St. Patrick, celebrated today on the anniversary of his death, was an actual person whose history is fairly well known. He was born in the mid-fifth century in Roman Britain, the son of Christians active in the early church. He was not a believer himself in his early life. By his own account, at age sixteen, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was held captive as a slave for six years. During that time, he worked as a shepherd and became a believing Christian. He had visions that told him he would return home on a ship. He escaped and after a series of adventures he arrived home again.
A few years later, he had another vision telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary, which he did. His life there was not easy, but he created Christian communities and eventually became a bishop.
Legend has it that Patrick used the ubiquitous shamrock to teach the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, in which Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one. Legend also has it that he drove all the snakes from the island of Ireland. (Actually, Ireland is one of the world’s islands where there were almost certainly no snakes to begin with).
Patrick’s feast day has been celebrated for many hundreds of years, especially, of course, in Ireland. For believers there, this is a day for church. What they do afterward is up to them. Maybe a pint of green beer at the pub?
I need to add Ireland to a trip. Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!