Look around the stores and St. Patrick’s Day seems to be about lucky clovers, rainbows and leprechauns.
But the real Saint Patrick was a bold missionary who faced tremendous danger to take the gospel back to his enemies.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated every March 17 and it’s a great opportunity to explore the early church, missions, the Trinity and celebrate the legacy of the real Saint Patrick.
This post is chock-full of activities and resources for your ultimate guide to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
First, let’s separate fact from myth and look at the real story of the St. Patrick.
The Story of the Real Saint Patrick
Fun fact: Patrick was not Irish and nor born in Ireland.
St. Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain in the mid-400’s, in the area of what is now Scotland or Wales. He grew up on a farm and though his family was active in the village church, Patrick was not a believer.
When he was 16, Celtic pirates from Ireland landed on the British coast. While the rest of his family was away, the pirates raided his farm and took young Patrick captive. Sailing back to Ireland, they sold Patrick as a slave.
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For six years, Patrick worked as a shepherd. It was while he alone and suffering as a shepherd under the stars night after night, that he says he prayed a hundred times a day and was converted to Christ.
At 22 years old, Patrick escaped and walked 200 miles to the sea. Making his way through France and across Britain, he finally found his way home. Once reunited with his family, though, Patrick felt God calling him to return to his enemies and the very place he’d been enslaved. He felt called to bring the gospel back to the Irish who were fierce tribes immersed in pagan, Celtic worship.
Patrick returned to Ireland and immediately faced the hostile Celts. Despite numerous threats to his life, Patrick continued to boldly share the gospel and eventually planted churches all across Ireland. By his death 33 years later, it’s said that almost the entire island had converted to Christianity.
Patrick of Ireland was a world-changer.
His life is one of suffering and forgiveness, compassion, obedience and bravery. St. Patrick’s boldness to return to his enemies with the hope of the gospel is the story we should celebrate on March 17.
Our Favorite St. Patrick books
by Tomie dePoala. This is a great book for younger children. Check to see if your library carries this one!
by Michael McHugh for older elementary through high school. This book makes a GREAT read aloud. We’re listening to the audible version this year.
For teens and adults. Not to be missed, this is an exciting narrative about St. Patrick’s influence on Ireland and the entire western world. As Rome collapsed and the dark ages prevailed, Irish monks tucked away in monasteries preserved the Bible as well as valuable Greek and Roman literature which would flower again during the Renaissance. One of my top recommendations for high school and beyond.
This is a selection from Thomas Cahill’s longer book on St. Patrick that sorts fact from myth and tells the true story of this amazing missionary.
For young children, this short Veggie Tales production tells the real story of St. Patrick in a fun way.
Elementary and up will enjoy this short video produced by the Christian Broadcasting Network about the life of Saint Patrick. It’s well done and historically accurate.
For a full-length family movie night, this film is available for instant rental or free for Amazon Prime members.
Hands-on Family Fun
Use the shamrock to teach the Trinity with this fun coloring activity.
Here’s another coloring page with the prayer of St. Patrick.
Shamrock Cinnamon Rolls
Use cinnamon shamrocks to talk about the Trinity. We used refrigerated cinnamon rolls and added green food coloring and a few drops of milk to get a drizzly, shamrock green frosting.
As we shaped the shamrocks, we talked about the Trinity — that God is three persons in One. The three petals of the shamrock represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I explained that the shamrock isn’t a perfect analogy of the Trinity and that no earthly representation will ever be a perfect image of the Trinity. But each illustration helps us understand a bit more.
A.W. Tozer, writing about the Trinity said
Christ did not hesitate to use the plural form when speaking of Himself along with the Father and the Spirit. “We will come unto him and make our abode with him.’ Yet again He said, ‘I and my Father are one.’ It is most important that we think of God as Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.
Free Printable St. Patrick Prayer
St. Patrick is famous for his lorica, his prayer of protection. No wonder these beautiful words have been preserved through the ages. I created two printable St. Patrick’s prayers and they are free to download and print. Click on each image to download.
St. Patrick’s Original Writings & Artwork
Finally, if you want to dig into St. Patrick’s original biography, this site has Saint Patrick’s Confession. It’s a short read, but the only original writing of St. Patrick’s still around today.
And this site is like a virtual museum trip with some of the most famous artwork that depict Saint Patrick.
So, yes, I’m all for wearing green and pinching those who don’t on St. Patrick’s. We’ll eat our corned beef on March 16 and celebrate our Irish history. But we’ll also celebrate the real St. Patrick and his amazing legacy for Christianity.
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