Saint Patrick. Patron Saint of Ireland. A man with his own a day on the calendar and lots of parades in his honor.
Of course, naysayers will say (once done saying nay) that Columbus has a day and parades, too. True. But does Columbus have a cathedral in New York City named after him? No, just a lousy traffic circle.
Plus Columbus is currently down in the popularity polls, while St. Patrick is as celebrated as ever. So before we start downing Irish whisky and become too wrecked to read, I want to acquaint you with the real St. Patrick. I’ll be separating the True from the False, the way people used to do before the Internet.
St. Patrick was born in Ireland. FALSE.
When St. Patrick was born, he was very young and, as time went on, he got older. But he was not born in Ireland. He was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century AD. By that time, the influence of the Roman Empire was waning. As a result, Caesar salads were off most British restaurant menus. And the restaurants that did serve Caesar salads topped them with French dressing.
Calpurnius and Conchessa Succat were Patrick’s parents. They were rich, but it wasn’t always that way. Years before, his father had started his own business–Succat Carpentry. But no one hired him and that quickly failed. So did a string of his other enterprises: Succat Plumbing, Succat Glassblowing and Succat Undertaking. It’s when he became Calpurnius the Church Deacon and Calpurnius the Tax Collector that he became successful. He didn’t Succat either of those.
Patrick was not his real name. TRUE.
Around the year 373 AD, Conchessa Succat gave birth to a baby boy. She and her husband named him Maewyn. So, yes, Saint Patrick’s real name is Maewyn Succat (google it).
At the age of 16, he left home partly because his parents had named him Maewyn but mostly because pirates captured and took him to Ireland where they sold him into slavery. Back then, this was how many young people travelled abroad before there was Spring Break.
Maewyn became a preacher while a slave in Ireland. FALSE.
For the six years that young Maewyn Succat was a slave in Ireland, he worked as a shepherd. He quickly became fluent in the Irish language, learning to say things like: Charms Ádh Sioctha. Tá siad blasta draíochta, which roughly translated means Frosted Lucky Charms. They’re magically delicious.
He also discovered religion as a young man and learned how to pray for strength while alone for weeks at a time on a solitary, woman-less hillside surrounded only by sheep. You get the picture.
Maewyn was ultimately fired from his job as a shepherd after he left the sheep out in the rain and they shrunk two sizes. And since he was a slave, getting fired meant that he couldn’t collect unemployment compensation, but he could be drawn and quartered on the first of the month.
Before that could happen, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to flee Ireland. He awoke wishing the angel had given him the winning numbers in the Irish Sweepstakes instead.
Nevertheless, he fled to the coast. There he bribed the captain of a ship, giving him a dozen of bars of Irish Spring soap to take him back to Britain. The captain gladly accepted the soap, thinking that if his ship sunk, he could use it to float to safety. (He was an uneducated man and didn’t know that only Ivory Soap floats.)
Maewyn became a priest and returned to Ireland to preach. TRUE.
Maewyn reunited with his family in Britain and, after spending a weekend with them, entered the priesthood so they’d stop trying to fix him up with the daughters of their friends.
Once he became a priest, he had another dream. In this one, a mysterious man gave him a letter that said: You May Already Be A Winner, but had the word Winner crossed out and Sinner written over it.
Maeywn knew right then that he had to return to Ireland to convert the heathens in order to claim the Grand Prize of Salvation and a free set of steak knives. He also knew that he had to go back under a different name-Patrick-because as Maewyn, he was wanted by authorities for an indiscretion committed when he was 16. He tried to kiss the Blarney Stone without its consent.
St. Patrick Drove the Snakes Out of Ireland. FALSE.
Patrick spent 40 years traveling the Emerald Isle preaching the gospel. At first, he found it difficult to teach the barbarians how to make the sign of the cross. They’d start out correctly but would end up doing “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
It is said that Patrick used the 3-leafed shamrock to teach the heathens about the Trinity. I can understand that. I remember as a kid using a shamrock to teach my little brother about the Three Stooges.
In the end, Patrick converted thousands of people until he died. Once dead, he was no longer interesting in preaching. Not long after, he became a Saint.
And the tale about St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland? Completely false. The snakes were driven out by high real estate prices caused by gentrification in Ireland that, like in “Oh, Danny Boy,” spread from glen to glen and down the mountainside. The snakes ultimately made their way to America where, generations later, they evolved to become tech billionaires.
So now you know. Enjoy your green beer and Happy St. Maewyn Succat’s Day!