The 261 history of christianity

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THE 261 History of Christianity


Patrick is the saint, bishop and national apostle of Ireland. He was born in the fourth century and is famous for bringing Christianity into Ireland. St. Patrick being a teenager was thrown into slavery which was the moment when he found God. St. Patrick's Day is a very well known Irish national holiday, which is celebrated not only in Ireland but all around the world. St. Patrick is the a significant figure in history because he converted pagans in Ireland to Christianity, with the help of logos such as green color, snakes and Celtic cross, due to his personal experiences fought against slavery in Ireland and in memory of him Irish people celebrate St. Patrick's Day.


Saint Patrick is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. St. Patrick was born in 390 year in Roman occupied Britain. During the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and was sold to the slavery, where he was forced to work as a shepherd. After six years he managed to escape to France where he learned received a theological education. Later Patrick was ordained to the priesthood. After consecration, St. Patrick went to Ireland along with Bishop Palladium, who was sent by Pope Celestine I, to spread the Christianity faith. St. Patrick became the Irish bishop after the death of Palladium. He is recognized as an apostle of Ireland. His mission in Ireland lasted from 432 to 461 years. Although, some individual Christian communities existed in Ireland before St. Patrick's arrival in Ireland, but it is St. Patrick's activities which gave wide ranging pulse of Irish conversion to Christianity. St. Patrick baptized the Irish people, created monasteries, whose members who proclaimed the Gospel which subsequently spread throughout all the Europe.

Many stories are associated with St. Patrick's fight against paganism. The green shamrock became a symbol of Ireland due to the St. Patrick's interpretation of trinity. Moreover, the legend tells that St. Patrick, calling the bell, expelled reptiles and poisonous creatures from the island of Ireland. Therefore, he is portrayed killing the snake with his mace in iconography. What is more, another story tells that St. Patrick's fingers glow like a torch and the water drops falling from the hands become a fire. It was believed that the sacred Patrick can ignite the icicles and make the milk and butter of from snow. Irish people believe that St. Patrick is a judge of the supreme court of the last day. This privilege he received from God himself. Furthermore, St. Patrick is compared with Moses and Joshua, because he spoke with the angel appeared in thorn bushes. It is said that the sun went down in the day of his death.[1]

Life of St. Patrick

Patrick was born in Britain, so Saint Patrick was not actually Irish. His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat and he took on the name Patrick upon becoming a priest. His father was a wealthy alderman. His grandfather was a priest. St. Patrick was captured and carried off as a slave to Ireland, when he was about fourteen years old. Patrick worked as a shepherd, remaining a captive for six years. Every day his faith grew in captivity as he prayed daily. With no doubt the six years of Patrick's captivity became a remote preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue. Until the age of 16, he thought of himself as a pagan. It was during this capture that he turned to God. He escaped after having a dream sent from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast where he would find a ship waiting to sail to Britain. Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port, two hundred miles away. He found a ship and finally returned home to his family, being at his early twenties, but now his heart was set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred ministry.

Missionary in Ireland

To prepare for the Irish mission St. Patrick left Britain and went to France. St. Patrick started studies in a monastery in Gaul for 12 years. St. Patrick studied religion under Saint Germanus, a French bishop. Pope Celestine I sent Saint Germanus to Britain to deal with a heresy problem. Germanus discussed the possibility of a mission to Ireland while being in Britain. Patrick was mentioned as a suitable man to put in charge of it. Patrick along with bishop Palladius were opposed to go to Ireland in 431. They went to Ireland and began missionary work but Palladius died within one year, so Patrick was consecrated bishop in 432 to continue missionary work. [2]

St. Patrick's experiences in Ireland made him driven by the idea of converting the pagan Irish people to Christianity. St. Patrick was sent a dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him to come and walk among them once more. Patrick interpreted the dream as a call from God to become a missionary to the pagan Irish. The efforts of Patrick's parents to induce him to stay in Britain were unsuccessful. No one had ever preached Christianity in northern and western Ireland, so this is where St. Patrick began his work. He gained the trust and friendship of several tribal leaders and soon St. Patrick went around Ireland founding monasteries and successfully converting people to Christianity. The Celtic Druids were very unhappy with him and tried to arrest him several times but he always managed to escape. St. Patrick founded more than 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000 people. Patrick preached and converted all over Ireland for 40 years. The date cited for when Ireland was converted to Christianity is 432. He brought in clergymen for his new churches from England and France. Patrick preached in Ireland the rest of his life. Patrick was chiefly responsible for converting the Irish people to Christianity. He became known as the Apostle to the Irish.[3]

Green color, snakes and Celtic cross

It is hard to believe, but the color of St. Patrick was not actually green, but the blue. In the 19th century, however, green became used as a symbol for Ireland. In Ireland, there is plentiful rain and mist, so the environment of nature is really green all year round. The beautiful green landscape was probably the inspiration for the national color. Wearing the color green is considered an act of paying tribute to Ireland. It is said that it also brings good luck, especially when worn on St. Patrick's Day. Many long years ago, playful Irish children began the tradition of pinching people who forgot to wear green on St. Patrick's Day and the tradition is still practiced today.

St. Patrick banished all the snakes from the island by the force of his prayers. It is important to point out that Ireland likely never had any snakes. The story has evolved from a symbolic association of snakes or serpents with non-Christian religious beliefs. This tale has arisen as a metaphor of his single handed effort to drive the idol worshiping Druid cult out of Ireland as snakes being commonly associated with Satan, sin and evil since the Garden of Eden. St. Patrick drove snakes from Ireland banishing the venomous serpents by beating his drum.

