Hey, there! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! Hope you’re wearing something green! Are you contemplating corned beef and cabbage? Or something else that’s Irish? I guess a lot of folks are going to be drinking green beer, lol. Are you going to a Snake Saturday parade? A St. Patrick’s Day Parade? Okay. Grab a cuppa something you like, find a comfy spot and let’s find out how much you really know about St. Patrick!
Okay, let’s play a little True or False here. What do you think about all these statements?
St. Patrick was born in Ireland, on March 17th
St. Patrick was always very strong in his religious faith
St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland
St Patrick’s Day is traditionally a Major Celebration in Ireland
So, how’d you do? All of the above statements are false. That’s right, St. Patrick wasn’t even born Irish! He was born into a wealthy family in Scotland. While his family was Christian, Patrick himself wasn’t at all religious. He was actually kidnapped as a youth by a group of pagans who took him to Ireland and made him tend sheep. While he was stuck out there in the mountains for about seven years, he had quite a conversion over time. He began to pray and sometimes it is recorded that he would pray up to 100 prayers in a day – and another 100 in the night! Eventually he had a dream that led him to his rescuers.
Patrick was eventually reunited with his family, and also with a local Bishop who taught him for several years before ordaining Patrick as a Priest. Later, Patrick was made a Bishop and was called back to Ireland to evangelize that country. He went. He evangelized! He and his companions evangelized Ireland and built churches all over the country for about 40 years. He died on March 17, 461. You can read the Catholic Saints version of his life here.
It’s true that there are no snakes in Ireland, but St Patrick did not physically drive out the snakes. There never were any. Ireland is surrounded by icy waters that would never allow a living snake to swim to the island country. However, St. Patrick did drive out much evil from the country; snakes often represent evil. That would be the most plausible explanation of that piece of the mythology. You can read the National Geographic piece here.
One other interesting fact. St. Patrick was acclaimed a saint by popular acclaim, and then by a Bishop. That is still valid, since there was no formal canonization process in effect at the time. You can read more about that, here.
St Patrick’s Day hasn’t always been the great big party it is today. In fact, that’s a pretty recent development, less than 100 years by any account. In Ireland, the priest would mention the feast day, and the family would have a big meal. That’s about it. But in America, we like to celebrate. A military march became a parade. The color green was introduced to show solidarity with Ireland; even the Chicago River is dyed green. Finally, green beer came out as another show of solidarity with Ireland – the consumption of Guiness more than doubles on St. Patrick’s Day in the US.
So, there you have it. If you’re tired of all the hype and hoopla and all the over-consumption of alcoholic beverages at this holiday, maybe you’d rather look into creating a relationship with the true God that St. Patrick preached. Find a pastor or a priest and just tell them you want to know more about the faith. They might even know a thing or two about St. Patrick.