"He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life;
and I will raise him up in the last day." (John 6:55)
It has been said that St. Patrick (c. 389-c. 461) performed a thousand miracles. And why not? Many more (40,000) were prudently attributed to St. Vincent Ferrer, the Dominican missionary and "Angel of Judgment."
Moreover, the author knows of no saint for whom there are claimed so many resurrection miracles during one apostolic lifetime as for St. Patrick; there were as many as 39 of these wonders. Thirty-three are mentioned in one specific report:
"For the blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb, the palsied, the lunatic, the leprous, the epileptic, all who labored under any disease, did he in the Name of the Holy Trinity restore unto the power of their limbs and unto entire health; and in these good deeds was he daily practiced. Thirty and three dead men, some of whom had been many years buried, did this great reviver raise from the dead, as above we have more fully recorded."
The above is quoted from The Life and Acts of St. Patrick, translated from the original Latin of Jocelin, Cistercian monk of Furnes of the 12th century, by Edmund L. Swift, Esq., Dublin, 1809. A writer that far back probably had sources not available 800 years or more later. Paul Gallico (in The Steadfast Man) wrote the following concerning the value of tradition: "Tradition is sometimes more to be trusted than written records, and particularly in a country such as Ireland, where in the early days there was no written record and history was handed down by the poets in the form of sagas, and memory was cultivated far beyond what it is today. In pre-Christian Ireland every educated man's head was the storehouse for the archives of the nation."
St. Patrick was a great missionary bishop who converted a whole land from paganism, overturning the religion of the druids. He consecrated 350 bishops, erected 700 churches, and ordained 5,000 priests. In less than 30 years the greater part of Ireland was Catholic; St. Patrick so consolidated it in the Christian faith that during the Protestant Revolt Ireland was almost unique in its preservation of the Faith. Even today, people speak of "the faith of the Irish."
It is hard, indeed impossible, to comprehend such a vast and enduring transformation without the visible support of God through great works and wonders. But that is what Christ promised to His Apostles, and it has been historically demonstrated in the well-attested lives of His great missionary saints.
St. Patrick himself has personally attested to some of these signs and wonders: "And let those who will, laugh and scorn–I shall not be silent; nor shall I hide the signs and wonders which the Lord has shown me many years before they came to pass, as He knows everything even before the times of the world." This seems to apply in particular to his prophetic dream-visions.
In his Letters (as in his Confessions and his Letter to Coroticus), Patrick wrote such things as: "I was not worthy... that He should bestow on me so great grace toward that nation." And: "I baptized in the Lord so many thousands of persons." And: "that many people through me should be regenerated to God." Patrick also wrote: "that I might imitate, in some degree, those whom the Lord long ago foretold would herald His Gospel, for a witness to all nations before the end of the world." St. Patrick indicated that the Holy Spirit was within him, and he compared himself with St. Paul in a reference to the "unspeakable groanings" of the Holy Spirit.
Further, the ancient author quotes from a reputed "epistle" (letter) of St. Patrick to a friend in a country beyond the sea:
"The Lord hath given to me, though humble, the power of working miracles among a barbarous people, such as are not recorded to have been worked by the great Apostles; inasmuch as, in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I have raised from the dead bodies that have been buried many years; but I beseech you, let no one believe that for these or the like works I am to be at all equaled with the Apostles, or with any perfect man, since I am humble, and a sinner, and worthy only to be despised."
Perhaps because of rumors and his fame St. Patrick was trying to put things in proper perspective. The word "humble," in his usage, probably meant "lowly" or "insignificant." The author of the ancient manuscript observes that he admired the greatness of Patrick's humility more than his raising of the dead. Patrick himself knew well that his abundance of charismatic gifts (given by God for the glory of God and the benefit of others), far from making him holy, could be a great liability.
Despite his limited number of references to his own greatness, and despite their modesty, it is obvious to anyone familiar with great missionary saints that the spiritual greatness indicated above and displayed in Patrick's life would also call for the marvelous gifts often accompanying such apostles – the most common of which is the working of numerous miracles, including the raising of the dead.
Anyone could gather from his writings, and also from the results of his apostolate of 20-30 years, that St. Patrick was a resolute, steadfast "iron man"; he was a bishop who established monastic discipline in a pagan land, who apparently baptized hundreds of thousands, who converted princes and turned pagan princesses into virgin nuns, who converted the worshipers of idols and the sun and impure things, and who organized and built many churches, leaving behind priests to care for souls. These were the tremendous and enduring accomplishments in one apostle's missionary lifetime.
St. Patrick's was an achievement unique in history. Thus it would seem to be a moral certainty that St. Patrick raised the dead on several occasions. This chapter has been cut down from an originally much longer manuscript-chapter on his reported raisings of the dead, because of the lack of historical records on these matters. Herein are presented only the best substantiated cases.
Since St. Patrick is claimed to have worked 33 resurrection miracles, it seems a moral certitude that he truly must have worked at least a good number of such wonders, even if the count of 33 may not be exactly accurate. (Some details may be confused, and thus two slightly different accounts could actually refer to the same event.) It is only fair to report at least several of these.
One day St. Patrick came to a place called Fearta. On the side of the hill two women had buried. Patrick ordered the earth removed; in the Name of Christ, he raised them up. The two proclaimed that their idols were vain and that Christ was the true God. Along with the women, many bystanders were baptized. As the ancient writer observes, Patrick not only revived these two from a double death (both temporal and eternal death), but by this miracle he gave spiritual resurrection to many other souls.
