Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th is a widely celebrated holiday around the world. Steeped in Irish culture, symbolism, and festivals it is the memorial of Saint Patrick of Ireland and the arrival of Christianity to its people.
The man we know as St. Patrick was originally named Maewynn Succat and he was born in the year 385 AD in northern Britain when Rome was governing the land. It has also been theorized that the area where he was born was in our modern-day Wales or Scotland.
He grew up in a village between the River Severn and the River Clyde where his father was a local decan, and grandfather a priest.
When Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland where he was enslaved by an Irish chieftain. While in captivity he worked as a shepherd, and though Patrick did not follow the faith of his father and grandfather the time he spent in captivity was crucial to his spiritual development.
It was during his captivity and through prayer, he found a relationship with God and his faith in Christianity. Patrick wrote that the Lord had mercy on his youthful ignorance which allowed him the opportunity to be forgiven for his sins.
After 6 long years of captivity, he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home and that there was a ship waiting to sail. With great haste, he ran away from his captor and traveled some 200 miles to the north where he discovered a ship. After some challenges with the ship's crew, he was able to persuade the Captain to bring him aboard.
Now in his 20's, Patrick returned home to his family in Britain where he studied the Latin Bible and joined the priesthood for 12 years. During this time he wrote about a vision he had:
"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."
Acting on his vision, it was this calling that leads Patrick back to Ireland as a Christian missionary. This is when he took up the name Pātricius (English: Patrick) and devoted himself to the tasks of spreading the Christian faith across the land and to its people.
Around the year 435 AD Patrick was appointed bishop of Ireland. He divided Ireland into parishes that are each overseen by a priest. St. Patrick also encouraged the setting up of monastic orders for men and women who desired to live a spiritual life without the distractions of the world.
Patrick baptized thousands of people and ordained priests to lead new Christian communities. He converted the sons of kings and the wealthiest of women across the land.
Often, in his teachings, Patrick would refer to the shamrock plant as a reference to the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Fun Fact: The original color of Saint Patrick's Day was blue but over time it changed to green due to its symbolism of the shamrock and the beautiful green colors of the Irish countryside.
There are some folk tales of Patrick banishing snakes from all of Ireland, though there is no evidence of snakes ever inhabiting the country. It has been a theory the “snakes” were a reference to Druids who wore amulets and tattoos of snake-like figures during this time.
After 30 years of teaching the faith of Christ to the Irish people, Pātricius died on March 17, 461 AD. Unfortunately, when Patrick passed away there was no formal process for the canonization of Sainthood, and to that result, Patrick was never canonized by a Pope. However, he is listed among the saints and revered as one among the Irish people and many Christian churches. He is buried at the Down Cathedral, in Downpatrick, Ireland.
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A prayer of protection, known as Saint Patrick's Breastplate or Saint Patrick's Hymn is shared below:
I arise today through
God's strength to pilot me, God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to see before me,
God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me, God's host to secure me –
against snares of devils,
against temptations and vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me
ill, afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd...
Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,
Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.