The first thing one thinks of upon hearing “St. Patrick” is often Ireland, however, this patron saint of Ireland was not even actually Irish! He was likely born to wealthy parents in either Wales, Britain, or Scotland in the late fourth century, and his given name was likely Maewyn Succat. The Romanicized version of his name was Patricius, and he later became known as Patrick when he was appointed as bishop of Ireland. His death likely took place on March 17th in the year 460 or 461. He was believed to be a pagan, up until his teenage years.
At the age of 16, St. Patrick was taken into slavery in Ireland by a group of Irish raiders. There he spent six years, as a slave. While captive, he worked as a shepherd, taking care of his master’s flocks of sheep, away from other people. It is said that, during this time of lonliness, St. Patrick became closer to God, and prayed several times a day. He was also believed to have an inspiring dream about God that drew him to Christianity.
Upon his escape from slavery, he went to Gaul and studied under the bishop of Auxerre, who later became St. Germain, for twelve years. During this time period, St. Patrick learned that it was his calling to turn other pagans onto Christianity. He realized his calling after having a second dream, and wished to return to Ireland to fulfill it.
When he returned to Ireland to live out his calling, he found that the future St. Palladius had instead been chosen to convert pagans to Christianity. Just two years later, though, St. Palladius moved to Scotland. After St. Palladius’ transfer, St. Patrick was appointed to a high religious degree – the second bishop of Ireland. He succeeded at converting pagans, but this was problematic according to Celtic Druids, who had him arrested many times. St. Patrick did escape every time, however, and continued to build monasteries throughout his travels of Ireland. Along with the monasteries, he built churches and schools to spread Christianity all over Ireland.
St. Patrick’s missions lasted for a few decades before he decided to retire to County Down. After his death on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day was established and has been celebrated every year since.
A popular symbol of St. Patrick is the shamrock. This traditional Irish symbol was used by St. Patrick to represent the Trinity of Christianity. The Trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are believed to exist as separate parts of the same entity. This was easily represented by the shamrock, which is most commonly found with three leaves. To this day, the Irish and those celebrating St. Patrick’s holiday use shamrocks as a commemorative emblem.
St. Patrick’s day is celebrated annually, throughout the world, in memory of Ireland’s patron saint and with many other symbols, traditional food and beverages, parades, and events.