Jan/Feb 2005


Saint Patrick

It seems incredible that I have done so many Irish Columns in this sainted month of March, and have never yet dealt with the man who started it all—the man who was first sent to Ireland to convert the heathen Celts to Christianity.

I refer, of course, to Saint Palladius.

I'm joking, of course (my brother David would at this point probably say "You only THINK you're funny..."), but it is nonetheless true that Palladius, a Roman Deacon, was the first missionary sent to Ireland, in the year 430. He would, however, have absolutely no luck in the country, the populace being quite happy to follow the lead of the Druids in all things metaphysical. Palladius built three churches, waited for the people to come, and, when none did, sailed to Scotland in a huff, never to return.

Two years later the Pope (Celestine I) sent a new emissary, a Scottish born half-Roman kid named Succat, to the Emerald Isle. As Succat was from Kilpatrick, Scotland, he became known as "Patricius", and we know him today as Saint Patrick.

He was originally kidnapped from Scotland by Irish pirates at the age of 14, escaped at age 20, and commenced studying for the priesthood. Years later, the suddenly 48 year old Patrick returned to Ireland, and proceeded to convert the entire country.

He did this by, among other things, driving all the snakes out of Ireland, a feat he accomplished through prayer and the ringing of a large bell. (This was undoubtedly helped by the fact that it is now fairly certain that there were never any snakes in the country to begin with.)

Patrick faced great opposition from the Kings and Druid priests who (probably correctly) saw him as a Roman threat to their political autonomy. Nevertheless, he prevailed due to a series of presumably Divine interventions. When approaching a king who was set to ambush and kill him, he was magically transformed into a deer. Another time he was engaged in a contest with a local Druid, who caused a dark cloud of fog to engulf the region. Patrick was able to not only disperse the fog, but cause the Druid to be engulfed in holy fire.

At any rate, it was antics such as the above that soon convinced the Irish to flock to this New Religion, and his name is revered to this day, the day he died: March 17th.

And a Happy Saint Paddy's Day to you all...