The Real St. Patrick

The arrival of St. Patrick’s Day will elicit various celebrations. For instance, there will be much made of the uniqueness of the Irish race but, at least for the duration of the holiday, the non-Irish are invited to participate in the fun: sporting green clothing, wearing leprechaun decorations, pinching, eating corned beef sandwiches, politically-correct parades, and painting big green shamrocks in the public streets…usually outside the taverns.
It’s all strange behavior and quite irrelevant to the memory of St. Patrick. Indeed, when one bothers to look beneath the pagan coverings of St. Patrick’s Day to the man himself, one finds a truly noble Christian hero. So, let’s take a look at the historical figure of Saint Patrick. Let’s ignore the silliness and learn the lessons God would teach us about a faithful, zealous servant of Christ.
You might know the legends – how Patrick expelled the snakes from Ireland; how he explained the Trinity by reference to the shamrock; and so on. But the historical Patrick is more intriguing and inspirational than even the Patrick of legend.
The first revealing fact is that Patrick was was not Irish. He was a Scot by birth, the son of a decurio (town councilor) who served as a deacon in the church. His grandfather was also a man of the cloth. While still a youth, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and reduced to slavery there. It was a life devoted to tending his master’s goat and sheep herds but Patrick finally began to find a measure of comfort and strength through prayer. This was in dramatic contrast to his earlier years in Britain when, as Patrick himself described it, he “knew not the true God” and did not heed the “clerical admonitions for salvation.”

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