Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day! (So Who Was St. Patrick, Anyway?)


I'm a Jersey girl, so my first exposure to St. Patrick's Day was through images of the world famous parade right next door in Manhattan. As I got older, it became a day when my father would happily cook corned beef (my father is all about any holiday that involves delicious meals). By the time I hit college, it unfortunately had spiraled into a day that everyone wears green (I'm actually in green as I write this), becomes "Irish for the day", and then gets wasted. But then, like nearly all holy days, once they become commercialized holidays they usual mutate into a day of excess spending, eating or drinking. (Does anyone know anything about St. Valentine, either? Really?)

Yesterday I was asked about St. Patrick's Day at work since I had marked it on my calendar, and could only stutter out a "Um, he's the patron saint of Ireland. I think he helped feed the hungry during a famine?" Yes, that sentence came out like a question, because, well, I don't know about the guy. So, being the inquisitive girl that I am, I decided to find out about Saint Patrick by looking him up on the EWTN website. Here's what it says:

"The field of St. Patrick's labors was the most remote part of the then known world. The seed he planted in faraway Ireland, which before his time was largely pagan, bore a rich harvest: whole colonies of saints and missionaries were to rise up after him to serve the Irish Church and to carry Christianity to other lands. Whether his birthplace, a village called Bannavem Taberniae, was near Dunbarton-on-the-Clyde, or in Cumberland, or at the mouth of the Severn, or even in Gaul near Boulogne, has never been determined, and indeed the matter is of no great moment. We know of a certainty that Patrick was of Romano-British origin, and born about the year 389. His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon, his grandfather a priest, for at this time no strict law of celibacy had been imposed on the Christian clergy. Patrick's own full name was probably Patricius Magonus Sucatus.

"His brief gives us a few details of his early years. At the age of fifteen he committed some fault—what it was we are not told—which caused him much suffering for the rest of his life. At sixteen, he tells us, he still "knew not the true God." Since he was born into a Christian family, we may take this to mean that he gave little heed to religion or to the priests. That same year Patrick and some others were seized and carried off by sea raiders to become slaves among the inhabitants of Ireland... he tells us him self that "constantly I used to pray in the daytime. Love of God and His fear increased more and more, and my faith grew and my spirit was stirred up, so that in a single day I said as many as a hundred prayers and at night nearly as many, and I used to stay out in the woods and on the mountain. Before the dawn I used to wake up to prayer, in snow and frost and rain, nor was there any such lukewarmness in me as now I feel, because then my spirit was fervent within.

"After six years in captivity, he gained his freedom and returned to his family. "When Patrick was again restored to his kinfolk, they gave him a warm welcome and urged him to stay. But he felt he must leave them. Although there is no certainty as to the order of events which followed, it seems likely that Patrick now spent many years in Gaul....stayed for three years at the monastery of Lerins... and that about fifteen years were passed at the monastery of Auxerre, where he was ordained. Patrick's later prestige and authority indicate that he was prepared for his task with great thoroughness.



"Patrick was consecrated in 432, and departed forthwith for Ireland... in the land of his former captivity..." where he preached Christ in a land ruled by a pagan king counseled by Druid priests. In his "Confession", he wrote "It was not any grace in me, but God who conquereth in me, and He resisted them all, so that I came to the heathen of Ireland to preach the Gospel and to bear insults from unbelievers, to hear the reproach of my going abroad and to endure many persecutions even unto bonds, the while that I was surrendering my liberty as a man of free condition for the profit of others. And if I should be found worthy, I am ready to give even my life for His name's sake unfalteringly and gladly, and there (in Ireland) I desire to spend it until I die, if our Lord should grant it to me."

If you would like to know more about St. Patrick, click here.

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