Today is St. Patrick's Day
By News Team
One of the many things which gives all European nations their pride is their tradition and culture. Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and on a day where everyone claims to be at least a little bit Irish, it is timely to have a look at the true story of Patrick.
He was born in the Roman province of Britain sometime between A.D. 387 and A.D. 415. While a teenager, Patrick’s community was left unguarded as Roman legions were withdrawn to defend Rome. Unprotected, Britain was attacked by raiders who carried away thousands.
Patrick was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland, which was ruled by Druids. The Druids, from whom Halloween originated, believed forests were inhabited by spirits which needed to be appeased. These were passed down as elves and leprechauns.
For six years, Patrick was a slave, herding animals for his Druid master, Milchu. He wrote in his “Confession”: “But after I came to Ireland, every day I had to tend sheep. … The love of God and His fear came to me more and more. … In a single day, I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain.”
Most likely, Patrick fled to Killala Bay or Westport where he found a small ship carrying wolfhounds to Europe. Tossed in a storm, they shipwrecked in southern France. Patrick met St. Germain (A.D. 380-448) who ministered him and brought him back to Britain.
When Patrick was about 40 years old, he had a dream calling him back to Ireland. He wrote in his “Confession”:
“In the depth of the night, I saw a man named Victoricus coming as if from Ireland, with innumerable letters, and he gave me one, and while I was reading I thought I heard the voice of those near the western sea call out: ‘Please, holy boy, come and walk among us again.’ Their cry pierced my very heart, and I could read no more, and so I awoke.”
Patrick returned to Ireland, confronted the Druids, converted chieftains and used the three-leaf clover to teach the Trinity.
A dozen times Patrick faced life-threatening situations, writing in his “Confession”: “They laid hands on me and my companions, and on that day they eagerly wished to kill me; but my time had not yet come. … they put us in irons and on the fourteenth day the Lord delivered me. … Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, or whatever it may be; but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven.”
Baptizing 120,000 and founding 300 churches, he wrote: “Patrick the sinner, an unlearned man to be sure. None should ever say that it was my ignorance that accomplished any small thing; it was the gift of God.”
The World Book Encyclopedia wrote that Patrick “found Ireland all heathen and left it all Christian.”
Saint Patrick died March 17, around A.D. 461.
Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though post-glacial Ireland never actually had snakes; one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place, as shown for instance on coins minted in Gaul.
Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of ‘three divine persons in the one God’ (as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular in Patrick’s time).
Whether or not these legends are true, the very fact that there are so many legends about Patrick shows how important his ministry was to Ireland. Some Irish legends involve the Oilliphéist, the Caoránach, and the Copóg Phádraig. During his evangelising journey back to Ireland from his parent’s home at Birdoswald, he is understood to have carried with him an ash wood walking stick or staff. He thrust this stick into the ground wherever he was evangelising and at the place now known as Aspatria (ash of Patrick) the message of the good news took so long to get through to the people there that the stick had taken root by the time he was ready to move on.
The 12th century work Acallam na Senórach tells of Patrick being met by two ancient warriors, Caílte mac Rónáin and Oisín, during his evangelical travels. The two were once members of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s warrior band the Fianna, and somehow survived to Patrick’s time. They traveled with the saint and told him their stories.
March 17, popularly known as St. Patrick’s Day, is believed to be his death date and is the date celebrated as his feast day. The day became a feast day in the universal church due to the influence of the Waterford-born Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding, as a member of the commission for the reform of the Breviary in the early part of the 17th century.
For most of Christianity’s first thousand years, canonisations were done on the diocesan or regional level. Relatively soon after the death of people considered to be very holy people, the local Church affirmed that they could be liturgically celebrated as saints.
As a result, St. Patrick has never been formally canonised by a Pope; nevertheless, various Christian churches declare that he is a Saint in Heaven (he is in the List of Saints). He is still widely venerated in Ireland and elsewhere today.
St. Patrick is also venerated in the Orthodox Church, especially among English-speaking Orthodox Christians living in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and in North America.