St. Patrick’s Day is a day rich in tradition, honoring one of the most popular saints in history. Enslaved as a young teen by Druids and pagans, Patrick turned to God while in captivity. Escaping at the age of 20, he returned to his family and began studying for the priesthood. He preached throughout Ireland for over 40 years, where he lived a life of deprivation, faith and conviction. “Redemption”, a poem written by him expresses his faith and trust in God: “Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me… Christ in danger, Christ in friend and stranger.”
There are many legends and lore of St Patrick that bear no resemblance to his actual life and mission, but the Dog Guy, Michael Nichols, claims to have spent days pouring over legends, and concluded that some of the accounts about the saint were probably a conglomeration of more than one real person, and he admits that he put his own spin on this story of St. Patrick and the dogs.
“When he was just a teenager, Patrick was captured by Irish marauders who had a stolen pack of 100 Irish Wolfhounds confined to a ship. Terrified, huge, and savagely violent, the hounds were so overwhelming that the pirates could not even set sail. Patrick approached the ship and made a deal with the captain that if he would calm and care for the dogs, the captain would deliver him unharmed to the continent. Within an hour, he had the entire pack calm and docile. The ship set sail, with the captain and crew in awe of his miraculous rapport with the dogs, but, after only a few days at sea, a storm came up, and the ship crashed upon the northwest shore of Gaul. With their food lost with the ship, the crew, the dogs, and Patrick were soon starving. The crew wanted to eat the dogs, but Patrick made another deal: if he could find food within 24 hours, no dogs would be killed. He knelt at the edge of a nearby forest and prayed loudly all that day and through the night. At dawn the next morning a large sounder of wild pigs ventured out from the forest, and Patrick set his pack of hounds on them. By full daybreak, both crew and dogs had eaten their fill of bacon for breakfast, and the Pagan captain and crew all converted to Christianity then and there. Patrick was treated as an apostle by the pirates, and when they reached civilization, he was paid as a full member of the crew and was wished well by the captain. Patrick returned to Ireland and began the business of conversion which quickly drew the attention of the local warlord, Dichu, a devout Pagan, who owned the most savage and effective war dog on the Island, and had trained him to attack and kill. Dichu targeted Patrick and gave Luath the order to kill, but the dog just ran to Patrick, and nuzzled his outstretched hands. Dichu was so stunned by the dog’s reaction, that he granted Patrick a barn to be converted into a church, and commanded his troops and vassals to allow Patrick and his priests free travel across Ireland. According to Irish folklore, this kindly saint repaid all of his doggy pals by allowing the legendary Irish hero Oissain to take the hounds of heaven with him.”
Whether you focus on the humble heroic life of St. Patrick, the emergence of spring, or just the wearing of the green, St. Patrick’s Day has something for everyone. May your day be touched by a bit of Irish luck, brightened by loyal four-footed friends, and warmed by the smiles of people you love!