St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, and his real name wasn’t Patrick.

This Mom-ologue doesn’t contain parenting tips, children’s ministry ideas, or stories about myself, but here’s a little history about St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, and there’s an application for our lives as Christians at the end.

Maewyn had Roman ancestors. Historians believe St. Patrick’s real name was Maewyn Succat, and he was born sometime between 370 and 390 A.D. to wealthy Roman parents, Calpurnius and Conchessa. His birthplace was Wales, or possibly Scotland, both of which were under Roman control during the late 4th century.

Captured by pirates! When he was 16 years old, Maewyn was captured by Irish pirates during an attack on his family’s estate. He was taken to Ireland where he was sold into slavery and held captive, working as a shepherd.

Unbeliever. Although Maewyn’s father and grandfather were both clergy, he was not raised with a strong emphasis on religion and was not a believer in the Christian faith. He felt his captivity was punishment for his unbelief, and while enslaved he turned to God in prayer.

Escape from slavery. After six years in captivity, Maewyn was told by God in a dream to board a ship that was waiting to sail to Britain. Maewyn escaped by convincing some sailors to let him stow away, and after a difficult journey, he was finally reunited with his family.

Compelled by a dream. Maewyn couldn’t forget the people in Ireland. He had a dream that the pagan children were reaching out their hands and asking him to come back to tell them about God. Although he had become fluent in the Irish language during the years of his captivity, he had very little formal education, and Maewyn felt unprepared to teach. He went to France where he dedicated his life to Christian study, becoming a deacon, then a priest, and later a bishop.

Patrick as a missionary. He changed his name from Maewyn to Patricius (or Patrick) from the Latin word meaning “father figure” when he became a priest. After much prayer and study, Patrick finally returned to Ireland, sent by the Pope as a missionary.

Spread of Christianity in Ireland. Patrick taught Christianity throughout Ireland for forty years, combining nature-oriented pagan rituals with Christian sacraments. Although he was not the first to introduce Christianity to Ireland, Patrick is credited for converting and baptizing thousands and building Christian schools and churches. Because of his work, organized Christianity spread throughout the country, and Patrick was named the Patron Saint of Ireland.

There never were snakes in Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick cast all the snakes out of Ireland, but actually snakes have never inhabited the island. The snake had been a sacred symbol to the Druids, and as St. Patrick ministered throughout Ireland, former pagan beliefs were replaced with Christianity.

Born or died on March 17th. Many people believe St. Patrick died on March 17th while others say he was born on March 17th. March 17th was chosen as St. Patrick’s Day and made an official Christian Feast Day in 1631.

St. Patrick’s Blue. Before you get out all your green clothes and dye your hair green for the holiday, you should know that the original color for St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t green. The original color used to represent St. Patrick was blue. The earliest portraits of St. Patrick show him dressed in blue, and when the Order of St. Patrick was created by George III, its official color was a sky blue known as “St. Patrick’s Blue.” The first Presidential flag of Ireland in 1541 (when Henry VIII declared himself king of Ireland) had a golden harp on a blue background. The use of green on St. Patrick’s Day didn’t begin until the Irish Rebellion in 1798 when Ireland wanted to separate itself from Britain.
To avoid getting pinched, you might want to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day anyway.

13th century image of St. Patrick (in blue) and the King of Ireland

No alcohol sold. St. Patrick’s Day began in Ireland as a somber holy day spent mostly in prayer. Until the 1970s Irish pubs were prohibited from opening on March 17th, as consuming alcohol was forbidden on a church holiday.

Paddy not Patty. If you’re traveling to Ireland, make sure not to refer to March 17th as St. Patty’s Day. Patty is a nickname for Patricia, or what you call a hamburger. Paddy comes from the Irish word for Patrick, Padraig.

Sign for tourists posted at the airport in Dublin
From Dublin Ireland–Facebook.

You’re now aware you can’t say ‘Irish Wristwatch’.


St. Patrick can give us some relevant Christian discipleship tips.

Be motivated by gratitude to God. Patrick wrote and spoke often about his overwhelming gratitude that God had reached down and rescued him. He was grateful for all God had done for him on earth and all God would continue to do for him in eternity. With that gratitude as his motivation, St. Patrick desired to serve God.

Be obedient, even when the direction is surprising. Patrick could have lived a comfortable life in Wales, ignoring God’s prompting as a foolish dream. Instead he followed God’s call to return to the people of Ireland who had captured and enslaved him.

Choose faith over fear. Patrick prayed often and with boldness. He knew that ministering in Ireland as a fugitive slave meant possible torture or death, but he chose to serve God rather than live immobilized by fear.

Love your enemies. St. Patrick didn’t just forgive the Irish, he loved them. He wanted them to experience God. He wanted them to live lives of joy and peace in Christ.

Understand the people around you. Patrick knew the Irish language and their pagan traditions. He understood the context of the people to whom he ministered. He didn’t bully them or insult their beliefs. Rather, using love, stories of his own faith, and knowledge of the character of God as revealed through scripture, Patrick preached and let God do the work of heart-changing. He started with the familiar and added a new way of Christianity that brought meaning to their lives.

To reach people, you need to be where they are. St. Patrick actually received criticism from the church in England because he was wasting time preaching to sinners and pagans. But St. Patrick entered into communities, engaged in conversation, and developed relationships that established trust.

The Lord is greater than all: I have said enough.

St. Patrick,28804,1972553_1972551_1972451,00.html

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