It has literally been decades since my Catholic school days and I will be the first to admit that I have forgotten a lot about the Saints. Today is St. Patrick’s day. Best known as a day to celebrate those of Irish descent, to wear clovers or the color green and to drink excess amounts of green beer. So, who is St. Patrick and why was he so important that he gets a day named after him?
Well, for starters, not a lot of hard facts are known about St. Patrick. We do know that he wasn’t even Irish. He was believed to be born in or close to modern day England in the late 4th century. When he was around 16 years old he was captured by Irish Raiders (pirates) and was taken to Ireland where he became a slave. During this time, Patrick was a shepherd. It is believed that he suffered from hunger, extreme weather conditions and I’m guessing a great deal of loneliness. Any of these things could break a person. Patrick however decided to turn to God for comfort and strength; a great conversion for him. He never gave up belief in his faith and was confident in his future. Six years after he became a slave, he ran away to safety.
He believed that God was calling him to be a priest – to shepherd His people. He was ordained and eventually even became a bishop. He once had a vision about preaching to the people of Ireland. He desired to return to the country to proclaim God’s word.
Patrick did return to Ireland and stayed there until his death. He is known to have converted thousands to Christianity. Stories tell that he taught people about the Trinity using a 3 leafed clover – also known as a shamrock. The leaves represented the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Myth also tells of how he drove out all of the snakes from Ireland. While it is true that there are no snakes in Ireland, it is believed that this legend was started due to the fact that snakes are usually considered evil so they were used as a representation of him driving out paganism in Ireland. Patrick died around 461 on March 17.
Believe it or not, Patrick was never canonized a Saint by the Catholic Church. The official process of canonization was not created until much later. St. Patrick was most likely declared a Saint locally in Ireland by a bishop. St. Patrick’s day is a Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland due to the great things he did evangelizing that country during his ministry there.
Lastly, I just wanted to say that St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland (duh!) but you may also find it interesting to know that he is also the Patron Saint of Nigeria. This is due in part to the large numbers if Nigerians that the Irish people converted to Christianity.
There is a really interesting article on this here: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/03/17/470679579/how-did-st-patrick-get-to-be-the-patron-saint-of-nigeria
There you have it. I hope there are a few things in this article that you didn’t know before today. What are you doing to celebrate? Many cities still hold parades and other celebrations in honor of this great Saint. When you toast your green beers today, remember this holy man!