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March the 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, and the Old Farmer’s Almanac of 2024 has devoted a full page to him. Some of what follows is from that source.


People often celebrate the day by wearing something green and doing other things Irish. They may wear a shamrock, mimicking the plant whose clover-like leaves are divided into threes, and which is a national emblem in Ireland. Some mothers may even serve green milk and green mashed potatoes to their families.


The three leaves are sometimes used to give teachings about the Holy Trinity, although there is no evidence that St. Patrick did. He is also credited with leading the snakes out of Ireland, although this is unlikely because there were no snakes in the country. In other words, a mythological halo seems to surround the saint.


St. Pat was born in a part of the Roman Empire in Britain and was kidnapped by Irish pirates who carried him off to Ireland where he became a shepherd. He was there six years before he escaped and walked nearly 200 miles through Ireland and finally found a ship that took him back to Britain. He spent the next 15 years or so in a monastery and became a priest.


Patricius returned to his native Ireland to preach to the pagan population and started several churches. He was never formally canonized because he lived before the current laws of the Catholic church took place. However, he is venerated as a saint by the Lutheran Church, the Church of Ireland, and the Eastern Orthodox church.


He was an active missionary during the fifth century in Ireland, and the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland. In his later life, little is known about where he actually worked.

His biblical quotations are said to be a mixture of the Old Latin version and the Vulgate, completed in the early 5th century, so he takes us far back in history. It is claimed that he died on March 17, 492 BC, at the age of 120.


Patrick recited a vision that occurred shortly after he returned to Britain: “I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victorious, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.’”


As indicated, he was successful in his home country of Ireland and claimed to have baptized thousands of people. He ordained priests, converted wealthy women and the sons of kings, and sometimes had “difficult interactions with the ruling elite.”


Patrick refused to accept gifts from kings and there are reports that he was beaten, robbed and put in chains at one time.


The shamrock legend was used to illustrate a parable about the Trinity and is found in early documents. The Irish at the time had “triple deities” and some claim that his evangelistic efforts built on those beliefs. There are figures of St Patrick with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other.


Another claim, unproven, is that, like Moses, he spent 40 days fasting on a mountaintop. There he was harassed by black demonic birds, but he got rid of them by ringing his bell. Another legend tells how a female demonic serpent tormented him, but he chased it into a hollow below the mountain, “from which [a] lake burst forth.”


There are other legends: a bull sent to kill Patrick instead allows itself to be slaughtered; he converts some ancient Irish warriors to Christianity; he visits an inn and gets rid of a demon; and so on. Quite a man, so the legends tell us.


Even his corpse became “an object of conflict” because of the veneration afforded it and there is a story about the “battle for the body of Saint Patrick.”


Regardless of all the mythology and legends, it seems obvious that St Patrick was a great missionary and largely responsible for the acceptance of Christianity into Ireland.


But if you wear a four-leaf clover on St. Patrick’s Day, you might be pressing your luck.


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