Lá Fhéile Phádraig Shona Duit!
St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner so I thought it would be nice to learn a bit about St. Patrick…
St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world’s most popular saints. He was an apostle of Ireland and born at Kilpatrick, which is near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 385. He died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland on March 17, 461.
The Story of St. Patrick
Patrick was born in the year 385, probably in Kilpatrick, Scotland. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, Romans living in Britain because they were in charge of the colonies. As a boy of fourteen or so, Patrick was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to tend and herd sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of pagans and druids. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. During his captivity he turned to God in prayer. He wrote,
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did faith, and my soul rose, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and in the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was about twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him off to Britain, where he was reuinited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more!”
He began his studies for priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, 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.
Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac. Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering, he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.
Irish Five Pence
The Irish Five Pence was given to the bride on her wedding day so she could wear it in her shoe as a symbol of good luck and many blessings. Today many brids will do the same by placing a five pence in the bride’s flowers.
Long ago when Ireland was a land of druids, a Christian bishop known to us now as St. Patrick came to teach the word of God. Although the origins of the shamrock are lost in antiquity, the legend suggests that St. Patrick plucked a shamrock from Irish soil to demonstrate the meaning of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The plant was reptued to have mystic powers in that its petals will stand upright to warn of an approaching storm. The shamrock remains Ireland’s most famous symbol. The shamrock is also commonly associated with the symbol of luck. In studying Celtic history, scholars have discovered that the shamrock was a charm to ward away evil.
The Irish tradition of metalworking goes back to 3000 years to the Bronze Age. The Tara brooch is considered to be one of the finest examples of ancient Irish metalworking craftsmanship. It is a “ring brooch” dating back tothe later 7th or early 8th century. Despite its name, it does not have any historical attachment to Tara. Rather, it was found in 1850 in Bettystown in County Meath and later acquired by a jeweler who named it the “Tara Brooch”. It is exquisitely made in silver and gilt. The seven-inch long brooch was embellished with Celtic knotwork on both front and back. The Tara Brooch was not meant to be a brooch to hold clothing but to be decorative. Brooches contained neither Christian or Pagan religious motifs and were made for wealthy patrons who wanted a personal expression of status. Each brooch was made unique and individualized for each patron. The brooch is now on permanent display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
The Tree of Life is common to many cultures. It’s often regarded as all-nourishing and all-giving. Britain was once covered by a mighty oak forest and the tree reverence is a major feature within the Celtic culture. The tree reflects a link between heaven and earth. Roots reach down to the earth and its branches reach up to the heavens. The interlacing branches symbolize the continuity of life. The tree was regarded by the Celts as a source of food, protection form the elements, provider of material shelter, and a source of warmth when making fire with its wood.
The dolphin became a symbol of frienship, good luck, and intelligence. The appearance of the dolphins off the coast of Ireland urged the Celts to contemplate the sea, which was an unknown universe.
The Celtic symbolism of the goose deals witho ur own migratory and transitory nature. The goose is also a strong symbol of hearth and home, returning to the same place each spring, so the symbol was displaced to encourage the safe return of the Celtic warrior.
If you want me to go into more detail about any of these animals, or any animals not included, please comment!