You Probably Don’t Know the True Origins of St. Patrick’s Day

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Kidnapped by pirates as a teen, he was taken to a foreign land and enslaved for six years, forced to care for sheep. It was during this time that he encountered God.

At the end of the six years, he heard a voice telling him it was time to go home. Acting on this, he fled to a seaport, boarded a ship, and escaped.

A few years later, he had a vision in which a man gave him a letter. As he read the letter, he heard voices crying out to him, saying, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

In response to this vision, he returned to the land of his captivity.

If you haven’t guessed by now, the main character in this story was Patricius – commonly known as St. Patrick. The focus of his evangelical efforts was Ireland.

What happened next is largely the stuff of legend. One story has Patrick using a shamrock to teach the people of Ireland about the Holy Trinity. Another has him chasing all the snakes out of the country after a 40-day fast. Yet another finds Patrick planting his walking stick in the ground and having it become a rooted tree.

St. Patrick’s Day began in 1631 as a Catholic Feast Day. It wasn’t until centuries later that it began to be a celebration of Irish heritage, complete with parades, shamrocks, the wearing of green, leprechauns and pots of gold.

What is often forgotten in the yearly festivities is the role of prayer and Bible study in the life of St. Patrick.

Much like Brother Lawrence, who practiced the presence of God through even his most mundane daily activities, St. Patrick adopted a lifestyle of prayer. He prayed throughout the day and night during his time of captivity.

“And the faith grew in me,” he wrote, “and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer…”

He is also believed to have written a prayer now called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” A portion of it reads:

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

After escaping from Ireland, when he was back home in Britain, he began to study the Bible. It was as he devoted himself to God’s Word that he sensed God leading him to take the Gospel back to Ireland. This meant risking his life by returning to the people who had kidnapped him and who were, at the time, known for being barbaric and pagan.

In his four decades of ministry, Patrick helped establish many monasteries, as well as more than 300 churches. Hundreds of thousands of people were saved.

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we should remember Patrick’s faithfulness to God’s call, as well as God amazing ability to use unlikely people and circumstances to advance His Kingdom.

It should also be noted that Patrick’s favorite color was actually blue. He reportedly wore it all the time.

Biblica Staff

Biblica, the International Bible Society, is a worldwide ministry that has been helping people read and understand God’s Word for over 200 years. We are committed to providing the Bible in accurate, contemporary translations and formats so that more people around the world will have the opportunity to be transformed by Jesus Christ. We do this through translation and publishing, by making the Bible accessible, and with innovative Bible engagement programs like Community Bible Experience. To learn more about our ministry and how you can partner with us to share God’s Word with people around the world, go to our ministry page.