St. Patrick’s Day Today, March 17

Today, March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. So, just who was St. Patrick I hear you ask?

Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. St Patrick is credited with bringing christianity to Ireland. Most of what is known about him comes from his two works; the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish christians. Saint Patrick described himself as a “most humble-minded man, pouring forth a continuous paean of thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had become the people of God.”

Many folk ask the question ‘Why is the Shamrock the National Flower of Ireland ?’ The reason is that St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans. Saint Patrick is believed to have been born in the late fourth century, and is often confused with Palladius, a bishop who was sent by Pope Celestine in 431 to be the first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.

Saint Patrick is most known for driving the snakes from Ireland. It is true there are no snakes in Ireland, but there probably never have been – the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end of the Ice Age. As in many old pagan religions, serpent symbols were common and often worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic of putting an end to that pagan practice. While not the first to bring christianity to Ireland, it is Patrick who is said to have encountered the Druids at Tara and abolished their pagan rites. The story holds that he converted the warrior chiefs and princes, baptizing them and thousands of their subjects in the “Holy Wells” that still bear this name.

There are several accounts of Saint Patrick’s death. One says that Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, on March 17, 460 A.D. His jawbone was preserved in a silver shrine and was often requested in times of childbirth, epileptic fits, and as a preservative against the “evil eye.” Another account says that St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury, England and was buried there. The Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Glastonbury Abbey. Today, many Catholic places of worship all around the world are named after St. Patrick, including cathedrals in New York and Dublin.

People with Irish heritage the world over celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today, March 17. Some calculations place the total population of people with predominantly Irish ancestry at over 100 million people. That’s over 15 times the current population of Ireland which stood at 6.4 million in 2011. At last count (2011 Australian Census) there were over 2 million Australians reporting Irish Ancestry; that’s just over 10% of the total population and of this number a little over 12% were first generation Irish immigrants to Australia.

Cabra Dominican College is of course intricately linked with Ireland through the founding Dominican Sisters. In 1868, at the invitation of the Bishop of Adelaide, seven Dominican sisters came to South Australia and opened a school for both boarders and day students in Franklin Street, Adelaide.

In 1886, the boarders moved to a new school, the present Cabra Dominican College.  The new site, now a busy suburban area, was then regarded as country, being a large area of bare, unoccupied land, somewhere to the south. Because the Sisters had come from Cabra, one of the leading educational establishments in Ireland, it was decided to call the new convent and school, Cabra.

Read more of the Founding Sisters’ story here.

Read St. Patrick in his own words here.

The Irish Diaspora: Global Irish Site and Wikipedia Article

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