Skip to main content

The Feast Day of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick

March 17 is the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, one of the Church’s great evangelizing saints. 

Although he is the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain in the fifth century. When he was a teenager, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep.  It was during this time, that he discovered his own faith, finding strength through his relationship with God.

Saint Patrick’s enslavement lasted for six years until he had a dream in which he was told to escape by going by way of the coast.  He successfully made it back to Britain, but after a few years, he had a vision in which a man came to him from Ireland and gave him a letter with the heading ‘"The Voice of the Irish."  In his spiritual autobiography, the Confessio, Saint Patrick said that, at that moment, he heard the Irish people crying out, "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."

It led Patrick to further his education and study for the priesthood.  He would later be ordained a bishop and was appointed as successor to Saint Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland.   Saint Patrick spent the rest of his life bringing the Good News of the Gospel to the people of Ireland, which was a pagan country at the time.  He is believed to have used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, and the shamrock remains associated with the saint and the Trinity to this day.

The prayer “Breastplate” is attributed to Saint Patrick.  It reads in part: "Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461. He is now the patron saint of Ireland and is known as the Apostle of Ireland.

Saint Patrick and the Diocese of Portland

The feast day holds special significance in the Diocese of Portland. St. Patrick, along with St. Jean Baptiste, are the diocese’s secondary patrons, chosen because French missionaries and, later, French and Irish immigrants, brought the Catholic faith to Maine and helped it take root and grow.

Saint Patrick Church in Newcastle was the first church in the country named for Saint Patrick. It was dedicated by Father Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus on July 17, 1808, a year before the cornerstone was laid for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The original Saint Patrick Church has been in continual use longer than any other Catholic church in New England.

Several Maine parishes have long-time Saint Patrick’s Day traditions including a dinner offered at Saint Patrick’s Church in Newcastle and a bazaar and dinner at Saint Mary of the Visitation Parish in Houlton that dates back at least 60 years.   It has become a tradition for the bishop of Portland to celebrate a Saint Patrick’s Day Mass and distribute shamrocks at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

Commutaton of Abstinence on St. Patrick's Day

Recognizing that St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday of Lent this year, Bishop Robert Deeley is authorizing individuals who choose to eat meat (i.e., such as is found in a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner) on that Friday to commute (that is, transfer) their abstinence from meat to another day within that same week.

Celebrations of the Feast Day

(Click on any of the links below)

Saturday, March 11

 St. Patrick's Day traditional corned beef dinner presented by the Knights of Columbus at St. Joseph Parish in Ellsworth.

 St. Patrick's Day corned beef dinner at St. Matthew Church in Limerick

Friday, March 17

Feast of St. Patrick Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Deeley at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland

St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef Dinner at St. Patrick Church in Newcastle, the first church in the country named for Saint Patrick.

Saturday, March 18

Corned Beef & Cabbage Benefit Dinner in Whitefield

• Corned beef dinner at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough

• St. Patrick's Bazaar at St. Mary of the Visitation Church hall in Houlton

St. Patrick's Day Dinner featuring the Franklin County Fiddlers at St. Joseph Church hall in Farmington

St. Patrick's Day Dinner Dance at St. Mary Church Hall in Wells to benefit the Center for Grieving Children.

• Knights of Columbus Corned Beef Dinner at St. Pius X Hall in Portland

Traditional Irish Dinner at St. Joseph Church in Bridgton

Sunday, March 19

 St. Patrick's Day Dinner at St. Bartholomew Church in Cape Elizabeth 

 St. Patrick's Day Dinner at Sacred Heart Church in Hallowell