Skip to comments.Apostle to the Irish: The Real Saint Patrick
Posted on 03/17/2004 9:14:34 AM PST by Mr. Silverback
If you ask people who Saint Patrick was, you're likely to hear that he was an Irishman who chased the snakes out of Ireland.
It may surprise you to learn that the real Saint Patrick was not actually Irish -- yet his robust faith changed the Emerald Isle forever.
Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family in about A.D. 390. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish king, who put him to work as a shepherd.
In his excellent book, HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION, Thomas Cahill describes the life Patrick lived. Cahill writes, "The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills."
Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn't really believe in God. But now -- hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold -- Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his heavenly Father. As he wrote in his CONFESSIONS, "I would pray constantly during the daylight hours" and "the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more."
Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, "Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look -- your ship is ready."
What a startling command! If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave, constantly in danger of capture and punishment. But he did obey -- and God protected him. The young slave walked nearly two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There he boarded a waiting ship and traveled back to Britain and his family.
But, as you might expect, Patrick was a different person now, and the restless young man could not settle back into his old life. Eventually, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to enter a monastery. In time, he was ordained as a priest, then as a bishop.
Finally -- thirty years after God had led Patrick away from Ireland -- He called him back to the Emerald Isle as a missionary.
The Irish of the fifth century were a pagan, violent, and barbaric people. Human sacrifice was commonplace. Patrick understood the danger and wrote: "I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved -- whatever may come my way."
Cahill notes that Patrick's love for the Irish "shines through his writings . . . He [worried] constantly for his people, not just for their spiritual but for their physical welfare."
Through Patrick, God converted thousands. Cahill writes, "Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before." Because of Patrick, a warrior people "lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery."
As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick's Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, and "the wearing of the green," we ought to recover our Christian heritage, celebrate the great evangelist, and teach our kids about this Christian hero.
Saint Patrick didn't chase the snakes out of Ireland, as many believe. Instead, the Lord used him to bring into Ireland a sturdy faith in the one true God -- and to forever transform the Irish people.
Saint Patrick's story would make an awesome movie.
Also from Breakpoint...
A Man of the Book St. Patricks Approach to Scripture
By T.M. Moore
March 16, 2004
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13
This week large numbers of people will demonstrate the perfectly pagan propensity to ruin a good thing by celebrating St. Patricks Day with a wide assortment of debauched, frivolous, and utterly irrelevant activities. Certainly among the things our Biblical worldview calls us to recover is the legacy and honor of great saints from the past. If we would say with the psalmist, As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight (Ps. 16:3), we must take every opportunity to rehabilitate the reputations of those whom secular interests have besmirched or minimized. Therefore, we turn each year at this time to set the record a little straighter concerning Patrick, the great fifth-century missionary/bishop under whose ministry a revival of true Christianity began lasting nearly 500 years.
Patrick ministered among the heathen in Ireland for some sixty years. During this time multiple thousands came to know the Lord, hundreds of churches were founded, and a momentum for missions and cultural transformation began that ultimately affected Ireland, Britain, the Low Countries, France, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, and Northern Italy. He was not eloquent, had no financial backers, and was frequently at odds with his sending agency back home. But God honored his work as few have been honored over the 2,000 year history of Christianity.
Patricks success may be attributed in no small part to his faithful attention to the Bible. Patrick was a man of the Book. As we see in the two surviving documents from Patricks own hand his Confession and the Letter Against the Soldiers of Coroticus Patrick knew the Bible thoroughly, used it faithfully, and trusted it implicitly for every area of life. His example in approaching the Bible and using it can be instructive for us yet today.
Patricks Approach to the Bible
Three words characterize Patricks approach to the Bible: breadth, balance, and comparison. He demonstrated a broad awareness of the content of Scripture and made balanced and thoughtful use of the Word.
