Saint Patrick's Friendship with His Guardian Angel, Victor

Saint Patrick's Friendship with His Guardian Angel, Victor

A statue of Saint Patrick at the foot of Croagh Patrick, the mountain where Patrick's guardian angel Victor first appeared to him. Jim Foley/Getty Images

Saint Patrick’s guardian angel, Victor, played an important role in Patrick’s life and work. It was Victor who spoke to Patrick in the dream that convinced Patrick that God was calling him to serve the people of Ireland. Victor guided Patrick during several key times in Patrick’s life, and encouraged Patrick with the knowledge that he was constantly watching over him. Here’s a look at how Victor helped Patrick discover and fulfill God’s purposes for his life:

Helping Patrick Escape From Slavery

When Patrick was 16 years old, Irish raiders captured a group of young men -- including Patrick -- in Britain and sailed with them to Ireland, where they sold the youths into slavery. Patrick worked there for six years as an enslaved sheep and cattle herder.

Praying to God became a regular habit for Patrick during that time. It led him to peace despite his frustrating circumstances by helping him sense God’s presence with him. During Patrick’s frequent prayer times in the fields, God sent Victor to deliver messages to Patrick. Author Grace Hall writes in her book Stories of the Saints that Victor "had been his friend, counselor, and teacher in his bondage, and had helped him in many distresses."

One day six years into Patrick’s slavery, Patrick was praying outside when Victor appeared, manifesting suddenly out of the air in human form to stand on an overhead rock. Victor told Patrick: "It is good that you've been fasting and praying. You will soon go to your own country; your ship is ready."

Patrick was glad to hear that God would make a way for him to return to Britain and reunited with his family, but startled to see his guardian angel appearing right in front of him!

The 12th century book The Life and Acts of Saint Patrick: The Archbishop, Primate and Apostle of Ireland by a Cistercian monk named Jocelyn describes the conversation that Patrick and Victor had about Victor’s name: "And the servant of God looked on the angel of God, and, conversing with him face to face familiarly, even as with a friend, asked who he was, and by what name was he called. And the heavenly messenger answered that he was the ministering spirit of the Lord, sent into the world to minister unto them who have the heritage of salvation; that he was called Victor, and especially deputed to the care of him, and he promised to be his helpmate and his assistant in doing all things. And although it is not needful that heavenly spirits should be called by human names, yet the angel, being beautifully clothed with a human form composed of the air, called himself Victor, for that he had received from Christ, the most victorious King, the power of vanquishing and binding the powers of the air and the princes of darkness; who had also given to his servants made of the potter's clay the power of treading on serpents and scorpions, and of vanquishing and bruising Satan."

Victor then gave Patrick guidance about how to begin his 200 mile-journey to the Irish Sea to find the ship that would take him back to Britain. Patrick did successfully escape slavery and rejoin his family, thanks to Victor’s guidance along the way.

Calling Patrick to Serve the Irish People

After Patrick had enjoyed several comfortable years with his family, Victor communicated with Patrick through a dream. Victor showed Patrick a dramatic vision that made Patrick realize that God was calling him to return to Ireland to preach the Gospel message there.

"One night Victor of the Beautiful Countenance appeared to him again in his sleep, holding out an open letter," writes Hall in Stories of the Saints. "He could only read its title, 'The Voice of the Irish,' for emotion so overcame him that his eyes were blurred with tears.” A letter that Patrick himself wrote about Victor’s appearance describes how the vision continued: "…as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voices of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: 'We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.' And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke."

So Patrick, who had endured physical slavery in Ireland before, decided to return to share a message that he believed offered spiritual freedom to the pagan Irish people: the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Patrick went to Gaul (now France) to study for the priesthood, and after he was ordained a priest and then a bishop, he traveled to Ireland to fulfill the mission that Victor had shown him in the dream.

Encouraging Patrick to Fight Evil With Good

A mountain in Ireland’s County Mayo has been named Croagh Patrick in honor of a spiritual battle that Patrick fought there with Victor’s help. Hall tells the story in Stories of the Saints: "Now, it was Patrick's custom to spend the Lenten season in solitude, devoting his days and nights to intercession for the souls of those whom he had come to save. It happened one year that he spent his 40 days of fasting and of prayer on the summit of the mountain…"

She continues by describing how demons attacked Patrick: "Ceaselessly he prayed and kept his vigil, until, toward the end of Lent, he was assailed by the powers of darkness in the shape of huge black birds, so numberless that they filled the earth and the air. Mercilessly they attacked him, and vainly Patrick tried to exorcise them with chants and psalms. They continued to torment him until in desperation he rang his holy bell, and ended by hurling it into their midst. Only then did they vanish, leaving Patrick exhausted, weeping so that his cowl was drenched with tears."

But Patrick’s guardian angel was nearby, and showed up to help. Hall writes: "Then came Victor, accompanied by a flock of snow-white birds, singing heavenly songs to console him. Victor dried the saint's tears (and his hood), and promised for his comfort that he should save by the prayers he had prayed as many souls as would fill the space as far as his eyes could reach to seaward."

Guiding Patrick to the Place of His Death

Victor stayed with Patrick to the end of his life on Earth, and he even told Patrick where his last journey should be. Jocelin writes in The Life and Acts of Saint Patrick: The Archbishop, Primate and Apostle of Ireland that Patrick knew "that the evening of his life was drawing near" and was traveling to Ardmachia, where he planned to die when the time came.

But God had other plans, and Victor delivered the news to Patrick: "For the Angel Victor met him while on his journey, and said unto him: 'Stay thou, O Patrick, thy feet from this thy purpose, since it is not the divine will that in Ardmachia thy life should be closed or thy body therein be sepultured; for in Ulydia, the first place of all Hibernia which thou didst convert, hath the Lord provided that thou shalt die, and that in the city of Dunum thou shall be honorably buried. And there shall be thy resurrection.'"

Patrick’s reaction to what Victor told him showed that he trusted what his guardian angel had to say: "And at the word of the angel the saint was grieved; but quickly returning unto himself, embraced he the divine Providence with much devotion and thanksgiving, and submitting his own will unto the will of God, he returned into Ulydia."