Al Hail the great Welsh Saint!


Not being of Hibernian extraction, I have been known to boycott St. Patrick's Day in the past. Why wear green on his day, when nobody wears my colors on mine?

But I have mellowed a bit with age. Today, I'm even wearing a pale green sweater vest. Why? Well, there are enough reasons to divide Catholics. No need to add another. And, well, I like Saint Patrick -- the real one -- not the be-mitered fictional version of holy card fame.

Slate.com ran a bio of St. P a few years ago that's well worth the look. Here are the basics:

* Born in Britain, probably in Wales, around 385 A.D.
* Captured by pirates at 16, and sold into slavery in Ireland.
* Escaped six years later, studied for the priesthood in France, then returned to Ireland.

According to Slate,
He spent his last 30 years there, baptizing pagans, ordaining priests, and founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding: Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully. Patrick's Christian conversion ended slavery, human sacrifice, and most intertribal warfare in Ireland. (He did not banish the snakes: Ireland never had any. Scholars now consider snakes a metaphor for the serpent of paganism. Nor did he invent the Shamrock Trinity. That was an 18th-century fabrication.)

So, lift a glass to the real Patrick. A warrior for Christ who brought peace, dignty and education to the ungodly. A better man of God you couldn't be wantin', doncha know!

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Illustration by Charlie Powell for Slate.com