Breadth and balance. The two tracts surviving from Patricks own hand would make up together a small pamphlet. In todays publishing formats, they would not require more than twenty pages. Yet in these few words we may discover well over 100 quotations, references, allusions, or parallels to passages of the Word of God. Of the 66 books of the Bible, Patrick made use of 36, with two references to the books of the Apocrypha, just for good measure. His writing draws on 17 books from all sections of the Old Testament the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. He also used 19 of the New Testaments 27 books, again, drawing from the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, all the major sections of the New Testament. It is clear that Patrick knew his Bible very well. He had studied it comprehensively and thought broadly about how the Word of God applied to his life and ministry. When it came time to make a defense of his ministry, or to write to rebellious followers, he drew from all his learning in a broad and balanced effort to let the Word of God have full power in his life and ministry.
Comparison. In each place where Patrick developed some aspect of his argument we find him comparing Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in order to get at the true and final understanding of Gods will for his life. The Greek of 1 Corinthians 2:13 can perhaps best be translated as comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, and suggests the practice Patrick adopted for getting at the truth of a matter. In setting forth his defense for his ministry, for example, insisting that he was telling the truth, and knew the consequences of lying, Patrick cited from or referred to 6 different passages of Scripture from both testaments in order to reach the conclusion, And so I know that I/must speak the truth herein, and must not lie. Later, as he sought to explain the rationale behind his aggressive work of evangelizing the lost, he referred to 8 different passages from the Prophets of the Old Testament and the Gospels of the New in order to defend his decision to labor tirelessly for the souls of the Irish.
Patricks approach to the Bible is thus instructive to us, in that he commends broad reading of Scripture and careful comparison of its teaching in order to construct our worldview and prosecute the affairs of our faith.
Patricks Use of the Bible
In the uses to which Patrick put the Word of God we also find solid guidance. Those uses may be described as moral, spiritual, creedal, vocational, and eschatological. Patrick applied the Word which he studied broadly and thoughtfully in every area of his life and ministry.
Moral. We have already seen how Patrick allowed the Word of God to guide him in the matter of telling the truth. We see the same in his explanations about financial matters, relationships with peers, and personal integrity. Patrick called on his detractors and readers to compare what they knew of his life with what the Scriptures taught in these areas, and he was certain they would find no fault in him.
Spiritual. Patrick checked and nurtured the inclinations of his soul against the teaching of Gods Word. At one point, when he was uncertain about prayers for his sense of vocation, he let the Scriptures guide him to the conclusion that God would lead him in praying as he ought. Many times he found comfort and clarity in his soul by searching the Scripture for Gods understanding of his circumstances.
Creedal. Patricks basic theology was assembled by means of a systematic mining of Scripture to discern the will of God for what he should believe and teach. See how many different Biblical references you can find in this brief statement by Patrick of his basic convictions:
For there is but one eternal God; not other has begun to be, or ever shall. He is without beginning, God the Father, He about whom I must sing. And all that is began to be from Him; He governs earth and man and everything that is, as we are taught. His Son is Jesus Christ, the One who bought us with His blood. We testify that He was with the Father in eternity, and was by Him begotten in a way that cannot be described. All that today we see and even that which eyes cannot behold was made by Him. And so we ought to worship Him, who for our sakes became a man, demolished death, received a name above all others, and was taken to His heavenly home and to His Father, who awarded Him all power in earth and heaven. For everything to Jesus has been given, that every knee should bow and every tongue confess, of things on earth and things among the dead and in the heavens, that He is Lord and God, and they should all obey His Word. And we believe in Him and long to see the day of His return, for it will be upon us soon. Then He shall judge the dead and all who live, and will, as He has said, return to all according to what they have done, and usher in eternal day. He poured upon us so abundantly His Holy Spirit, a gift and pledge, that we should immortality possess. And all who trust in Him and on His mercy call He makes the sons of God, and with Him, heirs of everlasting bliss.
I count 20 different references to Scripture in just this simple confession of faith.
Vocational. Patrick looked to the Word of God to determine and sustain his ministry. He also use Gods Word to justify his labors to those who sought to call him back to Britain. He knew the Bible called him to be a fisher of men, and he would not be deterred in any way from pursuing what he knew God had called him to do. Further, the Scriptures provided the content of his ministry as he faithfully preached the Gospel he discovered there and worked to make disciples of the Irish and build the church of the Lord.
