Although he is known as the Apostle of Ireland, Saint Patrick was actually born at the end of the 4th century, on the neighboring island, in what was then the Roman province of Britain. He first came to Ireland at the age of 16, when he was captured and enslaved by a band of Irish pirates. He was taken away from his family and sold to a Celtic druid, who forced him to work as a shepherd for 6 long years, until he finally managed to escape. During his time in captivity he learned to speak fluent Irish. His imprisonment was crucial for his spiritual development and according to legend one day he heard a voice in his head, telling him that he would soon be free. He ran away, travelling over 200 miles on foot, until he finally found a port and persuaded a captain to return him to Britain.
After he was reunited with his family, he decided to devote his life to God and spend the next 16 years studying to become a priest. For his training he traveled to Auxerre, France and later returned to Ireland as a missionary, spending the rest of his days converting the Celtic natives to Christianity. Although many facts of his life remain uncertain, most scholars agree on one thing – he was extremely diplomatic in his mission, never forcing his beliefs on the people. Instead he found ways to incorporate the indigenous rituals and symbols into the Christian faith. According to one legend he often used the shamrock, found in abundance all across the island, to explain the Holy Trinity. For many it was difficult to understand the concept of the three personas in one God, so he showed them the three-leaved plant with one stalk. To this day the shamrock is associated with his teachings and as custom worn on the lapel on the 17th of March, St. Patrick’s Day.
Probably the most famous legend about St. Patrick tells the story of him banishing all snakes from Ireland. In reality there have never been snakes on the island. During the last ice age, it was too cold for them to survive and the island has been separated ever since. For over 40 years St. Patrick traveled all across the land, preaching the love of God and eventually managed to convert entire kingdoms to the Christian faith. He died on March 17, 461 in Saul and is said to be buried in the nearby town of Downpatrick. It is a day, celebrated annually in his honor all across the world, bringing people together and hailed as the happiest day of the year.
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