Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.
This period is quite a full one, in terms of festivals. For Christians, the time of Lent leading into Easter; for Jews, Purim and Pesach; for Buddhists, Magha Puja and Therevadin;… (for a list of different days, this site is a useful resource!) So many ways to celebrate faith and the saints and sages who have led the way on a path which can be a dark and lonely one.
One festival arriving this week is celebrated the world over, and not necessarily as originally intended. St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, was born circa 387. However, he was born in Kilpatrick* in Dumbartonshire, Scotland! His parents were Romans, Calpurnius and Conchessa, his father being in charge of 'the colonies'. Patrick (probably from Patricio meaning 'noble'), was taken in a pagan raid and brought to Ireland where he was put to slavery, tending sheep and other rural matters.
He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote; "The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was raised, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."
Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, where he reunited with his family.
He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more."
He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.
Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.
He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.
He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.
Why is shamrock associated with this saint? Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity!
Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God is a shining example. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God.
Nowadays, many share in this day as a secular holiday also, celebrating Irishness and all things associated with that land… the Saint himself, almost secondary now. When you look at shamrock this week, as it springs up all over the globe, perhaps, just this once, you will think on the land from which it springs, the sky to which it reaches and the power which brings these things together...
*'Kil' means cell (religious dwelling), in Gaelic. Thus the current name is in honour of its famous son.