Eschatological. Finally, the Bible provided Patrick with all the hope he needed to persevere against incredible odds in the work God had prepared for him. Many times he overcame discouragement, setbacks, and fears by looking to Scripture and claiming the promise of eternal life and the hope of glory as he pressed on in his work. He offered his life as a martyr to Christ, for, as he believed,
For we shall rise in Him as with the sun when He returns, when glory has begun to shine around the sons and daughters of the living God, and we shall in His love forever live, co-heirs with Christ, remade according to His image who has paid our debt; and we shall reign with Him, and through and in Him ever more.
We remember Patrick not because he invented green beer or drove the snakes out of Ireland. Patrick is not somehow connected with anything cutesy and mystical that Irish wannabes everywhere like to claim as their own one day out of the year. Rather, we remember him as a man of the Book, whom God used as a faithful witness and powerful builder of the Church. Patricks Biblical worldview laid down a spiritual and intellectual cornerstone that impelled the following generations to great works of glory in the name of the Lord.
How would you describe your own approach to the Bible? Broad? Balanced? Comparative? How about the use you make of Scripture? Does the Bible inform your life in all the ways it did Patricks? What are you doing to improve your approach to and use of the Scriptures at this time?
T. M. Moore is a Fellow of the Wilberforce Forum. He serves as Pastor of Teaching Ministries and Director of the Center for Christian Studies at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, TN. He is the editor of the series, Jonathan Edwards for Todays Reader (P &R), the second volume of which, Praying Together for True Revival, will be released in April. The quotes from Patricks writings in this article are from T. M.s book Celtic Flame: The Burden of Patrick (Xlibris, 2000). He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Concord, TN. T. M. may be contacted at Nacurragh@aol.com. All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version (Crossway).
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My maternal grandmother was Irish (Manley). My paternal grandmother was Scotch/Irish (Dunn). My paternal grandfather was 100% Welsh (Edwards). Maternal grandfather was probably a Norman surname (Fanshaw).
The Month of March should be Celtic history month. March 1st is St. David's Day (patron saint of Wales). March 17th is St. Patrick's Day. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Welsh.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
The English translation of The Confession totals 6,380 words all by itself, over half again the size of a feature article in a major magazine. Colson's commentary today is only 574 words, 110 of which are comments by Colson on the subject, not details of Patrick's life. If you wrote a 6,380 word autobiographical article, would those reading it have a pretty decent idea of the major events of your life? And if someone used your article as a source to write 464 words about you, could they reasonably be accused of extrapolating from little or no information?
Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387; died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 461.
(Not that being from Wales isn't good too...)
HG, where's my Beamish? ;-)
BTTT on 03-17-05!
On the East side of my town, there is a series of streets named for Civil War Union generals. They were named by Irish immigrants who had fought under those men before moving to the area, which was still frontierish in the 1860s.
Thank you Ireland.
For some reason I have the urge sing, "O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are silent now...." :-)
He was canonized "Pre-Congregation."
Here's some info on that: "Pre-Congregation" Beatification and Canonization
And here's a nice entry on St. Patrick:
It is amazing how much anti-Catholic propaganda is written on this day regarding Saint Patrick and the Church, intentional or not.
Saint Patrick, Bishop
Hail, Glorious Saint Patrick, dear saint of our isle
On us, thy poor children, bestow a sweet smile
And now thou art high in the mansions above
On Erin's green valleys look down in thy love.
(Father F. W. Faber)
Readings, and the Gospel | Saint Patrick's Day Customs | Traditional Irish Foods | Sweet Treats for School
Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, was born near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387. When he was about sixteen, Patrick was taken captive by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to a chieftain. For six years he was a shepherd in the valley of the Braid and on the slopes of Slemish.
He relates in his "Confessions" that during his captivity while tending the flocks he prayed many times in the day. "The love of God", he wrote, "and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the Spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and I felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the Spirit was then fervent within me."
Patrick's captivity became a preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption. His master, Milchu, was a Druid high priest, and this allowed Patrick to become familiar with all of the details of Druidism.
