Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who is Saint Patrick?

"Did you see all these snakes!"
Saint Patrick’s real name was Maewyn (it is common for people to change their names when the become priests or nuns). He was born in Scotland about 1,550 years ago. When he was 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates. They took him to Ireland and made him work as a slave.

Maewyn worked as a slave in Ireland for 6 years before escaping. He made his way to France, where he became a Christian priest. In 431, he became a bishop. The Pope gave him a new name – Patrick – and sent him to Ireland to convert [change] the Irish to Christianity.

In Ireland, Patrick walked from town to town. A man walked in front of him beating on a drum to attracted everybody’s attention. Patrick told the gathering crowds about Jesus Christ and the Christian church. Many of the people became Christians.

Before Patrick came to Ireland, most of the Irish people were pagans [people who believe in many gods]. The pagan priests were called druids. They did not like the idea of Christianity because it said there was only one God – not theirs! The druids and their followers threw stones at Patrick but he didn’t stop telling people about Christianity.

Patrick worked in Ireland for 40 years, turning Ireland into a Christian country. He died on March 17th, 493. Many years later the church declared that he was a saint. March 17th is now celebrated as Saint Patrick's Day.

There are many stories about the miracles that Saint Patrick did while he was traveling through Ireland. The most famous story is that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland by beating on his drum. There are no snakes in Ireland today. (This story may have another meaning. Apparently, the druids used to tattoo their bodies with snakes and use snake images in their rituals. When Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland with his beating drum, he drove the druids – the snake worshipers – away.)

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