Thursday, March 9, 2017

St. Patrick's Day

 Laureen waiting for St. Patty's Day on the Isle of the Green
Holidays are generally times for fun and frivolity - what a great word -  (noun) the trait of being frivolous; not serious or sensible.

Definitely frivolity - or just bad dancing
Not sure that is what we are going to discuss here about Saint Patrick's Day being a frivolous day to celebrate, but through the centuries it has turned to a day of green beer and shenanigans  - oh, that's another good one - (noun) mischief; prankishness.

Shenanigans - no doubt
No, this wonderfully festive holiday is to honor a saint of the Catholic Church.  A young lad, this is how many of these stories start, born in Britain during the Roman occupation of the fifth century who was kidnapped and brought to Ireland at the age of 16.

The lad, Maewyn Succat, who came from a successful family - his father was actually a Roman- British army officer - was kidnapped from Britain and transported to Ireland as a slave by the Picts.

The Picts may have been early Celts who wandered for a long while fighting various factions in the British Kingdoms but never were able to stage a stronghold for their tattooed warriors and were always on the march looking for gentler lands. It is believed they originated from Scotland.

A Pict warrior - scary!
With the presence of the Romans and later the Vikings, these homelands never really became a reality for the Picts who basically just wandered about from here to there - mainly there.

But we digress.

This is about Maewyn Succat who later became Patrick when he became a priest in the Catholic Church. After being kidnapped, he served as a shepherd for the one who enslaved him for six years. But then a miraculous thing happened, it usually does when one is destined to become a saint - can't have a regular thing happen since that wouldn't spark much of an interest from anyone actually. God appeared to Maewyn in either a voice or a dream - depends on the research - telling him that if he made his way to the coast of Ireland, a boat would take him to freedom. It should be noted that he had become closer to God as he tended the sheep and that is the reason for the visit from God.

After the vision, Patrick hot-footed it to the coast from County Mayo (where it is believed he had been held) and yes, a boat was waiting and off he sailed to freedom back to England and then he traveled on to France. He studied his faith under the guidance of St. Germain who was the bishop of Auxerre. After completing twelve years of training, Patrick - as was now called after accepting his vocation - knew that Ireland was where he was supposed to be to spread the word of his church. The pagans who had imprisoned him needed to hear the word of God and no matter the danger - an escaped slave risked bring killed on sight - Patrick headed back into hostile territory.

He had a mission to return to Ireland
One problem with the above was there were a lot of Catholics already residing in Ireland when Patrick returned but there were also more non-Christians, who were his main focus. Knowing the Irish as well as he did, Patrick realized the way to the hearts of these people wasn't discounting the way they worshiped but to incorporate traditions they already had. One example was the bonfire the locals used on Easter to honor the pagan gods with fire. Patrick used this to show a sun superimposed upon a cross thus giving the Irish their own special cross called the Celtic cross.

Celtic Cross as St. Patrick envisioned it
Patrick remained in Ireland for twenty years converting and obtaining fellow missionaries to follow in his footsteps. He gave gifts to the people, including nobility, but never accepted one in return. His whole purpose was spreading the word of God to the Irish and establishing dozens of monasteries within the boundaries of the island of Ireland.

On March 17, 461, in Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, Patrick died, and thus the reason for the celebration of his life every March 17th.

He had written a book in his later years as an autobiography, explaining his life and the path he had chosen to travel. It is entitled Confessio. The title makes perfectly good sense considering he was a Catholic priest and the whole confession thing.

So, with the more secular holiday St. Patrick's Day has become - it was once only celebrated by Catholics - with shamrocks, leprechauns, Celtic fairies and the like it should be remembered that a real man with a real mission in life lived and died.

A Guinness - St. Patty would be proud

He had a dream from God to return to a place that had kept him a prisoner for the sole purpose of saving their souls. Yes, a play on words.

Anyway - Happy St. Patrick's Day from J and L!

After celebrating St. Patty's Day - a nap is needed sometimes

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