Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2010

Happy St. Patrick’s Day folks. I have you all have had a chance to celebrate today. Just be careful tonight. Here in the Ozarks, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest nights of the year for DUI arrests. That would be no fun.

St Patrick is most commonly known as the patron saint of Ireland. The interesting thing is that he is not actually Irish by birthright. He served in Ireland, and became an ex-officio Irishman.

Patrick was born in approximately 370-395 C.E. There are differing views about the exact year and place of his birth. According to one school of opinion, he was born about 390 A.D., while the other school says it is about 373 AD. His real place of birth is said to be in either Scotland or Roman England. His real name was probably Maewyn Succat. Patricius was his Romanicized name. The name Patrick was kind of a nickname.

Patrick was the son of Calpurnius, a Roman-British army officer. He grew up in a very normal fashion for that time and place in the Empire of Rome. However, one day a band of pirates landed in south Wales and kidnapped him. They sold him into slavery in Ireland. He was there for 6 years, and was in prison most of the time. During this time, Patrick became very religious. Legend contends that he had a vision of God, which told him to escape on a ship.

He was able to finally escape, and made his escape to Britain and France. There he joined a monastery and studied under St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. He spent around 12 years in religious training. When he became a bishop, he dreamed that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God. The Confessio, Patrick’s spiritual autobiography, is the most important document regarding this. It tells of a dream after his return to Britain, in which one Victoricus delivered him a letter headed “The Voice of the Irish.”

So he set out for Ireland with the Pope’s blessings. There he converted the Gaelic Irish, who were then mostly Pagans, to Christianity. He was confident in the Lord, he journeyed far and wide, baptizing and confirming with untiring zeal. And, in a diplomatic fashion he brought gifts to a kinglet here and a lawgiver there,but accepted none from any.

Indeed, Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. Through active preaching, he made important converts even among the royal families. And this fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times,but escaped each time. For 20 years he had traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He founded schools and churches. He helped to develop a solid group of native Irish clergy, and he fostered the growth of monasticism, established dioceses, and held church councils. A good deal of the Catholic roots of Ireland came as a direct result of his work in Ireland.

Patrick’s doctrine is considered orthodox and has been interpreted as anti-Pelagian (against a notion of free will playing a part in a person’s salvation.). Although he is not particularly noted as a man of learning, a few of his writings remain importantt: his Confession, a reply to his detractors, and several letters. The Lorica (“Breastplate”), a famous hymn attributed to Patrick, is also around. By the end of the 7th century, Patrick had become a legendary figure, and the legends have continued to grow through the years, not unlike the legend of William Wallace in Scotland. There are lots of legends associated with St Patrick. It is said that he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity. The biggest legend, though, is associated with the so-called curse of God he placed upon poisonous snakes. He is also credited with having drove all the snakes from the Emerald Isle.

St. Patrick’s mission in Ireland lasted for around 20 years. So, he really was able to get a lot done in a little bit of time. He passed away on March 17, 461. So, that is where we get the date. The celebration is now more secular than religous. Not as many people celebrate the holy day associated with March 17th. Many pagan symbols have also now been associated with the holiday: the leprechaun, shamrocks, the Blarney Stone, and the like.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day,

Ray Province, The Celtic Ozarkian

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