Saint Patrick was familiar with the Irish language and culture, because of his time as a slave there. When Patrick went back to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity, he was successful because he didn't try to make the Irish forget their old beliefs. He combined their old beliefs with the new beliefs. One example of this is the Celtic cross. Saint Patrick added the sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that the new symbol of Christianity would be more natural to the Irish.

The Confession and letter to Coroticus

St. Patrick, the bishop apostle of Ireland, left only two writings from his own hand Letter to Coroticus and the Confession. The Confession means declaration where St. Patrick gives a short account of his life and his mission in it. The other work is called "Epistola ad Coroticum" which means letter to the soldiers of Coroticus, which is recognized by all modern critical writers as of unquestionable genuineness.

Autobiographical declaration the Confession was written by St. Patrick himself around the year 450. The Confession was written in Latin a few years before his death. His writings serve as the most important sources of information about St. Patrick's life and achievements in Ireland. The Confession represents a personal and emotional account of St. Patrick's spiritual development. St. Patrick wrote this book to justify his mission to Ireland and to declare that he was not sent by man, but by the Lord. His story revolves around an initial irony which qualifies his centrality in the Irish tradition. It was Irish pirates who kidnapped him from his British home and sold him into slavery. They could never have suspected the spiritual tradition that would be born out of their brutal action. His physical slavery releases him into a life of inner liberation. St. Patrick understands his slavery as the door into divine recognition and friendship. In this awful experience of alienation and exile he discovers God as his friend of the soul. St. Patrick is able to survive harsh and lonely territories of exile because he keeps the beauty of God alive in his heart. The inner intimacy brings his soul to believe. It opens the world of the divine imagination to this youth. He becomes available for his destiny in a new way. His dreams invite him to ever richer thresholds of his future. He defines himself as an unworthy sinner who has faced death, ridicule and persecution. He trusts entirely in God and rejoices in the life he has been given. St. Patrick recorded that people deserve this fate, because they had turned away from God. People neither kept God's commandments nor obeyed our priests who used to warn about salvation. He thanked God who rescued him many times when his life was in danger and goes on to say: "I came to the Irish heathens to preach the Good News and to put up with insults from unbelievers; I heard my mission abused, I endured many persecutions even to the extent of chains; I gave up my free born status for the good of others"[4]. He acknowledged that he was very much in debt to God who gave him much grace that through him many people were born again in God and afterwards confirmed and that priests were ordained for them everywhere.

Letter to Coroticus is the only other document known to have been written by St. Patrick. Letter to Coroticus is a passionate plea against a gang of pirates for the return of a large number of young converts whom they have taken into slavery. Written letter was a reaction to an especially violent and ruthless act of murder and rape. St. Patrick describes how he had just baptized and confirmed a large group of young men and women, when on the very next day, he found people with heads cruelly cut down and killed. Those that resisted faced instant death, the remainder were taken prisoner. Men were put into slavery while women endured a lifetime sexual abuse at the hands of the pagan rites. What angers Patrick more even than the brutal savagery of these crimes is that soldiers of Coroticus were also Christians. St. Patrick's sent a delegation of priests as a response to these bloody crimes with a letter asking to return the booty and to release captives especially women. Coroticus' soldiers merely laughed in the priests' faces. St. Patrick deliberated a second course of action. He named Coroticus publicly and shamed for his crimes. St. Patrick chooses his words as arrows. He is not about to let Coroticus go free. He warns local Christians that they must stand as one fist against this bully chief. His shout must be the very first cry against slavery in the history of our race. Little by little, words of his anger would have spread out among St. Patrick's Christians and carried to the people at large in the result bringing down the soldiers of Coroticus crimes.[5]

Saint Patrick's Day

There is much debate over when and where he died. It is believed he died on 17 March, 460. That is why Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17th. Some people suggest he was also born on the 17th of March too. Saint Patrick's Day is a national holiday in Ireland. It also is celebrated outside of Ireland in cities with a large number of people of Irish descent. In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is primarily a religious holiday. People honor Saint Patrick by attending special religious services, enjoying family and community gatherings, and wearing shamrocks. It is also a day of cultural pride for all those with any hint of Irish blood in their ancestry. St. Patrick's Day is primarily a secular holiday in the United States. Many people wear green clothing, and they hold parties and march in parades. The first St. Patrick's Day celebration in the United States was held in Boston in 1737. Today, more than 100 cities hold parades. The shamrock was chosen Ireland's national emblem because of the legend that St. Patrick had used it to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is the idea that God is really three in one: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Patrick demonstrated the meaning of the three in one by picking a shamrock from the grass growing at his feet and showing it to his listeners. He told them that just as the shamrock is one leaf with three parts, God is one entity with three Persons. The Irish have considered shamrocks as good luck symbols since earliest times and today people of many other nationalities also believe they bring good luck.


All in all, St. Patrick is important figure in history of Christianity because he managed to convert Irish people from paganism to Christianity and established hundreds of churches throughout Ireland, with the help of such metaphors as green color, snakes and Celtic cross. Moreover, he wrote the Confessions to furnish evidence that God had approved of his mission and to record some of his experiences in order to make known God's grace, everlasting consolation and to spread the knowledge of God's name in the earth. Furthermore, St. Patrick denounced the slave trade and opposed the chieftain Coroticus for his participation in the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. The last but not the least, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17th to honor Patrick, patron saint and national hero of Ireland.


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[1] Sanderson, J. 1902. Story of St. Patrick. 13-28 p.

[2] Sanderson, J. 1902. Story of St. Patrick. 112 p.

[3] Lawhead, S. 2003. Patrick: Son of Ireland. 172 p.

[4] Skinner, J. 1998. The confession of St. Patrick and letter to Coroticus. 33 p.

[5] Skinner, J. 1998. The confession of St. Patrick and letter to Coroticus. 1-16 p.