Thursday, March 8, 2012

St. Patrick

Many interesting tales and legends surround St. Patrick.  He seems to have been adopted as the unofficial mascot of anything related to 4-leaf clovers, Leprechauns, snake herding, drinking Guinness, and pretty much anything green.

So, as we approach St. Patrick’s Day, let’s take a few minutes to separate fact from fiction.

Saint Patrick was born in the year 385 and died on March 17 in 461.  Which explains why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every year on that date.

Point One.  St. Patrick was not Irish.  Something I wish I’d known when Sr. Mercedes sent my Italian self home from school, claiming I “was not worthy to wear green nail polish.”  OK, so technically he was Roman.  But, hello, people?  Where do you think Rome is located?

His parents were wealthy Roman citizens living in Scotland to oversee the colonies there.  When he was 14, give or take a few years, he was captured by warring Celts, and taken back with them to Ireland to herd sheep as a slave of a Druid warlord.  Raising the question, “Why aren’t sheep a symbol of St. Patrick?”

Point Two.  Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland.  There were Christians already living there when Patrick arrived.  His faith was a great source of comfort to him during his time in captivity, and Patrick later wrote, “the faith grew in me, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer, and whether there was snow or ice or rain; I felt no hurt from it”

Point Three.  Patrick sailed with pirates.  After six or seven years, Patrick escaped his cruel master.  He travelled to the seashore, where he smooth talked his way onto a pirate ship bound for Scotland,  and was there reunited with his family.

Point Four.  After becoming a priest and then a bishop, Patrick was chosen to return to Ireland and convert the heathens, primarily because he could speak their language perfectly and had a detailed knowledge of Druid practices.  Proving once again that education will help you go places in life.

On Easter Sunday in 433, Patrick enlisted his faith and some pretty impressive miracles to out-power a group of druids and magicians, thus converting  the Supreme Monarch of Ireland  He was then granted permission to preach the Faith throughout the length and breadth of Erin. 

For the next 40 years, Patrick tramped from shore to shore, spreading the Gospels throughout the land.  Entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when they heard his message, cementing Patrick  in history as the Patron Saint of Ireland and one of the most famous and successful evangelists ever to tread upon her soil. 

Point Five.  St. Patrick never drove any actual snakes into the sea.  Nevertheless, he did exterminate a lot of Druids; not by tossing them into the ocean, but by converting them to Christianity.  Apparently the Druids had really big tattoos of snakes all over their hairy arms, and the Irish of the day understood the symbolism.  However, several centuries later, when there were no longer any tattoo sporting Druids roaming the countryside, people began to take the story literally, something that was never intended.  Today, St. Patrick, not to be confused with the Pied Piper, is often depicted herding snakes, presumably into the sea.

Point Six.  The four-leaf clover is NOT a symbol of St Patrick.  Think about it, people.  St. Patrick converted most of Ireland by using the Shamrock (a common three-leaf clover) as a visual aid to help explain the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; three persons in one God, just like the shamrock with three leaves but a single stem.

Point Seven.  On St. Patrick’s day, more than 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed around the world, more than double the amount on any other day of the year.

In honor of the festivities, we leave you with this Irish blessing:

May you have love that never ends,
lots of money, and lots of friends.
Health be yours, whatever you do,
and may God send many blessings to you!

However you choose to honor St. Patrick, he was a humble, pious, and gentle man, whose trust in God should be a shining example to each of us; and a Christian role model for anyone struggling to overcome obstacles.  Shamrocks and Leprechauns are simply marketing symbols chosen as a politically correct way to monetize another religious holiday.  But that’s a rant best saved for another day.

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