He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. Psalm 24:5
My birthday falls on March 14, just three days shy of St. Patrick's Day. So through the years, many of my birthday parties have conveniently adopted a St. Patrick's Day theme. Just imagine pots of fake gold for centerpieces, gold-foiled chocolate coins for favors, and lots of shamrocks and leprechauns perched on cakes. There's really no reason for me to imagine I have anything in common with Patrick, since my forebearers are as much Scottish and English as they are Irish. But since he always shows up at my parents' house on March 14, I decided to better acquaint myself with him.
The first thing I learned was that he was far from a saint in his early years. Okay, so we had that in common. Patrick was a self-professed pagan and only found the Christian faith during a stint in prison. He studied in a monastery where he found his life's passion. I'm not sure where the leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold came in to the mix, but Patrick spent more than thirty years converting the Celtic Druids and building schools and churches across Ireland.
I also discovered that there is one truth hidden in all those birthday decorations my mom comes up with every year. It's hidden within the green shamrock. History says that Patrick used the shamrock in his sermons as a visual to represent the Trinity, showing how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit can all exist as separate parts of the same entity.
Not a bad takeaway for a sermon or, for that matter, a birthday party!
God, all I have to do is look and I can find You—not just in celebrations, but in everything I see, hear and do.
1. The Patron Saint of Ireland Wasn't Irish
St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, was actually born in, what was then, Old Kilpatrick, Scotland.
2. He Was Once a Slave
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.
3. He Was Led by Visions
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.
4. He Brought Christianity to Ireland
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.
5. The Shamrock and Christianity
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.
7. You Should Wear Blue on St. Patrick's Day
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.
6. The Many Legends of St. Patrick
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.
8. St. Patrick's Real Name Wasn't Patrick
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.