WEBSTER COUNTY, KY - The US currently has one of the largest populations of Irish ancestors in the world and, as a result, millions of our citizens participate in a variety St. Patrick’s Day celebrations every year on March 17th.
From wearing green to taking part in religious observances—and even enjoying a good “green” brew—St. Patrick’s Day has become a widely accepted cultural practice in the states by people with a range of backgrounds.
But do we really know who St. Patrick was or what role he played in history?
While much of St. Patrick’s story has become muddled by years of ever-growing exaggeration and folklore, many historians agree that he played a pivotal role in shaping our world’s history.
Though St. Patrick is generally believed to have died around March during 460A.D, he was born during the late fourth century to a wealthy, but not particularly religious family in Britain. While his father is believed to have been a Christian deacon, many historians agree that the title may have simply been a means of religious tax incentives.
Though his early life and early adolescence was more than likely quite secure, he was taken prisoner by a group of Irish “raiders” that attacked his family’s estate when he was only 16. After the abduction, St. Patrick was taken to Ireland.
During this 6-year stretch, he was sold as a slave and worked as a shepherd in the countryside. As a result, he spent much of his time isolated from other people. In reaction to his lonesome and weary travels and captivity, historians believe that St. Patrick turned to religion as a means of comfort and tranquility. In particular, St. Patrick turned his attention to Christianity for his solace.
However, after over 6 years of slavery, St. Patrick finally escaped his captors under “divine” direction. As he wrote, God spoke to him in a dream, telling him to leave Ireland.
As accounts suggest, he walked nearly 200 miles to Ireland’s coastline and eventually made his way back into Britain where he had yet another divine “vision.” In this dreamlike state, St. Patrick stated that he was urged to return to Ireland as a Christian missionary.
For the next 15 years, Patrick devoted his life to learning Christian teachings through intensive studies and was finally ordained as a priest. After receiving this honor, he left for Ireland with a two-fold mission. On one hand, he sought to minister to Christians already living in Ireland, while on the other he begin to convert the Irish people as a whole.
At the time, the majority of Irish culture was dominated by a form of nature-based, pagan religion, yet in his attempt to convert the majority to Christians, St. Patrick did not aim to completely destroy their traditions. Being familiar with both Irish culture and language of the day, he instead integrated the country’s age-old celebrations with an ultimately Christian teaching. For example, he used large bonfires to celebrate Easter and even “superimposed” the image of the sun (one of the most important symbols to the Irish at the time) onto the Christian cross. This image is now what we know as the Celtic cross. With this more “natural” transition to the Christian religion, St. Patrick was able to convert a large portion of the relatively small Irish population after many years of effort.
Until the day of his death, St. Patrick continued to visit several churches he had founded and offered religious advice to the Irish people.
Historical information provided by The History Channel (www.history.com)
Posted by Karen Orange - iSurf News