Saint Patrick, whose feastday is celebrated on the 17th of March, is the patron saint of Ireland and was born in 387 A.D. and died in 461 A.D. St. Patrick is set apart from the other saints due to its recognition in the secular as well as religious world. The only other two saints which are recognized by the secular world is St. Valentine and St. Nicholas, popularly known as Santa Claus. Throughout the world, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th.
The saint, who is also known as the “Apostle of Ireland, was born in Kilpatrick in Scotland and passed away in Saul on the 17th of March, marking the day that would be celebrated for centuries to come with everyone being Irish on this popular day. There are many stories and legends that are associated with St. Patrick. However, based upon fact, the following is a brief history of his life and works.
Patrick is born in or around Kilpatrick in Scotland in 385, the son of his father, Calpurnius, and mother, Conchessa. His parents were not Scottish but Roman and were in Scotland in order to manage the colonies.
When Patrick was fourteen years of age, a raiding party captured him and took him to Ireland to serve as a slave. He was given the task of tending to and herding the sheep. Ireland was, at this point, and land filled with pagan and Druids. He adopted the practices and the language of the people whom he served.
During his period of captivity, he spent large amounts of time in prayer. He would often go out and pray during the snow and rain and it was here that he felt connected with his God. His faith continued to grow and his soul was uplifted.
Patrick remained captive for six years, when he escaped from his owners at the age of twenty. He escaped from his captives after he was given a dream in which god told him to leave the land of Ireland via the coast. It was there that he found sailors who transported the young Patrick to Britain, where he was finally reunited with his parents and family.
It was then that he had a dream where the Irish people called from him and shouted out “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.” As a result of this dream, he began to study to become a priest of the Catholic Church. After his period of study, which took several years, he received his ordination from the Bishop of Auxerre, St. Germanus.
At a later date, Patrick became a bishop. He was then sent to take the Lord’s Gospel to the people of Ireland. He arrived first in Slane, Ireland on the 25th of March, 433. He began to preach the Gospel throughout all of Ireland, where he converted many pagans. He along with his disciples would go from place to place and preach and convert thousands upon thousands of people. Then also began to build churches throughout the country. Leaders, families, and whole kingdoms began to convert from paganism to Christianity when they heard the message of Patrick and his disciples.
According to legend he banished all of the snakes from Ireland. At the time snakes were popular symbols in many pagan rites and ceremonies. When he encountered the druids he is said to have converted them and baptized them in ‘holy wells’. It is the abolition of the snakes in religious ceremonies that historians believe are the origins of the modern myth about snakes being driven out of Ireland.
Due to the length of time he spent in captivity he was acquainted with the customs and traditions of the Irish people. To aid in transition from pagan rituals to Christianity, Patrick incorporated many Celtic traditions into Christian celebrations, like bringing bonfires into Easter mass. He also to the Christian cross and combined it with sun, which was a holy symbol, and created the Celtic cross.
One of the most popular symbols of St. Patrick and Ireland is the shamrock. The use of the shamrock originated from the saint, who used the green to explain the existence of the Trinity. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit where separate entities like the leaves of a shamrock but the same, as the leaves are all part of the shamrock.
Patrick found many disciples to help him in work, including Fiaac, Iserninus, Auxilius, and Beningnus, who later were canonized along with Patrick. Patrick went on to preach and convert the entirety of the Emerald Isle for approximately 40 years. He performed numerous miracles as well as wrote his Confessions, which demonstrated his undying love for God. After several years of preaching, traveling, poverty, and undergoing many years of suffering, he passed away in 461 on the 17th of March.
He passed away in Saul in Ireland, where the first Christian church in Ireland was built.