The celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in March each year, is submerged in myth and combined with celebrations of Ireland and Irish ancestry. But did the man, Patrick, really exist and what did he believe and teach?
Many believe that ‘Saint’ Patrick was a Catholic monk who brought Christianity to the people of Ireland. There are also tales he drove out all the snakes from Ireland, but none of this is true.
Patrick was Scottish, and when he was 16 years old he was captured and transported to Ireland as a slave for six years before managing to escape back to Scotland around A.D. 376. Patrick had grown up in a God-fearing family and he eventually returned to Ireland to teach God’s Word to the people there.
He was connected to what is known as the Celtic Church and some documents maintain his father and grandfather had been ordained elders. Generally the Celtic Church was opposed to what was taught by the Roman Catholic Church. It was the Catholic priest Jocelyn, writing around A.D. 1130 who wrote most extensively about Patrick, but he ignored much of what was then known about him and inserted a false Catholic background into Patrick’s story.
In A.D. 596 Pope Gregory sent a group of monks to England to bring the Celtic Church under the authority of Rome, but the Celts refused to acknowledge Gregory’s authority. The monks found the Celtic Church permitted their priests to marry, practiced baptism by full immersion and rejected papal infallibility and the adoration of Mary, as well as many other commonly accepted religious practices of the Catholic Church. (Leslie Hardinge, The Celtic Church in Britain ; B.G. Wilkinson, Truth Triumphant ). Among its practices the Celtic Church had local ecclesiastical councils, kept Saturday as a day of rest and also rejected the doctrine of the immortal soul, (A.C. Flick, The Rise of Medieval Church, pp. 236-327).
As it is currently celebrated, St. Patrick’s Day actually has nothing to do with the historical man Patrick.