In the Spirit: What we can learn from, and about, St. Patrick | News
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Ireland for over 1,000 years. In the U.S., the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1601.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations now take place throughout the country, with New York City having over 150,000 participants and over 2,000,000 spectators. In Chicago, they turn the Chicago River green with food dye.
Who was St. Patrick, and what did he do? First the nots:
He was not Irish, but from Great Britain or Gaul (present day Northern France), born to Roman parents in the late 4th century. His father was a Christian deacon and a minor Roman official, his grandfather a priest.
He did not wear green, but blue.
He did not carry around a shamrock (though usually depicted holding one in icons), but did use one to explain the concept of the Trinity, it having three leaves off one stem.
When he was 16, and living along the coast, he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. He was made to be a shepherd, watching over flocks at night, with a cruel master who was a Druidical high priest.
In his misery, he would pray as many as a hundred prayers a day, and as many a night, fostering his Christianity. He was there for six years when he had a dream that instructed him to walk 200 miles to a coastal town where he could board a ship for England, which he did, returning to his family home.
Patrick went to Auxerre, France, where he studied and entered the priesthood under the guidance of the missionary Saint Germain. He was ordained a deacon by the bishop of Auxerre about 418 A.D.
Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 A.D. and spent the next 30 years introducing Catholicism to the Irish people, who were pagans and druids. This was very challenging work, as he was imprisoned at least 12 times, but also performed many miracles.
A lesson to be drawn from St. Patrick’s life experience – despite experiencing struggles, having faith in God’s ways.
Through suffering as a slave for six years in Ireland, he acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue, and from living with a druidical high priest, he learned much about Druidism.
Both of these things turned out to be key factors in his success in converting the Irish people to Christianity.
Here is a section of a beautiful prayer of St. Patrick, known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” supposedly composed in preparation for his work in Ireland:
I bind to myself today to
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to teach me,
God’s eye to watch over me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me.
The Rev. Joel Grossman, an interfaith minister, is the director of spiritual services for Constellation Hospice in Newburyport. He and insight meditation teacher Ted Jones have a monthly show, “Lifting Your Spirit,” on Newburyport Media Hub’s Channel 8 that airs every third Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. It can also be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/NzgxPIWIMdw or on SoundCloud (audio only) athttps://soundcloud.com/ncmhub/lifting-your-spirit-episode-1.