The True Legends of St. Patrick and How to Become Invisible!

Debbie Walker

The extraordinary life of one man who converted an island.

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Did you ever wonder about St. Patrick, his legends, and why he is still a symbol in modern culture? He has intrigued me because I have Irish heritage on my mother’s side, his legends have fascinated me, and his Shield uplifted me.

Come and go with me on a journey to discover St. Patrick’s origins. We’ll travel through glen and dale as we trace his life through the Emerald Isle to present-day celebrations.

Life

The Roman-British saint was captured at sixteen by Irish pirates and thrust into slavery, where he labored for six years tending domestic animals. The isolation and hardships of a shepherd allowed him to reflect on spiritual things.

One day, Patrick heard a voice that told to him to escape, which he did. After many trials and persecutions, he arrived in his homeland of Britain, where he studied Christianity.

A few years later, he saw a vision of a man who handed him a letter with the heading of The Voice of the Irish accompanied by the voices of a multitude crying out to him to come back and walk among us. Patrick then returned to Ireland and converted the entire island from paganism to Christianity.

According to 7th-century writings, the authors portrayed Patrick as a powerful figure who contested with druids, overthrew pagan idols, and hurled curses on kings and kingdoms. Now that we have a glimpse of his life, let’s weave through the legends.

Legends

The legends of St. Patrick are dear to the hearts of the Irish people who kept the tales alive as they transversed an ocean to land in America. I have chosen three for brevity’s sake.

  • The Shamrock. It is supposed Patrick used a shamrock to convey the teaching of the Holy Trinity — three persons in One. For pagan Ireland, the sprig is a symbol of renewal.
  • Snake Banishment. According to this legend, snakes attacked the saint during a 40-day fast. He immediately chased them into the sea, banishing them from the isle. Most scientists agree, however, the most recent Ice Age kept the island too cold for reptiles, and the surrounding seas may have kept snakes from colonizing the Emerald Isle.
  • Walking Stick. It is alleged that Patrick carried a walking stick during his evangelical travels. This may be true, however, an early belief arose that he plunged his stick into the ground and it became a living tree.

St. Patrick’s Shield

When I was a child, I discovered a poem attributed to St. Patrick. It is not an actual shield only a prayer written in 433A.D. as divine protection (shield) before successfully converting the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity.

Anytime I read it, I feel surrounded by peace, love, joy, and protection. Go ahead, take a minute to speak and meditate on this excerpt of the prayer. Allow it to wash over you, and perhaps it may resonate deep within your spirit.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me,
Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me, Christ in the hearts of all that love me,
Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger. — St. Patrick

Modern Culture

  • Did you ever wonder why we wear green on St. Patrick’s day? It is to make you invisible to leprechauns who pinch anyone not wearing green. This evolved into the tradition of the Luck of the Irish, who were lucky to escape the pinches of the mischievous elf.
  • St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th because it is believed the saint died on that day. One way to celebrate his death is through a parade. Today, cities like Boston, New York City, and even my hometown, Tulsa, Oklahoma have longstanding traditions of St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations, and the holiday is commemorated by people of many ethnic backgrounds.

Now that you have learned a bit about the life, legends, shield, and celebrations of St. Patrick, the beloved saint of Ireland, let’s stay inside where it is safe, sit back, and watch St. Paddy’s Day movies!

p.s. One of my favorites is The Secret of Roan Inish.

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