Patron of Ireland Feast day: March 17th
St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints. Along with St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, the secular world shares our love of these saints. This is also a day when everyone's Irish. There are many legends and stories of St. Patrick, but this is his story. Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies. As a boy of fourteen or so, 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. During his 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 many 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." Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more." He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.
Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message. Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well). Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.
Why a shamrock?
Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.
In His Footsteps:
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.
Saint Patrick was not actually Irish. Historical sources report that he was born around 373 A.D. in either Scotland (near the town of Dumbarton) or in Roman Britain (the Romans left Britain in 410 A.D.). His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat (he took on Patrick, or Patricus, after he became a priest). He was kidnapped at the age of 16 by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland (I am not making this up). During his 6-year captivity (he worked as a shepherd), he began to have religious visions, and found strength in his faith. He finally escaped (after voices in one of his visions told him where he could find a getaway ship) and went to France, where he became a priest (and later a bishop).
When he was about 60 years old, St. Patrick travelled to Ireland to spread the Christian word. It's said that Patrick had an unusually winning personality, and that helped him win converts. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Trinity (father, son, holy spirit).
Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland -- that they all went into the sea and drowned. Poor snakes. I don't know why he would want to do this, except that the snake was a revered pagan symbol, and perhaps this was a figurative tale alluding to the fact that he drove paganism out of Ireland.
In America, Saint Patrick's Day is a basically a time to wear green and party. The first American celebration of Saint Patrick's Day was in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737. As the saying goes, on this day "everybody is Irish!" Over 100 U.S. cities now hold Saint Patrick's Day parades, the largest held in New York City.
Green is associated with Saint Patrick's Day because it is the color of
spring, Ireland, and the shamrock. Leprechauns are also associated
with this holiday, although I'm not sure why. Leprechauns of legend are
actually mean little creatures, with the exception of the Lucky Charms
guy. They were probably added later on because capitalists needed
something cute to put on greeting cards.
What's good luck on Saint Patrick's Day?:
Leprechaun: Irish fairy. Looks like a small, old man (about 2 feet tall), often dressed like a shoemaker,with a cocked hat and a leather apron. According to legend, leprechauns are aloof and unfriendly, live alone, and pass the time making shoes...they also possess a hidden pot of gold. Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker's hammer. If caught, he can be forced (with the threat bodily violence) to reveal the whereabouts of his treasure, but the captor must keep their eyes on him every second. If the captor's eyes leave the leprechaun (and he often tricks them into looking away), he vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.
The Blarney Stone is a stone set in the wall of the Blarney Castle tower in the Irish village of Blarney. Kissing the stone is supposed to bring the kisser the gift of persuasive eloquence (blarney). The castle was built in 1446 by Cormac Laidhiv McCarthy (Lord of Muskerry) -- its walls are 18 feet thick (necessary to thwart attacks by Cromwellians and William III's troops). Thousands of tourists a year still visit the castle.
The origins of the Blarney Stone's magical properties aren't clear, but one legend says that an old woman cast a spell on the stone to reward a king who had saved her from drowning. Kissing the stone while under the spell gave the king the ability to speak sweetly and convincingly. It's tough to reach the stone -- it's between the main castle wall and the parapet. Kissers have to lie on their back and bend backward (and downward), holding iron bars for support. Can you imagine kissing something that has had people's lips all over it for 500 years?