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Happy St. Paddy's Day
By Susan Hines-Brigger


To Ireland and Back Again
More Than Just a Day to Party
For Teens: Forgiveness
For Kids: Make Your Own Shamrock

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.

To 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.

More 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 Joyce, O.S.B.

• 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 together.

Next Month: Tackling Easter's Tough Questions



For Teens: Forgiveness

St. Patrick originally came to Ireland as a slave. Yet, when he had the opportunity, he still came back to Ireland.

I’m not so sure that, if I were in that situation, I would have so readily returned to Ireland. I can imagine that I’d probably hold a bit of a grudge.

But St. Patrick did return and endeared himself to the people of Ireland through his preaching and actions. He took what was once a negative situation and turned it into something positive.

Is there someone who has done you wrong and you can’t seem to let it go or work through it with that person? If so, this month mend that relationship. If the other person isn’t willing, at least you know that you have made the effort. And you never know what great things might come of it. After all, look how well things turned out for St. Patrick!


For Kids: Make Your Own Shamrock

According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock—with its three leaves—to teach about the Trinity. You can create your own shamrock with this simple and fun project. The supplies you will need are:

• Green construction paper

• Scissors

• Glue

• Crayons

• Various decorative items, such as stickers, glitter, buttons, ribbon, etc.

Cut three hearts and a stem out of green construction paper. (You can decorate the hearts by drawing pictures, adding stickers or gluing on other craft items.) Glue the bottoms of the hearts together and then attach the stem.

It’s also said that finding a four-leaf clover will bring you good luck. Since they’re very hard to find, why not make your own? Just use four hearts instead of three!


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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