March 17th 2015 is the day we Irish celebrate the life and work of the patron Saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. St Patrick is credited with bringing christianity to Ireland. Most of what is known about him comes from his two works; the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish christians. Saint Patrick described himself as a “most humble-minded man, pouring forth a continuous paean of thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had become the people of God.”
Many folk ask the question ‘Why is the Shamrock the National Flower of Ireland ?’ The reason is that St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans. Saint Patrick is believed to have been born in the late fourth century, and is often confused with Palladius, a bishop who was sent by Pope Celestine in 431 to be the first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.
Saint Patrick is most known for driving the snakes from Ireland. It is true there are no snakes in Ireland, but there probably never have been – the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end of the Ice Age. As in many old pagan religions, serpent symbols were common and often worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic of putting an end to that pagan practice. While not the first to bring christianity to Ireland, it is Patrick who is said to have encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites. The story holds that he converted the warrior chiefs and princes, baptizing them and thousands of their subjects in the “Holy Wells” that still bear this name.
There are several accounts of Saint Patrick’s death. One says that Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, on March 17, 460 A.D. His jawbone was preserved in a silver shrine and was often requested in times of childbirth, epileptic fits, and as a preservative against the “evil eye.” Another account says that St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury, England and was buried there. The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Glastonbury Abbey. Today, many Catholic places of worship all around the world are named after St. Patrick, including cathedrals in New York and Dublin city
Why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day?
Saint Patrick’s Day has come to be associated with everything Irish: anything green and gold, shamrocks and luck. Most importantly, to those who celebrate its intended meaning, St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.
So, why is it celebrated on March 17th? One theory is that that is the day that St. Patrick died. Since the holiday began in Ireland, it is believed that as the Irish spread out around the world, they took with them their history and celebrations. The biggest observance of all is, of course, in Ireland. With the exception of restaurants and pubs, almost all businesses close on March 17th. Being a religious holiday as well, many Irish attend mass, where March 17th is the traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries worldwide before the serious celebrating begins.
In American cities with a large Irish population, St. Patrick’s Day is a very big deal. Big cities and small towns alike celebrate with parades, “wearing of the green,” music and songs, Irish food and drink, and activities for kids such as crafts, coloring and games. Some communities even go so far as to dye rivers or streams green!
Relevant Historical sites
Sanctuary of St Patrick, Lough Derg | Co. Donegal
St Patrick’s Purgatory | Lough Derg is a unique island of deep prayer and a living part of Irish Christian Heritage. St Patrick himself was called to the island. Pilgrims have been travelling to the sacred site on Station Island, County Donegal for centuries. The small island is set in calm lake waters where there are no distractions or interruptions making it a conducive place to go into deep prayer and to get closer to the authentic self.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin
A place of worship, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was built in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. The Dublin cathedral stands adjacent to the famous well where tradition has it Saint Patrick baptised converts to the faith on his visit to Dublin.
Down Cathedral – St Patricks Stone
County Down Cathedral stands on the site of a Benedictine Monastery built in 1183. A stone in the graveyard in 1900 commemorates Saint Patrick’s burial place is on the hill. The memorial stone is a slab of granite from the nearby Mourne Mountains. Crosses from the 9th, 10th and 12th Centuries are also preserved in the Cathedral grounds. The tradition of the hill being the burial place of Saints Brigid and Columcille gives rise to the well-known couplet: In Down, three saints one grave do fill, Patrick, Brigid and Columcille. Tradition has it that in year 5th century Patrick arrived in Ireland bringing the Faith. He was brought to Ireland as a slave, and during his years of captivity he spent much time in prayer. After six years of slavery and hardship Patrick tells of a dream in which a man named Victoricus brings him a letter headed ‘The Cry of the Irish.’ We are told that Patrick was given a barn in Saul as his first church by the local chieftain, Dichu. The present Church of Ireland church at Saul, 2 miles distant from Down Cathedral was built in 1932 to commemorate the fifteen hundredth anniversary of Patrick’s arrival.
Croagh Patrick aka Patrick’s Mountain. In Irish it’s spelt Cruach Phádraig. The 2000ft mountain is an important site of pilgrimage in County Mayo. It’s been a site of serious pilgrimage for years and years. It is a challenging, unique and the magnificent landscape to climb. A site of early Pagan pilgrimages, summer solstice gatherings and now Christian Buddhist and Catholic pilgrimages. Thousands of people climb the mountain every Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July. Croagh Patrick is associated with St Patrick, the Aposlte of Ireland. He is reputedly to have fasted on the summit for forty days in the 5th century A.D. From St. Patrick’s own time there had been some sort of a little chapel on the summit called “Teampall Phadraig”. Remains of a foundation have been found, and in 1905 a small chapel was built on the summit. The little church is open every day during the summer, and mass is celebrated in the church on Reek Sunday and on 15 August. It takes about 3 hours, depending on fitness, to climb to the summit where the breeze, the Spiritual vibrations and views are magical. Magical unspoilt scenery, dramatic valleys, forests and harbours make an incredible setting for a Spiritual pilgrimage, the Gaelforce adventure race, mountain biking or hill walking for a more gentle style!
Máméan Pilmigrage in Connemara
Thirty miles away from Croagh Patrick the lesser known Mámean pilgrim site dates back to the 5th century. At the summit of the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara there is a natural rugged passage way known as Máméan – an ancient pilgrim site dedicated to St. Patrick. Legend tells of how St. Patrick on his travels through Joyce Country climbed Mámean and gave Connemara his blessing. Pre-dating this time it is also associated with the Lughnasa Solstice festivals. Like many pagan sites it was Christianised, evolving into Reek Sunday – the last Sunday in July or the first Sunday in August. The site is marked by a holy well, St. Patrick’s Bed – a cleft in the rock and a circle of stone crosses represent the Stations of the Cross. Completing the shrine is a Mass Rock – used during the eighteenth century penal times when Catholicism was outlawed. A small chapel was built beside St. Patrick’s bed, and a statue of St. Patrick depicted as a shepherd with a sheep at his feet. Today a pilgrimage takes place three times a year on St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday and the first Sunday in August. A variety of objects are left behind as offerings.
Credit to www.st-patricks-day.com