After six years, on the advice of an angel, Patrick fled from his master. He traveled until he found a ship ready to set sail. In a few days he was in Britain, but now his heart was set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred ministry. He went to France where he joined Saint Germain, bishop of Auxerre, and put himself under the bishop's guidance and was ordained to the priesthood. Saint Germain was sent by the pope to Britain to combat the Pelagian heresy, and took Patrick with him to be one of his missionary companions in Rome.
Pope Saint Celestine I, who had called the Council of Ephesus to address the Nestorian and Pelagian heresies, sent Patrick as a missionary to Ireland on the recommendation of St. Germain. On his journey from Rome, Patrick was consecrated bishop by St. Masimus at Turin, then returned to St. Germain in Auxerre to prepare for the missionary journey to Ireland.
His arrival in Ireland (ca. 433) was greeted with opposition from Druid chieftans. He returned to Dalaradia where he had been a slave to pay the price of ransom to his former master, and to bring him to Christ but as he approached he saw the castle burning in the distance. The word of Patrick's miraculous powers had preceded him, and the frenzied Milchu gathered his treasures into his mansion, set it on fire, and cast himself into the flames. An ancient record adds: "His pride could not endure the thought of being vanquished by his former slave."
The druids and magicians fought to maintain their control over the Irish, but Patrick's prayer and faith triumphed. On Easter Day 433, after winning the Irish Chieftains over to Christianity, Saint Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock to explain by its triple leaf and single stem the Blessed Trinity. This trefoil, called "Patrick's Cross," became the symbol both of the saint and of Ireland itself.
Saint Patrick's Breast-Plate
Saint Patrick's prayer, popularly known as "Saint Patrick's Breast-Plate" (or "Lorica"), is believed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over paganism.
Click HERE for the complete hymn with music from the Adoremus Hymnal.
Following is a literal translation of the old Irish text:
I bind to myself to-day
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself to-day
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgment Day.
I bind to myself to-day
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself to-day
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself to-day
God's power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seduction of vices,
Against the lust of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke to-day all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me to-day
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself to-day
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity.
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
St. Patrick's Farewell Blessing
St. Patrick spent seven years in Munster where he founded monastic cells and churches, performed ordinations, healed the sick, and, according to legend, resuscitated the dead. This is his farewell and blessing, as recorded in the bishop's Life:
"A blessing on the Munster people
Men, youths, and women;
A blessing on the land
That yields them fruit.
"A blessing on every treasure
That shall be produced on their plains,
Without any one being in want of help,
God's blessing be on Münster.
"A blessing be on their peaks,
On their bare flagstones,
A blessing on their glens,
A blessing on their ridges.
"Like the sand of the sea under ships,
Be the number of their hearths;
On slopes, on plains,
On mountains, on hills, a blessing."
Saint Patrick continued until his death to visit and watch over the churches which he had founded. It is recorded in his Life that he consecrated no fewer than 350 bishops.
He died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, on March 17, 493.
God our Father,
You sent Saint Patrick
to preach Your glory
to the people of Ireland.
By the help of his prayers,
may all Christians proclaim Your love to all men.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen
Father in heaven,
You sent the great bishop Patrick
to the people of Ireland to share his faith
and to spend his life in loving service.
May our lives bear witness
to the faith we profess,
and our love bring others
to the peace and joy of Your Gospel.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. +Amen.
First reading: Peter 4:7b-11
Keep a calm and sober mind. Above all, never let your love for each other grow insincere, since love covers over many a sin. Welcome each other into your houses without grumbling. Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God's orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to Him belong all glory and power for ever and ever. +Amen.
Gospel: Luke 5:1-11
While the people pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And He saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
Wearin' o' the Green.
During "penal times" when Catholics in Ireland were persecuted, and frequently had to hide, it was a crime to wear the color green, which symbolized Irish independence and defiance of their oppressors. But Irish-Americans today make a point of wearing something green on Saint Patrick's Day to signify pride in their Irish heritage. Parades and parties are commonly held on Saint Patrick's Day. Though these usually bear no resemblance to a religious celebration, they often feature traditional Irish music and dancing -- even people with no Irish ancestors wear green and join the festivities.
