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St. Patrick – Man, Symbol and Holiday

You may know all about St. Patrick’s Day, but what do you know about the man? The most basic information is widely known. Patrick converted Ireland to Christianity; he used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. This is how the shamrock became such a popular symbol of Ireland on everything from clothes and jewelry to pottery and tea sets. We’ve all heard that he drove the snakes from Ireland, although it is debatable how literal those snakes were! Many know he was not born in Ireland, but after that it gets a bit hazy for most of us.

Patrick1Patrick was born in Scotland to Roman parents. This is why he is sometimes described as being Roman. His father and grandfather were both clergymen, a deacon and priest respectively. As a teen, Patrick was captured and brought to Ireland as a slave. At that time, the Irish followed the beliefs of the Druids and were decidedly not Christian. Patrick spent several years in slavery, and during that time he prayed often and his spiritual life developed. In his writings, Patrick describes praying up to a hundred times a day. After having a vision, he escaped and made his way to the coast where he was able to convince a ship to take him onboard. According to some accounts, it took him years to reach his home and family in Scotland. Eventually, after much more prayer and study, he had another vision urging him to return to Ireland.

He did, of course, and began his famous work of converting Ireland to Christianity, using the shamrock as a symbol. But first, he began his studies to become a priest and eventually rose to the level of bishop. It was then that he returned to Ireland. He preached and gathered converts and disciples who continued his work. But he was not exactly warmly welcomed everywhere. He was beaten, robbed and jailed. A chieftain tried to kill him, but instead became a follower after being unable to move one arm until he agreed to welcome Patrick instead of kill him.

Patrick2Places throughout Ireland are named for Patrick and claim a connection. The Hill of Slane is reputed to be where he gave his famous lesson using the shamrock. Croagh Patrick is named for the saint, and to this day people make a pilgrimage in his footsteps hiking this mountain where Patrick is said to have fasted and prayed for 40 days.

You won’t see much fasting on St. Patrick’s Day. Quite the opposite! All around the world, the 17th of March, the day Patrick died, has become a day to celebrate all things Irish. Parades and parties, dance and dignitaries – the celebrations are not exactly the same everywhere but the spirit of fun and love of heritage is. So whatever you are doing this St. Patrick’s Day, enjoy it! And embrace the chance to show off your most dazzling Irish jewelry.

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