Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St Patrick's Day. Who was Patrick?

Saint Patrick was an historical character who was born in an unknown place called Bannavem, probably in England or South Wales, about 389 CE. His father, Calpurnius, was a Roman official and deacon of the Christian Church. At the age of 16, Patrick was captured by Celtic raiders and spent six years as a slave swineherd on an Irish farm, where he learned the Irish language, until he escaped to Europe. There he studied theology and was sent by Pope Celestine I back to Ireland to teach the natives about Christianity.

Landing at Wicklow in 432, he soon established religious communities and churches, despite the relentless opposition of the established religion of the pagan Druids - a religion that in succeeding centuries was fiercely suppressed.

Showing great courage, Patrick even preached the Gospel to the High King of Tara, and eventually the faith which he had brought to the Emerald Isle won over almost completely, as is evidenced even today. (Of course, there were many other Christian proselytizers who did the work besides Patrick, as well as many potentates and preachers who felt it their duty to destroy the indigenous religions.)

Patrick’s life story, as it has been passed down over the centuries, is delightfully replete with miraculous events and adventures. As every schoolchild knows, it was he who was responsible for the fact that there are no snakes or similar vermin in Ireland even yet.
Several versions exist to tell how he performed this miracle. One relates how the good saint beat a drum whenever he entered a town. On one occasion, he beat his drum on Mount Croagh Patrick (later named after him, in County Mayo), and, proclaiming his intention to rid Ireland of snakes, beat the drum so hard as to punch a hole in it. When simultaneously a huge black serpent appeared, the locals thought Patrick’s faith was insufficient for the task. Suddenly, however, an angel of the Lord appeared and mended his drum, and as Patrick beat his instrument the snakes vanished from the land.
A charming addendum to this legend is the tale that one old serpent resisted the banishment, so the saint made a box and ordered the snake into it. Naturally, the serpent objected, saying it was too small for him, but St Patrick insisted that it wasn't.

To prove that the box was too small, the snake slithered in: Patrick slammed the lid down and threw the box and its miserable contents into the sea.  

The belief in the anti-serpentine nature of Irish soil was so widespread that when, in the early nineteenth century, Sydney's famous mansion, Vaucluse House (home of William Charles Wentworth), was built, soil from Ireland was imported and spread around the fence line to keep out snakes ...


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Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted


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