Céad Míle Fáilte…
St. Patrick, the most popular of the many Irish saints (387-493 A.D.), is commemorated March 17 and known as the great Apostle and Enlightener of Ireland. He was born to a noble Roman family of Gaul or Britain in the year 387. At the age of 16 he was carried off by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain, who put him in charge of his sheep. Six years later, after the prompting of an angel, the saint fled to Gaul where he placed himself under the spiritual direction of St. Germanus of Auxerre. For 18 years he prayed and struggled and studied and was often granted a vision of Irish children calling out to him: O holy youth, come back to Erin, and walk once more amongst us.”
Celestine I, the Bishop of Rome, commissioned St. Patrick to bring the people of Ireland into Christ’s one, true fold. Because of his relative lack of education, Patrick resisted the appointment to replace the previous missionary, Palladius. But in obedience, he and his companions journeyed to Ireland in the summer of 433. They were immediately persecuted by the Druids and other pagans, but the saint’s meekness and wonderworking, as well as his God-inspired ability to preach the Gospel, resulted in the conversion of many thousands. In particular, St. Patrick had to do spiritual battle with the Arch-Druid, Lochru, who, by the power of demons and through many incantations, tried to maintain his influence on the Irish. On one occasion Lochru, like Simon Magus, was able to levitate himself high into the air in a display of sorcery; but the moment St. Patrick knelt in prayer, Lochru fell to his death. This was the beginning of the end for paganism on that island, the true meaning of the legend which has the saint driving all serpents from the island (where there were probably never any snakes to begin with)..
The Orthodox Faith was victorious on that Easter Sunday when the saint explained the doctrine of the Holy Trinity using a shamrock with its single stem and three leaves.
After receiving Holy Anointing, St. Patrick departed to the Lord on March 17, 493. As he lay in state for several days, a heavenly light shone around his body. Where he was buried is a mystery. Among other places, a chapel to St. Patrick at Glastonbury claims he was interred there. A shrine in County Down, Ireland, claims to possess a jawbone of the saint which is requested for childbirth, epilectic fits, and to avert the evil eye.
adapted from Orthodox America
He is credited with the comforting and courage-building prayer “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” (lorica):
I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the threeness,
Through a confession of the oneness Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His Baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels, In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs In predictions of prophets,
In preachings of apostles, In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins, In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me from snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear, Alone and in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today Against poison,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward,
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the threeness,
Through a confession of the oneness Of the Creator of Creation.
The Secularized Tradition
The early Irish immigrants, like the English, Dutch, German, French, brought their traditions in United States. But it was not until 1737 that the immigrants really celebrated the Day. There are observances in all major US cities, but the big event is the New York City parade. Held since 1762, it now draws more than one million spectators each year.
Chicago has developed a unique tradition of coloring the river water green. It started in 1962 when 100 pounds of green vegetable dye were added to its river, enough to keep it green for a week. The tradition has continued till date. Now, 40 pounds of a green food coloring keep the river green for only a few hours.
These apart Irish community in various cities celebrate the Day with social and community works. Making charities, attending mass, promoting their own culture, and feasting with their foods. While there’s a good deal of secular revelry on the Day, and everyone’s welcome to be Irish on the Day, the observances of the Irish themselves are predominantly religious.
So pick up your shillelagh, wear the green, find a ceilidh where you can dance a reel or jig, eat the traditional foods, laugh and sing and weep as the Irish do. A drop o’ the puteen won’t harm ye (drop in a seamróg, then throw it over your left shoulder for luck), although it may bring you to see a luprachán or two. I can’t recommend the custom of stepping on the toe of anyone so rude as to wear orange; better to pity them — it’s a miserable thing not to be Irish on the Day.
Go mbeannai Dia duit
(May God Bless You)
The Wearin’ o’ the Green
OH, Paddy dear! and did ye hear the news that’s goin’ round?
The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground!
No more St. Patrick’s day we’ll keep; his colour can’t be seen,
For there’s a cruel law ag’in’ the Wearin’ o’ the Green!
I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand, 5
And he said, “How’s poor ould Ireland, and how does she stand?”
“She’s the most distressful country that ever yet was seen,
For they’re hanging men and women there for the Wearin’ o’ the Green.
An’ if the colour we must wear is England’s cruel red,
Let it remind us of the blood that Ireland has shed; 10
Then pull the shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sod,
An’ never fear, ’twill take root there, though under foot ’tis trod.
When law can stop the blades of grass from growin’ as they grow,
An’ when the leaves in summer time their colour dare not show,
Then I will change the colour, too, I wear in my caubeen; 15
But till that day, plaise God, I’ll stick to the Wearin’ o’ the Green.
Padraic Colum (1881–1972). Anthology of Irish Verse. 1922.
The Life of Saint Pádraig (Patrick), Enlightener of Ireland
(387-493) Born in Scotland, St. Patrick died in Ireland, known for his “Confessio” and the “Epistola ad Coroticum.”
