This Man Patrick.
**Note** March 15, 2011: This is a post I had put out when I first started my blog in early 2010. I’ve decided to re-post it for its upcoming relevance. Have a pleasant 17th of March!
Every March 17th, masses of people celebrate “Saint Patrick’s Day.” It’s a day for wild boozin’, pub-hopping and partying in the streets. Oh, and the color green. But was the 17th always the Guinness-filled day that it is today? I enjoy holiday celebrations as much as the next person, but I’m more intrigued by the meanings and history behind them.
This ‘Patrick’ whom we celebrate so raucously every mid-March was a man who knew a thing or two about suffering during the course of his lifetime. Though he was born to wealthy Roman citizens of Britain, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders. They brought him to Ireland and made him a slave at the age of sixteen. He became very introverted, generally retreating from people and spending most of his time herding animals. Christian since birth, he became extremely devout during this trying time in his life.
After six years as a slave, he escaped from his captors, managing not only to find passage back to Britain, but also to be reunited with his family. He claims to have had a dream that inspired him to return to Ireland to minister to the Irish people. He stayed in Britain to become ordained as a priest and eventually as a bishop, a path of religious training that took over fifteen years. He went back to Ireland and spent the rest of his years in poverty, preaching the Gospel, building Churches, converting many people to Christianity, and traveling extensively. On March 17 of the year 461 (the year is debated, but most scholars settle on 461 AD give or take a few), this determined man’s heart gave out on the Emerald Isle.
The Feast of St. Patrick, a day that marks the man’s death, was traditionally a religious holiday in Ireland. The feast falls during Lent, the weeks-long period preceding Easter. On the actual day, people went to Church in the morning, and celebrated in the afternoon with food and drink.
The St. Patrick’s Day parades are a New World thing. Or they were—the celebrations happen the wide world over these days, and are now marked by the color green, shamrocks, beer-drinking and leprechauns. No biggie– unrelated traditions and symbols will always creep into old feasts and holidays.
I’ve got nothing against leprechauns and pots of gold. But if we’re going to celebrate in this man Patrick’s name, let’s at least give him his due credit. Let’s actually find out who he is before the evening’s pubcrawl, and try to understand why for over a millenia, one country’s people have revered this man for his life and for what he brought to their island. He’s not the Easter Bunny—he’s a real figure who lived a hard life during a difficult time in history.
So have fun at the bar with your friends and co-workers. Surprise them and throw out some facts about this man Patrick. And please have a designated driver.