Of all the saints, St. Patrick probably has the biggest celebration. His day is the 17th of March and Irish people all over the world mark the day with parades and parties. He is most famous for banishing the snakes from Ireland, and for using the shamrock (a little green plant with three leaves) to explain three-part nature of God.
There are loads of other colourful legends about Ireland's favourite saint. A good source can be found on Project Gutenberg. We've chose a small selection of ancient anecdotes about him.
Proofread by Claire Deakin. Read by Natasha. Duration 8.18.
There are lots of stories about St. Patrick, and in a moment I’ll tell you some of them. First I’ll just tell you briefly about his life. He was born in Wales which is just across the sea from Ireland. It was the year 373, and the Romans still ruled that part of the world. Many of the people in Wales and Ireland were Druids, who worshipped the sun and other aspects of nature - but Patrick was a Christian.
When Patrick was 16 years old, he was walking along the beach when some pirates seized him. They took him to Ireland and sold him as a slave where he worked in the fields. One day, he heard God telling him to escape, and he ran down to the sea where he found a ship waiting to take him home. When he was grown up, he heard a voice calling on him to return to Ireland and to tell the people there about Christianity – which is what he did.
Patrick travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, and had many adventures while he spread his message. Quite often, the Druid priests were angry with him for telling their followers to change their religion, and his life was always in great danger.
Ireland is a very rainy country, and the fields are emerald green. One of the most common plants that grows among the grass is the shamrock. It’s like a small clover with three leaves. St. Patrick used to pick up the shamrock and explain that the three leaves were the three aspects of God. The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.
St. Patrick is also famous for driving all the snakes into the sea, so that to this day there are no snakes lurking in the beautiful green grass of Ireland.
The Shamrock and the Snakes are the most famous stories about St. Patrick, but there are lots of other tales that aren’t quite so well known. Here are a few of them:
When Patrick was still a boy, he used to look after his aunt’s flocks of sheep. One day a wolf jumped into the field, took a young lamb in its mouth and ran off. That evening St. Patrick’s aunt was angry with him for not taking better care of her flocks. So Patrick prayed all night for the lamb to come back to them, and in the morning when he was in the fields, the wolf appeared once again, with the lamb in its mouth. It came up to Patrick and put the young animal down in front of him. The little lamb got up and ran back to his mother.
In Patrick’s village, there was a man called Gormas who had been blind from birth. One day he heard a voice commanding him to take the boy by the hand and to draw the sign of the cross in the ground by his feet. As soon as he did this, a fountain sprang out of the ground and bathed his eyes. Suddenly he could see! To this day, the fountain springs up with the purest most delicious tasting water, and is honoured with the name of St. Patrick.
Later on, when Patrick was travelling around Ireland, he came across two brothers whose father had died. Instead of being sad about their father’s death, they were quarrelling over which one of them should now own their father’s farm and possessions. At first they shouted at each other, and next they started to fight with their fists. St. Patrick called out to them to stop fighting – but they were too angry to hear him. One of the brothers picked up a large rock, and St. Patrick feared that he might kill the other – and so he called out a prayer. Instantly both brothers were turned into stone. They could still hear and see, but they couldn’t move. St. Patrick explained to them that it was wrong for brothers to fight – and when he turned them back into men, they were so amazed that they settled their differences and were friends forever more.
There was a man called Eugene, who was rich and powerful, and terribly ugly. His face was the most hideous in all of Ireland. As he was so ugly, none of his good fortune made him happy. One day he begged St. Patrick to give him a new face. Patrick asked him what he sort of face he would like to have, and he said, “One like that man’s over there” – and he pointed to the saint’s book keeper, who was as handsome as he was holy. St. Patrick told the two men to sleep under the same roof for one night, and when they woke up they both looked exactly alike – as if they were twins. You could only tell them apart by their beards. From that moment on Eugene was very happy, and he followed all of St. Patrick’s teachings.
And last, but not least, there is a story that St. Patrick started the tradition that a woman can ask a man to marry her on the 29th of February. You may know that usually there are only 28 days in the month of February, but once very four years, there’s an extra day. Those special years, which are longer than all the rest, are known as leap years.
St. Bridget – who is Ireland’s other favourite saint – complained to St. Patrick that young men were taking far too long to propose marriage to girls. St. Patrick thought about this problem and came up with the solution that once every four years women should be able to propose to men. He said that if a man then refuses, he should pay a fine. He could choose between giving the girl he refused a silk dress or 100 pounds. That tradition sill holds to this day.
Those are just a few of the many stories about Ireland’s St. Patrick. Bertie says that they are legends, which means that they have some basis in fact, but they might or might not be 100% true. It’s up to you to make up your mind whether you believe them or not.
Wherever you are in the world, and whatever you believe, I hope you enjoyed these tales – and there are loads more stories on Storynory.com – so drop by sometime and listen to a few of them.