Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The life of Saint Patrick.

Post 446 - The Patron Saint of Ireland is thought to have been born in Roman Britain to wealthy parents around the year 385. He was captured as a teenager by Niall of the Nine Hostages who was later to become the High King of all Ireland. He was then sold into slavery in Ireland and put to work as a shepherd. He worked in terrible conditions for six-years, comforted by the Christian faith that many of his people had abandoned under Roman rule.

Patrick had a dream that encouraged him to flee his captivity and to head South where a ship was to be waiting for him. He traveled over 200 miles to Wexford town where, sure enough, a ship was waiting to enable his escape. Upon arrival in England, he was captured by brigands and returned to slavery. He escaped after two months and spent the next seven-years traveling throughout Europe searching for his destiny. During this time, he studied at the Lerin Monastery in France and returned to England as a priest. Again, based on a dream, he became convinced that the Irish people were calling out to him to return to the land of his servitude.

He traveled to the monastery of Auxerre in Gaul where a mission was being prepared to go to Ireland. To his great disappointment, Patrick wasn't selected to go. Instead, a monk called Paladius was selected, but he died before he could reach Ireland. So, a second mission was organized. Patrick was made a Bishop by Pope Celestine in 432 and, together with a small band of followers, traveled to Ireland to commence his missionary work. Once there, he confronted the most powerful man in Ireland, Laoghaire, The High King of Tara, because he thought that if he could gain his support, he'd be safe to spread the word of God throughout Ireland. To get his attention, Patrick and his followers lit a huge fire to mark the commencement of Spring. According to tradition, no fire was to be lit until the King's fire was complete, but Patrick defied this rule and invited a confrontation with the King.

As a result, the King set out to make war on the holy delegation. However, Patrick calmed him down and convinced him that he had no intention other than that of spreading the Gospel. The King accepted the missionaries, much to the dismay of his own high priests, the Druids, who feared for their own power and position in the face of this new threat. They commanded that Patrick make it snow. He declined to do so stating that this was God's work. Immediately it began to snow, and only stopped when Patrick blessed himself.

In an attempt to convert the King to the Christian religion, Patrick picked up some Shamrock and explained that there was but one stem on the plant, but three branches of the leaf, representing the holy Trinity. The King was impressed with his sincerity and granted him permission to spread the gospel, although he didn't personally convert to Christianity. Subsequently, Patrick drove paganism (symbolized by a snake) from the land of Ireland. He was tempted by the Devil while on a pilgrimage at Croagh Patrick. For his refusal to give in to temptation, God rewarded him with a wish. Patrick wished that the Irish be spared the horror of Judgment Day and asked that he himself be allowed to judge them when that time came. Thus was born the legend that Ireland will disappear under the sea seven-years before the final judgment.

Patrick died on March 17th, 461 at the age of 76. Downpatrick in County Down is thought to be his final resting place although it's not known for sure where he was buried.

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