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St Patrick - Why St. Patrick is Important

Updated on August 5, 2017

St. Patrick's Youth

The Ireland that St. Patrick first met in the early 5th century was a land without cities or literacy. Ireland, in those days, lived under the Druids in a place where magic infused reality, where gods lived in the very forests and stones. Warriors terrified their enemies by their ability to shape shift and the Irish still practiced human sacrifice.

The young boy, Patricius, now known to us as St. Patrick, lived a middle class existence as a Romanized Briton. Slavery was a rampant scourge of the day when Irish slavers kidnapped Patricius. The boy was sent into wild country as a shepherd where he lived a life of poverty and isolation.

Patricius, in his solitude, turned to prayer and after six years, heard the word of God who promised him that he was going home. After escaping in a boat, he returned to his family,  then went on to study theology in France (then Gaul). He became a priest, then a bishop and decided to return to Ireland as a missionary.

Ireland - a Unique Brand of Christianity

That the bloodthirsty Irish put down their battleaxes in exchange for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the loving God that Patricius offered is a testament to Patrick’s courage and, no doubt, charisma. The pagan virtues of loyalty, courage and generosity exemplified by Patricius won him converts by the thousands. When Patricius implored the Britons to stop slaving in Ireland, be became the first public figure to take a stand against slavery.

In the early 5th century as Rome fell, the Irish quickly embraced literacy and education. The warrior society led into Christianity without bloodshed enjoyed the dramatic stories of early Christian martyrs. In their desire to create martyr-like circumstances, pious men developed the concept of the Green Martyr. These reclusive holy-men went into the forests and wild places, took themselves out of society to peruse prayer and study. From these roots grew the concept of monasteries where religious people gathered for study and prayer, and to copy the old books. The prehistoric Irish virtue of hospitality engendered the famous hospitality of monasteries, all were welcomed.

Libraries grew and the open-minded brand of Christianity in Ireland, isolated from Roman Catholic dictates on the continent, included ancient knowledge of past, pagan civilizations in their literary repertoire. After the Bible and Gospels were copied, the stories of Greek mythology and the prehistoric Irish tale, the Tain, were set down in monastic scriptoriums. Unlike Christian Rome, Irish monasteries viewed all learning as sacred.

St. Columbanus, a later missionary/warrior monk bragged to Pope Boniface of ‘the freedom of discussion characteristic of my native land.’ The open mindedness of the Irish brand of Christianity included the old holidays like May Day, and Halloween. They kept Easter according to the old calculations banned by Rome.

Ardpatrick in County Limerick

Ruins of a 5th century monastery thought to have been founded by St. Patrick
Ruins of a 5th century monastery thought to have been founded by St. Patrick | Source

Fall of the Roman Empire

As the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century to Gothic illiterate rule, scriptoriums were destroyed, books burned and the employment of copyists ended. Europe fell into anarchy and the roads became dangerous due to roaming thugs. Seats of education fell to ruin. The learned fled to the distant outpost of Ireland. Irish monasteries became the culture hubs of exiled European intelligencia where the last remaining books of antiquity were copied and treasured.

Thus – the Irish, former shape-shifting fiends, isolated from the anarchic ruins of a crumbling Europe, were able to rescue and save ancient knowledge and scholarly texts. The Irish, introduced to the printed word by St. Patrick, saved the literary traditions of western culture. And that’s why St. Patrick is so important.


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      What a nice description of St. Patrick. Several years ago my family and I had the opportunity to visit the cathedral where he was allegedly buried in County Down. I'll never get enough of Ireland -- so very lovely with a rich past. Voted up, interesting.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      cole - Yay! Glad you got an A! Keep up the good work!

    • profile image

      cole powers 5 years ago

      this website helped me get a A on a relegion project

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      azure - thank you - glad you liked. His view of the world and religion made a big impact on Irish Christianity and the Catholic Church as a whole.

    • azure_sky profile image

      azure_sky 6 years ago from Somewhere on the Beach, if I am lucky :)

      Thanks for this hub Dolores! I really had no idea as to the contributions that St. Patrick made to Western Civilization!

      I will wear my "Green" prouder than ever before!

      Kiss Me...I'm Irish :)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi dragonbear! Thank you, glad you enjoyed! And Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!

    • dragonbear profile image

      dragonbear 6 years ago from Essex UK

      He was quite a guy - Ireland is on our list of places to visit. it's got such a history and is a beautiful country. Good Hub Dolores, thanks.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      digital - without getting into particulars, yes, I am well aware of the troubles and am glad that things are relatively quiet there now. When things were particularly bad in the 1970's, there was much talk her in the US, and plenty of arguments. There are a lot of people of Irish descent here. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Thanks for leaving a comment!

    • digitalexplorer profile image

      digitalexplorer 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Im currently residing at the northside of Ireland, which is a British territory. Maybe you are familiar with the troubles between the Protestants and the Catholics in the past, but even now there are isolated cases of violence in Northern Ireland. It is a timely hub considering that on Weds (March 17), the Irish people will celebrate again this green festivity honouring St Patrick - who rid all the snakes in the isle! It is indeed a merry-making and colourful event not only here, but around the world! Everybody is drinking "guinness".