“The St. Patrick You Never Knew”
from St. Anthony Messenger
“Placing St. Patrick in Context”
from A Retreat With Patrick: Discovering God In All
“An Irish Journey Into Celtic Spirituality”
from St. Anthony Messenger
Click here to learn about The Blarney Stone
Patrick was a Gentleman
Patrick was a gentleman, came from decent people
He built a church in Dublin town, and on it put a steeple
His father was a Gallagher, his mother was a Grady
His aunt was an O’Shaughnessy, his uncle was a Brady
The Wicklow hills are very high, and so’s the Hill of Howth, sir
But there’s a hill much higher still, much higher than them both, sir
On the top of this high hill St. Patrick preached his sermom
Which drove the frogs into the bogs and banished all the vermin
There’s not a mile of Eirann’s isle where dirty vermin musters
But there he put his dear fore-foot and murdered them in clusters
The frogs went hop and the toads went pop slapdash into the water
And the snakes committed suicide to save themselves from slaughter
Nine hundred thousand reptiles blue he charmed with sweet discourses
And dined on them in Killaloe on soups and second courses
Where blind worms crawling in the grass disgusted all the nation
Right down to hell with a holy spell he changed their situation
No wonder that them Irish lads should be so gay and frisky
Sure St. Pat he taught them that as well as making whiskey
No wonder that the saint himself should understand distilling
For his mother kept a shebeen shop in the town of Enniskillen
Was I but so fortunate as to be back in Munster
I’d be bound that from that ground I never more would once stir
There St. Patrick planted turf and cabbages and praties
Pigs galore, mo gra, mo stor, alter boys and ladies.
Air: Maggie in the Woods
Source: Christy Moore Songbook, F. Connolly, Ed. (Brandon, London, 1984)
St. Patrick And The Snakes
(von Crawford Howard)
You’ve heard of the snakes in Australia
You’ve heard of the snakes in Japan,
You’ve heard of the rattler – that old Texas battler –
Whose bite can mean death to a man.
They’ve even got snakes in old England –
Nasty adders all yellow and black –
But in Erin’s green isle we can say with a smile,
They’re away – and they’re not coming back!
Now years ago things was quite different –
There was serpents all over the place.
If ye climbed up a ladder ye might meet an adder
Or a cobra might lep at your face,
If ye went for a walk up the Shankill,
Or a dander along Sandy Row,
A flamin’ great python would likely come writhin’
And take a lump outa yer toe!
Now there once was a guy called St. Patrick,
A preacher of fame and renown –
An’ he hoisted his sails and came over from Wales
To convert all the heathens in Down,
And he hirpled about through the country
With a stick and a big pointy hat,
An’ he kept a few sheep that he sold on the cheap,
But sure, there’s no money in that!
He was preachin’ a sermon in Comber
An’ getting quite carried away
And he mentioned that Rome had once been his home
(But that was the wrong thing to say!)
For he felt a sharp pain in his cheek-bone
And he stuck up a hand ’till his bake
And the thing that had lit on his gub (an’ had bit)
Was a wee Presbyterian snake!
Now the snake slithererd down from the pulpit
(Expectin’ St. Patrick to die),
But yer man was no dozer – he lifted his crozier
An’ he belted the snake in the eye,
And he says to the snake, “Listen, legless!
You’d better just take yerself aff!
If you think that that trick will work with St. Patrick
You must be far worser nor daft!”
So the snake slithered home in a temper
An’ it gathered its mates all aroun’
An’ it says, “Listen, mates! We’ll get on wer skates,
I reckon it’s time to leave town!
It’s no fun when you bite a big fella
An’ sit back and expect him to die,
An’ he’s so flamin’ quick with thon big, crooked stick
That he hits ye a dig in the eye!
So a strange sight confronted St. Patrick
When he work up the very next day.
The snakes with long faces were all packin’ their cases
And headin’ for Donegal Quay.
Some got on cheap flights to Majorca
And some booked apartments in Spain.
They were all headin’ out and there wasn’t a doubt
That they weren’t going to come back again.
So the reason the snakes left old Ireland
(An’ this is no word of a lie),
They all went to places to bite people’s faces
And be reasonably sure that they’d die.
An’ the oul’ snakes still caution their grandsons,
“For God’s sake beware of St. Pat!
An’ take yerselves aff if you see his big staff,
An’ his cloak, an’ his big pointy hat!”
(printed in “A Bit of Crack from Belfast” by Doreen McBride, Adare Press, Banbridge, 1994)
Irish toasts, sayings, and blessings:
(Click here for some proverbs, curses and useful phrases in Gaelic)
May you always have
Walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain,
Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire!
May you be in
Heaven a half hour before the
Devil knows you’re dead!
There are many good reasons for drinking,
One has just entered my head.
If a man doesn’t drink when he’s living,
How in the hell can he drink when he’s dead?
May the best day of your past
Be the worst day of your future.
May you live to be a hundred years
With one extra year to repent.
May those who love us, love us
And those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts
And if he can’t turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles
So we will know them by their limping!
May your neighbors respect you,
Troubles neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And Heaven accept you.
May God grant you many years to live,
For sure he must be knowing
The earth has angels all to few
And Heaven is overflowing.
Here’s to a long life and a merry one
A quick death and an easy one
A pretty girl and an honest one
A cold beer and another one!
May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night,
May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.
God is good, but never dance in a small boat.
May you live as long as you want,
And never want as long as you live.
‘Tis better to buy a small bouquet
And give to your friend this very day,
Than a bushel of roses white and red
To lay on his coffin after he’s dead.
Erin go bragh!