Life gives to each of us a mix of pleasure and regret.Of all the things I am proud of in this life one on the top shelf is that my mother gave birth to me on St. Patrick’s Day.
Revered as the patron saint of the Irish, Patrick was not Irish.
His birthplace and year of birth are not exactly known, but he was born somewhere on the west coast of Great Britain about 400 A.D. in what is now called Scotland or Wales. His family was well-to-do.
At the age of 16 he was kidnapped by some Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He served as a slave for six years, tending sheep herds for his master. His life as a shepherd was endless misery. Left alone with the sheep in the hills, he was usually cold, hungry to the point of starvation,without shelter, and forlorn.
But this was also a time when his soul surged: he went deep into his inner self to gain spiritual command. He realized that there was more to this beautiful land with its lush green hills where he had been placed and more intended for him than what he was doing.
At that time his name was Maewyn Succat. It was later changed to Patrick when Pope Celestine canonized Maewyn to sainthood.
Did he drive out the snakes in Ireland? The factual answer is no, there were never any snakes in Ireland; but there is also a spiritual answer. While on his green hillside with the sheep, he began to think that he was not a good person and would go to hell when he died. In this quiet time of misery and sorrow Maewyn reached out and found his Lord, Jesus Christ.
Then by God’s grace he was able to escape and return to his earlier home, but there was no intention by God or Maewyn for him to stay there. He had fallen in love with Ireland, and after a visit to Rome, returned to his adopted country as a missionary to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He is celebrated and honored on March 17, the day he died, for bringing the light of Jesus Christ to the nation and people he loved.
Until the advent of Christianity the common religious beliefs were that of paganism and druidism, full of fear,terror and captivity of darkness.By bringing the light of Christianity into Ireland, he drove out the “snakes of evil.” In less than a century the Irish Catholic Church, as distinct from Roman though allegient to the Pope,was founded.
Patrick used three leaf clovers of the Shamrock to explain to his people the three persons of the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Blessed Holy Trinity that we confess in Patrick’s Prayer of Lorica. He taught that it is not our physical death we should fear but our spiritual death, being totally separated from God. Thus he restored us, as Jesus and his disciples did, to hope, faith and love.
It took me a long time to learn this, and I almost missed it.
I discovered the facts of this story when I visited the island of Iona, just off Craigmure, Scotland several years ago.I still remember this experience vividly: the monastery and nave where I found information on the lives of St. Patrick and St. Columba,the huge Celtic crosses, long hours spent on the rocky cliffs above the harbor,the charm of a little house where I stayed at Craigmure, and the walk across the moor to the ferry. I only regret that I did not return.