We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with parades, dancing, special foods, and a whole lot of green whether you have an Irish heritage or not.
In Ireland the day was a mostly religious celebration. In fact, until the 1970s pubs were closed on March 17. “You just donned your homemade St Patrick’s Day badge or pinned a fistful of muddy shamrock to your lapel and went out to Mass to sing Hail Glorious St Patrick.”
Do you know these other facts about the patron saint of Ireland?
- He was not Irish, but British.
He was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century. Kidnapped by Irish raiders as a teen, they took him to Ireland to work as a shepherd. He escaped and returned to Britain. He spent the next 15 or so years in a monastery, preparing for his missionary work. Pope Celestine I consecrated St. Patrick as Bishop of the Irish around 431.
- He was never a saint canonized by the Roman Catholic church
During the Church’s first millennium, most saints received their title if they were martyrs or counted to be extraordinarily holy. St. Patrick was the latter. He converted many from paganism and became known as the Apostle of Ireland and made the patron saint of the isle.
His familiarity with the Irish language and culture made the Irish receptive to his teachings because he took familiar Celtic symbols and Christianized them. That led to many legends attributed to St. Patrick.
Celtic cross -St. Patrick combined the Irish pagan symbol of the sun with the Christian cross creating the Celtic cross, the icon of Ireland and Irish faith.
Shamrock -He explained the trinity to the Irish pagans with the three leaves of the shamrock. Though there’s no proof he ever did this, the shamrock metaphor remains strong in Irish Christianity.
Snakes – Allegedly when snakes attacked him during a 40-day fast, he chased them to the sea. Ireland doesn’t have snakes so this is total legend. More likely, he used snakes as a metaphor for the evil Druids and pagans.
Lent Fasting – He’s said to have climbed Croagh Patrick, County Mayo and fasted at the summit for the forty days of Lent. True or not, thousands of pilgrims make the trek to the top of Croagh Patrick yearly. I’ve been to Croagh Patrick, but, not to the summit.
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