Today is the feast of St. Patrick. On this day everyone claims to be Irish. Celebrations with parades. corned beef and cabbage, green beer, potato candy and dancing the Irish Jig while wearing of the green are happening all over not only the United States, but the world.
March 17th marks the saint’s death. Patrick died in 461 in Saul, County Down. It was here that he had established his first church in a small and simple barn, after arriving nearby at the mouth of the Slaney River. He is buried in the grounds of Down Cathedral in Downpatrick and a memorial stone, made from local Mourne Mountain granite, marks his grave. For those who celebrate its intended meaning, St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for spiritual renewal.
Interestingly, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was not held in Ireland at all, but in Boston in the United States in 1737. This was followed by an “official” parade in New York in 1766. Ireland was a little further behind – their first parade was held in Waterford in 1903, while Dublin joined the club back in 1931. Today, the parade in Dublin is a huge, colourful, theatrical event that snakes through the historic city centre, with vivid displays and international bands.
Raise your glasses to Luke Wadding, an Irish Franciscan friar from Waterford whose persistent efforts turned March 17 into a feast day. Born in 1558, Wadding died in Rome in 1657 and his remains are interred there in the college of St. Isidore’s, which he founded. If you visit the National Gallery of Ireland, you can see a painting of the friar by Carlo Maratta, in Waterford city he is commemorated with a statue outside the French Church (Greyfriars).
St. Patrick was thought to have originally come from either Wales or Scotland, where he was abducted at the age of 16 and brought to Northern Ireland as a slave. Once there, he was sent to Slemish Mountain in County Antrim to herd sheep. But on his escape, he had a vision and returned to Ireland to spread the word of Christianity. It was on this island that he remained for the rest of his life, preaching, baptising and building churches until his death in 461 in County Down.