Today is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a day that has been used to celebrate Irish heritage for hundreds of years. In Ireland, the Catholic saints feast day has been celebrated since the 9th or 10th century. In 1601, it appears as though there was St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Spanish colony that is now know as St. Augustine, Florida. While we tend to associate this day with leprechauns, green beer and Irish food, who is this St. Patrick for whom it is named?
St. Patrick — who, ironically, is not officially a saint, having never been canonized by the Catholic Church — was actually British. He was born to wealth parents near the end of the fourth century, but when he was a teen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders, and taken back to Ireland as a slave. Patrick lived in Ireland as a slave for six years. It is believed that during this time he became interested in religion, and became very devout.
After receiving a vision telling him it was time to leave Ireland, Patrick escaped his captivity, walking nearly 200 miles to the Irish coast. Free from his captivity, Patrick then felt another call to be a missionary, to share the gospel in, of all places, Ireland. He went through years of training, and then returned to the Emerald Isle.
While some credit him as the one who brought Christianity to Ireland, the evidence seems to suggest that there were already some Christians on the island. Patrick, much like Paul in the Book of Acts, is the one who really spread the gospel. At the time, the main religion of Ireland was primarily a nature-based paganism. Patrick incorporated some of the symbolism and practices into the Christian faith as a way of converting the Irish, and it seemed to have worked well.
These days, St. Patrick’s Day is really more about celebrating Irish heritage, but it may not be a bad idea, if you are so inclined, to use it as a day to explore Celtic spirituality as well. If you have a little extra time, I might suggest this article on how to incorporate Celtic spiritual practices into your own life.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take some time to consider this recipe I came across in the last week: Corned Beef Burnt Ends with a Guinness Glaze.