His Influence on the Irish People
The following article on St Patrick was submitted by 'Ireland Calls' member 'Ashlie' to the 'Ireland Calls' discussion boards.
Saint Patrick was one of the biggest Christian influences to befall Ireland. Unlike many who have fame thrust upon them, his life was a bumpy road with many trials. However, through his hardships he managed to rise to recognition, and has become universally recognized as the Patron Saint of Ireland.
Born into a wealthy family, this British son of a Christian Deacon was kidnapped at the age of 16 by Irish raiders when they attacked his father's estate. He was transported to Ireland where he spent in excess of 6 years in captivity as a shepherd, alone and removed from the general public. Although not previously religious, he turned to his father's beliefs for comfort and hope, and became devoted to the Christian faith. At the end of his 6th year of captivity, Patrick escaped, relying on a vision that came to him in a dream. He believed he had heard the voice of the Lord telling him that it was time for him to leave Ireland. Taking this into his head, he fled from his place of confinement to the Irish coast.
After escaping to Britain, Patrick was visited by yet another vision. This vision came to him as a sign that he was to return to Ireland as a missionary to convert the pagan peoples who lived there to Christianity. He trained religiously for this quest for the next 15 years and was ordained as a priest. His mission was to minister to the people in Ireland who were already converted to Christianity about converting the still headstrong pagans of the land.
In order to convert the pagans in a friendly manner, Patrick used many of the popular and familiar pagan symbols and combined them with Christian symbols. Some of the ways he did this was to integrate the bonfire, earlier a pagan rite to the gods, into a celebration of Easter. He also used the sun, a very meaningful symbol to the pagans, as a means of easily transitioning the cross into the pagans' everyday worship by placing the sun on the Christian cross. In this way the transformation for the pagans was smoother and less severe than other Christian conversions that would happen and were happening in other lands. Within 200 years if Patrick's arrival to Ireland, it was completely Christianized.
In honor of his enormous feat of greatly aiding in the Christianizing of nearly all of Ireland, Patrick came to be known as St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, and March 17th, the day of his death in the 5th century, was devoted to commemorating him. This date, while it's first introduction into American culture was shunned and even mocked, has been observed by the people of Ireland for thousands of years.