Who was St. Patrick?

By Bobby Bryant, Editor


We need to talk about St. Patrick. You’d probably already guessed that he didn’t really run all the snakes out of Ireland – because it’s an island, Ireland never had any snakes to begin with and doesn’t have any snakes now, unless they’re someone’s pet. You probably hadn’t guessed that he wasn’t really Irish. (Born in England.) Or that he wasn’t technically a saint. (Never canonized.) So why does he get an entire festive day named in his honor? We looked on the Internet, where there are many, many stories about St. Patrick, and went with the most reliable-seeming source, The History Channel’s website. As they tell it, he was born in England late in the 4th century, captured by Irish invaders as a teen-ager, hauled off to Ireland and held as a prisoner/worker for six years. At some point during this time, he discovered Christianity, escaped from his Irish captors, walked 200 miles to Ireland’s coast and got back to England. In The History Channel’s version, he had a dream in which an angel told him to go back to Ireland and be a Christian missionary to the Irish, who were mostly pagans. He eventually was ordained a priest and made his way back to Ireland. His ministry to the Irish is the basis for his fame. Which leads to the question: How did the name of a missionary, a very serious man, become linked to drinking green beer, partying and wearing green hats? Historical accounts say the holiday – which takes place on the day St. Patrick is thought to have died – began as a very solemn religious holiday. After centuries, it developed into a feast. Where there’s food, can alcohol be far behind? But supposedly, it was the United States that really turned up the party meter, as Irish immigrants started holding big festivals and parades sometime in the 18th century. So where did the green come in? Maybe because Ireland is called the Emerald Isle; maybe because green is one of the colors in the Irish flag. (It supposedly represents Irish nationalism.) Last question: Was his name really Patrick? Probably not. Some sources maintain that his real name was Maewyn Succat.

Author: Stephan Drew

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