When Patrick came to Dublina he prophesied how great that small village would someday become. He also caused a fountain to spring up there. It happened that in the region nearby, the young son of the king lay dead in his chamber. The sorrow over his death was compounded when it was learned that his sister, who had gone to bathe in the neighboring river, had drowned in midstream. Her body was finally found resting on the riverbed, and was laid out beside that of her brother. Tombs were prepared for both according to pagan custom.
At this sorrowful time the rumor spread that Patrick of Ardmachia (Armagh), who in the Name of the Unknown God had raised many that were dead, had arrived in the village. The king, Alphimus, promised that he, his nobles, and the whole "city" would be baptized into the new faith if his two children were restored. Patrick, seeing the opportunity for a great gain of souls, raised them both to life.
By the physical resurrection of the prince and princess, the spiritual resurrection of the whole area from the darkness of paganism and idolatry was accomplished. And the temporary resurrection of bodies (that is, until they died again) gave a promise of eternal life in Heaven and of the resurrection of the body on Judgment Day.
After the raising of this royal brother and sister, churches were built and tributes appointed to Patrick as their patron, that is, as the first Archbishop (or Bishop) of Ardmachia. It is reputedly from the revived Princess Dublina that the present great city of Dublin got its name.
In the country of Neyll, a King Echu allowed St. Patrick to receive his beloved daughter Cynnia as a nun, though he bewailed the fact that his royal line would thereby end without issue. The king exacted a promise from Patrick not to insist that he be baptized, yet to promise him the heavenly kingdom. Patrick agreed, and left the matter in the hands of God.
Sometime later King Echu lay dying. He sent a messenger to St. Patrick to tell him he desired Baptism and the heavenly kingdom. To those around him the King gave an order that he not be buried until Patrick came. Patrick, then in the monastery of Saballum, two days' journey away, knew of the situation through the Holy Spirit before the messenger even arrived. He left to go to the King, but arrived to find Echu dead.
St. Patrick revived the King, instructed him, and baptized him. He asked Echu to relate what he had seen of the joys of the just and the pains of the wicked, so that his account could be used for the proving of Patrick's preaching. Echu told of many other-world wonders and of how, in the heavenly country, he had seen the place that Patrick promised him. But the King could not enter in because he was unbaptized.
Then St. Patrick asked Echu if he would rather live longer in this world, or go to the place prepared for him in the heavenly kingdom. The King answered that all the world had was emptiest smoke compared to the celestial joys. Then having received the Eucharist, he fell asleep in the Lord.
There was a prince in Humestia who was baptized. Later he expressed unbelief about the doctrine of the Resurrection. After St. Patrick quoted various texts from the Scriptures, the prince said that if Patrick would raise his grandfather, by then buried many days, he would believe in that Resurrection which Patrick preached.
Patrick signed the tomb of the grandfather with his staff, had it opened, and prayed. A man of very great height, but not as big as a "giant" who had recently been raised from a huge tomb by Patrick, came forth from the tomb. He described the torments that went on in Hell, and was baptized. He received the Eucharist, and retired again to his former sepulcher and "slept in the Lord." After witnessing this miracle none doubted the truth of the Resurrection.
On another occasion a band of men who hated St. Patrick falsely accused him and his companions of stealing, and sentenced them to death. Patrick raised a man from a nearby tomb and commanded him to witness to the truth of the case, which the resurrected man did. He protested the innocence of Patrick and his companions and the deceit of the evil ones. In the presence of all, the resurrected man also showed where the alleged stolen goods–some flax–were hidden. Many of those who had conspired for the death of St. Patrick now became his converts.
It is interesting to note that each of the miracles related here was aimed at establishing truth, besides doing good to various individuals. Here is a final example.
An evil man named Machaldus, and his companions, who placed on their heads certain diabolical signs called "Deberth," signifying their devotion to Satan, plotted to mock St. Patrick. They covered one of their group, Garbanus, with a cloak as if he were dead. Garbanus, though in perfect health, was placed on a couch as if laid out in preparation for burial. The men then sent for Patrick, asking him to raise the covered Garbanus from the dead. This was a fatal mistake.
St. Patrick told them it was with deceit, but not with falsehood , that they had declared their companion dead. Disregarding their entreaties, Patrick went on his way, praying for the soul of the derider.
Then, uncovering their friend, the plotters found Garbanus not feigning death, but actually dead! Contrite of heart, they pursued St. Patrick; they obtained pardon and were baptized. At their entreaty, St. Patrick also revived the dead Garbanus.
The same once-evil Machaldus became a great penitent, a bishop eminent in holiness and miracles, and became known as "St. Machaldus."
Patrick also once raised to life a dead horse belonging to the charioteer of Darius. He also restored to the charioteer the health he had lost after accusing Patrick of killing the horse.
One wonders why men question and marvel so at the "miracles of the saints" as if these were really their own miracles? If one thinks of these wonders as being primarily the miracles of God, which they are, why marvel? They are not "miracles" for God; for Him they are quite "ordinary" actions.
In the appendices at the end of Jocelin's Life of St. Patrick , in the Selections from the Elucidations of David Rothe, sometime bishop of Ossory, that bishop quotes another learned bishop: "Credulity may enter even the most virtuous mind; but when eminent men decline from this readiness of belief they fall into the opposite error, and become incredulous, while there is little fault in credulity, but much incredulity."
Let no one doubt that the Lord gave to the humble Patrick the gift of raising the dead to life–for the glory of God, the proof of the True Faith, and the salvation of countless souls.
This article on St. Patrick is a chapter from Saints Who Raised the Dead, True Stories of 400 Resurrection Miracles, by Fr. Albert J. Hebert, S. M. This book, along with numerous other Catholic works, is published by TAN Books, Inc. We highly recommend calling their toll free number 1-800-437-5876 to request a catalog or order this book.