When St. Patrick was only 16, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland before escaping and returning to his family. After entering the church, he returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop, sometime around 432 AD (some dates vary from 432 to 461 and 456 to 490).
Upon his return, he worked to convert the patchwork of pagan kingdoms, known as túatha, to Christianity. However, for Rome to have appointed a bishop, it is also likely there were enough Christians in Ireland to justify it. In fact, the Irish wanted him back too.
…I read the opening words of the letter which were ‘The voice of the Irish’ and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard their voice — they were beside the Wood of Foclut which is near the Western Sea — and thus did they cry out with one mouth: ‘we ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more.‘ — St. Patrick (1)
These words, and more, contributed to what historians consider beginning of Irish history with the introduction of both Christianity and Latin literacy in the 5th century. His accounts largely record his missionary work: baptizing thousands, ordaining clerics, giving gifts to kings, and facing many dangers as he wandered the countryside.
It was largely his work, or at least the basics of it, that eventually created the bonds that helped early Irish to become more readily identifiable as Gaelic durning the Norman invasion between 1169-71. But unlike other places all over the world that embraced Christianity, the Irish were unique.
There are no stories of martyrs, but there is sufficient evidence that Latin and Irish were often blended. It is not uncommon to find building techniques, artistic designs, and teachings that relied on both, with the division between the two worlds disappearing by the 7th century.
Perhaps this can even be seen in some of the legends began to revolve around St. Patrick. It was he who banished all snakes from Ireland, used shamrocks in an illustrative parable, spoke with Irish ancients that were born before his time, and had an ash wood walking stick that would grow into a living tree.
St. Patrick’s Day.
March 17, which is widely believed to be his death, didn’t become a feast day in the universal church until the 17th century. It was started, in part, by the influence of Franciscan scholar Luke Wadding.
Today, it is observed by the Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Church of Ireland, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Lutheran Church. It is also celebrated as a public holiday all over Ireland and the Irish diaspora (Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand, and other places). Other places that celebrate it include Japan, South Korea, Montserrat, and Switzerland.
Almost all of the celebrations today carry a similar theme: On March 17, everyone is Irish. And even if it is not true in fact, it certainly is often true in spirit. But for those with Irish ancestry, there are a number of online resources available.
Five Places To Research Irish Family History Online.
Irish Genealogy. This database consists primarily of 3 million pre-1900 church records, free of charge.
Irish Genealogy. This research center consists of individual research of townlands in County Galway, Knockavilla, Cloonaran, Derryvode, and others.
Ireland Genealogy. This database contains records related to old age pension claim forms and other census data.
Irish Surnames. This database includes links to various sites and information related to dozens of Irish surnames.
Irish Family History. This site contains several databases of birth records, marriage records, death records, passenger lists, and other resources.
And to help you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, visit a St. Patrick’s Day site that lists hundreds of event locations all over the world. Or, if you intend to have a quieter celebration, the History Channel has several specials planned on March 17. We hope you enjoy. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!