By Brenda Owen
Becoming a saint is never an easy road, and for St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, the road was especially rocky.
Father Meryl Schmidt of St. James Catholic Church in Tupelo provided the following information on the saint from several historical accounts.
St. Patrick was an ancient Briton living in the days when Britain was a colony of the Roman Empire. He was raised in a Christian home in what is now Wales. His father was a deacon named Calpurnius.
The youngster’s idyllic life changed dramatically when he was 16 years old. He was captured by pirates from across the Irish Sea, and taken back to Ireland where he was forced to work as a shepherd and swineherd.
At this low point in his young life, he had a great spiritual experience and decided he must serve God in some special way. He eventually returned to his native land and trained as a priest, traveling to Gaul, now France, for some of his studies. After several years, he returned to Ireland as a missionary.
St. Patrick is said to have converted Ireland’s druids by calling down heavenly fire to show the power of the one true God and legend says he turned all the snakes off the island, leaving no snakes in Ireland to this day.
Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, is celebrated by attending church and by celebrations of the coming spring which are generally held outdoors with celebrants wearing a sprig of shamrock, which St. Patrick used to represent the Holy Trinity, or a green ribbon.
Tupelo resident Tonia Nicholson, a native of Ireland, said St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated mostly in the south of Ireland by the Catholic community.
“Here in the United States where there are large communities of Irish citizens you will always have a St. Patrick’s Day Parade Boston, New York, Chicago, Savannah and wherever else one wants to celebrate,” she said. “Green is the color to wear and green beverages are the main drinks.”