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Who is St. Patrick Anyway?
According to the World Book, St. Patrick lived about 389-461A.D., and is the patron saint of Ireland. Patrick was chiefly responsible for converting the Irish people to Christianity. He became known as the Apostle to the Irish. His Latin name is Patricius. Patrick was born in Britian. His father was a wealthy alderman and a Christian. When Patrick was 16 years old, pirates captured him during a raid and sold him as a slave in Ireland. He served as a shepherd of an Irish Chieftain in Ulster. During his captivity, he dedicated himself to religion. After 6 years of slavery he escaped and returned home to Britian. As a result of his experiences in Ireland, Patrick became driven by the idea of converting the Irish to Christianity. To prepare himself for the task, he studied in the monastery of Lerins, an island off the coast of France. He also went to Auxerre, France and studied religion under Saint Germanus, a French Bishop. Partly because Patrick's earlier education was inadequate, his religious superiors were reluctant to let him return to Ireland as a missionary. After Palladius, the first Irish missionary bishop died in 431, Pope Celestine I sent Patrick to Ireland. Patrick began his work where no one had ever preached Christianity. He gained the trust and friendship of several tribal leaders and soon made many converts. He is said to have founded more than 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000 people. He brought clergymen from England and France for his new churches. He succeeded in his mission to Ireland, even though many British clergymen opposed him and the way he organized the churches. Patrick preached in Ireland for the rest of his life. Several of Patricks writing have survived and serve as the most important sources of information about his work and life. Patrick wrote "Confession", an account of his spiritual developement. In it he justified his mission to Ireland, and expressed his humility and thankfulness that God had called him to serve the Irish. Patrick also wrote a letter to Coroticus, in which he criticized a raid on Ireland conducted by Coroticus, a British chieftain. During the raid, several of Patrick's converts were killed. The letter also reflects Patrick's resentment of the scornful attitude of British clergymen and nobility toward the Irish. Where is St. Patrick Buried? One legend has it that he was buried in the same grave as St. Bridget and St. Columba, at Downpatrick, County Down. The jawbone of St. Patrick was believed to be preserved in a silver shrine and was often requested in times of childbirth, epileptic fits and as a preservative against the evil eye. Another legend says St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury and was buried there. The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Galstonbury Abbey. There is evidence of an Irish pilgrimage to his tomb during the reign of the Saxon King Ine in A.D. 688, when a group of pilgrims headed by St. Indractus were murdered. The great anxiety displayed in the middle ages to possess the bodies, or at least the relics of saints, accounts for the many discrepant traditions as to the burial places of St. Patrick and others. Legends about Patrick: Many of the stories about Patrick are based only on legends. One of the best known tales tells how he charmed the snakes of Ireland into the sea so that they drowned. Different tales tell of his standing upon a hill, and using a wooden staff, drove the serpents into the sea, banishing them forever from the shores of Ireland. One legend says that one old snake resisted, but the saint overcame it by cunning. He is said to have made a box and invited the reptile to enter. The snake insisted the box was too small and the discussion became very heated. Finally the snake entered the box to prove he was right, whereupon St Patrick slammed the lid and cast the box into the sea. While it is true there are no snakes in Ireland, chances are that there never have been snakes since the time the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end of the ice age. As in many old pagan religions serpent symbols were common, and possibly even worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was most likely symbolic of putting an end to that pagan practice. According to another tale, Patrick used a three-leaf shamrock to illustrate the idea of the Trinity. Many people believe the shamrock came to be the traditional symbol of Ireland as a result of this legend. Today, his feast day, March 17th is celebrated as a national holiday in Ireland. St. Patrick also introduced the Roman alphabet and Latin literature into Ireland. After his death, about 461AD, Irish monasteries flourished as centers of learning. Compton's Encyclopedia adds that despite a constant threat to his life, Patrick traveled widely, baptizing, confirming, preaching and building churches and monasteries. Patrick succeeded in converting almost the entire population of the island. His "Epistola" pleads the case of the Christian Irish at the hands of their British conquerors. Patrick's writings have come to be appreciated for their simplicity and humility. The Shamrock The shamrock (at one called the "Searoy" is a type of small herb with leaves made up of three leaflets, and is the common name for any of several three-leafed clovers native to Ireland. The Irish have considered shamrocks as good luck symbols since earliest times, and today many people of other nationalities have adopted that belief. It has become the national symbol of Ireland, because of the legend that St. Patrick used it to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. Preaching in the open air on the doctrine of the trinity, he is said to have illustrated the existence of the Three in One by plucking a shamrock from the grass growing at his feet and showing it to his congregation. It symbolizes the cross and blessed trinity. The legend of the shamrock is also connected with that of the banishment of the serpent tribe from Ireland by a tradition that snakes are never seen on trefoil and that it is a remedy against the stings of snakes and scorpions. The trefoil in Arabia is called shamrakh and was sacred in Iran as an emblem of the Persian triads. The trefoil, as noted above, being a sacred plant among the Druids, and three being a mystical number in the Celtic religion as well as all others, it is probable that St. Patrick must have been aware of the significance of his illustration. The Leprechaun The Leprechaun is an Irish fairy. He looks like a small, old man (about 2 feet tall), often dressed like a shoemaker,with a cocked hat and a leather apron. According to legend, leprechauns are aloof, unfriendly, live alone, and pass their time making shoes. They also possess a hidden pot of gold. Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker's hammer. If caught, he can be forced (with the threat of bodily violence) to reveal the location of his treasure, but the captor must keep their eyes on him every second. If the captor's eyes leave the leprechaun (and he often tricks them into looking away), he vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost. Legend has it that you can find the leprechaun and his pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
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