The day we are all Irish

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 16, 2002

This weekend (Sunday, March 17) folks from all across the globe will be celebrating Saint Patrick's Day. Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of the most popular of the Catholic saints, right up there with Saint Valentine and Saint Nicholas.

Plenty of people who aren't Catholic

or even Christian

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enjoy celebrating his day. (One very enthusiastic Saint Paddy's Day web site was created by long time Saint Paddy's Day celebrant Roz Fruchtman

a Jewish lady.)

Yep, you'll find a lot of people who don't have an ounce of authentic Irish blood in their veins, donning shamrocks and decking themselves in green, eating corned beef and cabbage and listening to Irish music in pubs serving chartreuse-shaded beer.

Saint Patrick's Day certainly isn't just for those with green roots.' After all, this most Irish of saints

the man who (legend has it) drove all the snakes from that emerald isle

wasn't, in fact, Irish at all.

The man who would become one of the most fabled figures in Ireland was actually born in Scotland in the fourth century to Roman parents in charge of helping run the Empire's colonies there. At age 14, the unfortunate lad was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a shepherd in Ireland

in those days a rough, wild land of druids and pagans.

At age 20, Patrick made his escape and returned to his family in Britain. Always a thoughtful, spiritual fellow, young Patrick decided to pursue a life in the priesthood. He eventually rose to the office of bishop in the Catholic Church in France. If his life had ended there, then we might very well have no Saint Patrick's Day to celebrate.

But Patrick felt a call to return to that wild land where he'd been enslaved so many years earlier. In his late 50s, Saint Patrick returned to Ireland to share his faith.

He wasn't exactly met with open arms. Stone-throwing mobs forced him to land in a different spot on the Irish coast than originally planned.

Gradually, though, this gentle, unassuming man of great faith won the trust of many of the Irish he met in his travels.

He used the ever-present shamrock to teach the people about the concept of the Trinity Three in One."

After nearly 20 years in his adopted country, he would die in Ireland in the very town where he planted his first church.

It's a fact that Saint Patrick is single-handedly credited by many today for the conversion of Ireland to Christianity. As for chasing out all of the snakes

well, it's a pretty nifty legend, isn't it?

So there you have ita Scottish-born child of Italian parents held captive in yet another land from which he escaped. Yet this unfriendly, wild place of nonbelievers was where he chose to return and spend his final years.

It's this beautiful green isle where Saint Patrick became a legend.

It's an inspiring tale with international rootsno wonder folks with monikers from O'Malley to Moskowitz love to celebrate Saint Patrick's special day. We all want to experience a little bit of the luck o' the Irish.'

This Saturday in Greenville, the Main Street organization shares Saint Patrick's Day with the community in Confederate Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Music, arts and crafts, story telling and other fun and free activities will celebrate the Gaelic heritage we all (temporarily) share.

There will also be a Saint Patrick's Day celebration at the public library that morning with a program for preschoolers from 9:30-10:30 a.m. and first through third graders from 11 a.m. to noon. So, bring the kids, come on out and enjoy your green roots'

genuine or adopted

as we celebrate Saint Patrick and the lovely, magical land he also adopted as his own.

And may the' luck o' the Irish' be with you!