Saint Patrick

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. I am not of Irish descent (German and Scottish) but Saint Patrick’s Day is the day when everybody is Irish.  Too bad I forgot to wear anything green. I also will not be getting drinking green beer or trying to get the Ohio River dyed green. I suppose writing in green text is good enough.

Oddly enough, until fairly recently Saint Patrick’s Day wasn’t a big deal over in Ireland. The Irish celebrated his feast day as the patron saint of Ireland, but it was a bigger affair among Irish in the United States and elsewhere than in the home country. I suppose that the Irish at home felt less need to celebrate their culture and heritage than Irish immigrants abroad. Recently, however, there has been more of an emphasis on Saint Patrick’s Day as a celebration of Irish Culture in Ireland.

As for Saint Patrick himself, I wrote about him last year and I couldn’t do worse by recopying what I wrote then.

Patrick, or Patricius was a Roman who lived in Britain. He may have been born around 387 and lived until 460 or possibly 493, so he lived during the twilight of the Roman Empire in the West. At the age of 16 he was captured by raiders and enslaved. He worked as a shepherd in Ireland for about six years. He managed to escape and return to his home, but then he became a priest and returned to the land where he was a slave and worked to convert the pagans to Christianity. He seems to have been very successful during his lifetime, though there were many other missionaries in Ireland. He helped to organize the Church in Ireland and is supposed to have traveled to Rome to seek the Pope’s assistance in this endeavor.

According to legend, Patrick died on March 17, so that date has become his feast day. He has never been officially canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. He became known as a saint long before the modern procedure for canonization was developed. He is, obviously, the patron saint of Ireland, and also Nigeria, Montserrat, engineers, paralegals, and the dioceses of New York, Boston, and Melbourne.

There are many legends about St. Patrick. The most widely known is that he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, thus ruining the local ecology. Another is that he used the example of the three-leaved shamrock to illustrate the trinity.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish, and Irish at heart, out there!


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