Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The History of St. Patrick

   St. Patrick is known as Ireland's patron saint. Although he is given credit for bringing Christianity to Ireland, he was not the first "missionary." He did, however, have an incredible amount of influence on the Irish, possibly because of the way he went about spreading the Gospel.

St. Patrick's story is actually similar to Joseph's in the Bible.

Most think  St. Patrick was Irish, but he actually was Roman/Britain but he was captured by the Celts and sold as a slave in Ireland. He grew up among the Irish herding their livestock. He learned their customs, culture, and language. He knew what they believed and why they believed it.

During his time as a slave, he didn't preach to the Irish -- he learned their ways. He eventually returned to his home, completed his studies, and felt called to go back to Ireland as an old man. He taught the Irish the Good News, which they were incredibly receptive to.

Celtic Christianity has always been founded on relationships because that is the Irish culture.  St. Patrick was successful because he didn't try to force Roman or British culture on the Irish. He spoke to them in their own language and could use what he knew about their history, beliefs, and culture to speak to them in a way they understood. He merely told them the Good News of Christ which they could follow without completely setting aside their culture.

In fact, Ireland is said to be the only country in the world to be "converted" to Christianity without bloodshed.

These new Irish Christians founded monasteries which later basically educated Europe during the early middle ages. Their missionaries went throughout the world and are mostly responsible for bringing the Picts and Anglo-Saxons in Scotland and England to Christianity.

Of course, thousands of legends surround St. Patrick.

He is said to have used a clover or shamrock as an example for the Trinity. That may or may not be true, but if it is, it is an example of how he appealed to their culture and beliefs because the number "3" has always been important to the Irish.

One of the most famous legends, which is a myth, is that St. Patrick, climbed Croagh Patrick (Like I did) and chased the snakes out of Ireland. Although he likely did climb the mountain, -- all legends are founded in some grain of truth -- there were never any snakes in Ireland for him to chase out.

But whether some stories are true or myth, it doesn't really matter.  St. Patrick had an undeniable impact on the Irish culture, and as a result, on the world. But don't take it from me, here is a wonderful video which explains St. Patrick.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Green shamrocks, "Kiss me I'm Irish" knick knacks, and leprechauns prance around on St. Patrick's Day. Waves of green wash over both America and Ireland.

I'm sad to inform you, like all our holidays St. Patrick's day is incredibly commercialized, but there is real history there.

There are so many American myths thrown into this Irish holiday. I mean, the sea of green that overtakes the country isn't even appropriate, because Ireland's national color is blue, not green. My only explanation as to why green is used is because it is our attempt to cover our cold, snowy hills with the lush green of the Emerald Isle.  

Leprechaun jokes or references really aren't appreciated in Ireland. It shows the American lack of interest, knowledge, or respect of Ireland.

And unlike what everyone seems to think -- Not all Irish people are red-headed. In fact, I only saw a small handful while I was over there.

As for the luck of the Irish? I don't know why that is even a saying. If you know one ounce of Ireland's history, the first thing you will realize exactly how UNLUCKY the Irish were. They were ruled by the English for hundreds of years, and not for lack of trying. But all their numerous rebellions were repulsed by bad timing, miscommunication, and even the whims of the weather.

Don't get me started on the Great Hunger which so many people inappropriately refer to as a "Famine." The Irish story is a tragic one.

So where your green and your shamrocks, celebrate Ireland! But don't go cracking jokes about misinformed moments in history. Instead of slamming your brain and senses full of green, inappropriate jokes, and ignorant assumptions. Check out and honor the untold history of Ireland. Respect the Irish people, their history, and the impact they've had on America.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Chirk Castle: Part Two

 Although part of Chirk Castle was quite medieval, two wings were well furnished and lived in until a few years ago when it was handed over to the National Trust.

To discourage the fancy seats being sat on, nettles were placed on them. A very fine solution, indeed!

 As I said, there was some kind of kid's event going on. I'm assuming there was a scavenger hunt of sorts because these little-stuffed wolves were hidden in random places around the castle.

 All the rooms were extremely fine. It was as though you'd just stepped into Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice.

 Stunning ceiling!

 The bedroom of the late Lady of the house.

 A chair with 6 feet!
 Of course one of my favorite rooms was this library. There were not only beautiful old books but also pictures of the Castle's former masters through the ages on horseback.
 To prevent theft, there were thin wires on every bookshelf.
 Secret doors in Castles!
 There was a guy dressed up as a court jester entertaining the crowd.
 A sign warning us not to step on the grass.
After we had visited the castle for a few hours, we started on the long beautiful walk into Chirk town.

Come back next week to see pictures from that walk.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Chirk Castle: Part One

To us Chirk castle was Camelot.

Chirk castle was lived in by a local family up until about ten years ago. Therefore, parts of the castle are completely renovated and basically a mansion, however, part of the castle still maintains the medieval feel from the days it was built.

To visit the castle legally, we had to enter at the base of the hill at the stables. When we were there it was nearly Halloween, and they were having some kind of event for the kids. Therefore, there were a bunch of kids dressed up and painting pumpkins.

The stables were revamped to hold a nice little gift shop and a used bookstore, where I found a book by Brian Jacques for my sister.
 From there it was a good 15-minute walk up and around to the Castle.
 This was a building behind the castle.
 Chirk Castle! Everything you could hope for in a medieval castle!
 Welsh countryside.
 As I said, they had a big event going on, and there were a bunch of people dressed up as knights, and there was a jester entertaining the crowd.
 Double gates in this castle!
 The courtyard inside the castle.

 This is the chapel. It is the only "new" renovated part of the castle wich I'll be showing today.
 As we wound our way up the castle, many of the medieval style rooms had props and things like a museum.
 Guess what..... MORE circular staircases. This is probably one of the pictures I managed to get during the entire semester, representing a tiny bit of the difficulty of climbing medieval circular staircases.
 This is the dungeon. You see. It was a single room at the bottom of a circular staircase -- rather difficult to escape from.
 More medieval rooms
 Barrel- vaulted ceiling. The last time we'd seen this was at Donegal Castle.
 Another reasonable shot representing the tightness of these staircases.
Visit again next week to see the modern day renovated parts of the Castle. They were stunningly rich and elaborate.