St. Patrick may not have cast out snakes from your backyard, but don't let that stop you from stepping out.
Posted in , Mar 12, 2015
A legend goes that, while on a 40-day fast atop a hill sometime back in the 5th century A.D., St. Patrick was surrounded by snakes. He jumped up, wielding his staff, and drove the serpents into the sea, banishing them from Ireland forever.
To me, this very nearly makes St. Patrick a hero. We have snakes in our backyard, harmless ribbon snakes with yellow stripes down their backs, and if I had the power to drive them away, I would.
A non-aggressive species, I know they’d sooner slink off than strike out at me. But whenever I see one slithering through the grass, I shriek and jump up on the nearest piece of lawn furniture. I should love all God’s creatures, even snakes, but I’m unreasonably terrified.
How often do we react in fear over something that isn’t necessarily harmful? I run away from something different, maybe even–to my mind–disagreeable. Perhaps it is a new situation or opportunity, but all I see are negatives.
I’m looking for the soft familiar fur in which to cuddle. But what’s in front of me is scaly and slippery. There are many unknowns, and I’m afraid to step forward. But isn’t this just the time when God asks us to trust Him?
Stepping out means taking a risk. I try to tell myself, is that so bad? I may learn something from the experience. Or, the situation that I’m dreading may turn out to be innocent and harmless after all. Just like those little ribbon snakes in my yard.
Opening our minds and looking at all angles helps us face new opportunities with wisdom and boldness. Of course, if you hear a rattle…run!
Scientific evidence suggests that the St. Patrick legend is untrue, but simply a metaphor for his casting out evil and spreading Christian influence. Even so, I’m going to try to be a little kinder to snakes.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, was actually born in, what was then, Old Kilpatrick, Scotland.
When he was fourteen, Patrick was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to tend and herd sheep. He managed to escape at age 20 after he dreamt God told him to leave Ireland by going to the coast. He was able to persuade a group of sailors to bring him back to Britain where he reunited with his family.
Patrick had many dreams that spurred his decisions in life. In one dream, he heard the people of Ireland, who practiced paganism at the time, calling out for him to walk among them. He began his priesthood studies shortly after having that vision.
Though Ireland was made up of mostly Druids and pagans when Patrick first came to the country, the saint was able to convert entire kingdoms to Christianity over the four decades he spent there.
The shamrock is a symbol we often associate with St. Patrick's Day and many mistake it as the symbol of Ireland but it's really connected to St. Patrick, who used the clover to explain the concept of the Trinity to non-believers.
Though you might get a pinch if you're not wearing the country's signature green, the color used to represent the famous saint is actually blue. Several pieces of art depicting the saint show Patrick sporting blue vestments. King Henry VIII once used a blue flag with an Irish harp to represent Ireland and even now, blue can be found on country flags, coats-of-arms and sports jerseys.
There are quite a few legends surrounding the popular saint, including one that claimed Patrick was able to drive all the snakes out of Ireland. Though it's true that the reptiles don't inhabit the island, this is probably due to the cool climate, not St. Patrick. Scholars believe the term "snakes" in ancient texts may refer to pagan ritual beliefs and practices, not the animals themselves.
Though much about Patrick's life is speculation, we're pretty sure his real name wasn't Patrick. According to Irish legend, his birth name was actually Maewyn Succat, or in Latin, Magonus Succetus. He took on the name of Patrick when he became a priest.
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