By Mary O’KEEFE
On March 17, those who are of Irish descent and those who may be a wee bit of Irish will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which is perfect for this patron saint of Ireland who invited everyone to the table.
Patrick was born to a wealthy British family near the end of the fourth century. History has not found that he was a particularly religious person. At 16 years old he was taken prisoner by Irish raiders. They took him to Ireland where he was held in captivity for six years.
During these years he worked as a shepherd spending a lot of time alone, outdoors. In this solitude he turned to God, becoming a devout Christian.
According to his journal, Patrick had a dream when he heard God’s voice telling him to leave Ireland. After over six years, Patrick left, walking almost 200 miles to the Irish coast and to his freedom. Once he returned to Britain, he began his religious studies that lasted for over 15 years.
Then he had another dream where God told him to go back to Ireland as a missionary.
Though Christianity had a foothold in Ireland there were still many who followed the ancient pagan and Druid religion. Patrick knew the Irish language and culture. He approached his teachings in a way that incorporated the Celtic believes with Christianity. For example, he superimposed one of Ireland’s symbols, the sun, onto a Christian cross creating the Celtic cross.
It was with this approach that he was able to convert the Celtic pagans to Christianity, not by telling them their beliefs were wrong but incorporating them into the teachings of Christ.
The legend of the shamrock is another example of how he used the pagan power of three to teach the Holy Trinity. Centuries later the Irish began to wear this green shamrock symbol, which evolved into the wearing of the green for St. Patrick’s Day.
So this year when you sit down with your corned beef and cabbage, and beverage of choice, take time to remember what this day is really celebrating – man who devoted his life to forgiveness and understanding, and to serve his God.