The History of St Patrick and St Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick is internationally known as the saint of Ireland. From the time you were born you have celebrated Saint Patricks Day. You dress up in green and say, “Everybody’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day.” Most people don’t know the true history behind Saint Patrick, and only think of Saint Patrick’s Day as a day for fun. Even historians have trouble uncovering the truth about Saint Patrick.

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Saint Patrick’s early years are also a mystery to us. However, we do know that when he was about sixteen he was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Ireland. There he became a shepherd (Jones). Being a slave was a hard, grueling life, and that was when Saint Patrick turned to God for comfort (Catholic Online). About six years later, he had a dream that he would return to Britain. Seeing this as a sign from God to tell him to escape from slavery, he did so (Jones). In order to return home he had to take a ship. He traveled on foot over two hundred miles to reach a ship that was approaching departure. The ship traveled for three days, until they found land. They then traveled on foot for a month or so until their provisions were gone, and there was no food to be found (Attwater 613). The captain of the ship asked Saint Patrick, “What have you to say for yourself, Christian? You boast that your God is all-powerful. So why can’t you pray for us it’s beginning to look as if we may not survive to see another living soul” (O’Keeffe). Saint Patrick simply replied, “Turn trustingly to the Lord who is my God because nothing is impossible to Him. On this same day, He will send us food sufficient for our journey, because for Him there is abundance everywhere” (O’Keeffe). Suddenly, they saw pigs blocking their path, and the crew quickly killed and cooked the pigs for them to eat (O’Keeffe). Soon, after being away from his people for about six years, he finally reached “home,” most likely in Gaul. They welcomed him warmly and told him not to leave them again (Attwater 613-614).
He studied for several years in Europe to become a bishop. He became a bishop and then was sent to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity (Jones). Ireland was populated by Druids at that time. Druids were pagan religious leaders in Ireland. He had to perform many miracles in order to show God’s worthiness to the Irish and prove the Druids wrong (Delaney 447). One of his miracles in Ireland was the banishing of the snakes in Ireland. Christine O’Keeffe’s “Legends of Saint Patrick” states that “snakes” is a metaphor for Druids and instead of driving snakes out of Ireland he actually drove all the Druids out of Ireland (O’Keeffe). After many miracles and thirty-three years of work, he successfully converted almost all of Ireland to Christianity (Jones). Saint Patrick not only evangelized Ireland, he also raised the standards of scholarship and encouraged the study of Latin (Delaney 447). Saint Patrick most likely died in Ireland around 461 A.D. (Jones).
Saint Patrick is known worldwide as the saint of Ireland, but he is the saint of much more. His patronages include engineers, excluded people, ophidiophobics (people who have a fear of snakes) and Nigeria. He is the patron saint against snakes and snake bites. Saint Patrick is also the patron saint of many dioceses. For example he is the patron saint of the dioceses of New York City, New York; Ottawa, Ontario; Erie, Pennsylvania; and the archdioceses of Norwich, Connecticut; Dromore, Ireland and Burlington, Vermont. His representations include the shamrock, snakes, the cross, harps, demons, baptismal fonts, purgatory, a bishop driving snakes before him, and a bishop trampling snakes. Saint Patrick’s Feast day is on March 17 (Jones). His Feast Day is on March 17 because that was when Saint Patrick is believed to have died (Catholic Online).
Saint Patrick was canonized before the institution of the modern investigations performed by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (Jones). Before the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, saints were canonized by local bishops, prelates, or patriarchs. Due to being canonized before the institution of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, the date on which he was canonized is unavailable.
Saint Patrick is also known as the Apostle of Ireland, Maewyn Succat, Patricius, and Patrizio. Succat was Saint Patrick’s pagan birth name, and it means warlike. Patricius was Saint Patrick’s baptismal name and it means noble (Jones).
According to Jones, St. Patrick states in his Confession, “I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others. If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ’s name. I want to spend myself for that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor. It is among those people that I want to wait for the promise made by Him, who assuredly never tells a lie. He makes this promise in the Gospel: ‘They shall come from the east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world,” (Jones). This statement by Saint Patrick sums up what I admire about him: I admire his courage to return to Ireland and convert the Irish to Christianity; I admire his fortitude to stand up for God and what he believes in no matter what the consequences; and I admire his piety, or his love of God.
In hard times we turn to God for help and comfort. If Saint Patrick wasn’t a slave in Ireland he wouldn’t have turned to God. When Saint Patrick turned to God he became a new person, and little did he know that he would change the course of history. If he hadn’t converted Ireland to Christianity then he would not have become a saint, and the people of today wouldn’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.
Work Cited
Catholic Online. Saint Patrick. Catholic Online. 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.
Delaney, John J. Dictionary of Saints. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1980. Print.
Jones, Terry H. Saint Patrick. Star Quest Production Network. 9 Aug. 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2010
O’Keeffe, Christine. Legends of Saint Patrick. Tartan Place. 18 Feb. 2004. Web. 15 Jan. 2010.
“Saint Patrick.” Butler’s Lives of Saints. Attwater, Donald, and Herbert Thurston S.J. Vol. 1. New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1963. Print.