St. Patrick the…Slave?

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“In my human nature, I was born free.”

-St. Patrick

By: Jen Pool

Today we’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday held on the day of his death, but did you know that Saint Patrick wasn’t even Irish? 

Patrick was born in Britain near the end of the fourth century. Around the age of 16 he was kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s home, and he was trafficked to Ireland where he spent many years in captivity. In modern terms, he was labor-trafficked and forced into service as a shepherd. 

After six years of enslavement he, according to his writing, heard God’s voice in a dream telling him it was time to leave Ireland. Walking almost 200 miles from where he had been held he escaped to Britain where he began his religious training. During that time he reported to have another revelation in a dream; an angel telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary, and after his ordination as a priest, he did just that. 

Patrick’s story may not have been remembered by history if it weren’t for the fact that he returned to the land and people that had enslaved him. The two written documents that he left, one of which was the Letter to the Soliders of Coroticus, was an angry protest against the murder and enslavement of members of Patrick’s congregation by a raiding party of pirates. As a former slave himself, he gave voice to further the ideal of anti-slavery and human rights in Europe at the time. 

However you participate in this day, my hope is that March 17th serves as a reminder of two things: the overcoming from a survivor of child labor trafficking and slavery who used what he had to change the world around him, and how there is still so much overcoming to do for survivors of exploitation today. If we want to mindfully celebrate St. Patrick’s life and work, what can each of us do to help participate in the eradication of slavery, human trafficking, and exploitation? 

(If you’re ready to do this and wondering what to do next, check out this post on how to get started, consider joining Grit+Gumptions Free to Be campaign this month, or email us at: to get on our newsletter list or to inquire about volunteering.)

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Photo by Elias Tigiser on

Jen Pool is a Board Member for Grit Plus Gumption Farmstead. She also works as the Director of Community Development for another 501(c)(3) outside of Washington D.C. and is a certified Life Design Coach, Enneagram Coach and ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Trainer. 

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