Today is St Patrick Day, the day which Irish pubs round the world love and which is the perfect excuse for a guiness. But it's actually a saints day which means there's something deeper to think about.
Saint Patrick is said to have first brought christianity to Ireland. When he was about 16, he was captured from Wales by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After entering the Church, he returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland. Most available details of his life are from later hagiographies from the seventh century onwards, and these are now not accepted without detailed criticism. Uncritical acceptance of the Annals of Ulster would imply that he lived from 340 to 440, and ministered in what is modern-day Northern Ireland from 428 AD onwards. The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the 5th century.
The Day was made an official feast day in the early seventeenth century and is now more like a cultural day. In Ireland the day involves attendance of church services, wearing of green and liftin Lenten restrictions on eating, and drinking.
This year Google has the most fantastic Google doodle to mark the day, based on early calligraphy from biblical texts. I approve (if that matters).