Respect His Fame: St. Patrick – The Man, Not the Myth

His Story

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Chances are we all know, to some extent, about St. Patrick the Myth. But how much do we really know about Patricius the man?

Patrick’s poem, The Breastplate

Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. 

Debunking the Myths

Shamrocks

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While there is no such plant that exists in our world called a “shamrock,” three-leaf clovers on the other hand, are real. In fact, you’ve probably spotted and picked one at one point in your life. The story about St. Patrick and the three-leaf clover that you likely vaguely remember is as follows: When Patrick began introducing the Trinity of God to the Irish people, he wanted to do so in a way that they could understand it. If you’re not familiar with the “Trinity,” it refers to the nature of God – Him in three persons – that is, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. These three persons are not separate, but rather part of one whole God. In the same way, the three leaves on a three-leaf clover make up one whole clover.

Driving out the Snakes

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The myth about Patrick driving all of the snakes out of Ireland is a myth not simply because it is true, but also because it was impossible. Ireland didn’t have, and still does not have, snakes. The country’s temperatures are far to freezing for a snake or any other cold-blooded reptile to thrive. Though this story about Patrick is entirely made up, many suggest that it is symbolic. Since oral tradition of St. Patrick was spread after his death, likely by those who were a product of his conversions, the “snakes” that the folklore likely refers to are the pagan rituals and traditions that died out once Patrick began sharing the gospel.

Other Well-Known Symbols

The Celtic Cross

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The Celtic cross combines the Cross of the Christian faith (which looks like a “plus” sign, +,  or lower case “t”) with a circle or ring. The Christian cross is representation of Jesus’ crucifix. It was the thing on which he was nailed to and died on for the sake of many. The circle that is joined to it in the Celtic cross is thought to represent the Roman sun-god, Invictus. Since Patrick introduced Christianity to people who were already practicing another faith, Druidism, legend has it that he created the Celtic cross as a means of combining old tradition with his new Message. While that sounds nice and fits in with the story very conveniently, there are earlier variations of the this cross shape that predates Christianity.

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