Was St. Patrick Gay?

stained glass window depicting St. Patrick baptizing Irish pagans

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There is no evidence to support a gay St. Patrick. If anything, history (as we explored in an earlier post) points to Patrick being an unabashed fan of women. However, there is one incident, which Patrick recorded himself in his Confession, that may have given rise to such a rumor.

After escaping slavery and trekking an estimated two hundred miles to the coast to catch his ship (the one God had told him about in a dream), the crew of said ship didn’t simply let him aboard. To quote Patrick:

“The day I arrived, the ship was about to leave the place. I said I needed to set sail with them, but the captain was not at all pleased. He replied unpleasantly and angrily: ‘Don’t you dare try to come with us.’ When I heard that, I left them and went back to the hut where I had lodgings. I began to pray while I was going; and before I even finished the prayer, I heard one of them shout aloud at me: ‘Come quickly – those men are calling you!’ I turned back right away, and they began to say to me: ‘Come – we’ll trust you. Prove you’re our friend in any way you wish.’ That day, I refused to suck their breasts, because of my reverence for God.”

source: The Confession of St. Patrick

Wait…what?

If you’re wondering what in the heck is happening in the above scene, wonder no longer: It’s likely a case of Patrick simply not understanding a local Irish custom. As Thomas Cahill explains:

“[The sailors] even offered their nipples to be sucked, the ancient Irish version of ‘kiss and make up.’ Patricius, too much the Roman for such outré goings-on, held back—he says ‘for fear of God,’ but better minds than Patricius’s have succumbed to a confusion of Roman custom and Christian faith. The sailors shrugged: ‘You can make friends with us however you like.’ Patricius jumped on board, and they sailed at once.”

source: How the Irish Saved Civilization

While Patrick himself likely never engaged in homosexuality (or even innocent nipple-sucking), he makes no mention of speaking out against it. And even if he did speak out against homosexuality, he failed to make a convincing argument. To quote Cahill:

“Before [Patrick’s] mission, Irish sexual arrangements were relatively improvisational. Trial ‘marriages’ of one year, multiple partners, and homosexual relations among warriors on campaign were all more or less the order of the day. Despite Patrick’s great success in changing the warrior mores of the Irish tribes, their sexual mores altered little.”

source: How the Irish Saved Civilization

Editor’s note: this article is an excerpt from “20 Questions With St. Patrick: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the ‘Apostle of Ireland’”


Further Reading

How the Irish Saved Civilization

by Thomas Cahill

Per the publisher: “Every year millions of Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but they may not be aware of how great an influence St. Patrick was on the subsequent history of civilization. Not only did he bring Christianity to Ireland, he instilled a sense of literacy and learning that would create the conditions that allowed Ireland to become ‘the isle of saints and scholars’ — and thus preserve Western culture while Europe was being overrun by barbarians.” Learn more…


The Confession of Saint Patrick and Letter to Coroticus

by John Skinner

Per the publisher: “Beyond being recognized as the patron saint of Ireland (perhaps for having chased some nonexistent snakes off the Emerald Isle), little else is popularly known about Saint Patrick.  And yet, Patrick left behind a unique document, his Confession, which tells us much about both his life and his beliefs.  This autobiography, originally written in the fifth century, and short by modern standards, is nonetheless a work that fascinates with its glimpse into the life of an intriguing man, and inspires with its testament of faith.” Learn more…


St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography

by Philip Freeman

Per the publisher: “Ireland’s patron saint has long been shrouded in legend, but the true story of St. Patrick is far more inspiring than the myths. In St. Patrick of Ireland, Philip Freeman brings the historic Patrick and his world vividly to life. Patrick speaks in his own voice in two remarkable letters he wrote about himself and his beliefs, new translations of which are included here and which are still astonishing for their passion and eloquence.” Learn more…


Patrick

by Stephen Lawhead

Per the publisher: “Set in an era of brutal conflict and turmoil, this epic adventure is the first novel to tell the full story of the slave who became a saint, of the man who rose to the challenge of his time and changed the course of history. In the summer of 405AD, Irish raiders attack the western coast of Wales, carving a fiery swathe through the peaceful countryside. Among the survivors who are rounded up and taken back to Ireland is Succat: an impulsive sixteen-year-old son of a powerful Roman family.” Learn more…


Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland

by Tomie dePaola

Per the publisher: “An illustrated tribute to the Irish patron saint from the best-selling author of Quiet, Strega Nona, and many others. This timeless picture book, available in large-format paperback or as the board book Saint Patrick, is a perfect introduction to important Irish legends and an ideal St. Patrick’s day gift. Beloved children’s book author-illustrator Tomie dePaola recounts the life of Saint Patrick—from his noble birth in Britain, to his captivity in Ireland, to the visions which led him to return and found the first Christian church in Ireland.” Learn more…


Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy

by multiple authors

A collection of 17 short stories, NEON DRUID mixes urban fantasy and Celtic mythology, creating a universe where lecherous leprechauns and debaucherous druids inhabit the local pubs, and where shapeshifting water spirits from Scotland and sword-wielding warriors from Ireland lurk in the alleyways. Stories range from tales of supernatural horror, to street-level fantasy adventures, to farcical, whiskey-drenched fairytales. Learn more…


More book ideas:


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