Thursday, April 26, 2007

Paddy in short!

Paddy is the nickname of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, but he is not only known for that. He is one of the most famous saints around the world, like Valentine or Nicholas. Just like for those other men of Church, the existence of Patrick is proved by remaining texts he wrote: a letter to Coroticus and his “Confessio”. However the legends around him are so spread that it is difficult to distinguish myth from reality.
Once upon a time in a small village in Scotland lived a deeply religious family in which a baby was newly born: Maewyn Succat. His story begins in 387 AD. Even though he was literate enough, he did not receive much education which he regretted all his life. When he was sixteen he was captured by Irish pirates who sold him as a slave. He had to herd sheep for six years during which he turned to God. Then he heard a voice telling him a ship was waiting for him and he left, believing it was God’s will. Despite many difficulties (the sailors’ refusal to let him come on board, lack of food, etc) God always heard his prayers and helped him.
While he was in France, he had a vision: a spirit from Ireland, Victorius, came to him with letters from the Irish asking him to come back and save them. He heard “the Voice of the Irish”. He arrived in Ireland in 432 AD and set up his mission of converting the Irish to Catholicism. For thirty years he used the Irish beliefs and rituals he had learned during his captivity, to introduce Catholicism to the pagans. Moreover he stood up against slavery and managed to put an end to it.
Patrick performed many miracles; here are two elements that made him famous. He used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity: three leaves on one stalk as three persons in one God. It became the national symbol of Ireland. He is also believed to have driven the snakes out of Ireland even if it has never been proved that these creatures were ever present on the island.
He is supposed to have died on March 17 around 460. This date has remained an important day for the Irish. It is celebrated every year as the national day during which many activities (parades, plays, concerts, exhibitions, markets, festivals) are held all over Ireland. Nowadays, on this occasion, people come out in the streets, all dressed up in green, quite similar to our mardi gras. Even if it is still Lent, Saint Patrick’s Day is an opportunity to drink alcohol and eat pork (also called Saint Patrick’s fish). Irish people make it a point of honour to celebrate this great man and drink to everybody's good health.
Flo & Aline

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