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Carnaun Seniors, Ireland

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick of Ireland (c.400-c490)

St. Patrick is honoured on the 17th of March with a great parade in Dublin (and in New York). Adults wear shamrock and the children badges showing a picture of the saint driving out snakes from Ireland. This tradition dates from the seventeenth century. Also on the 17th of March is made a pilgrimage to Saul, Co. Down, where Patrick is supposed to have founded his first church, and to nearby Downpatrick, where twelfth-century tradition said the saint was buried. That so many traditions have grown up around the saint's name, including the penitential pligrimage to Lough Derg in Co. Donegal and the light headed climb of Crough Patrick on the last Sunday of July, is a tribute to the special place he holds in the hearts of the Irish people.

For the real saint we need to go to the eighth-century manuscript copy of the Confession, which Patrick himself wrote. In the awkward Latin (that of a man whose everyday language was now Gaelic) the son of Roman British parents tells of his capture, by the raiding party of an Irish chieftain at Boulogne-sur-mer, where his father was stationed. After working as a herdsman in Mayo and Antrim Patrick escaped to Gaul where he was educated under Germaus at Auxerre. He vividly describes hearing Mayo voices calling him in a dream "Rogamus te, sancte puer, ut venias et adhuc ambulus inter nos". (We beg you holy youth, come and walk amongst us again).
After being ordained a bishop he set out in answer to the dream supplication and returned to the country of his servitude, where he was to stay for the rest of his life. It was to be a life given to prayer and the reading the Bible, to teaching, to spreading the Christian faith and to set up Churches and Monasteries. It seems that Patrick worked mostly in Ulster and that it is the chief reason that the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland was Armagh. Both great cathedrals there honour his name.

There is no national Apostle so closely associated with the people as St. Patrick is with the Irish. His is the commonest name given to their churches through out the world. There is in fact, a St. Patrick's Cathedral in Rome. The annual processions on St. Patrick's Day in America are the greatest demonstrations of their kind in the world. On that day in 1932, the fifteenth centenary of his arrival in Ireland as an Apostle, the Mass at the Eucharistic Congress assembled the largest gathering of Irish people possible in the History of Ireland up to that time.
The guidebooks in Italy refer to an unusual dedication to him there. It is called the "Well of St. Patrick", at Orvieto. It is exceptionally deep, with 248 steps from the surface to the well. It was built at the order of Pope Clement VII to provide water for the city during its periodic sieges, and was completed in 1537. The connection with St. Patrick arises because the project was carried out by a member of the Sangallo family, which derives its name from the Irish St. Gall. As a result the completed project was dedicated to the Irish Apostle by the builder, Sangallo. A very common proverb in Italian now perpetuates the tradition. According to this, big spenders are said to have pockets "as deep as the Well of St. Patrick".
Lorna O'Regan 15.03.2002