HE WASN'T BORN ON MARCH 17!
HE WASN'T IRISH!
HE WASN'T EVEN NAMED PATRICK!!!
But he is the Apostle of Ireland and an exceptionally cool dude! This is his story.
Patrick's name was probably Maewyn. He was born to Christian parents in Briton (near Scotland) around 400 A.D. He was kidnapped by Irish pirates at age 16, taken to Ireland and sold into slavery. He was forced to tend sheep for his captors. While tending the sheep, he spent a lot of time praying and discovered his love of God. He also learned the local language and customs.
After six years tending sheep, Patrick claimed that an angel told him it was time to leave Ireland. He escape from his captors and walked almost 200 miles to the Irish coast. He returned to his home, then entered a monastery in France to study religion. He studied for 15 years and became a priest. He was given the name Patrick by the Catholic Church. Patrick heard another voice too, telling him to return to Ireland. Around 437 A.D., he returned to Ireland to minister to the small number of Irish Christians and to covert the pagan Irish Druids to Christianity.
Patrick led one of the most successful, non-violent religious conversions in history. He used Druid and Celtic symbols to explain Christian concepts. For example, he incorporated fire into Christian celebrations because the Druids used fire to honor their gods. He even imposed a circle on the Christian cross – creating the Celtic cross – because the worship of disks honoring the sun and moon goddesses was very common. Patrick said that the circle represented the eternal and endless nature of God’s love.
The shamrock (or “seamroy” in Celtic) grows all across Ireland – helping to give the land the name “Emerald Isle.” The shamrock was considered a sacred plant because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock’s leaves to explain the Christian concept of the Trinity - one God composed of three divine beings, the God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Legend says that Patrick performed a miracle by driving all of the snakes out of Ireland. In reality, there were no snakes in Ireland! But serpent symbols were used by the Druids, and Patrick’s missionary work did help end that practice.
Patrick spent the rest of his life working as a missionary in Ireland. He died on March 17, probably in 493 A.D. During his lifetime, he founded more 365 churches – almost all with a school – and devoted his whole life to promoting Christianity, doing good works and taking care of the Irish people. He spent a great deal of time in prayer. He also wrote several important religious texts, including his Confessions.
Patrick is one Ireland’s three patron saints, along with Bridget and Columba. These three saints are buried together in Downpatrick Ireland. Saint Patrick has been honored with religious services on March 17 since his death. The first Saint Patrick’s Day church service in the U.S. was held in Boston in 1737.
Today we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with parties and parades. The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City on March 17, 1762. On that day, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched to celebrate their Irish roots. People around the world still “wear the green” and celebrate all things Irish on March 17 in honor of this great man.