Who was St. Patrick?

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Leprechauns emerge today, wear-ing shamrocks on their sleeves and shouting, "Erin go bragh!" through mouthfuls of corned beef and cabbage.

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and though the holiday has become notorious for green beer and elaborate parades, St. Michael's Catholic Church priest Jim Fox said there's a deeper meaning to remember.

"I think a lot of people want to see a connection with their past," he said. "It's a way to continue tradition in their lives."

The first St. Patrick's Day was celebrated March 17, 1762, in New York City, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the city streets, according to The History Channel's Web site.

March 17 is the anniversary of St. Patrick's death in the fifth century and has become a way to remember Ireland's patron saint, Fox said.

"He's probably one of the more popular saints," he said. "He's one of those people that had an impact on people's lives in terms of influence by example."

He's known for driving the snakes from the Emerald Isle, though there were no snakes there. Instead, this reference became symbolic of him eradicating pagan ideology from the country.

St. Patrick's birth name is Maewyn Succat, and he was given Patricius as a baptismal name. His father was a Christian deacon in England, and St. Patrick was taken prisoner in Ireland for six years after Irish raiders attacked his family's estate.

He became devout in his faith and made it his mission to minister to Christians in Ireland and to convert the rest to his religion.

Jerry Teeter, who is a member of St. Michael's and is one-quarter Irish, said he provided security during 20 or so parades while serving on the New York City Police Department. He lived in an Irish neighborhood and saw how excited people of Irish heritage became for the holiday.

"After the St. Patrick's Day par-ade, they go out drinking," Teeter said.

"That's how they celebrate, by drinking."

He'll be celebrating from 5:30 to 7 p.m. today at the church, 678 School St., which is holding a corned beef and cabbage dinner Tickets, available at the door, are $7 for adults, $3.50 for children 6 to 12 and free for those younger than 6.

Mathers' Bar and the Popular Bar also are serving the traditional meal and will offer specials on green drinks tonight.

For more information on St. Patrick and the holiday, visit www.historychannel.com/exhibits/stpatricksday/.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craig-dailypress.com.

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