March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day. While browsing around Yahoo! Answers, I noticed an uptick in questions having to do with the man behind the holiday. Who was St. Patrick? Did he really banish all the snakes from Ireland?
The History Channel has a slew of information on the Patron Saint of the Emerald Isle. The site explains that much of what we “know” about ol’ St. Paddy is actually false. For example, contrary to popular belief, Patrick didn’t drive out all the snakes from Ireland. Still, what he did do is arguably even more impressive.
According to History.com, Patrick was actually born in Britain. At 16, he was taken prisoner “by a group of Irish raiders” who took him across the sea to Ireland. There, he spent six years in captivity. Apparently, it was then that he turned to religion as a means of fighting off fear and loneliness.
Eventually, Patrick escaped. Guided by a voice he believed to be God’s, Patrick walked 200 miles to the Irish coast. Back in Britain, he trained to be a priest for 15 years. Patrick then returned to Ireland with two goals — “to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.”
Patrick was successful in his goals, perhaps largely due to his incorporating traditional Irish symbols into Christianity. For example, many believe he came up with the Celtic cross. According to legend, he wanted to incorporate an Irish symbol (the sun) onto the Cross “so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.” The site Catholic.org explains that Patrick also used a three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish (other sites call this another myth).
St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 “after years of living in poverty, traveling, and enduring much suffering.” Like St. Valentine and St. Nicholas, he has become a beloved figure to many. American Catholic offers an in-depth biography of the man and notes that for someone who is so famous, there is surprisingly little research. The St. Patrick Centre hosts a complete version of Patrick’s famed “Confession.”
Thanks for reading,
**PLEASE NOTE: A slightly different version of this blog was first published in March, 2009
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