Like many Americans with family lineages containing many generations of Americans, I am a good, old-fashioned American mutt. I have confirmed ancestry from England, Scotland, Poland, Germany, France and – of particular note today – Ireland. And while I’ll certainly partake of our secular traditions of this day by quaffing a brew or two and giving my best Irish eyes a-smilin’ approach to the day, I think it’s important to recall just what the day is for.
St. Patrick was born, it’s thought, near Kilpatrick, Scotland around the year 385, the son of Romans Calpurnius and Chonchessa. He was captured at the age of 14 by a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave. Escaping when he was 20, he returned to Britain and was reunited with his family.
He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.
Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.
Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick’s message.
He did his work in Ireland for 40 years, passing away on March 17, 461 at Saul, County Down, Ireland.