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St. Patrick’s Day

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th

Patrick was born to wealthy Christian parents a little over 1,600 years ago in the British Isles.  St. Patrick wasn’t born in Ireland; his parents were Roman citizens (son of Calpurnius, a Roman-British deacon and Conchessa) living in modern-day England, or more precisely in Scotland or Wales (scholars cannot agree on which). He was born in 385 AD. By that time, most Romans were Christians and the Christian religion was spreading rapidly across Europe.

At the age of 16, while on his father’s country estate, he was kidnapped by pirates and taken to then pagan Ireland where he was sold as a slave.  He spent several years in Ireland herding sheep and learning about the people there.  Despite the demands of his life there, he kept his faith and  began contemplation and understanding of prayers.  At the age of 22, he managed a miraculous  escape;  he made his way to a monastery in England where he spent 12 years growing closer to God. After six years of servitude, he escaped and found a ship that took him back home.   He had a dream which told him to go back and Christianize Ireland.  Eventually, Patrick was ordained a priest and later a bishop, after which he was granted his wish to go back to Ireland.

St. Patrick used the shamrock to preach about the trinity.    Many claim the shamrock represents faith, hope, and love, or any number of other things but it was actually used by Patrick to teach the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and how three things, the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit could be separate entities, yet one in the same. Obviously, the pagan rulers of Ireland found Patrick to be convincing because they quickly converted to Christianity.

According to legend, St. Patrick drove all the snakes, or in some translations, “toads,” out of Ireland. In reality, this probably did not occur, as there is no evidence that snakes have ever existed in Ireland, the climate being too cool for them to thrive. Despite that, scholars suggest that the term “snakes” may be figurative and refer to pagan religious beliefs and practices rather than reptiles or amphibians.

The original color associated with St. Patrick is blue, not green as commonly believed. In several artworks depicting the saint, he is shown wearing blue vestments.  Green was associated with the country later, presumably because of the greenness of the countryside, which is so because Ireland receives plentiful rainfall. Today, the country is also referred to as the “Emerald Isle.”

His mission to Ireland lasted 30 years. During that time, he established monasteries, churches and schools throughout the country. He is credited with its eventual conversion.   He died March 17, 461 A.D.

The Irish have observed this religious holiday for thousands of years. But, how did we come to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States?  There are more Irish in the USA than Ireland.  Well, sort of. An estimated 34 million Americans have Irish ancestry. Some are pure-blood Irish, meaning they or their parents came from Ireland, but many more have mixed ancestry today. By contrast, there are 4.2 million people living in Ireland.    North America has only observed this holiday since the late eighteenth century. Even though not a legal holiday in the USA, St. Patrick’s Day is widely recognized and celebrated throughout the country with Irish festivals, parades, food like corn beef and cabbage, drinking green beer, and prominent displaying of the color green and Irish traditions.
Marie Coppola  Revised March 2019

 

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