St. Patrick’s Day is a big holiday in many parts of the country, especially where there is Irish Heritage. The story of St. Patrick is an interesting bit of history and legend you can share with your grandchildren.
Since many stories and legends have been told regarding St. Patrick it is difficult to separate the facts from the myths. We do know, however, that Patrick was born around 387 AD in Roman Britain. His father was a magistrate and Patrick, as his name implies, was of noble birth, (those of more noble rank among the Romans were called Patricians).
When he was 16, Patrick was carried off by a band of Irish raiders and was made a slave in Ireland. Here he became a shepherd and served his master faithfully. While spending long and often lonely days in the forests or hills with his sheep, his love for God grew stronger and his faith increased. After six years, Patrick was set free and allowed to return home to his family, who had given him up for dead.
While in Ireland, Patrick had become a devout young man. Upon returning home, Patrick felt the call of God on his life and he prepared himself to become a priest. Though he was thankful that he was able to return home, he couldn’t seem to forget Ireland. It is said that while he was in Brittany Patrick had a vision, comparable to the one that St. Paul, saw before he went to preach the gospel in Europe. He saw someone making signs to him to come over and preach and teach the people of Ireland.
In the year 432, Patrick, who was now a Bishop, set out for Ireland as a missionary. The fact that he already spoke the people’s language and that he had a respect for the Irish culture helped him tremendously in his work and he was gladly received by the people of the Emerald Isle. He taught them that it was wrong to worship creation rather than the creator and how terrible it was for them to sacrifice their little babies in their “Valley of Slaughter”, thinking that by taking the lives of their infants they were pleasing the horrible gods they served. For up to this point, Christianity had not made much headway in this land where the people knew nothing of the Bible and the Church.
Patrick had a splendid way of teaching the people. He used familiar items and nature itself as to illustrate Biblical truths. It is said that one time he was asked by an Irishman to explain the Trinity. So Patrick bent down and picked a shamrock He explained that just like the shamrock is one plant with one stem, yet has three leaves, the Trinity is one God in three persons. He used many illustrations of this sort to lead the people of Ireland away from their false gods to the worship of the one true God.
Besides leading the people of Ireland away from their ancient superstitions and to belief in God, Patrick also founded schools, colleges, and monasteries to continue the people’s growth in their knowledge of the Lord. It was not long before Ireland became a leader in Christianity, education, and refinement.
The facts of Patrick’s death are unclear. Some say he returned to Britain and died there while others say he died in Ireland. It is believed that he died between 461 and 466. He soon became the patron saint of Ireland in honor of his sacrificial work to bring Christianity to the Irish people and March 17 was designated “St. Patrick’s Day”.