Saint Patrick's Day is in full swing on Wednesday. Supporters of the long standing St. Patty's tradition are looking forward to participating in various world wide festivals, attending parades, displaying their green, dining on corned beef and cabbage, finding shamrocks, chasing leprechauns and swilling green beer. The partiers involved in the revelries perhaps may know very little about the day's namesake.
St. Patrick's Day honors a man born during the late 300's A.D. who died on March 17, 460 A.D. St. Patrick was born in Britain to an affluent family whose father was a Christian deacon (who surprisinly only manned the job for money and tax breaks) Patrick was taken prisoner by Irish raiders attacking the family's dwelling place at the age of 16. The captors took Patrick back to Ireland and forced him to work as a shepherd. Out of fear, despair, and utter loneliness, Patrick developed a deep faith in God in the hills of Mount Slemish in County Antrim or County Mayo near Killala (historians can't decide where exactly Patrick was held prisoner.)
Patrick managed to escape after he dreamed God's voice in a dream and after over six years as prisoner. Patrick managed to make it to Ireland's coast, after walking over 200 miles from County Mayo/Mount Slemish. As a free man, Patrick had another life changing dream in which an angel arrived instructing him to return to Ireland and spread Christianity, a thought he had during his time in captivity. Patrick embarked on a fifteen year study into Christianity which eventually lead to his ordination into the priesthood. From there, Patrick ministered to the already Christian people of Ireland and helped convert those who were not.
Patrick used methods of traditional Irish custom to teach Christianity to Ireland. His teachings were the first of the time as traditionally missionaries eradicated native beliefs to spread Christianity. Patrick is responsible for the creation of what is presently known as a Celtic cross as he blended the Irish favored symbol of the sun with the Christian cross, enabling the Christian cross to be more easily accepted by natives and still used to this day.
The beliefs and teachings of St. Patrick had a huge impact on Christianity and Ireland. St. Patrick's contributions to Ireland are inspiring and much revered, giving great reasons to celebrate every March 17th. Cheers!