Saint Patrick: The Man Behind the Holiday

It was largely due to Saint Patrick’s influence that Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years. Saint Patrick’s Day is largely a celebration of both the ‘Emerald Isle’ and Saint Patrick.

In America, Saint Patrick’s Day has long been celebrated, and not just by those with Irish roots. It seems that no matter a person’s nationality, everyone is happy to wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage and celebrate the ‘Emerald Isle’. But what do we really know about the man behind the holiday? 

It is no coincidence that Saint Patrick entered the church: his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. In a letter, now called Declaration, Patrick gives a brief description of his live and his mission.

The most interesting fact about him is that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is not Irish—he’s Welsh. When he was around 16 years-old he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave back to Ireland where he worked as a herdsman. In the letter he said that his faith grew while in captivity and that he prayed daily.

More than six years after Patrick was captured, he heard a voice telling him that his ship was ready and he would soon go home. It was then that he fled his master and travelled to a port around 200 miles away, where he found a ship and was able to return home. 

Once Saint Patrick became a priest, he returned to Ireland to help spread the work about God. According to legend, one way he did this was by using a shamrock to explain God to the Druids. He told them the shamrock was like the Trinity: in the one God there are three divine beings: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Saint Patrick spent his last 30 years in Ireland working to convert the Druids to Christianity. He baptized pagans, ordained priests and founded churches and monasteries before his death on March 17 in the late 5th century.

While he did not live to see Ireland become a Christian country, it was due to Saint Patrick’s influence that Ireland wholly converted within 200 years.