St. Patrick's Day
When we think about St. Patrick's Day, one may think about four leaf clovers, pots of gold and leprechauns. The holiday is about much more, in fact these things have nothing to do with the start of St. Patrick's Day. As with early church history in general, most modern Christians have a very limited or false understanding of who St. Patrick really was. Many even believe that Patrick is something like an Irish version of Santa Claus. But Patrick was not only a real person, he may be directly responsible for saving western civilization. In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill makes this very case. Cahill shows how the Irish people, influenced as they were by the missionary efforts of Patrick, were able to preserve much of the newly established traditions and advancements of the West while the Huns and Visigoths ravaged Europe during the 4th and 5th centuries. Were it not for Patrick's obedience in returning to the very country where he was enslaved as a young man, the Western world as we know it today would have looked very different indeed. Armed with only courage and conviction, Patrick's unwavering belief that good conquers evil would liberate Ireland and alter the course of history.
The history of St. Patrick's Day is rooted in England in the year 385 A.D. where a boy by the name of Maewyn was born the privileged son of nobility. He lived a normal life until the age of sixteen, when Irish pirates raided his town and took him to Ireland where he was enslaved by a cruel druid chieftain, working as a sheep herder.
During this time, Maewyn turned to the God he was raised to know. He believed that God was telling him to leave Ireland. Six years later, following many vivid dreams and visions of destiny, he escaped and returned home to England and a sheltered life with his loving parents Concessa and Calpornius. Soon after returning he joined a church in Gaul where he studied under St. Germain to become a priest and changed his name to Patrick.
Troubled by new visions of the Irish people pleading to be freed from enslavement and hardship, he returned to the turbulent country intent on liberating the nation. Patrick worked as a missionary in Ireland for over 30 years establishing monasteries and schools throughout the country. His mission was jeopardized by British Bishop Quentin, who believed the Irish were warlike heathens, but his unwavering courage in the face of adversity ultimately forced Ireland to abruptly turn in a direction that changed history forever.
There are lots and lots of fables and tales associated with his work, but we do know that he Loved the Lord dearly, and is most famous for using the Shamrock to explain the Trinity... Three in One! Legend (dating to 1726) credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of 'three divine persons in the one God.' For this reason, shamrocks have definitely become a central symbol for St Patrick's Day.
St. Patrick died on the 17th of March, which is when we commemorate his life as St. Patrick's Day. This day is celebrated both in and outside of Ireland, as both a liturgical and non-liturgical holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation, and outside of Ireland, it can be a celebration of Ireland itself.
The Real Story of St. Patrick (Voice of the Martyrs)
The Torchlighters: The St. Patrick Story
Donegal, PA 15628
Indian Head, PA 15446