Monday, March 17, 2014

MARCH 17 = St. Patrick's Day

"I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: 'The Voice of the Irish'. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: 'We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.' "

Thus spake Saint Patrick, in Latin that's Sanctus Patricius, and in the Irish (Gaellic) tongue, Naomh Pádraig, born in AD 387 and who died on this date, March 17, in the year AD 461. The man was a was a Romanized-Celt, and a Christian missionary, who is considered the patron saint of Ireland. The above is from one of two  letters generally accepted by historians as having been written by Patrick, and recounts a vision which he had a few years after returning there from Gaul.

St. Patrick Wasn't WHAT??

Well here's a kicker for you: the man was not actually Irish!! Actually, he was not really BORN in Ireland herself. As stated above, he was a Romanized Celt. Remember, the Roman Empire went on for quite a long time. The island of Britain was conquered by the Romans lead by Julius Caesar in @ 50 BC. But it was not until the reign of Claudius Caesar that Britain was brought firmly back into the Roman world in @ 56 AD. Thus the people of this part of the world thought of themselves as being Romans. It was into this world that the young Patrick was born to the given name of Maewyn. His birth place was most likely a small village near the mouth of the Severn River in what is now Wales. And here's the other kicker: he was dragged to Ireland as a slave by Irish marauders! These rogues kidnapped (or Saint-napped) the boy when he was sixteen years old, along with hundreds of other men and women, and for six years he was a kind of captive sheep herder in County Antrim. It was during this period that he came to an increasing awareness of God in his heart.

St. Patrick's Conversion

He managed to escape his slavery in Ireland and went to Gaul (modern day France) wherein he spent a dozen years studying the Christian faith under the eyes of St. Germain, the Bishop of Auxerre, who instilled in his young pupil a desire to convert pagans to the Christian faith. By the time of his return to Ireland, and his installation as Ireland's second Bishop, he had adopted the christian name of Patrick. He had, by all accounts, an imposing physical presence, and a very winning and unaffected manner about him, which enabled him to win over a good number of converts. This made him a burr under the saddle of the local Celtic Druid priests, who were forever having the man arrested, only to watch him escape. In time he managed to travel extensively throughout the green hills of the Irish countryside founding monasteries, and churches. He is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop which drove the snakes from Ireland for good. Once, struggling during a sermon to describe the Holy Trinity of the father, the son and the holy ghost, he happened to look down and saw the clovers growing in the ground. He picked up the herb, and holding it up, asked his listeners to imagine this as the father, the son, and the holy ghost, and the stem as the single God head from which they proceeded. St. Patrick died on this date of March 17, in or about the year of AD 461, and ever after, his converts wore the shamrock or the three-leafed clover as a religious symbol on his feast day. And thus it has come down through the years as a symbol of Ireland and all things Irish.

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"Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things"  by Charles Panati, Harper & Row Publ. Inc., New York, 1987.

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