Robert Odell, Jr. likes to explore and examine the many mysteries of our world and universe.
The Stuff of a Good Movie
Saint Patrick's Day is one of the few holidays celebrated worldwide. Over the years, the holiday celebrations have morphed into the donning of green apparel, parades, alcohol consumption, pub crawls, and the recital of legends and tall tales. The actual history of St. Patrick, however, has a fascinating cinematic feel and contains the stuff that makes a good movie.
The Legends of St. Patrick
The many legends about St. Patrick include driving out Ireland's snakes, defeating fierce Druids in contests of magic, and using the shamrock to explain the Christian Trinity to the pagan Irish. Exciting as the legends may seem, the actual history of St. Patrick is a lot more interesting than the myths.
In his later years, St. Patrick wrote two letters that allow readers a glimpse into his tumultuous and captivating life. The letters, titled "Confession" and "Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus," take us back over 1500 years, allowing us to peruse Patrick's heart, mind, and soul. The inscriptions uncover an extraordinary life of pain, suffering, self-doubt, and struggle. They also reveal Patrick's faith and hope in a seemingly hopeless world of faithlessness.
St. Patrick's Non-Irish Heritage
Strangely, Patrick was not Irish. He was instead a spoiled and rebellious young Roman citizen living a life of luxury in fifth-century Britain. He was born around 386 CE to wealthy parents. At the age of 16, kidnapped from his family's estate by pirates, a young teenage Patrick suddenly found himself a captive slave in Ireland's foreign surroundings.
Six Years as a Slave
While he spent six years as a slave, the unfamiliar, brutal, mountainous environment of the strange land filled Patrick with loneliness as he tended to his master's sheep. Hearing what he believed was the very voice of God, Patrick abandoned his atheistic beliefs. Risking his life for his calling, Patrick escaped, making an arduous journey across Ireland. A band of roving sailors reluctantly gave the fleeing young man passage back to Britain, his homeland.
Patrick's Return Home
Lovingly embraced and expected to take full advantage of the privileges he enjoyed before his capture, Patrick returned home. However, the calling he heard in Ireland had become deeply entrenched in his psyche. Patrick forgave the country that enslaved him and became passionate about inundating all of Ireland with the divine way of life.
Reminiscent of the apostles who traversed over 400 years before him, Patrick endured opposition, criticism, violence, and condemnation from the established clergy. Mercenaries were not kind to Patrick's followers, confronting them with abuse, enslavement, and murder. Perhaps by supernatural intervention, Patrick persevered with undaunting faith.
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Ireland's Cultural Climate
Unlike the familiar Roman province of Britain where Patrick lived as a youth, Ireland's countryside was dominated by sectarian kings and their headhunting soldiers. Druids of the ancient Celtic religion occasionally made human sacrifices to a plethora of gods. The Irish attitude toward women was strange to Patrick. Surprisingly, he witnessed women controlling property and divorcing their husbands for untold reasons. However, Patrick's heart went out to the Irish women subjected to slavery. Daily, cruel beatings and abuse filled their lives.
The Courage to Face Anything
Patrick had a dogged determination and the courage to face whatever dangers lay ahead. With compassion and forgiveness, he worked among people who had filled his life with pain and untold suffering. However, Patrick still harbored inclinations of insecurity and often sought confirmation of his calling.
Patrick's Lack of Education
While enslaved in Ireland, Patrick missed the benefits of formal education. His simple, schoolboy Latin was often the brunt of sneering, which brought about tremendous frustration, agitation, and embarrassment. Patrick's frustration would sometimes lead to fits of depression, self-pity, and violent anger.
Although the title of Saint precedes his famous name, Patrick was far from perfect. He made mistakes and often fell short of his own Christian ideals. In the vein of the human followers of Christ who went before him, Patrick recognized and asked forgiveness for his shortcomings, never allowing defeat to overrule his mission.
A Story of Inspiration
While preaching in Ireland, Patrick helped to convert many thousands to Christianity. In the year 461 CE, he died on March 17th, the anniversary of which is now celebrated annually as Saint Patrick's Day.
The events that occurred in Saint Patrick's life are worthy of respect and admiration. When difficult times and the struggles of this world fill our lives with uncertainty, we can glean many valuable lessons from the strangely cinematic history of Saint Patrick.
- Alexander, B. (2020, March 16). 'I am Patrick' movie: Everything you thought you knew about St. Patrick is wrong. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/movies/2020/03/16/st-patricks-day-fact-check-i-am-patrick-movie/5029705002/
- Biography.com. (2021, March 15). Saint Patrick. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/religious-figure/saint-patrick
- Clark, J. (2017, March 17). What St. Patrick Can Still Teach the World17. Retrieved from https://www.ncregister.com/blog/what-st-patrick-can-still-teach-the-world
- Exploration Films, E. (Director). (2018, March 07). St. Patrick - the real story [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/YnJt7SvkL3g
- Margo LestzMargo has authored seven books and writes mostly about France and England. She has a BA in Liberal Studies with International Emphasis and enjoys travel. (2020, March 17). Who was Saint Patrick? Retrieved from https://curiousrambler.com/who-was-saint-patrick/
- Philip Freeman earned his Ph.D. in Classics and Celtic Studies at Harvard University. He teaches at Luther College in Decorah, 2017 Hi, Y., Glen, Y., Jennifer, Y., & *, N. (2014, October 01). The real story of Saint Patrick. Retrieved from https://blog.oup.com/2014/09/real-story-saint-patrick/
- Saint Patrick Dies - HISTORY. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/saint-patrick-dies
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Robert Odell Jr