Every year when March 17 rolls around, the “wearing of the green” is the order of the day. Both Irish and non-Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Many people think that St. Patrick was Irish, when indeed it is not verifiable where he originated from. Most scholars believe, based on his own writings, that he was originally from southwestern Britain.
Keep in mind this is during the 5th Century, and people living in present day English were Romanized Celts, or Britons. So, St. Patrick is more along the lines of a Celtic Briton, son of a low-level Roman official.
Others believed that he was actually born closer to Scotland, probably in Kilpatrick. The year was 385AD.
At about fourteen years old, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans.
He learned the language and practices of the people who held him captive.
During captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote:
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as may as a hundred prayers and in the night nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain”.
Captivity lasted until his was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God where he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. He found some sailors who took him back home and he reunited with his family.
He had another dream where the people of Ireland were calling out to him, “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more”.
So, he began his priesthood studies, was ordained a bishop and sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when they heard Patrick’s message of the Gospel.
Patrick preached and worked in Ireland as a minister for over forty years. There were many miracles and he wrote about his journeys often.
St. Patrick died March 17th, 461AD, after years of living in poverty and traveling in poor health and suffering greatly.
Most revelers know the often-told stories of St. Pat, the Patron Saint of Ireland, that he explained the Blessed Trinity using a shamrock, and he drove the snakes out of Ireland (of course the debate goes on about whether there were snakes in Ireland).
There is no record of him using a shamrock to explain Christianity, but the legend has prevailed through the test of time. Some missionary, if not Patrick himself, very likely Christianized the concept.
This doesn’t seem to bother those in Ireland, and the shamrock remains the Irish National symbol.
But do you know some of the more obscure facts and stories about Saint Patrick that you can share during your own celebration?
* He is also the Patron Saint of Nigeria. Nigeria was evangelized primarily by Irish clergy and the people took St. Patrick to their hearts.
* He left behind some writings. His own words may be read, either in the original Latin or in English translation, in his spiritual autobiographical “Confession.” This piece is a unique peek at the man behind the legend. His famous prayer “St. Patrick’s Breast Plate” may date to a later period.
* Though Scotland has often been set as the birthplace of Patrick, England, Wales, and a portion of France also lay claim. Many places also claim to be the burial spot of the famous saint. One such tradition says that he is buried in the same grave as St. Bridget and St. Columba at Downpatrick, County Down in Ireland.
* If you would like your toast to be different on St. Patrick’s Day, you can drink to Maewyn Succat (believed to be his real name) or to Patricius or Patrizio as he was also known.
So on March 17th, be sure to wish everyone a “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day” either in English or the Gaelic “La Fheile Padraig Sona Duit.” Pronounced phoentically: Lah Feheye-lee Pah-Drayg Sonah Doo-eet. Color your cereal milk green with a little food coloring, or enjoy a green brew, and, for goodness sakes, please remember to wear GREEN!
How the Irish do St. Patrick’s Day
While many revelers who wear the green on March 17th think of Saint Patrick festivities involving turning the Chicago River green and marching down 5th Avenue in Manhattan, Ireland herself throws a grand Saint Patrick’s Day party.
Cork’s St. Patrick’s Festival held their inaugural event in 2005.
Dublin also throws a huge St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. Besides the annual parade, Dublin offers a treasure hunt, a cavalcade of vintage cars, street arts, music, theater, and dance.