Just another Rainbow Christian's Blog

Today’s post may be a bit boring for non-Christians, and if so I do apologize.

But I was hanging out in the Forums earlier, and I was surprised at the number of people that I saw posting who were unaware of what was behind the celebrtion of St. Patrick’s Day.

Unlike the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, which sems to be a usurption of a pagan Holiday (and a big coomerical draw for candy makers), St. Patrick’s Day is a celebtation of a real “saint”.

That it later became a celebration of Irish Pride, and an excuse to eat “corned-beef’n cabbage”, drink green colored beer, wear green clothing. and for golk suddewnly to disover Irush ancestors sorta obsires that point.

So for anyone wondering, here is a little article about the man this day is supposed to be about, and a Blesing fir the day. – Ninure da Hippie

The Legend of Saint Patrick

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity’ s most widely known figures.But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery.

Many of the stories traditionally associated with St. Patrick, including the famous account of his banishing all the snakes from Ireland are the products of hundreds of years of exaggerated storytelling.

Saint Patrick was born somewhere along the west coast of Great Britain in the little settlement or village of Bannavem of Taburnia which has never been identified with certainty.

Sites suggested include Dumbarton, Furness and Somerset, or the coastline of Wales or northern France; another possibility put forward for his birthplace is the settlement of Bannaventa in Northamptonshire, for raiders captured him with “many thousands of people” according to Patrick’s autobiographical Confessio, and sold them as slaves in Ireland.

The tiny Welsh village of Banwen has often been suggested as his birth place. It was clearly occupied in Roman times, sitting on the Neath-Brecon Roman road and next to the two Roman forts in Coelbren.

Early Life

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate.

They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to religion for solace becoming a devout Christian. It is also believed that Patrick first began the idea of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.

Patrick’s enslavement markedly strengthened his faith. It was at this time he learned the native Celtic language and the customs of the druids. His master was a druidic high priest.

Guided By Visions

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice, which he believed to be God’s, spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.

To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation, an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary.

Soon after, Patrick began his religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years in a monastery in Auxerre, where he adopted the name Patrick (Patricius, in Old Irish spelled Pádraig).

After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission- to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.

Britain at this time was undergoing turmoil following the withdrawal of Roman troops in 407 and Roman central authority in 410. Having been under the Roman cloak for over 350 years, the Romano-British were having to look after themselves. Populations were on the move on the European continent, and the recently converted Christian Britain was being colonised by pagan Anglo-Saxons.

Bonfires and Crosses

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called the Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.

Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and practice. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s life became exaggerated over the centuries-spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.

One famous story relates that at the annual vernal fire that was to be lit by the High King at Tara, when all the fires were extinguished so they could be renewed from the sacred fire from Tara, Patrick lit a rival, miraculously inextinguishable bonfire on the hill of Slane at the opposite end of the valley. The season was associated with Easter by chroniclers who followed Patrick’s own account in his Confessio.

Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian dogma of ‘three divine persons in the one God’ as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular in Patrick’s time.

The Mission

His first converted patron was Saint Dichu, who made a gift of a large sabhall (barn) for a church sanctuary. This first sanctuary dedicated by St Patrick became in later years his chosen retreat. A monastery and church were erected there, and there Patrick died; the site, Saul County Down, retains the name Sabhall (pronounced “Sowel”).

Patrick set up his See at Armagh and organized the church into territorial Sees, as elsewhere in the West and East. While Patrick encouraged the Irish to become monks and nuns, it is not certain that he was a monk himself.

Patrick was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland, as men such as Secundus and Palladius were active there before him. However, tradition accords him the most impact, and his missions seem to have been concentrated in the provinces of Ulster and Connaught which had never received Christians before.

He established the Church throughout Ireland on lasting foundations: he travelled throughout the country preaching, teaching, building churches, opening schools and monasteries, converting chiefs and bards, and everywhere supporting his preaching with miracles.

Patrick gathered many followers, including Saint Benignus, who would become his successor. His chief concerns were the raising up of native clergy, and abolishing Paganism, idolatry, and Sun-worship. He made no distinction of classes in his preaching and was himself ready for imprisonment or death.

In his use of Scripture and eschatological expectations, Patrick was typical of the 5th-century bishop. One of the traits which he retained as an old man was a consciousness of being an unlearned exile and former slave and fugitive, who learned to trust God completely.

Death: A Contentious Date

Patrick died in AD 493 according to the latest reconstruction of the old Irish annals. Prior to the 1940’s it was believed without doubt that he died in 461 and thus had lived in the first half of the 5th century.

It is believed that March 17 was his death date (according to the Encyclopedia Britannica) and it is the date popularly associated with him as his feast, known as St. Patrick’s Day.

Beannacht
(“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
 
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
 
When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
 
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
 

~ John O’Donohue ~
 

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