In America, Saint Patrick’s day is celebrated with the wearing of green. But have you ever wondered why there is a St. Patrick’s day? Who is this guy, St. Patrick, and why is there a day named after him?
St. Patrick wasn’t always a St., he was once a boy and was born about 389 A.D. He lived in the area of Great Britain and was not Irish.
He grew up in a strong Christian home with his loving parents, but Patrick was young and rebellious. One day, at 16 years-old he decided he would rather play along the rocky cliffs then go to church. He was captured by pirates and was sold to Irishmen. He was kept as a slave for six years in Ireland. His job was to care for pigs and during the first year of his enslavement he remembered the God that his parents had taught him about. He said that the Lord had opened his eyes to the truth and from that day on, Patrick vowed to serve him. For the next several years Patrick learned to pray. He prayed for his freedom and one day the Lord heard his prayer. Patrick had the chance to escape slavery and he did so and boarded a ship with a kind captain who took him to France. From there on, Patrick made it home.
After he was reunited with his family, Patrick found himself having strange dreams at night. He dreamt that Irish children were calling him back to the heathen country of Ireland. In his dreams he was teaching them about God. So he went back even though he had been kept as a slave there for many years. This is probably why he was considered a saint.
For nearly 30 years Patrick ministered to the people of Ireland. This was a very difficult task because Ireland was ruled by tribal chiefs. There were many wars between the chiefs and people.
As for the spirituality of the people, the Irish believed in magic, like the kinds in fairies, elves, and leprechauns. There was also a Celtic religion from the Druids. The Celts were early Indo-European people scattered over Europe. The Druids worshiped the sun, moon, stars, and performed all kinds of magical ceremonies. A lot of today’s Halloween symbols come from the Druids.
Many British missionaries had tried to minister there but not much success came to them. But Because Patrick had been a slave there, he found it easier to minister to them. He used the three-leafed Shamrock (or clover) to demonstrate and symbolize the trinity. Because of his teachings, many people grew to love Patrick. But the Druids didn’t like him. Patrick wrote once that his life was in danger at least 12 times, that he was seized other times, and was held prisoner. But even through all that he continued preaching to the Irish.
Patrick started 300 churches and baptized 120,000 people in Ireland. Patrick performed miracles too. he was said to have given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, cleansed lepers, cast out demons, and raised nine people from the dead. His ministry was so amazing there have been legends and stories of Patrick that may not have been true. One story said Patrick led snakes to the sea to drown and he was also said to have dug a hole to the underworld and sent monks to give a report on Hades. The love of storytelling hasn’t left the Irish though they matured into a broad Christian nation.
Patrick left Ireland after 30 years and died of natural causes in 461. Patrick was so well remembered that March 17th has been dedicated in his honor.
So on St. Patrick’s day, try and do more than wear green. Remember the great compassion of this man and his love for the Irish people.