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March 17 : I deal in hope

I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog St. Patrick and the Irish

E: St.Patrick’s Day is really not a native American holiday at all, but was imported by the Irish. Still, how many of us, even as adults, take the opportunity on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, to pinch a friend who “isn’t wearing the green.”

Surprisingly enough, St. Patrick wasn’t really Irish at all.

Almost 600 years ago around 400 AD when Rome controlled much of the world, Patrick was born into the home of a noble Roman family who lived in Britain. By the fifth century Christianity had spread throughout most of the Roman empire, and Patrick’s family espoused the Christian faith.

At the time, the Irish often raided the coasts of Britain (and other countries) carrying away goods as well. as individuals to be used as slaves. Patrick became one of these unfortunate slaves when, at the age of 16, he was captured, taken to Ireland and sold.

For a young man brought up in, if not luxury, at least in comfort, herding sheep and being all alone in the mountains without adequate food or clothing was a sore trial. Still he wrote in his “Confession” (his account of his spiritual journey) that it was up there he began to truly believe in God and to love him. He believed God spoke to him there and helped him endure those long lonely years.

Finally, after six years, he escaped, but it was sometime before he was able to return home. Even then he could not settle down, feeling God was calling him back to Ireland.

Hampered by his lack of education, Patrick went to study for the ministry at the monastery of Lerins located on an island off the south east coast of France. He also studied at Auxerre, France and under the tutelage of the French Bishop Saint Germanus gaining some of the best learning of the day.

However, when a missionary was to be sent to Ireland, Patrick was NOT the one chosen. Later, when this bishop died in 431, Patrick was given his heart’s desire, the assignment to go to Ireland.

He was not content to stay in the few pockets of Christianity already established in the country. Instead he went to the Druid controlled north and west. Patrick endured much hardship, but, the people knew he really cared about them. As they came to hear him, many believed. Eventually he made friends with some of the chieftains whose own sons and daughters came to faith.

Because Christianity leaches kindness and justice for all and the importance of each individual, the conversion of the people brought changes to the Irish society. One example is that many slave owners, after embracing Christianity, freed their slaves. Patrick lived his faith by buying and freeing others himself.

As for the legend about his driving the snakes out of Ireland, no one knows the truth. Still, like many legends, there might be some truth in the story, for Patrick lived a long time and did many good and kind things for the people of Ireland.

As for the Shamrock, one legend has it that Patrick used the green three-leaf clover…the shamrock…to teach the people about the Trinity. This is the Christian belief that God is one, yet three, the Father, the Son (whom we know as Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.

Today, besides his “Confession,” and his “Letter to Coroticus”, a handbell, said to have belonged to St. Patrick, is kept in the National Museum of Dublin. St. Patrick left much more than these physical items.

Patrick was loved not just because he went to Ireland, but because he taught the people to care about each other. He also taught tolerance between the British and the Irish. Patrick deserves the appellation of Saint. He left a legacy well worth following.. .selfless concern for others rooted in and guided by his faith in Jesus.

(c) 1998, 2020 Carolyn R Scheidies

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