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What can we learn from St. Patrick’s intense prayer life?


Lawrence OP | Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 03/17/22

St. Patrick's legendary prayer life teaches us to fill our lives with prayer, consecrating every moment of our lives to God.

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When you get past the snakes and shamrocks, you will find a St. Patrick who was deeply devoted to his prayer life. It is one aspect of his life that he recorded in his Confession.

After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day, and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of God increased, and my sense of awe before God. Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so that in one day I would pray up to one hundred times, and at night perhaps the same. I even remained in the woods and on the mountain, and I would rise to pray before dawn in snow and ice and rain. I never felt the worse for it, and I never felt lazy – as I realize now, the spirit was burning in me at that time.

This life of unceasing prayer is expanded even more in legendary accounts of his life that were printed after his death, such as the one included in Dom Prosper Gueranger’s Liturgical Year.

Besides his daily solicitude for the churches, his vigorous spirit kept up an uninterrupted prayer. For it is said that he was wont to recite every day the whole psalter together, with the canticles and the hymns and two hundred prayers that, he every day knelt down three hundred times to adore God, and that at each canonical hour of the day he signed himself a hundred times with the sign of the cross.

These later accounts appear to exaggerate his prayer life to an excessive degree, since when you add together all of his activities and his personal prayer life, he would literally not be able to fit it all during the day.

Lessons on prayer from St. Patrick

However, even though these descriptions of St. Patrick’s prayer life seem unattainable to the average person, the whole point of it all is to show how St. Patrick adapted St. Paul’s challenge to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this type of prayer as a prayer of love.

This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering lovePrayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love.

CCC 2742, 2745

We don’t have to recite memorized prayers all day long to be close to God, but we can and should thank God throughout the day for all of our gifts and send him little darts of love.

St. Patrick teaches us to unite our lives to our prayer, never abandoning prayer in the midst of our activities and always lifting our minds and hearts to God.

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