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A Saint By Any Other Name

St. Patrick’s Day, which is often referred to as ‘Patty’s Day’ or ‘Paddy’s Day,’ is a wildly popular holiday. Though the holiday honors the life of the patron saint of Ireland and has become a way for people from all backgrounds to celebrate Irish culture, celebrants may be surprised to learn that St. Patrick was not really named ‘Patrick’ and he also was not Irish. Historians are uncertain about the actual date of St. Patrick’s birth, but many believe he was born in Roman Britain in the 5th century. Other accounts trace St. Patrick’s birth to present-day Scotland or possibly even Wales. But no account suggests that St. Patrick was born in Ireland. But St. Patrick did set foot on Irish soil, and in fact spent years living in the land now known as the Emerald Isle after he was captured by a group of Irish pirates, taken to Ireland and ultimately enslaved. But St. Patrick was not only not Irish, he also was not named ‘Patrick.’ Historians believe Ireland’s patron saint was born Maewyn Succat, but changed his name to ‘Patricius’ upon becoming a priest after he escaped from slavery. Celebrants of St. Patrick’s Day also may be surprised to learn that St. Patrick was never formally canonized, as he lived prior to the adoption of the current laws governing canonization in the Catholic Church. That said, St. Patrick is still venerated as a saint in various Christian churches, including the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.