Who Was Saint Patrick?

March 17th marks the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, a traditional feast holiday of praise and stpatthanksgiving for missionaries in Ireland. And a perfect excuse for a ruckus party everywhere else in the world. The holiday and its worldwide festivities have become a celebration of everything Irish.

But beyond the green beer, shamrocks and parades is an historic figure – a saint whose life inspired this two thousand year holiday of national pride and revelry. Who was Saint Patrick? And why was he such an inspiration to the Irish?

Saint Patrick, nee Maewyn, was born to Scottish parents in Roman Britain in approximately 385 CE. As a teenager, he was captured by Druid raiders and sold into slavery in Ireland – then a pagan land ruled by the Druids. Legend tells that after six years of captivity, Patrick had a dream in which God told him to flee by the water. He followed the prophecy and was returned to his parents by Roman sailors.

Soon after, Patrick had another dream, in which the Irish people called to him, begging him to return. Patrick began studying for the priesthood, all the while planning to fulfill his second prophecy. In 433, Patrick is said to have returned to Ireland, this time sent by Pope Celestine, to teach gospel to the Irish people.

Saint Patrick’s return to Ireland commenced an incredible forty-year, one-man mission across the Irish island, ordaining priests, baptizing former pagans and converting entire kingdoms to Christianity with the power of his rhetoric. Legend tells that Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, with each leaf representing one of the triad. To this day, the shamrock is an image associated with Saint Patrick and has become the unofficial symbol of St. Patty’s Day.

Patrick died on March 17th, the anniversary of which has been marked for nearly 2000 years as the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day.