Very few countries are as associated in the global public mind with their patron saint as Ireland is with Saint Patrick. Perhaps that is because very few patron saints have been as integral to the history of their countries as Patrick is to Ireland: For almost two thousand years, the Christian identity which he single-handedly imprinted on this island remains probably the most dominant motif in international images of Ireland. The shamrock, which will be worn and displayed proudly around the country today, was plucked from the soil by Patrick to demonstrate to sceptical pagans how three could, in fact, be one. He gave us the Celtic cross, an enduring symbol of Irishness. Most importantly, he gave us an identity which transcended and outlasted a near millennium of attempts to eradicate it.
In recent years it has become fashionable to recast Ireland before Patrick as in some way a better place than the Ireland that came after him – a land of pagan gods and old celtic culture, where Brigid, his sister saint, was not a saint at all but a goddess, and where people were free from the burden of oppressive Christianity. But that old Ireland of myth and legend is just that: The myths obscure the reality. Patrick came here as a slave – not a slave of the British, but a slave of the Irish. He arrived at an island that enslaved him, and having escaped it, returned here voluntarily to give us a cultural and religious tradition that was so in tune with our people, and so quickly embraced, that it outlasted plantation, invasion, famine, and penal law.
Even as the popularity of Christianity is in abeyance, the legacy of Patrick’s vision of Irishness endures: The irony of today is that those who profess to reject in the strongest terms the legacy of Irish Catholicism practice in effect what they consider to be a superior form of the same basic moral framework: Compassion, welcomes, tolerance, justice, equality, and inclusion. We might be a post-christian country, but the dominant ideology is recognisably Christian in origin, if not in practice.
READ ON BELOW…A heritage to be proud of: Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Gript
A heritage to be proud of: Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Gript