Thursday, March 17, 2011

History of St. Patrick - Patron Saint of Ireland

St Patrick's Flag

Saint Patrick's Day
(Irish: Lá ’le Pádraig or Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is an annual feast day, which celebrates Saint Patrick and is generally celebrated on March 17.

Even though Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and one of the most celebrated religious figures around the world, the factual information about his life and times is quite vague.

He was born in Wales (U.K) about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped from his native land of the Roman British Isles by a band of pirates, and sold into slavery in Ireland. He remained in captivity and worked as a shepherd, during which time he began to have religious visions and became closer to God

After six years he escaped from slavery and went to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of twelve years.
While back in his homeland, Patrick decided to become a priest and he planned return to Ireland after dreaming that the voices of the Irish people were calling him to convert them to Christianity.

Patrick eventually returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary and succeeded in converting the Irish to Christianity. He was quite successful at winning converts and this upset the Celtic Druids. He was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He 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. He was later appointed as second bishop to Ireland.

Although there were already some Christians living in Ireland, St. Patrick was able to bring upon a massive religious shift to Christianity by converting people of power, wealth and influence. St. Patrick is credited with converting the nobles; who set an example, which the people followed.

His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland and March 17th has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.

One traditional icon from that era is the shamrock. This stems from an Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the 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.
Saint Patrick is also credited with bringing written word to Ireland through the promotion of the study of legal texts and the Bible. Previous to Patrick, storytelling and history were reliant on memory and orally passing down stories.

The first year that St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in the United States was in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. The first official St. Patrick's Day parade was held in New York City in 1766.

In Great Britain, Queen Mary, the Queen Mother, used to present bowls of shamrock flown over from Ireland to members of the Irish Guards, a regiment in the British Army consisting primarily of soldiers from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The tiny island of Montserrat, known as "Emerald Island of the Caribbean" due to its foundation by Irish refugees from Saint Kitts and Nevis, is the only place in the world apart from Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador in which St Patrick's Day is a public holiday. The holiday commemorates a failed slave uprising that occurred on 17 March 1798.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

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