St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated every March 17th. It has an interesting history, much of which has been lost to those celebrants who are not Catholic. It’s a story rich in pathos, intrigue, and faith.
St. Patrick was born in Wales in 385 A.D. His parents were pagan, and named him Maewyn. At the time, the Romans had successfully invaded most of Europe. Since they were Christians, the religion had rapidly spread throughout their conquests; and they viewed all their subjects as Roman citizens.
When St. Patrick was sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders. They took him away, and then sold him as a slave. At the time, he still considered himself a pagan. He subsequently spent six years as a sheep herder in Ireland.
When he was twenty-two, St. Patrick escaped, making his way to a monastery in Gaul, England. There, he adopted a more Christian name, Patrick. He stayed there for twelve years, becoming a Christian and studying under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre.
While at the monastery in Gaul, St. Patrick learned about life and grew closer to God. It was there he realized his calling was to convert pagans to Christianity, and he wished to return to Ireland.
On one occasion, St. Patrick thought he had a chance to return to Ireland. However, his superiors overlooked him and selected St. Palladius as bishop to Ireland. Two years later, he was transferred to Scotland, and Patrick was appointed as second bishop to Ireland.
St. Patrick was very successful converting the native pagan commoners and rulers to Christianity. That angered the Celtic Druids who arrested him several times. He escaped each time, and went throughout Ireland where he established monasteries, schools, and churches.
St. Patrick used the shamrock (clover) to preach about the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Drawing on one of God’s creations, he showed how there could be three separate entities, yet, at the same time, one.
After a 30-year mission in Ireland, St. Patrick retired to County Down. That’s where he died, in 471 AD, leaving a legacy of love and legends still celebrated today.