Celebrate day in green

Published 11:16 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

By By Steve Flowers
It is very fitting that we Alabamians celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this week because a good many of us can trace our ancestry back to Ireland. The majority of Alabama’s early settlers were of Scotch Irish descent and a good many of us are still here today.
My maternal ancestors settled in southeast Alabama in the 1840’s. Their roots are easily traced back to Ireland. I had heard from aging relatives they came to Alabama from the Carolinas and indeed their birth and genealogy tables bear this out. They simply said the Carolinas because I believe that at the time of their migration there was no distinction between North and South Carolina.
As we wear the green this week and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day you may wonder who is this St. Patrick we commemorate every March. The facts are St. Patrick was born in Britain around 387 A.D. His father and grandfather were both clergymen like Patrick. When he was about 16 years old he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.
During the time of his captivity Patrick experienced a spiritual awakening and developed a compassion for the lost souls around him. He later returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary and had great success converting the mostly pagan population to Chris-tianity. There are recorded accounts of Patrick baptizing thousands of people. He ordained priests in a host of communities to minister to his flock of believers. Some historians think he died presumably on March 17.
Patrick was never officially canonized by a pope but was given sainthood status by the Irish church sometime around the seventh century. Some of the myths that surround St. Patrick are what makes the legendary character so colorful. One says that he delivered a compelling hilltop sermon so passionately that all the snakes in Ireland were driven off the island. In fact there are no snakes in Ireland.
Legend also credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish people about the trinity, using shamrocks or three leaf clover to illustrate the Christian belief in the three beings of God. In addition, it is suggested that St. Patrick superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol from pagan days, onto the Christian cross to create what is now know as a Celtic cross.
It is uncertain if these acts were fact or fiction. It is more of a fable that you should pinch someone for not wearing green and St. Patrick was not a lerechaun. The word lerechaun derives from the word shoemaker because they are ageless tiny men who drink heavily but still manage to hold a hammer steady and turn out beautiful leather shoes. While St. Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint, the leprechaun is regarded as Ireland’s national fairy. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.