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St. Patrick and the Wearing of the Green

Growing up in the USA, everyone knows, as a kid, that on St. Patrick’s Day you wear green. It doesn’t mean you are Catholic, or Christian, it means you don’t want to get a pinch, because that is what happens to kids who don’t wear green. (You know how mean kids can be!)

Later on, maybe in high school, a few people will wear orange and explain that they are Irish protestants. Most of us, as kids, don’t really know a whole lot about St. Patrick other than that he went to Ireland to convert the heathens to believe in the church, and that he cast the snakes out of Ireland.

When you get older, St. Patrick’s Day is often a rollicking night in local taverns with Irish names, where they serve stew, and soda bread, and potatoes, and lots of green beer and live music singing old Irish songs.

There are references below to the short version of St. Patrick’s life, and a longer version. The longer version is the Catholic version and, while less documented, is longer and more interesting.

This is from Wikipedia, and is a short summary of the life of St. Patrick:

Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius[2], Irish: Naomh Pádraig) was a Christian missionary and is the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. When he was about sixteen he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. He entered the church, as his father and grandfather had before him, becoming a deacon and a bishop. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary, working in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he actually worked and no link can be made with Patrick and any church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish monastery system evolved after the time of Patrick and the Irish church did not develop the diocesan model that Patrick and the other early missionaries had tried to establish.

(From Who Was St. Patrick?)

The available body of evidence does not allow the dates of Patrick’s life to be fixed with certainty, but it appears that he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century. Two letters from him survive, along with later hagiographies from the seventh century onwards. Many of these works cannot be taken as authentic traditions. Uncritical acceptance of the Annals of Ulster (see below) would imply that he lived from 378 to 493, and ministered in modern day northern Ireland from 433 onwards.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has a long and detailed but easy-to-read description of the life of St. Patrick, who gave up a life of riches to serve the church in the wilds of Ireland.

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Character, ExPat Life, Ireland, Spiritual | , | 6 Comments