The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


March 15, 2007

St. Patrick used shamrock to explain Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Point Blank column

We all know what it means when the three-leaf clovers come out.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish holiday which is celebrated on March 17, the day that St. Patrick died.

My late grandfather, Sidney Stanton Rice, a native of Bon Air, Tenn., died on St. Patrick’s Day. The family patriarch boasted of being Scots-Irish, but he always set a splendid banquet table on the legendary Irish holiday in honor of the 4th century missionary.

Sometimes, I think it is poetically appropriate that granddad departed on St. Patrick’s Day. His pride and his spirit still live on in his descendants, nearly all of whom hold a fondness for the Irish and its patron saint.

Mr. Rice, as he was known to the youth of his town, liked to display green emblems and decorations on St. Patrick’s Day. He taught his grandchildren green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day because it is the color of spring, Ireland and the shamrock.

Granddad told us how the people of his generation gave Patrick the credit for chasing all the snakes out of Ireland.

My cousins and I later learned that, truth be told, there never have been snakes in Ireland because it is an island and snakes cannot migrate over water.

How convenient for the Irish.

St. Patrick was born around 385 AD in Britain. His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat (he took on Patrick, or Patricus, after he became a priest). He was kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders at the age of 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland.

During his six-year captivity as a shepherd, he began to have religious visions and found strength in his faith.

He finally escaped to France and became a priest — and later a bishop. When he was about 60 years old, St. Patrick returned to Ireland to spread the Christian word. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the Christian concept of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

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