The Man Behind the Holiday
Wed, 14 Mar 2012 - 10:05 AM CST
The Man: St. Patrick
The Location: Ireland
The Date: Between 387 - 461 A.D.
The Story: Patrick was born in North West England. Though the son of a priest, he was a stubborn and rebellious youth. At age 16, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave. For six years, he worked as a herdsman. Later, Patrick wrote that his faith grew in captivity and that he learned how to have a personal relationship with God. He learned to pray, sometimes praying hundreds of prayers in a single day. At the end of six years, God told Patrick he was to go home soon. Shortly after, God told him that his ship was ready. At that call, Patrick simply stopped working and walked away from his master, travelling for two hundred miles until he saw the ship that was to take him home.
As a man in his twenties, Patrick saw a vision. In a letter, he wrote, "I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.' As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea - and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."' As an ordained bishop, Patrick returned to the land of his captivity to minister to his captors. Today, Saint Patrick is considered a founding father of Christianity in Ireland. By his obedience to the vision, he converted thousands of Irish, but despite his success, many viewed him as a radical and opposed him so strongly that he wrote, "I am Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful and despised in the eyes of many."
The Holiday: St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated with a parade on March 17, 1783. An organization called The Knights of St. Patrick made the saint the symbol of religious Irish unity because Patrick was one of the few saints that appealed to both warring Protestants and Catholics. Today, the holiday is held as a religious observance that unites both denominations. The holiday also lines up with the conclusion of Lent, resulting in many people's making up for the alcohol they had given up for the past forty days.
The Green: Originally, the color of St. Patrick's Day was blue. Over time, the correlation between the holiday and the color of new life grew. Legend says that St. Patrick explained the trinity to pagan Irish by example of the shamrock, or green, three-leafed clover. Today, St. Patrick's Day just isn't right without everything properly decked out in green and shamrock designs.
Though St. Patrick died a hero, he knew what it was to be despised. He had suffered as a slave. Though he experienced success in fulfilling his calling, Patrick was persecuted by those who viewed him as an intruder. Today, Saint Patrick is an encouragement to us Christians to persevere in our calling despite opposition.