Patrick was born in Britain in the year 387. His real name
is Maewyn Succat. The name St. Patrick was given to him later in life
by Pope Celestine. His parents, Calphurnius and Conchessa belonged
to a high ranking Roman family. St. Patrick recorded most of the
history of his life and his spiritual writings in the "Confessio"
(Confession). St. Patrick also wrote letters to Coroticus. In this letter, he criticized
a raid on Ireland conducted by Coroticus, a British chieftain.
Several of Patrick's converts were killed during the raid. The letter
also shows St.Patrick's resentment of the scornful attitude of British
clergymen and nobility toward the Irish.
When he was 16, he was captured by pagan Irish raiders and sold into
slavery to a chieftain named Meliuc in Antrim , Ireland.
He spent his teen years and time alone as a shepard to tend to his master's sheep.
During this time, his spirituality awakened and his belief in God became
strong. He would pray many times in a day. After 6 years being in
slavery, he had a dream that he would find a ship to take him to freedom. He escaped to follow his dream.
He had to travel about 200 miles before he found a ship ready to set
He managed to return to his family and home. Although Patrick was born
a British, he considered himself an Irish because it was in Ireland
that he discovered God. He had another vision. This vision would
take him back to Ireland to preach the Gospel later. After his escape,
he visited the St. Martin's monastry at Tours. He also visited the
island sanctuary of Lerins. He placed himself under the guidance of a
bishop named, St. Germain (Germanus). Patrick was promoted to priesthood
later. He stayed in Britain for eighteen years. During those years,
he was still haunted by memories of Ireland and would often speak of his
experiences in Ireland with St. Germain. The Bishop, St. Germain
recommended Patrick to the pope. Patrick requested to be sent to
Ireland but was denied. Palladius was chosen instead. When Palladius
died, Patrick was chosen to be sent to Ireland. He was called to Rome
and made a Bishop by Pope Celestine in 432 before he went on his mission
to Ireland. It was during that occasion that the name "Patercius" or
"Patritius" was given to him. The name comes from two Latin words,
"pater civium" meaning "the father of his people".
He suffered many trials as a missionary in Ireland. St. Patrick was
imprisoned by the Druids but managed to escape. There are also many
legends which talks about the miracles and magical fights between him
and the Druids. One of which is when he was confronted by a chieftain
named Dichu. Dichu drew his sword to kill Patrick but could not do so
because his arm became rigid until he declared himself obedient to
St. Patrick. Dichu was overwhelmed by the miracle that he made a gift
of a large sabhall (barn). This was the first sanctuary dedicated by
Another legend St. Patrick is most known for is driving the snakes from
Ireland. Some tales tell that he stood on a hill and used a wooden staff
to drive the snakes into the sea and banished them forever from Ireland.
Another legend says that the snake resisted. St. Patrick then tricked it
into entering a small box and cast it into the sea. It is true that
Ireland has no snakes.
However, he managed to win favor with the local kings later. He spent
the next 28 years traveling across the countryside to spread the word of
God. He could do this easily as he was fluent with the Celtic language.
He succeeded in converting almost the entire population of the island.
Legend has it that St. Patrick would use the shamrock to explain the
Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word "shamrock" comes from
the Gaelic word "seamrog" (In irish, it means "summer plant")
meaning "trefoil" (three leafed) or "little clover". In Arabia, it is
called shamrakh. It was a sacred emblem in Iran and to the Persian
triads. It is also a sacred plant among the Druids.
Shamrock is the national flower of Ireland. Many Irish people wear a
shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. It is not the Irish national emblem.
The harp has that honor.
This explains the color green and shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day.
Today, if you do not wear green on St. Patrick's Day, you will get
St. Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, on the 17 March, 461 A.D
at the age of 76. He is believed to be buried in Downpatrick, County
Down. This is why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day on the seventeenth of
March. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.
The first St. Patrick's Day celebration in the United States was held in
Boston in 1737.
The largest St. Patrick's Day parade is in New York City.