St. Patrick's Day 101

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385, his given name was Maewyn. At age 16 he was sold into slavery by Irish marauders. He originally considered himself a pagan but while in captivity he became closer to God.

After six years in slavery he escaped and went to Gaul where he studied under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling was to return to Ireland, to convert the native pagans to Christianity.

He was quite successful at winning converts, this fact upset the Celtic Druids and he was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries, schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.

This mission lasted for thirty years when he retired to County Down, passing away on March 17 in AD 461. That day has become what we celebrate as St. Patrick's Day.

Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day including the belief that Patrick raised people from the dead and that he drove all the snakes from Ireland. Snakes were never native to Ireland, so most people think this is a metaphor for the conversion of the pagans. Originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday.

Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity, how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. From this his followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

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May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

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Legend of the Shamrock

As Saint Patrick was travelling from village to village in Ireland several members of a tribe told him that they found it difficult to understand and believe in the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick thought a moment, then stooped down and picked one of the plentiful shamrocks growing wild around Ireland.

"Here are three leaves," he said, "yet it is one plant. Imagine the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as each of these leaves. Here they are separate, yet they are one plant."


Until her death in 2002, the Queen Mother presented a bowl of shamrocks to the Irish Guards, a regiment of the British Army.


Some very famous authors were Irish. Did you know that James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde were all Irish?


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