Learn the story of the Patron Saint of Ireland, a priest who wasn’t even born in Ireland:
St. Patrick, according to the Roman Catholic authorities, was not born an Irishman, but instead was born into a Roman family of high rank in Kilpatrick, Scotland, in the year 387. His father and grandfather were practicing Catholics, but as a young man, Patrick wasn’t really a believer. But when he was sixteen years old he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold as a slave to a chieftain, who was a high priest in the city that is Belfast today. He was a slave for six years, and learned Celtic, the language they spoke in Ireland at that time. He worked as a shepherd, a lonely job that caused him to develop spiritually – this may have been a survival tactic. Then, when he was 22, he managed to escape from his captors and made his way to the west coast of Ireland, about 322 kilometers away. He talked the captain of a ship into helping him, and that ship eventually took him to Briton. There, he left the ship and along with the crew, walked for 28 days – the group became very hungry and weak after a few days. Patrick prayed for food, and soon afterwards they came upon a herd of wild boar. Probably everybody was praying, but the bonanza of food only appeared after the young Patrick’s prayers. He was immediately elected the leader of the group. When he was finally reunited with his family, he began to study Christianity.
After he settled into life as a free man, Patrick began to devote himself to religious life and studied in France and Briton. Altogether, he spent more than eighteen years preparing himself for his religious life, which began as missionary work. After a time, Pope Celestine in Rome noticed him. He became a deacon, then a priest and finally a bishop. In 433, the Pope sent him back to Ireland, the land where he had been a slave, to preach the gospel. One of the first things he did was to go to his old master and pay the price of his freedom, and, it is said, to convert the old man and his family to Christianity. He preached and taught in Ireland for many years, founding churches, organizing parishes and performing miracles. He and his religious companions were taken captive twelve times by the Druids and suffered greatly. He died on March 17, 493, and was buried in a shroud made for him by St. Bridget, in the place which in later years the Cathedral of Down was built. His jawbone is preserved in a silver shrine and nowadays women about to face childbirth, people who have epileptic fits or people who need protection against the evil eye often pray to it.
St. Patrick was not the first missionary to bring Christianity to Ireland, but he was the one who abolished the pagan practices of the Druids. He converted the warrior chiefs and princes, baptizing them and thousands of their subjects in the Holy Wells, which still have that name.
Many traditions and legends come from the life of St. Patrick. It is said that to explain and illustrate the mystery of the Trinity, or three in one, he picked a shamrock from the grass growing at his feet and showed it to his listeners. He told them that the three leaves represented the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost of the Trinity, and that the stem on which they grew stood for the unity of the three. The shamrock was already the sacred plant of the Druids, a fact that made them more accepting of the new religion.
Another legend claims that St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland. According to the legend, only one old serpent refused to leave the island. St. Patrick made a box for him and invited the old snake to enter. The snake knew that the box was too small and the two got into an argument. Finally the snake entered the box just to show St. Patrick that it was too small. St. Patrick slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the ocean. Driving the snakes from Ireland is probably symbolic of putting an end to the pagan practice of worshipping snakes. Although it is true that there are no snakes in Ireland today, it is hard to imagine that St. Patrick once actually stood on a hill and banished all the snakes into the sea with his staff. On another occasion, it is said that he was harassed by a crowd of demons in the shape of vultures and was able to banish them into the sea through prayers.
In the United States, both Catholics and non-Catholics celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, held on the day of his death. It is a day to honor Irish immigrants, and the Irish-American culture. Parades have been held in the USA since 1762 and people all over the country like to wear something green on this day, for luck. Those wearing green are allowed to pinch people who are not wearing anything green. Irish-owned bars even distribute free beer on March 17th, dyed green. Interestingly, when the first “Sons of St. Patrick” charitable society was formed in 1784, its president was a Presbyterian. A fountain on the White House lawn has been dyed green since 2009, but we must hold to a “wait and see attitude” to see what the present administration will decide this year. The biggest St. Patrick’s parades are held in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Pittsburg, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tallahassee, and D.C. Chicago dyes its river green on March 17th, as do other cities and towns. St. Patrick’s Day is one of the highest days of the year for alcohol consumption, in part because those who are observing Lent are allowed to break their Lenten sacrifices on this day. In 2016, Americans spent $4.4 billion on green things to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
Look out for leprechauns on this day, the Irish fairies who always wear green. They are tiny little people who are known to be both solitary and inhospitable (some even say mean) and usually work as shoemakers. According to folklore, sometimes they are “almost friendly.” All leprechauns have a pot of gold hidden away. The Irish are known for being superstitious, drinking and telling jokes, much like Brazilians. So do as the Americans and Irish and wear something green on March 17th for good luck!
Betsy is a very nice teacher. She is dedicate, loves the students and always try to help us with our problems. Every each class we can learn different things and Betsy prepares excellent exercises each day. I love my English Class.
Betsy is the best english teacher I’ve ever had! Her classes are always an amazing experience. She guides our conversation with different and interesting topics each day, what allows us not only to improve the vocabulary but also learn/ discuss about other cultures and subjects. I know I’m going to be totally addicted to this blog!
A Betsy é muito mais que uma professora de inglês. É uma conselheira, humorista, terapeuta, amiga! Tem uma qualidade que me encanta: a Curiosidade. Se interessa por tudo! E mais do que isso, procura se inteirar daquilo de novo que aprendeu e acaba te ensinando outro ponto de vista mais interessante sobre aquilo. Está sempre antenada ao que ocorre no Mundo e no Brasil. O melhor de tudo, é que passa todo o seu conhecimento com uma leveza e um humor fora do comum. Estar com a Betsy é muito bom. Acompanhar suas publicações online, vai ser melhor ainda!
Betsy is a wonderful English teacher! Not only is she a native English speaker, but she is also “antenada” in what’s going on around the globe, enabling all kinds of subjects to be brought to light through very engaging and in-depth discussions, and providing a rich vocabulary, with words and expressions you don’t normally find in your usual English textbooks (and that are only ever mentioned on advanced English classes after years and years of going to the same English school). She is very open-minded and has a great sense of humor, making “convos” interesting and funny. And…Betsy loves cats – she is the best! Love, Carla & Amanda.