St Patrick is known as the patron saint of Ireland.
Patrick was born in the later half of the 4th century AD. There are differing views about the exact year and place of his birth which is said to be in either Scotland or Roman England.
Patrick was born the son a Roman-British army officer when one day, the story has it, a band of pirates landed in south Wales and kidnapped him along with many others. It was then sold into slavery in Ireland where he remained for 6 years, mostly imprisoned. This was when he dreamt of having seen God.
Legend says, he was dictated by God to escape with a getaway ship which he did and went first to Britain and then to France. There he joined a monastery and studied under St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. When he became a bishop, he dreamt that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God.
The Confessio, Patrick's spiritual autobiography, is the most important document regarding this. It tells of a dream after his return to Britain, in which one Victoricus delivered him a letter headed "The Voice of the Irish."
So he set out for Ireland with the Pope's blessings.
There he converted the Gaelic Irish to Christianity. It does appear that Patrick was very successful at winning converts. Familiar with the Irish language and culture, he adapted traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity rather than attempting to eradicate native beliefs. He used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honouring their gods with fire, he also superimposed a sun, a powerful native symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross.
For 20 years he travelled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion. He developed a native clergy, fostered the growth of monasticism, established dioceses, and held church councils.
By the end of the 7th century Patrick had become a legendary figure, and the legends have continued to grow since then.
An Irish tale, which may have an element of truth about it, tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He apparently used it to show how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing the shamrock on his feast day, and shamrock green remains the essential colour for today’s festivities and celebrations.
It is said that he died on March 17th in AD 461 and since then, the date has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day. The day's spirit is to celebrate the universal baptization of Ireland. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday or, rather, 'an Irish Day '.