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History of St. Patrick
The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland,
was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn.
When he was 16, he was sold into slavery to Ireland where he was a shepherd
for 6 years. While in captivity he studied and turned to religion. He escaped
slavery and later returned to Ireland as a missionary, determined to convert
Ireland to Christianity. He used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.
Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. And this fact upset the Celtic
Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled
throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up
schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country
His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired
to County Down. He died on March 17 in 461 A.D. That day has been com-
memorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.
Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day. Not much of it is actually
substantiated. Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people
from the dead. He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove
all the snakes from Ireland. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's
Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday.
One traditional symbol of the day is the shamrock. And this stems from a more
bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to
explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity.
His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
The holiday, March 17th, is marked by parades in cities across the United States.
The largest of these, held since 1762, is in New York City, and draws more than
one million spectators each year. In Ireland, it is a religious holiday similar
to Christmas and Easter.
More History and Legends about Saint Patrick
True history and legend are intertwined when it comes to St. Patrick.
There are many arguments over whether he was born in Wales, England
or Scotland but at the time of his birth these places did not yet exist
and the country was called Briton and was under Roman rule and latin was
the language. His parents were also Roman so his given name was actually
Patricus. Eventually he was ordained as a deacon, then priest and finally
as a bishop. Pope Celestine then sent him back to Ireland to preach the
gospel. Evidently he was a great traveller, especially in Celtic countries,
as innumerable places in Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
are named after him. Here it is where actual history and legend become
difficult to seperate.
Patrick is most known the world over for having driven the snakes from
Ireland. Different tales tell of his standing upon a hill, using a wooden
staff to drive the serpents into the sea, banishing them forever from the
shores of Ireland. One legend says that one old serpent resisted, but the
saint overcame it by cunning. He is said to have made a box and invited
the reptile to enter. The snake insisted the box was too small and the
discussion became very heated. Finally the snake entered the box to prove
he was right, whereupon St. Patrick slammed the lid and cast the box
into the sea. While it is true there are no snakes in Ireland, chances
are that there never have been since the time the island was seperated
from the rest of the continent at the end of the ice age. As in many
old pagan religions serpent symbols were common, and possibly even
worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic of
putting an end to that pagan practice.
While not the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, it was Patrick
who encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites.
He converted the warrior chiefs and princes, baptizing them and
thousands of their subjects in the Holy Wells which still bear that name.
According to tradition St. Patrick died on 17 March in A.D. 493 and
was buried in the same grave as St. Bridget and St. Columba, at
Downpatrick, County Down. The jawbone of St. Patrick was preserved
in a silver shrine and was often requested in times of childbirth,
epileptic fits and as a preservative against the evil eye. Another
legend says St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury and was buried
there. The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Galstonbury
Abbey. There is evidence of an Irish pilgrimage to his tomb during
the reign of the Saxon King Ine in A.D. 688, when a group of pilgrims
headed by St. Indractus were murdered.
The great anxiety displayed in the middle ages to possess the bodies,
or at least the relics of saints, accounts for a the many discrepant
traditions as to the burial places of St. Patrick and others.
The Life of St. Patrick is a more accurate, historical account of his
life, but it is a very long. For an account of St. Patrick's life
written by him you can go to Confession of St. Patrick which is
another long document.
This information is courtesy of : Ireland Now
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May your thoughts be as
glad as the shamrocks
May your heart be as light as
May each day bring you bright
That stay with you all the
Wishing you God's blessings
and a happy
Saint Patrick's Day!