The Real St. Patrick

The St. Patrick day lore is plentiful, so much so it lead me to do some researching…    Not many people know very much about the man behind the myths.  It’s really not at all surprising to me that the modern day celebration of March 17 actually has little to do with the facts.  Today is actually the 1,551st anniversary of his death.  He was not actually Irish either – he was British.  And despite the fact that his parents were aristocratic Christians, he really had no interest in Christianity as a young boy.

When he was sixteen years old, his life changed drastically.  He was kidnapped and sent overseas to tend sheep as a slave in the chilly, mountainous countryside of Ireland for seven years.

That had to have been the worst thing ever – but the experience also led him to belief in Jesus.  Where he was resistant to Christianity before, he fully embraced it because of this thing that had happened to him.  One might argue that his faith is what got him through the tough times.  Because if not that, then what did?

One day, he heard a voice, and it told him to escape.  And he did.  He got on a pirate ship (which I find to be very funny) and went back to Britain, where he was reunited with his family.

I think it is quite impressive that he was able to find his family again – but then again, they owned a townhouse, a countryside villa, and servants too, so it wasn’t as if they would have picked up and run when Patrick disappeared.  They probably stayed put, hoping against hope that one day they’d see their son again.

Then the voice returned and told him to go back to Ireland.  He got ordained as a priest, goes back to Ireland and spends the rest of his life trying to convert the Irish to Christianity.  His work was very hard – he was regularly beaten by thugs, harassed by Irish royalty, and admonished by his British superiors.

He used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but there is nothing specially Irish about shamrocks – clovers can be found everywhere.

March 17 had been a feast day in Ireland, but not much else for a long time.  Irish Americans are responsible for making it what it is today – they brought the parades, packed pubs and green silliness.  It’s interesting to note that the original color associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue – but over time (since the 17th century), green ribbons and shamrocks were worn to celebrate the day.

Today is also my grandpa’s birthday, and he is Irish to boot – we like to tease him and say he is a leprechaun, but I really don’t think he minds at all that much… If you ask him if he’s a leprechaun, chances are he will say yes!


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