Guest Post: The Story of Saint Patrick – Why a Shamrock, March 17th? Where was St. Patrick born?

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Thank you to Ciara O’Brian for providing this guest post today.  An Italian, hehehe, no, Ciara is very Irish and tells us the story of Saint Patrick.  The italicized portions were added by me, to highlight things I learned from Ciara.

With Saint Patrick’s Day on the horizon, it is an auspicious time to look back at the life and times of Ireland’s patron saint. 

Did you know Saint Patrick was born in England?

Saint Patrick’s story began back in the fifth century, when this famous Christian missionary was born in a small village along the southern coastline of England.

Saint Patrick was a slave!

During his childhood, young Patrick and other residents of his settlement were captured by raiders and sold into slavery in Antrim, Ireland.  This dramatic, traumatic event shaped the thoughts and emotions of the young boy and led him to seek out solace in God. Before enslavement, Patrick, whose father was a deacon, was not known to be particularly devout. After his capture, he turned to religion.

In his early twenties, Patrick fled from his captor and found his parents in Britain.  This turning point signaled the beginning of the young man’s legacy. He became a clergyman, and he returned to Ireland to convert the country’s Pagans to Christ. Interestingly, young Patrick had been enslaved by a Druid chief, which may well have colored the boy’s view of the Old Religion.

By befriending a wealthy patron, Patrick came by his first piece a property, which was turned into a church. This donated building became a favorite refuge of Patrick’s; in fact, he returned to this special place frequently during his later decades (perhaps to rest, reflect and pray). Known as Sabhall, this County Down, Ireland sanctuary is still standing today, and it is more commonly called Saul Church.

As a clergyman, Patrick fought against slavery; in fact, he was one of the most vocal proponents of abolition. Following in the footsteps of the famous Christian missionaries who had come before him, he carved out his own identity by focusing his efforts on the Irish Ulster and Connaught provinces, which were still Pagan regions.

Myths and Legends about Saint Patrick

Most people have heard of the feats of this legendary Irish saint, who worked tirelessly to end the oppression of slavery, while also converting countless Irish men, women and children to Christianity.

One of the most fantastic myths of Saint Patrick is that his banished all of the snakes from the Emerald Isle. Since Ireland’s climate is not hospitable to these creatures, it’s likely that this myth has a symbolic explanation. Since the Pagan elders wore serpent tattoos, Patrick was likely banishing the Old Faith from the land, rather than driving out actual snakes.

Story of the Shamrock and Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick used the tender Shamrock plant to show the existence of God in the natural world; in his eyes, each leaf of its distinctive trefoil shape symbolized Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today, the Shamrock remains Ireland’s most powerful and recognizable symbol.

Do you know why we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th?

This Emerald Isle saint was believed to pass away on March 17th, and his legacy is honored on that date, when those of Irish blood (and other fans of the Emerald Isle) come together to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Ciara O’Brien writes for Irish Celtic Jewels, an online Celtic jewelry store. On her blog she writes about all things Irish and Celtic including information about weddings and the Claddagh ring.

Hmmm, I think to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, I might just head over to Irish Celtic Jewels and do some shopping….  I like green beer but I like jewelry better!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

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