A Symbol of St. Patrick
St. Patrick first went to Ireland as a teenager, kidnapped by pirates. After his escape from captivity and slavery, he became a priest. Eventually he also became a bishop. He returned to Ireland as an adult and began to teach the people about God and our Catholic, Christian faith.
This window from St. Patrick Church in Spokane, WA combines many symbols into one image and merges their meanings to tell us of Patrick.
The pointed hat at the top is a bishop’s mitre. The mitre is a symbol of his role and authority as a bishop and leader of a Church community in a particular place in the world. The bishop is responsible to lead and guide many smaller communities of believers.
The cross on the right side of the window tells of Patrick’s role as a missionary. As a missionary, he is one who brings the Good News of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to those who have not yet heard it.
The shepherd’s crook on the left tells of Patrick’s role as a shepherd of souls. It also reminds us that he was once a slave set to work as a shepherd by his owner.
Finally, the shamrock is a plant native to Ireland and has come to represent that nation. The shamrock was used by Bishop Patrick as a symbol of the Holy Trinity – one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Together we are reminded of a teenage shepherd, kidnapped and enslaved, who escaped but returned to share the joy of the Gospel with a foreign nation, and eventually with all of us.
Window detail from St. Patrick church in the historic Hillyard neighborhood community of Spokane, WA.