Christianity,  History




Who was St. Patrick?

I didn’t know the origin of this legend until I traveled to beautiful, evergreen, Ireland in 2014. I traveled with a group of people—mostly women—under the leadership of an evangelist from Colorado by the name of Marilyn Hickey. This trip was a very pleasant introduction to tourist evangelism. Yes, we did several crusade nights and some street evangelism—I have lots of stories from those events—but our travel time was spent following the trail of St. Patrick.

This story as told to us by our travel guide was surprising and inspiring.

According to Irish legend and church history, St. Patrick was a real person who lived in the early 400’s A.D. When he was a young lad in England, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland and put to work on a pig farm.

After a few years of slavery, he escaped and made his way back to England. He was so traumatized by his ordeal that he joined the monastery—presumably with a desire to erase his bad memories. But the more time he spent in prayer and Biblical studies, the images of the Irish people and their pagan ways tortured his young mind. He wrote about seeing visions of the Irish people pleading for his return to help them. Twelve years after fleeing Ireland in fear of his life, he decided to return there and become a missionary of the gospel.

Christianity was almost unknown in Ireland at that time. When Patrick (he wasn’t a saint until centuries later) returned to Ireland, he built churches and schools and taught people the Christian faith. The Islanders were impressed by Patrick’s dedication to his faith and his love towards them—especially after they had treated him so badly. They quickly responded to the Christian faith.  

St. Patrick is credited with successfully bringing Christianity to the Island, even though previous unsuccessful attempts had been made to establish the faith there.

One ingenious concept created by St. Patrick was his use of the three-leafed Shamrock to explain the Trinity. This explanation helped to clarify this confusing concept…and it is still used today. This explains why we use the Shamrock as a symbol to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Legend has it that he also drove the snakes out of Ireland during a forty day fast. But…that’s just a legend with no factual corroborating history.

When you travel to Ireland, you will find two St. Patrick’s churches in almost every town. One is Catholic and other is Protestant. According to our travel guide, it is quite amusing when people think they are going to a wedding in one church, only to find a funeral or the doors barred. It’s important to read your invite properly. Pity the poor wedding planner that doesn’t pay attention to this detail.

Although we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Shamrocks, green drinks, and feasting, it is actually more of a religious holiday in Ireland. Yes, they have their parades too, but it’s not the excuse to imbibe the way we do in North America. But…there is a pub practically on every street corner in Ireland. My impression from my visit there is that every day is a day to celebrate an event or a person. Maybe there’s something to be learned from that culture…perhaps a lighter and more passionate approach to life?

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about the history of St. Patrick, put on a green hat, add a shamrock to your lapel, and toss a little green food coloring into your beverage of choice. Get together with a group of friends and be the know-it-all hero of an Irish trivia night.

For more Irish History, just google Irish History or Christianity in Ireland. There’s a wealth of interesting info on the web.

Discover some interesting trivia about Ireland

Here’s a couple of web links to get you started:

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Retired social worker and tourism operator. Avid reader of all things Christian. Blogger and Author. Check out her detailed profiile on Amazon.