The story goes that serpents attacked Patrick during a 40 day fast he was undertaking on top of a hill. So, he chased all the serpents of Ireland into the sea with his staff. Of course, all evidence suggests that there were no literal snakes in Ireland long before Patrick arrived in 432AD. This is a weak attempt to connect Patrick with Moses and Aaron’s battle against Pharaoh’s magi in Exo 7:8-13. Many sources interpret this as a metaphor regarding Patrick driving paganism out of Ireland. But let’s consider, what did Patrick really do?
What did Patrick really do?
“Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.” History.com.
Patrick didn’t drive out paganism but meshed it with Christianity. Just as Pope Gregory I later instructed in 601AD and the Catholic Church has done since it’s inception. For more on the history of “St. Patrick” go here.
Adaptation and Accommodation
“From the beginning the Catholic Church had proved itself adaptable and flexible in its dealings with heathens.” “There was division within the Church over the issue of how far missionaries should compromise with pagan customs in order to win converts; the Jesuits led the movement for accommodation and adaptation. Citing the early Christian and medieval practices of …Gregory I, the Jesuits struggled to win over the rest of the Church.” Early Jesuit Missionaries: A Suggestion for Further Study by PETER DUIGNAN
Jesus refers to the Pharisees as those who look good on the outside but within are full of lies, wickedness and deceit. Just as the Catholic Church since its inception has incorporated paganism into its doctrine while purporting to serve God. They look good on the outside but within are full of the dead, both physically and spiritually.
Matt 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within you are full of deceit and wickedness.
Matt 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Jesus also refers to the Pharisees as serpents and vipers.
Matt 23:29-33 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! … You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Patrick is credited with driving the serpents out of Ireland when in fact he brought them in!