Posts Tagged With: St. Patrick

Patrick: Son of Ireland

Slave, soldier, lover, hero, saint,—his life mirrored the cataclysmic world into which he was born. His memory will outlast the ages.

St. Patrick’s Day comes and goes every year with its parties and parades, yet very few spend any time getting to know the holiday’s namesake. Why is one man, centuries later, so remembered?

This is where Stephen Lawhead’s novel, Patrick: Son of Ireland, paints a vivid picture of Patrick’s world long lost to us. It is true what little we know of Patrick comes from a few surviving writings by his hand, and from others passing down traditions. Lawhead uses this framework to fill in the details of Patrick’s slavery in Ireland which shapes his life to come. We also witness his escape back to Britain, and in Lawhead’s version, travels to Rome. Everything in Lawhead’s vision of Patrick’s life is detailed and plausible, transporting readers to these ancient eras. You will travel the stark contrasts of Celtic Ireland to the fading glory of late imperial Rome. We don’t get to see Patrick’s triumphant transformation of Ireland — we know that part of the story. This is the origin story on how he became that saint, that legend.

Categories: Books, Fiction | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

More to Patrick than Being Green

Leprechauns, green beer, parties, Irish heritage. Hard to tell that St. Patrick’s Day started as a religious remembrance of one of Christendom’s most famous missionaries. So here is a little history.

Partick’s early days aren’t well known. His father and grandfather were both members of the clergy. Possibly a wealthy family, but surprising to many, they were British. Yes, the patron saint of Ireland isn’t Irish (reminds me of famed British writer C.S. Lewis who was, well, Irish). Nonetheless, the teenage Patrick was kidnapped and became a slave in Ireland for six years. It is there his faith grew, and he would later write that God told him when to flee to the coast, where he escaped back to Britain. There, he would receive another call to return to the land of his captors to minister to them. After over a decade of training in the priesthood, he did just that.

He wasn’t the first to introduce Christianity to Ireland, but is often credited with influencing its explosive growth there. As with most missionaries, it wasn’t easy. His writings attest to being detained and subject of wrath from local rulers. Mostly likely not the “fire and brimstone” variety of preacher, he would sometimes incorporate — or subvert — some of the old Celtic symbols into his mission. He is said to have superimposed the Christian cross onto the Celtic one, making it a recognized Christian symbol to this day.

Many other legends have grown around Patrick, and quite probably, they are simply legends. Such as his use of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity or that he banished all snakes from Ireland. Others are quite fantastic, giving Patrick great powers like a wizard. He brought the Magic Fire the Druids of the great High King Lóegaire could not extinguish. It’s all much more fascinating than green beer.

Even though he’s often referred to as a “saint,” he was never officially canonized, but only declared a saint by popular opinion. Still, the day is observed officially by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and some others. In the long centuries since the Reformation, many churches have abandoned such “feast” or observance days, but in this trend we have lost some of our history. 

Out of billions who have come and gone, when one has been remembered by history, one should be encouraged to find out why. Here’s a man who went back to the land of his enslavement, far from home and with little support, to teach and witness. He worked among the slaves and poor, one of the first to oppose the kind of slavery he himself had experienced. The monastic movement in Ireland would become an important part in coming resurgence of the West during the Middle Ages.

Yes, St. Patrick’s Day can be used to remember Irish heritage and its influence on the world. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you are Irish (if you aren’t, don’t you have your own day? Oh, laugh already). St. Patrick’s Day has always been a bit less about its namesake than it should. So take a minute and think about why this man is still known so many centuries later. History remembers only those terrible and those great. Patrick was the latter and we should ask this:

What does it take, whether history notes you or not, to leave a positive mark upon the world?

And perhaps, just perhaps, not all in myth is fiction…


Categories: History, Legend, Traditions | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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