The Catholic Church has a vast panoply of canonized saints, some obscure, others well-known, others so popular they have claimed a space in non-Catholic or secular traditions as well. Perhaps the most familiar of these in the United States, is St. Patrick, the primary patron saint of Ireland. Celebrations associated with St. Patrick’s feast day, in this country, include parades, wearing green, eating corned beef, drinking green beer, and sometimes even dyeing whole rivers green. Plenty of people who may know little about the saint’s biography or the history of Catholicism in Ireland still enjoy commemorating his feast day.
But who was St. Patrick, really? What was his impact on Irish culture, and why is he so important to Irish Americans today? Which of the myths and legends associated with his story are historically accurate? And how do we balance an appreciation of St. Patrick’s cultural and religious legacy with concerns about colonization and the loss of indigenous traditions?
On this episode of the podcast, hosts Cassidy Klein and Rebecca Bratten Weiss talk to scholar and writer Damian Costello about the true story of St. Patrick and why his feast has become so popular. Costello specializes in the intersection of Catholic theology, indigenous spiritual traditions, and colonial history. He has written extensively about St. Patrick, in U.S. Catholic and elsewhere.
You can read more about the history of St. Patrick in these links.
- “There’s more to St. Patrick than shamrocks and beer,” by Damian Costello
- “How St. Patrick changed Ireland—and the church,” by Damian Costello
- “An Easter slave raid inspired this saint to pursue justice,” by Damian Costello
- “What St. Patrick’s prayer song teaches us about connecting with the land,” by Damian Costello
- “St. Patrick and the Buddha: More alike than different?” by Damian Costello
Glad You Asked is sponsored by the Claretian Missionaries.