Tuesday, April 2, 2013

St. Patrick, Ireland's Patron Saint

      The personage whose natal day is celebrated with such enthusiasm by our Irish citizens was unquestionably the brightest luminary that adorned the Emerald Isle, for by his almost herculean labors he rescued that land from paganism. Some uncertainty exists as to the date and place of Patrick's birth. The most reliable historians, however, concur in the belief that he was born about the year 396 in the British-Roman province of Valentia, at a place near the Clyde, not far from the modern Dumbarton, called from him Kilpatrick.
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      About the year 432 he began his missionary work of converting the pagans of Ireland to Christianity. It is said that during his stay in the island he founded 365 churches, baptized with his own hands more then 1,200 persons and ordained a great number of priests. He died about the year 469 at a place called Saul, near Downpatrick, and his relics were preserved till the time of the Reformation.
      It is but natural that the land which produced a Fingal and an Ossian should abound in legends of the great missionary who taught the Christian religion to the Irish pagans -- stories, some of which are surrounded with an atmosphere of beauty, others that are wild and ridiculous. His explanation of the Trinity to his hearers, whose simple minds could not conceive of the existence of three in one, was timely and satisfactory. Plucking a stem of the shamrock from the earth at his feet, he pointed out to his congregation the three leaves growing from the one stalk, by that simple illustration bringing the members of his flock to a realization of a Triune God. Since then that trefoil plant has been sacred, and together with the harp has been the emblem of the Emerald Isle. 
      As long as the shamrock continues to spring from the soil of Erin the true Celt will observe the yearly recurring holiday that is supposed to mark the anniversary of the birth of Ireland's patron saint. It is true that many well-informed Irishmen will tell us that the 17th of March is not celebrated as the birthday of Patrick, because it is by no means certain that it is the correct date: but that the day is merely set apart as a time upon which to honor the old saint's memory. But, be that as it may, the majority of people, and perhaps a majority of the Irish, consider it the birthday anniversary of Ireland's great evangelist. What the Fourth of July is to the true-born American St. Patrick's day is to both the native Irishman and the Irish-American. It is true that the latter is loyal to his adopted country, and has many times proved his patriotism, but when the 17th of March appears the citizen of Hibernian blood is ready to celebrate a day this is exclusively his own--a day commemorating, an event that occurred 15 centuries ago, yet which remains undimmed by the mists of time.
      It must be confessed that the celebration of St. Patrick's day is not upon the whole invested with any marked degree of sanity by its participants--that is apparent at least to American eyes. Of course, upon that occasion appropriate ceremonies are conducted in the churches with becoming reverence, but to Irishmen as a whole the anniversary of the old saint's nativity is looked forward to as a day for participating in all the pomp and pageantry of the street parade, in which the green flag with the harp  and shamrock shares the honors of the day with the Star and Stripes of the Milesian's adopted country. 
      Looked at from a meteorological point of view the festival of the canonized Patrick's birth enjoys a distinction that is by no means mythical. Those who have long made a study of the weather and its vagaries can testify that the 17th of March as it appears each year is as a rule, characterized by storms of either rain or snow, or gales of wind. The few exceptions to this phenomenon only prove the rule. The boisterous deportment of the elements on that day, however, are easily accounted for by the fact that the Vernal equinox is then near at hand, when elemental and atmospheric, disturbances are liable to occur.

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