Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Saint Patrick: The Man Behind the Green
Walking into the elementary school in 1st through 3rd grade on Saint Patrick’s Day was always a fun experience. The desks were turned around or even upside down. Green footprints zig zagged all over the hallway and classrooms. Green seemed to be splashed all over the place. The day was always mass chaos with surprises in store for all of us. Also, everyone wore green and there was an air of camaraderie everywhere. I remember the disappointment of growing up and the leprechauns not visiting our rooms when we entered the older grades. Back in those days, all I thought of the day was leprechauns, rainbows, green, shamrocks, and treasure. Of course in college, I enjoyed a little green beer. Now I think of the man.
Patrick was born in Roman occupied Britain just south of Hadrian’s Wall in 387 to a Romano-British family. His family was a part of the Catholic Church. Both his father and grandfathers performed the duties of deacon. When Patrick was sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken over the seas to Ireland where he was a slave for six years. While a slave, he learned the language. The main task he was given was to herd and tend to sheep. During this time of solitude he prayed and became close to God. In a dream, God told Patrick to escape and head for the coast. He did and made it back to Britain. Going to the continent, he studied to become a priest. After serving for a time, he became a bishop and asked to minister in Ireland. He had many difficulties with the druids, but his persistence saw many Irish become Christians. In 444 the first cathedral was built. He also had many schools and monasteries built while he ministered in Ireland. Near the end of his life he wrote Confessions which recorded his life story and missionary work. He served Ireland for thirty years and died on March 17, 461. He is the patron saint of Ireland and many dioceses throughout the English-speaking world, engineers and those who fear snakes and snakebites. Legends actually say that Patrick forced all the snakes from Ireland with his staff. He is also given credit for using the three leafed shamrock for explaining the trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Last year, I read the story of Saint Patrick plus Confessions and a letter he wrote. I was very amazed by his humbleness. He struggled with learning and didn’t think he had enough to give to other people. Yet, looking at all the work he did do, he gave more than the average person. I am most amazed that even while a slave, he loved the Irish. If I were enslaved by a people, I don’t know if I would have the grace to love them let alone go back and serve them. Today I struggle with people who have hurt me which are trivial issues compared to slavery. I would definitely need the grace of God which is what ultimately helped and guided Patrick.
As with many of the Christian/Catholic holidays, this celebration has become secular. Tomorrow around the world people will be enjoying decorations of shamrocks, leprechauns and the like. Chicago every year dyes the river a bright green. I think I need to add this to my ever growing Bucket List of things to see. Others dye beer bright green. Celebrations, parties, and parades will take place all over the world. I myself might have to find a little green to adorn the house in reminiscence of days gone by. I hope you have a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Blessings to you all.