Who Was St. Patrick?



Image: The Catholic Register

—Lucia Balestrieri
Though over half of the
American population celebrates St.
Patrick’s Day in some way, how

many of us actually know the ori-
gins of the holiday? The story is an

exciting one, but not commonly

told. St. Patrick’s Day has a vi-
brant history that is worth knowing

St. Patrick’s name wasn’t

even Patrick! His name was Ma-
ewyn Succat, and it is not certain

where he was born, but it is widely
accepted that he was not originally
from Ireland. Some say he was
Scottish, others say Welsh, but the
majority say he was most likely
Roman. Born around 400 A.D. as
the son of a church deacon and the
grandson of a priest, he was raised
in a somewhat religious family. He

resided with his family in a villa
surrounded by servants and began

to attend school at the age of sev-
en. When he was 16, Maewyn

Succat was abducted and enslaved
by pirates who brought him to
Ireland. He escaped and lived as a
shepherd for six years. During this

period he prayed often and eventu-
ally converted to Christianity. At

the end of the sixth year, he is said
to have received a message from
God saying he could go home. By
then in his twenties, he caught a
ship to Britain and was reunited
with his family. Upon returning to
Britain, he continued to study
Christianity and became a priest,
changing his name to Patrick.
A few years later, Patrick

allegedly had a vision that prompt-
ed him to return to Ireland again.

He was not easily accepted at first,

but he continued to travel around
Ireland as a Christian missionary.
He eventually won the faith of

several men in high positions, en-
couraging many more to convert

as well. It is said that St. Patrick
baptized several thousand people

in Ireland. He is credited with con-
verting the entirety of Ireland to

Christianity and was named the
patron saint of Ireland.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day has
evolved far beyond its original
meaning and is not viewed by
most people as much more than an
excuse for a festive, alcohol-fueled
celebration. But as you don your

green shamrock glasses and lepre-
chaun hats and prepare for a fun

day out, consider remembering
where it all began.