairies. The e-book may be downloaded from for $7.