Saint Patrick was born to 387 A.D. in Roman Britannia. About the age of fourteen, some say sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates taken as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Around the age of twenty he had a dream telling him to leave Ireland and go for the coast. This prompted him to escape find his way back to Britannia and his family. A few years after his return home, he had a vision of a man telling him to go back to Ireland. Taking the vision to heart, he studied for the priesthood and was finally able to return to around 433 A.D. As a missionary, he converted many of the population to Christianity using various symbols. Most notable was the Shamrock to teach the Trinity, each leaf representing the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. He died on march 17, 466 A.D. It is his death we celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day.
“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.”
The Breastplate – a poem by St. Patrick on faith and trust in God.
England incorporated Ireland to be a part of its Kingdom, and after Henry the VIII broke with the church in Rome, Ireland was handed the Penal Laws. These laws forbid Catholics to own property, have business or partake in the politics of its time. These are the times that Aoibhe would have been living in during her human life. During this time some of the English Lords, who owned the property and rented the lands to the people, some lived in Ireland, many still lived in England and maybe would visit. If the tenant paid their rents, and made profit for the landlords, things were good.
In Sylvain Reynard’s Florentine Series, Aoibhe of Hibernia, tells the story of loving a boy in her human life, at least until an English Lord raped her. It was not uncommon then for women and girls at that time to be ostracized from her community as a “fallen woman” and while reprehensible, it happened with many young maiden girls. Many times they were shipped to England, America, Canada or Australia as a domestic to lessen the ‘shame’ they brought to their families. Sometime after that is when she met her maker and you can read about her in The Prince, The Raven, The Shadow and the upcoming book of the series not yet titled. Life was hard on many, but women, no matter what her station in life be, were also considered “property” of the males in their lives.
While the 18th century, was considered the most peaceful of Irish history. It also was a time of great divide that would come to a head in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising of 1916, this was a catalyst for the negotiations that brought a separated Ireland from 32 counties to 6 belonging to the UK, and 26 became the Republic. Another mitigating factor to the unrest was The Great Famine. The Irish relied on the potato as its main food source sending any grain or beef to the British for the British Landlords. When the blight took its toll on the potato crop, the peasantry had to continue to send their crops to the landlord. When the landlord ran out of money, the peasants were often evicted from their homes. Death from hunger and disease took its toll, as well as emigration. It has been said that there were over eight million people before the famine. Approximately one million died from hunger and disease, while two million emigrated. In 1921 the population was half than before the famine.
The Irish have celebrated their patron Saint all over the world. In Ireland lent stops on St. Patrick’s Day to quote Bono of U2, “The whole thing about Lent – as any Irishman will tell you – is that it stops on St Patrick’s Day.” Of course you go back the next day. In the US, the largest parades are in New York and Boston, fireman, policeman, parochial school children all march in the parades. Having been involved with a few in NY it all starts with Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In Chicago they dye the Chicago River green. There are festivities all over the US. There is of course the infamous green beer, as well as corned beef and cabbage (this is American Irish cuisine, you won’t find it in Ireland). In Canada, the second largest ethnic group are of Irish decent, French is the first, it is a public holiday for Newfoundland and Labrador, there are parades in Montreal and Toronto to celebrate, and Manitoba has a three-day celebration. Surprising areas for celebrations are Buenos Aires, Montserrat, Tokyo and in Singapore the parade is brought in a group riding Harley Davidson’s. Australia’s celebration is sponsored by the Irish government. While Sydney has a large celebration, Perth’s goes on for a week. About thirty percent of the Australian population claim Irish decent.
“Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!
Go mbeadh tú an breathnú siar ar an eolas nuair atá tú , an Foresight a fhios agat cá bhfuil tú ag dul , agus an léargas a fháil amach nuair a tá tú imithe i bhfad ró .
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.