The Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day

I live in a state that loves to party. No holiday can go unwasted, not when then there is a chance for parades. After all, laissez le bon temps rouler (bonus points if you know what that means without looking it up.)

In the 17th century, March 17th was dubbed a day to celebrate the life of St. Patrick. It was a day of feasting. Today, it has drifted far from its origins, and is a day of leprechauns, gold, green drinks, green food, and beer.

This blog post is going to feel like a history lesson but I promise it’ll be worth it. Much of St. Patrick’s life is shrouded in mystery, and what little we know has been passed down by word of mouth. 

St. Patrick is believed to have been born in Britain in 387 AD to wealthy parents. His father was a deacon, and his grandfather, a priest in the Christian church.

The Roman Legions having pulled out of Britain to fight the Vandals, Irish pirates raided where they didn’t dare before, taking Patrick prisoner when he was sixteen.

For the next six years, Patrick watched his master’s sheep, sleeping with the dogs to keep warm. During those long, lonely days he began to grow closer to the God he had neglected in England, but a God who had never forgotten him. It is said during this time that Patrick had his first dream to convert Ireland to Christianity.

After six years he had a vision that a ship was waiting to take him home. Here, I found varying accounts. Some said his ship went to Gaul (modern day France), then Italy, then Tyrrhene, before setting its course for Britain. But before his ship reached home, it wrecked on an island off the coast of France. There, he spent several years at a monastery, perfecting his Latin before at last returning home.

Other accounts stated he returned home immediately and became a priest, teaching for the next twenty years. During this time, he never lost his vison to convert the Irish people. Many people thought he was wasting his time with the dream. The people of the Emerald Isle were considered barbaric and were beyond the reach of the Roman Empire. But Patrick didn’t let that stop him, and circa 432 AD , the slave returned to the land of his captors, carrying with him the news of true freedom. St. Patrick never returned home, and he is believed to have died on March 17, 461 AD.

So, remember who today is really about. It’s about a boy far from home, called to save the people who many would say ruined his life. Much like the Biblical story of Joseph, St. Patrick saved those who had used him ill. A lonely teenager, God found him, and used him to do amazing things—things we still remember to this day, even if most of it is forgotten.

We as young adults can do amazing things – did you know the disciples of Jesus were teenagers? They were. And like others before them, and those yet to come, they too changed the world.

Don’t let your age define you. You have a voice. But always be respectful of others, particularly adults. Listen to them–they’re older, and wiser; they have seen more of the world. Integrate what they teach you into your life, and you can move mountains.

A couple of fun facts: Though please note that these also are based on legend.  

  1. Patrick is believed to have superimposed a sun, which was a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross, to create what is today called a Celtic cross.

  2.  Patrick is believed to have used the shamrock to illustrate the teaching of God as three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Sources  :

Patrick of Ireland by Wilma Pitchford Hays

Saint Patrick by Michael J. McHugh




write on, 




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