The Truth About Saint Patrick

On March 17, people all over the world will be joining with the Irish to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Cities like New York and Boston will have large parades in which shamrocks, leprechauns and the color green will predominate. Chicago will even dye its river green. No matter where you are, on Saint Patty’s Day you will see the color green worn more than on any other day of the year. The “wearing of the green,” the national color of Ireland, has become a way for people anywhere in the world to connect with Ireland. While this holiday is named after Saint Patrick, there is far more myth than fact known about the so-called patron saint of Ireland.

What About The Snakes?

For instance, it is a folk tale that Patrick drove the snakes off the “Emerald Isle.” Snakes being commonly associated with Satan, sin and evil since the Garden of Eden, this tale may have arisen as a metaphor of his single handed effort to drive the idol-worshiping Druid cult out of Ireland. During his 29 years as a missionary, from 432-461 AD note 1, Patrick baptized over 120,000 Irishmen, and established at least 300 churches in which the Savior God was owned, the Word of God was preached and the triune God was worshiped. While the snake story is myth, it is true that Patrick did stand up against the evil cult they symbolized.

Was Patrick Irish?

It is also a myth that Patrick was Irish. In fact, he was a Briton, born near Dumbarton, Scotland note 2. At 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave to a Druid chieftain in Ireland. While herding pigs, he had much time to ponder the many Bible verses his Christian father taught him. They led him to trust Christ as his Savior. In his Confessions he wrote, “At 16 … in a strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes and I was converted.”

During his six years of slavery, he was known as “Holy Boy” because he was always praying and talking about his Savior. Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He alluded to this verse in his Confessions when he wrote, “Whatever happens to me, whether pleasant or distasteful, I accept, giving thanks to God who never disappoints.”

Is Patrick A Saint?

That Patrick is a saint is no myth, although he has never been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. But is that how one becomes a saint? According to the Bible, sainthood is not attained by what others think of us, but by who we own as our Savior. At least six New Testament epistles are addressed directly “to the saints.” The authors were not writing to dead people, but to all those who believe this: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8).

Patrick did not become a saint because of his good deeds in Ireland, but because of what he came to believe while still a slave boy in that country. After his salvation, he was called by God to return to Ireland, “to dwell in the midst of barbarians … for the love of God.” He went, not to attain salvation, but because he was already saved and wanted to share his faith out of love for his Savior.

Do YOU want to be a Saint?

If Saint Patrick were alive today, he would tell you to pay less attention to all the folk tales and more to the truth about him–that the Bible led a 16 year-old slave boy to his Savior, who then became a missionary to share his Savior with the people of Ireland. He would also tell you to stop trying to save yourself through your own efforts, and instead save yourself by trusting as your Savior the One who died for your sins.

If you would like to know more about the Savior of souls and the Maker of saints, write to us and ask for information!

Note 1 (Editor:) We do not know the time that Patrick worked or lived, except that it was at the end of the fourth, fifth century.

Note 2 (Editor:) we don’t have a clue where Bannaventa Berniae [Howlett] (or Bannaven Taberniae [Conneelly], or whatever) is – it doesn’t even necessarily have to have been in Britain – Patrick doesn’t say it is! (Patrick mentions visiting his family in Britain, but this is after he has escaped from Ireland)