I had always known that St. Patrick was important to the
Irish people, but I guess I never realized just how important
until I traveled to Ireland with my dad in June of 2000. Everywhere
we visited seemed to have a story connected to St. Patrick.
For instance, St. Patrick is said to have driven the snakes
from Ireland on the mountain now called Croagh Patrick.
Those stories, including the one about the snakes,
made St. Patrick seem larger than life. In fact, they almost
made it hard to remember that he was an ordinary man who,
in trying to bring Christ’s love to the Irish people, lived
an extraordinary life.
Ireland and Back Again
Patrick, the son of a Roman official, originally
came to Ireland as a slave at about the age of 16. He spent
the next six years working as a shepherd before escaping and
returning to his family in Britain. During his time in captivity,
Patrick turned to God for companionship and comfort.
Upon returning home, Patrick began his studies
to become a priest. He was eventually appointed a bishop and
returned to bring Christ’s message to the Irish people, most
of whom were pagans then. Because of his years spent in captivity
in the country, Patrick was well aware of the customs of the
Irish people. He took those customs—with their pagan origins—and
transformed them to reflect Christian beliefs and teachings.
Stories abound of St. Patrick using everyday examples—such
as the shamrock—to teach the Irish people about Christianity.
There are also stories of his determination to spread the
message of Christ despite challenges from local rulers.
Eventually, Patrick won over the Irish people
and is credited with converting this country to Christianity.
Than Just a Day to Party
Although St. Patrick’s Day is best known as
a day for parties and wearing green, we should remember to
celebrate the real reason for the day: St. Patrick and his
life of service in Ireland.
Here are some ways you and your family can celebrate:
Fact or fiction? St. Patrick’s life is full of
stories—some are true, others are legends. Find a biography
of St. Patrick and quiz your family members on what’s fact
or fiction in the life of St. Patrick.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and,
by far, the most popular, but there are a number of other
saints linked to the country. See if you can identify some
of the other Irish saints and learn more about their lives.
(Here are a few to get you started: St. Brigid, St. Kevin
of Glendalough, St. Columba, St. Brendan.)
Find out if your town has a St. Patrick’s Day
parade. If so, gather the family together and go.
Wear as much green as possible on St. Patrick’s
Day. Not Irish? Don’t worry. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’s
Irish—at least for the day.
Go wild with the green food coloring and have
an all-green meal—green milk, green mashed potatoes. Or, if
the thought of staring at green food sounds unappetizing,
prepare a more traditional Irish meal including such dishes
as corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew or soda bread.
Take a retreat with St. Patrick courtesy of St. Anthony
Messenger Press’s book A
Retreat with Patrick: Discovering God in All by Timothy
One of the most famous prayers associated with St.
Patrick is entitled “The Breastplate of St. Patrick.” Try
to find a copy of the prayer—either on the Internet or at
your local library—and pray it when your family is gathered
Next Month: Tackling Easter's Tough Questions