Sadly, there are still divisions in Ireland, and ancient hostilities between Irish Catholic "greensmen" and Protestant "orangemen" have persisted even into our own time and although the disputes are far more political than religious, this is a particularly sad example of the divisions that have existed among Christians for centuries.
Many brave souls have tried hard to bring peace and unity to the country and we can join in their prayers for peace.
Besides potatoes, Irish-Americans customarily eat corned beef and cabbage, "Irish stew", and soda bread or oatmeal bread on Saint Patrick's Day. Recipes we use follow.
Irish Oatmeal Bread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups rolled oats (quick or regular)
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp. butter
Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients, stirring until the dry ingredients are just moistened.
Pour in a greased loaf pan, and bake about 1 hour and a quarter. Remove loaf to rack, and brush generously with butter.
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. vinegar
and add to sugar and egg mixture
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins
1 tsp. caraway seed
Knead a few times and form into a round loaf. Placed into 9-10" well-greased cast iron skillet. Cut cross in top. Brush with orange juice and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in skillet at 350 degrees F for 30 - 40 minutes until golden brown.
Joanna Bogle, a British Catholic journalist, gives this recipe for boiled bacon and cabbage in her 1988 book, Feasts and Seasons.
Boiled Bacon and Cabbage
To serve four (multiply as needed):
1 1/2 lbs. boiling bacon or ham
Wash the bacon and if it is very salty, steep it in cold water for a few hours. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to a boil and simmer, allowing 25 minutes to each pound and 25 minutes extra at the end of cooking. When cooked, remove the bacon, and cook the cabbage in the same water, chopped up. Remove the rind from the bacon. Sprinkle bacon with bread crumbs an place under the grill for a few minutes to brown. Slice the bacon and serve hot with the freshly cooked cabbage. Hot parsley sauce can be served with the bacon, if desired.
Shamrock or Snake Cookies
Use either your favorite sugar cookie recipe, or a prepared cookie dough roll. If you make your own dough, color it green with food coloring. If you use ready-made dough, it may be easier to add green color with icing or colored sugar.
Either use a clover shaped cookie cutter, or, lacking that slice round dough into 1/4" thick slices, pressing three circles together to form a clover, adding a pinch of dough rolled into a "stem). Sprinkle with green sugar before baking, or decorate with icing.
You can make these about any size. Roll the dough into a long snake-like roll, then roll the "snake" in green sugar. Form into a snaky coil with the "head" sticking up in the middle and form the "tail" into a point. Place on a prepared cookie sheet. Add "eyes" made of bits of chocolate chip or currants.
Saint Patrick's Day cupcakes
Prepare batter from a white or yellow cake mix, or your own recipe. Sprinkle a few drops of green cake-coloring on top of the batter and cut through the batter with a rubber spatula a few times to give a "marble" effect. Spoon the batter into muffin pans lined with cupcake papers (each about 2/3 full), and bake in 350 degree oven about 15 minutes, or until done. Cool cupcakes on racks.
Prepare butter cream icing (or use canned white icing). Add about three drops green cake coloring and one drop yellow, and mix thoroughly, to give a leafy green.
For "grass": Add about 1/4 teaspoon of green food coloring and about 1 teaspoon water to 1 cup of shredded or flaked sweetened coconut, stirring until coconut is evenly colored.
Ice the cooled cakes with the green icing, and sprinkle them with the coconut "grass".
Adorn the cakes with "gummy worms" to represent the snakes St. Patrick drove out of Ireland, or with gumdrop shamrocks, or with small marzipan potatoes.
If you can't find ready-made shamrocks, you can roll out any green gumdrops on sugared waxed paper to about 1/4" thick, and cut out shamrock shapes with a small sharp knife.
Potatoes: Buy canned, sweetened almond paste, shape into ovals about 1 1/2" long, poke "eyes" with a toothpick or match stick, and brush them with food coloring thinned with a little water (caramel coloring, or mix a brown color by adding a drop of green and yellow to about 4 drops of red food coloring).
Roll the potatoes in powdered cocoa mixed with sugar, and put them on waxed paper to dry.
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