Many of us have heard of St. Patrick. He has a widely celebrated feast day on March 17 that is filled with food, drinking, and fun. In the United States, St. Patrick’s day is often synonymous with celebrating Irish heritage. United States St. Patrick’s Day traditions include drinking, partying, parades and in Chicago, over 40 pounds of green dye is used to make the Chicago River green.
Patrick (who may have had the birth name Maewyn Succat) was born in 387 in Roman Britain to wealthy nobles. His father was a deacon and it is believed he only did this to receive tax incentives since the family was not very religious. When Patrick was 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He was assigned to be a shepherd in Mount Slemish in County Antrim. Patrick was a slave in Ireland for four to six years and during that time, he became very lonely and turned to prayer. When he was nearing the close of his captivity, he had a dream of God telling him to escape to the coast as there was a boat that would take him home to Britain. He returned home at the age of 22 and after a time he had a dream of the people of Ireland begging him to come back to them and preach about his God. He studied long and hard to become a priest and was declared Bishop of the Irish by Pope St. Celestine I, Patrick now had the tools and the will to see his goal through and bring the Irish to Catholicism. Patrick traveled and converted Ireland for 30 years. He founded many churches and monasteries and was able to merge pre-existing Celtic symbols and practices with Catholic ones to ease the transition from paganism to catholicism the most famous of these is the Celtic cross where he merged a celtic symbol with a cross. Patrick also knew the language which made his evangelization much easier. After converting almost the entire island of Ireland to Catholicism, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, Ireland and was believed to be buried in the town of Downpatrick, County Down.
St. Patrick’s feast day is on March 17 and hedd is the patron saint of Ireland, Australia, Nigeria, Boston, New York, and engineers. Two of the most famous legends associated with St. Patrick are that he drove the snakes out of Ireland (which he probably didn’t as there were no snakes in Ireland prior to he being there). This tale was probably meant to signify the driving out of evil and paganism from Ireland. The most famous legend is that to help the Irish understand the Holy Trinity he picked up a shamrock, a three leaf clover, and used it to explain that there are three persons in one God; God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. St. Patrick also created a famous prayer St. Patrick’s Breastplate;
Christ with me,Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,Christ in every eye that sees me,Christ in every ear that hears me.
St. Patrick’s feast day in Ireland is a more holy occasion, where it is a Holy Day of Obligation meaning an individual is required to go to Mass. There is now a huge St. Patrick’s day festival in Dublin to promote tourism. Common foods that are eaten of St. Patrick’s day are corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Drinking is also a common past time on St. Patrick’s day.
Today, St. Patrick’s day in the United States is more of a day to reflect on your Irish heritage then the actual saint. All over the United States there are parades, parties and celebrations of all things Irish. Almost 35 million Americans claim they are of Irish descent which is more than 7x the population of Ireland itself! Common St. Patrick’s day traditions at the University of Notre Dame are; Irish food is served and the glee club and bagpipers have concerts and there are numerous parties around campus.
Father Jim Duell of St. Patrick’s Parish in Troy, Ohio shares his favorite traditions, “I think events that highlight Irish culture, song dance and poetry are very good.”
St. Patrick is well loved for many reasons, Fr. Scott Woods of St. Michut ourselves,” Woods said. “I think Saint Patrick is so well-loved because, first of all, he is so intimately connected with the Irish people, and who doesn’t love the Irish? Seriously though, Patrick is an example of selflessness; he returned to the people who had enslaved him, after all! He’s a good example for us.
St. Patrick has and will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Irish no matter where they live.