“I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland, declare myself to be a bishop. Most assuredly I believe that what I am I have received from God. And so I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God.”
Welcome to the next addition in our Readers of the World Series if you missed the last one click here. A special one this as it happens to fall within the same week as St. Patrick ’s Day. So really could we have written about any country other than Ireland? Or any other man than Saint Patrick? (Naomh Padraig in Gaelic or Sanctus Patricius in Latin) Patrick’s celebration day has of course morphed from once being a holy catholic celebration day into another Secular holiday like many of the other Christian holidays (think Father Christmas and The Easter Bunny) By this logic Saint Patrick’s day has switched from being a celebration of a saint into the celebration of Irishness and Irish culture.
Now that’s not at all a bad thing, as it is by far and away the most celebrated national day of any country in the world (worldwide far bigger than Thanksgivings day in America or St. Georges Day in England….Or any others as far as I can think of)
So who was St. Patrick? Well he wasn’t Irish for a start. He was actually from either the north of England or Southern Scotland, and he was born into a wealthy family but obviously back then wealth didn’t stop the famous Niall of The Nine Hostages from doing what he done best….Kidnapping people! So Niall’s cohort brought the then Pagan Patrick back to Ireland where he was sold into slavery to a local landowner in Antrim.
It was this time spent in slavery that swayed the young man’s heart towards the new Christian god and away from the native religion of his forefathers. Perhaps it was the lambs with which he herded, perhaps it was the silent mountains and long solitary days, either way his mind was shifted and he spent his long hours praying incessantly until one day he had a dream given by God and here is his own account (as written in his second letter confessions)
“And there one night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: `It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country.’ And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: `See, your ship is ready.’ And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles, and I had never been there, nor did I know a living soul there; and then I took to flight, and I left the man with whom I had stayed for six years. And I went in the strength of God who directed my way to my good, and I feared nothing until I came to that ship.”
So he came to the ship and God has provided him with safe passage back to Britain. He was then kidnapped by a band of brigands for a further 2 months and upon escaping he wandered Europe for 7 years pondering who he was to the earth and what he was to become before deciding upon priesthood. Upon completion of his studies he returned to Britain to become a priest when he was struck by the second of his dreams, a voice spoke “We beseech thee, holy youth, to come and walk once more amongst us.” Patrick recognised this as the voice of the Irish and was now clear as to his purpose in life, converting Irish Pagans to Christianity.
He was ordained as a Bishop and sent to Ireland with 26 followers upon the death of Palladius (the previous monk tasked with that job). Upon entering Ireland he knew he had to do something bold and to the high king of Ireland nothing was more bold than the lighting of the spring fire upon the hill of Tara before the kings own bonfire. The king was enraged and travelled to the hill with his bejewelled guards and self to find a humble cohort of faithful servants eager to share the news of the new religion… The king was impressed and so began a toppling over of religious ideals and mythology in Ireland that changed the world and did much to bring Europe out of the dark ages that were to come. It all started with a faithful man in rags on a symbolic hill, so think about that when you’re wearing a green t-shirt and drinking Guinness. As for the snakes? Let’s not argue on whether they were real snakes or symbolic Pagan snakes.
So there we have it the most colourful, musical, enjoyable, alcohol fuelled, worldwide, national celebration of any country in the whole world! What are you going to be doing this Saturday? Hopefully you aren’t sitting in watching Take Me Out hoping for some Paddy love when the real paddy love will be dotted around Liverpool’s glorious pubs and bars.