***image1***Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s an Irish holiday honoring the missionary credited with converting the Irish to Christianity in the fifth century.
Actually Patrick was not Irish, but born in Scotland around 385. His given name was Maewyn Succat. His parents belonged to a Roman family of high rank. Since they were Christians, their son was baptized and called Patricius, meaning “noble.”
Patrick lived a normal life for 16 years, before he was captured by pirates and forced into slavery in Ireland. He was never interested in God or the church, but being away from home and all alone, he turned to God and learned to pray while herding sheep. After being a slave for six years, Patrick dreamed that God told him it was time to go home. So he escaped on foot across 200 miles of unknown land. After an adventurous sea voyage, he finally returned home.
A couple of months later, he visited St. Martin’s monastery at Tours and the island sanctuary of Lerins. Patrick placed himself under the guidance of a bishop, St. Germain.
Several years later, he was promoted to the priesthood. He engaged in missionary works and traveled to Rome, where the bishop recommended Patrick to the Pope.
Pope Celestine entrusted Patrick with the mission of bringing Christianity to Ireland. Since he learned the Celtic language during his years of slavery, it was easy for him to spread the word of Christianity. He made his way from kingdom to kingdom replacing Paganism with christianity. Despite several death threats, Patrick baptized, confirmed, preached and built churches, schools and monasteries. He was evenarrested several times, but escaped each time. He succeeded in converting almost the entire population of the island.
Patrick died on March 17, 461, in Downpatrick, Ireland. That’s why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated March 17.
Legend has it that Patrick used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, to explain the meaning of the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
Finding a four-leaf clover on St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to bring twice as much good luck.
Leprechauns are also associated with the Irish holiday. Otherwise known as Irish fairies, leprechauns are small, unsociable, unfriendly men, who live alone. They are dressed like shoemakers with a cocked hat and a leather apron. According to legend, they possess a hidden pot of gold. If a leprechaun is caught by a treasure hunter, he must tell where the gold is. If the leprechaun can trick the hunter and vanish, all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.
The color green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day because it is the color of spring, a shamrock and a color in Ireland’s flag. In many countries, people wear something green. School children started a tradition of their own — pinching classmates who forget to wear green.
The St. Patrick’s Day custom came to America in 1737. The first parade with 770 participants was held in 1843 in Chicago. Today, more than 100 U.S. cities hold St. Patrick’s Day parades, the largest of which is in New York City.