In the previous issue of MarineDeal News, I wrote this same article in Turkish and it has attracted such a surprisingly high level of attention among the readers so, I have been encouraged to compose The Story of St. Patrick in English this time hoping that it will receive at least similar interest in English as I think it will be better apprehended.
Wherever an Irishman or an Irishwoman lives throughout The World on March 17 everywhere is decorated in Green and by Shamrocks and The Pubs are filled with people of every belief and denomination expressing brotherly love, sincerity and peace towards each other. This is how The Irish People commemorate St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity to Ireland, in other words, celebrate the life of St. Patrick on 17th March of every year. St. Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in early 17th Century and is observed by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion ( especially the Church of Ireland ), the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals and wearing of green attire and shamrocks. Christians also attend church services that morning and Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for that day. Perhaps because of this, alcohol consumption is encouraged and propagated and has become an integral part of the celebrations.
Who was St. Patrick? There are many stories, anecdotes and myths about this remarkable churchman, several books have been written about His life. According to certain reliable sources his name was Magonius Sucatus Patricius and most likely was born around 389 A.D. into a wealthy Romano British family ( Not Irish !). Much of what is known about St. Patrick comes from The Declaration which was allegedly written by himself. According to The Declaration, His father was a Deacon and his grandfather was a priest. When He was sixteen, He was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. He spent six years on the slopes of Slemish Mountain working as a shepherd and during this time he felt himself closer to God. One of those nights, during a time of praying and fasting he heard a voice telling him “ soon you will go to your own homeland” , after a short while the voice continued “ go to the coast there a ship is waiting for you”. He fled and walked 200 miles of mountainous terrain and when he reached the coast a ship was really waiting almost ready to sail. He sought permission from pagan sailors, the captain first rejected him but later on permitted him to come on board. The voyage was very perilous and they have encountered very heavy seas, the trip was lasting longer than expected and the whole crew was facing starvation. Patrick has been praying to God when finally the ship reached a landing they found food, as a result the whole crew began to believe in Patrick’s God. After making his way home, Patrick began to study for the ministry and he spent 18 years in two different monasteries in Northern France where he was ordained in 432 A.D.
One night he had a dream, in his dream there was a man who came from Ireland with a whole bunch of letters, introducing himself as The Voice of Ireland. He opened one of these letters and heard a voice coming out of the letter which said “ Holly boy, please return to us. We need you “. During the same period the missionary in Ireland was killed by pagans. Patrick struggled in his soul. Could he return to Ireland and minister to the same people who had enslaved him but he knew that he had to go and he was called by God to be a missionary to Ireland. So, he set sail in a small ship which took him to the mouth of Staney River. His landing on the shore opened a new era on this Island. The Ireland of those days was not much different than the days he spent his slavery period. It was an Ireland of tribalism, an Ireland of War, an Ireland of suspicion, an Ireland of violence and death. They worshipped multiple gods of the sky, the earth and the water. This was his biggest challenge that he had to convince the Irish that there is only one God. He came face to face with the chieftains and their druid priests, he went through all sorts of difficulties, threats and challenges but day by day year by year he was approaching to his mission. Patrick used the shamrock, a three leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, furthermore shamrock was a symbol of regenerative powers of the nature.
In 442 Patrick visited Pope Leo the Great in Rome who took a special interest in the Irish Church. Upon his return to Ireland, Latin then became the language of the Irish Church.
Patrick’s apostolate lasted for 30 years, during this time he baptized over 120,000 Irish, planted 300 churches and consecrated 350 bishops. He died in 461 and was buried near the fortress of Soul close to the future Cathedral town of Down.
Green, was first associated with Irish since 1600’s , when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation and during 1790 green was also associated with Irish Nationalism due to its use by United Irishmen, a republican organization who launched a rebellion against British Rule in 1798.
Forteen years before the Congress’ meeting in Philadelphia to produce The Declaration of Independence, Irish soldiers serving in the British Army in the American colonies organized the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. Today, 1,500 years after his death, Irish people still celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day in faraway and diverse places such as USA, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Russia, Argentina, United Kingdom, Australia, new Zealand and of Course in Ireland.