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More than shamrocks: The story of the real St. Patrick

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Parades, concerts, shamrocks and the “wearing o’ the green” mark the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on today. But the real-life fifth century man is even more colorful.

St. Patrick statue at Nativity Catholic Church, Hollywood, Fla. (Photo: James D. Davis)

Ironically, Ireland’s patron saint wasn’t born Irish. Born either in England or Scotland to a church deacon, he was kidnapped as a boy to pirates, who sold him into slavery in Ireland. He grew up a shepherd until he was able to flee and return to his family.

Yet Ireland or God, or both, still had a hold on him: He had a vision in which the Irish were begging him to “come and walk among us again.” He went to France, studied with the Church and was ordained a bishop.

He set up a base in northern Ireland, then gradually won over the fierce Celtic warlords who ruled parts of the island. A popular story has him lighting a bonfire near the hill of Tara, eventually winning over King Laoghaire there. Over the next 40 years, Patrick built churches all over Ireland, baptizing thousands, ordaining priests, converting the sons of local kings.

St. Patrick window in St. Helen Church, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. (Photo: James D. Davis)

Stories multiplied about him: that he used a three-leafed clover to show the threefold nature of God, that his walking stick grew into a tree, and that he drove all serpents off the island (although none are believed to have ever been there). It’s said also that he performed a thousand miracles during his time in Ireland.

Whatever the truth of such stories, his dedication and legacy of Celtic Christianity are beyond question. One of the most popular saints, he is honored not only in Ireland but also by the Church of England and Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Patrick himself testified his devotion in writings like his chant-like poem “The Breastplate”:

Christ be within me
Christ behind me
Christ before me
Christ beside me
Christ to win me
Christ to comfort and restore me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ inquired
Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger

Patrick died on March 17, 461, at Saul, the site of his first church. He is believed to be buried at Down Cathedral in Northern Ireland.



Written by Jim Davis

March 17, 2017 at 5:52 am


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What a relief Jalaluddin Rumi is. A holy man who enjoys family and friends. And who sounds like he’s had some experience with the opposite sex.

Take this poem, one of the 70,000+ he wrote:

Come to the orchard in spring.
There is light and wine, and sweethearts
in the pomegranate flowers.
If you do not come, these do not matter.
If you do come, these do not matter.

Start with Rumi.net, a very good assortment of poems, essays and biographies. The work of Jewish-Persian poet Shahram Shiva, the site tells of Rumi’s wealthy upbringing in the eastern Persian empire — and the tragedy that may have birthed much of his poetry.

Some of the poems seem to have a double meaning:

By day I praised you
and never knew it.
By night I stayed with you
and never knew it.
I always thought that
I was me — but no,
I was you
and never knew it.

Don’t leave this site without seeing some of the poems in Flash 10. First you see the poem in Persian calligraphy. Wave your mouse pointer over it, and it morphs into a transliteration. Another wave, and it becomes a word-for-word translation. Wave #4 makes it fluent English.

You can find more Rumi poems here and here. Also check out Rumi’s masterpiece, The Masnavi. The six-book compendium holds his teachings about Sufism, the mystical Islamic sect he belonged to.

Another viewpoint on Rumi’s life is in the San Francisco Chronicle. The 2007 article suggests that studying Rumi’s forgiving nature could help ease tensions between modern Muslims and westerners.

Written by Jim Davis

December 2, 2008 at 3:28 am

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