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History of Saint Patrick

Cover of the Book of Kells

For years I have listened to people say that St. Patrick was Italian. Not really sure, I decided to do some digging into his history. And this is what I have found.....

The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britannia (currently known as Wales and England) about AD 387. By this time, over 400 years from the time Julius Ceasar had launched the first expedition, Britannia was a thriving Roman civilization. Patrick’s father, Caipurnius, was a Roman citizen. At the age of 16, he was captured by Irish marauders who raided his village. During his captivity, he began praying to God one hundred times during the day and one hundred times during the night. St. Patrick wrote that in this way, "My faith grew and my spirit was stirred up."

Now I can see how some would think he was Italian, just by the mear mention of Rome, however, he was born and raised in Wales...if anything that makes him British!!! How about that!!! So, back to our story...

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

His wish was to return to Ireland, to convert the pagans who had overrun the country. However, his superiors instead appointed St. Palladius. Two years later, Palladius transferred to Scotland. Patrick was then appointed as second bishop to Ireland.

Patrick already knew the language and the customs of the people so he was quickly accepted by them. He was able to convert the tribal chiefs, and through them the people became Catholic. St. Patrick traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity. While the rest of Europe was in the "Dark Ages", Ireland was prospering and educating there people in untold numbers! In fact, historians credit St. Patrick with printing the first bible.

His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been commemorated as the Feast of St. Patrick's ever since.

Customs and Traditions...

One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock. This stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells how St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737. That was the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this country, in Boston.