A few months ago, I was looking up information about something and ran across the teeny weeny fact that St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. Now seems like a good time to bring this up.
I jumped on the History Channel Web site and discovered all sorts of interesting things about Paddy. For instance, he never banished a bunch of snakes from Ireland.
There may be people out there saying, “Well, duh, Justine.” In my defense, I don’t know if the subject had ever come up long enough for me to see if it was true or not. Some things you just hear and accept, like the whole “Noah built an ark” thing. Did he really build an ark? I don’t know – I wasn’t there.
Back to Paddy.
History.com states Patrick was from a wealthy family, and his father was a deacon who likely took on the role because of the tax incentives. It seems Paddy’s family wasn’t particularly religious.
Pat was taken prisoner by a roving band of Irishman (no word on why they roving or if they were drinking green beer while they roved) and was then forced to babysit the sheep. While doing his slavery shepherding duties, he became lonely and afraid, turning to religion for solace. Probably better than turning to the sheep.
During this time, it is believed he began to dream of converting the Irish to Christianity. This makes him a better person than I, because if I was kidnapped and forced to play shepherd for six years, I would probably have dreams of my captors that included less love of God and more smacking of heads with blunt objects.
After more than six boring years of shepherding, Patrick got a message from God, who told him to book it on out of there. Why this didn’t occur to him before hearing a strange voice is a mystery. He hopped on over to the Irish coast (about 200 miles away, lots of hopping) and escaped back to Britain.
Yep, Paddy was British – tea, crumpets, Benny Hill and all that jazz.
Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation – an angel in a dream told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years.
A quick Internet search revealed that it can take a few years to become a Catholic priest, but the average time seems to be about six to eight years. So, Patrick was a slacker.
He was finally ordained as a priest and sent to both minister the Catholics already there and convert everyone else, thereby contradicting the widely held notion that Paddy introduced Christianity to the Irish.
On another Web site, I found this little bit of information:
“Most information about St. Patrick has been twisted, embellished, or simply made up over centuries by storytellers, causing much ambiguity about the real life of St. Patrick.”
Apparently there are a few facts the scholars agree on. Here are a couple that don’t fall into that category.
One site said Patrick wasn’t kidnapped by roving Irishman, but by pirates. Another states he is credited by bringing the written word to the Irish, who had just used the tried-and-embellished word of mouth method before then.
My favorite accounting of the exploits of St. Patrick come from a quirky little book titled, “Sketches from ‘Texas Siftings.’” It is quite possibly one of the funnier things I have encountered lately, and was published in 1882. It totally makes fun of the fact that St. Pat facts are so vague.
“He found the island inhabited with savage tribes and converted them … He found the island infested with copperheads and other snakes and converted them too … we do not know into what he converted them, but we have a theory he converted them into that class of land leaguers who shoot poor people for honestly paying their rent … He was born of English parents in France on the 4th of July, 400 A.D., which may account, in some measure, for his having been one of the first men of that century. A few years afterward, on New Years Day 403 A.D., he was born in Scotland of unknown parentage … the number of St. Patrick’s mother is also of un-known certainty, but there must have been half a dozen of them and they were all, doubtless, all very proud of him, and each one claiming he got his good looks from herself.”
And my favorite part: “As far as we know, St. Patrick did not belong to any fire company. He is buried all over Europe.”
By the way, Happy St. Paddy’s Day, everyone.