1. St. Patrick was not Irish. Patrick was actually a Welshman who was abducted as a child by Irish brigands. He was a slave for six years before he escaped. After his conversion experience and years of study, he returned to Ireland to convert the Irish.
2. It’s very unlikely that St. Patrick ever banished any snakes from Ireland. Scientific evidence suggests whatever snakes there had been in Ireland were gone after the last Ice Age. Probably this story refers back to the Genesis, suggesting through the power of God Patrick was able to cast out the temptations of the Devil.
3. Most intriguing: St. Patrick has never been formally canonized as a saint. No Pope has ever declared him a saint, no committee ever met to consider his miracles. But it’s not an oversight, either. In the first 1000 years of Christianity, these matters were not decided from Rome, but locally. A saint was so declared by the people who had known him or her up close. It was their lifelong example that made them a saint.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Jim McDermott, S.J.