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Who is St. Patrick?

On March 17, the color green lines the streets during local parades as St Patrick’s Day festivities celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. With lots of stories surrounding the mysterious existence of St. Patrick, this article offers a bit of background information on one of the most widely known figures in Christianity.

St. Patrick has a great deal of stories attached to his legend. He’s been given the credit for banishing all the snakes from Ireland , an act that he did not accomplish. Hundred of years of storytelling have placed good ol’ St Patrick in the center of plenty stretched and exaggerated truths.

Born Britain to well-to-do parents, St. Patrick came into this world close to the end of the 4th century. While his father was a Christian deacon, some historians believe that Patrick found his religious calling because of the tax incentives, instead of following in the footsteps of a religious father. When Patrick was 16 years old, he was taken prisoner by Irish raiders who attacked the family estate. For six years, he lived in Ireland, where he was brought to as a captive.

While living in Ireland, he spent his time as a shepherd , living in the outdoors and keeping to himself. He was scared and lonely during his captivity and found comfort by turning to his religion. This led Patrick to develop a deep faith in Christianity. The story also goes that Patrick first had dreams of converting Irish people to Christianity while he was held in Ireland as a captive.

It wasn’t until more than six years had passed that Patrick finally escaped. His writing reveals that he listened to a voice that he heard from within, which spoke to him in a dream. He believed that it was the voice of God and he was telling him that it was time to leave behind Ireland. It took walking about 200 miles until he reached the Irish coast, where he then escaped to Britain.

Spreading Christianity in Ireland

After his escape, he experienced another revelation. An angel visited him in his dream that instructed Patrick to return to Ireland as a missionary. For more than 15 years, he entered religious training and after his ordination as a priest, Patrick was sent to Ireland. He had two objectives to accomplish during this mission. The first was to minister the Christians already residing in Ireland and the second was to convert the remaining Irish, which actually goes against the widely believed tale that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.

Since Patrick was already familiar with the Irish language and culture, he decided that blending traditional custom with his religious lessons of Christianity would be the best way to approach transition. When celebrating Easter, Patrick encouraged the Irish to use bonfires since honoring their gods with fire was a customary act in their culture. The Celtic cross was created when Patrick superimposed the powerful Irish symbol of the sun onto the Christian cross.