It’s amazing that someone has not tried to make a blockbuster movie of St. Patrick’s life today. Of course, everyone likes to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in March by pretending to be Irish, but how many people truly remember the true story of St. Patrick and the turbulent history of Ireland? The true Saint Patrick was a fascinating man who lived a privileged and challenging life.
Saint Patrick lived over 1,500 years ago and only two authentic missives that were authored by him have been found. Many details of Saint Patrick’s life have been created or invented by writers who wrote hundreds of years after Saint Patrick died on March 17th in the year 460. As you can imagine trying to put together the details of St. Patrick’s life and differentiating the myths from the truth is very challenging.
Most history scholars believe his birth name at birth was Maewyn Succat and he was probably born in Roman territory, on the British Isles. That’s right, Saint Patrick was not even irish! His Romanized name is believed to be Patricius which is how he came to be called Saint Patrick. Little is known about his birth parents, though it is generally believed that his father’s name was Calpornius and he worked as either a deacon or an officer in the Roman-British army.
When he was aged 16 pirates kidnapped him and many other people to Ireland where they were sold into servitude. Saint Patrick’s first trip to Ireland was actually not his own choice. After being a slave for about six years he claims he heard a voice tell him that he would be home soon and he took that as a sign to escape for his freedom. He finally did escape and sailed home to his family as a young man. He later moved to France and joined a monastery where he later became a bishop.
Saint Patrick was nothing if not incredibly brave! It was around this time that be began having visions again which told him to return to Ireland. With the Pope’s permission he returned to Ireland to try to convert the Gaelic Irish to Christianity. By many accounts he was very good at preaching, he baptized thousands of Irish people, he started many churches and although he made friends among the rich and powerful families of Ireland he was not corrupt.
The shamrock is often associated with Ireland and St. Patrick because it was once believed that he may have utilized it as a method of teaching pagans to remember the Holy Trinity: God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That’s unable to be proved, but he almost certainly did not drive all the snakes out of Ireland as some myths state, simply because there was never any history of snakes ever being in Ireland. He is said to have died while preaching in Ireland on March 17th. Though there is no way to absolutely prove his date of death or most of the other “facts” about his story it is still important to honor his faith and hard work and his love for Ireland and its people.