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Saturday, March 17, 2007
St. Patrick's Day
Saint Patrick was named Maewyn Succat at his birth, somewhere near the end of the fourth century. He took on the name Patrick or Patricus, after he became a priest, much later in his life. At the age of sixteen Maewyn Succat was kidnapped from his native land of Britain by a band pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. Maewyn worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for solace. After six long years of slavery he escaped to the northern coast of Gaul.
In Gaul, Maewyn became Patrick (a more christian name) and studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for twelve years. He came to believe that it was his calling to convert the pagans of Ireland to Christianity.
Patrick was about sixty years old when he arrived in Ireland and it is said that he had a winning personality that helped him win converts. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, to help explain the concept of the Trinity (father, son, holy spirit).
Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries and setting up schools and churches to aid in converting the Irish country to Christianity. Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. The snake is a pagan symbol and perhaps this is a figurative tale explaining that he drove paganism out of Ireland.
Patrick's mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. He then retired to County Down and died on March 17 in 461 AD. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since. The first year St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in this country was 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. As the saying goes, on this day "everybody is Irish!" Over 100 U.S. cities now hold Saint Patrick's Day parades. (found at CNS)