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Who Was St. Patrick? 🍀☘️🍀☘️

Saint Patrick Catholic Church (Junction City, Ohio) - stained glass, Saint Patrick - detail.jpg

The world will celebrate St. Patrick's Day on May 17 with the color green, clovers, and drunk Irish Leprechaun with his pot of gold. 

But who is really St. Patrick? Who did we name the iconic holiday after?

According to History, He was born in Britain governed by the Roman Empire and a son of a Christian Deacon. Around 400 A.D. at the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place)

Patrick writes in the Confession (Confession of St. Patrick) that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven his sins and convert to Christianity. While in captivity, he worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer, eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.

After six years of captivity, he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port, two hundred miles away,  where he found a ship and with difficulty persuaded the captain to take him. After three days' sailing, they landed, presumably in Britain, and apparently, all left the ship, walking for 28 days in a "wilderness" and becoming faint from hunger. After Patrick prayed for sustenance, they encountered a herd of wild boar; since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties. 

Patrick eventually returned to his family in Britain and his parents begged him to never leave them again, but the religious visions returned and presented Patrick with a different plan.

Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."

 After a period of religious training, he was ordained a deacon around 418 A.D. and in 432 A.D. consecrated as a bishop and given the name Patricius.

Many freed slaves often would have dreaded a return to their place of captivity, but Patrick asked for an assignment as a missionary to Ireland. When he returned to the pagan island, he tended to a different type of flock.Saint Patrick was a slave in Ireland for six years and eventually returned to his homeland, entering the clergy. He then returned as a missionary in Ireland in 432.

In the Confession, he writes that he "baptized thousands of people".He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too.There are several mentions of traveling around the island, and of sometimes difficult interactions with the ruling elite. 
He does claim of the Irish:

Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!

 Patrick’s knowledge of Ireland’s language and customs facilitated his work in converting and baptizing Druid priests, chieftains and aristocrats by the thousands before his death on March 17 in 461 A.D.

St. Patrick Incorporated Irish Culture Into Christian Lessons

Legend credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The shamrock has since become a central symbol for Saint Patrick's Day.

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional rituals into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. 

Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.

According to Legend in pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided Patrick in his evangelization efforts when he "held up a shamrock and discoursed on the Christian Trinity".Patricia Monaghan says there is no evidence that the shamrock was sacred to the pagan Irish. However, Jack Santino speculates that it may have represented the regenerative powers of nature, and was recast in a Christian context. Icons of St Patrick often depict the saint "with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other".Roger Homan writes, "We can perhaps see St Patrick drawing upon the visual concept of the triskele when he uses the shamrock to explain the Trinity".

Happy St. Patrick's Day on May 17! 🍀☘️🍀☘️


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