St. Patrick of Ireland/March 17th

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nick cobb

Mar 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/16/98

The Life of Saint Pádraig (Patrick),
Enlightener of Eire

The following is paraphrased from Saint Fiacc's "Hymn of Saint Patrick."
Fiacc, commemorated on
October 12th, was a bard before Saint Patrick made him a bishop.
Although some modern writers
believe that Fiacc's "Hymn of Saint Patrick" was written many centuries
later, this thought is based
on later additions of footnotes following the hymn. However, footnotes
in Irish books copied by
hand were always added by later copyists; the earlier the book, the more
footnotes with Scriptural
and other references. Thus, the very well footnoted "Hymn of Saint
Patrick" is from a very early
source, as is Saint Secundinus's "Lorica, Hymn on Saint Patrick."
Whether Saint Patrick was one of
the group of priests that travelled to Britain with Saint Germanus or
not, it is certain from other
sources that Saint Patrick was a pupil of Saint Germanus for a long
time, and would have had the
same theological foundation. Perhaps modern writers were uncomfortable
with the miracles of Saint
Germanus which occurred when he fought the heresy of Pelagius. These
miracles are also recorded
by Saint Bede.

Saint Patrick was born in the late fourth century. His father was
Calpurnius, a Briton and a deacon;
his mother, Concess, was a Frank and a close relative of Saint Martin of
Tours. At sixteen years of
age, Patrick and many others were kidnapped from the family estate near
Bannavem Taburniae
(some say this was in western Britain, others say it was in Brittany) by
the seven vengeful exiled
sons of a king of the Britons. This happened after Rome required that
all British soldiers under
Roman authority go to Rome to defend that city from barbarians, leaving
Britain without any army
or police, as recorded by Saint Bede. Many acts of violence and greed
were recorded at that time,
which Saint Bede called a terrible shame in Britain, a country which had
long been Christian.

Patrick's father was killed; his sister disappeared. Patrick was sold
into slavery in Ireland. His life
turned from youthful simplicity into a lesson for all of us. He was a
slave, but obeyed his master. He
would not depart until given leave to do so.

Saint Patrick's escape from slavery was accomplished with miracles. He
was visited in a dream by
an angel in the form of a bird, Victor, the conqueror, who arranged a
miraculous escape. Patrick
said that he needed his master's permission to go home, but his master
required a ransom of gold as
large as his head. The angel told Patrick to follow a boar. The boar's
rooting turned up the gold
which was to ransom him. The angel took him to the sea coast sixty miles
in one day to meet a ship,
but instead the lord of the port sold Patrick to others. Then the fee, a
set of brazen cauldrons,
tormented the betrayer and his family. When they were admiring the
cauldrons, their hands stuck to
the metal. The lord of the port repented, and was forgiven by Patrick.
He converted to the will of
God, ransomed Patrick from the slavers, and sent Patrick home. He was
baptised by Patrick later,
after the saint returned. Patrick had been a slave six years.

Saint Patrick had a dream that he must preach the Gospel to the Irish,
but Victor had told him to
seek an education first. He found his education under Saint Germanus of
Auxerre, who lived close
to the southern part of Gaul which is next to the Mediterranean sea.
(Saint Fiacc does not record
other miracles. The town of Saint Patrice near Tours in France claims
that it was visited by Saint
Patrick in midwinter. He was tired and cold, and the frost-covered thorn
tree he slept under burst
into soft warm blooms above him. In December every year until the tree
was destroyed the "flowers
of Saint Patrick" bloomed there. French archaeological and agriculture
societies testified to the truth
of this phenomenon into this century.)

Saint Germanus took his pupil to Britain to save that country from the
errors of Pelagianism. (The
error of Pelagianism is the belief that we may attain salvation through
our own efforts without God's
help, as if the image of God in us were completely separated from the
help of the Holy Spirit, the
grace of the living God. This heresy is seen today in mistaking the Holy
Spirit for the whims or
emotions of the mob; "zeitgeist" instead of Holy Spirit.) Saint Fiacc
records the work of Patrick in
Britain under Saint Germanus to show the development of his saintly
leadership, but Saint Patrick, in
his Confession, does not mention this, perhaps because the focus of his
life's work was in Ireland.
Saint Germanus, with a group of priests that included Patrick, travelled
through Britain convincing
people to turn to God, throwing out the false Pelagian priests known as
snakes. Saint Bede records
in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People that this was
accomplished by great miracles of
healing. Saint Patrick suggested fasting to turn a city from their
heresy, but it would not turn, and at
nocturns the third night the earth swallowed the city. Later, the same
place that Saint Germanus and
Saint Patrick had fasted with their company became the location that
clerics went to fast. Patrick,
who obeyed God's will, defended reverence for God's grace which is
necessary for Salvation.

Saint Patrick told Saint Germanus that he had often heard the voice of
the Irish children calling to
him, "Come, Holy Patrick, and make us saved." Saint Germanus said that
Patrick must go to Pope
Celestine (Bishop of Rome from 422 to 432), to be consecrated, because
it was proper to do so.
But another had been sent to be Bishop of Ireland before him (Bishop
Palladius), and Saint Patrick
had to wait. Bishop Palladius began missions, but he did not live very

Saint Patrick went to the island of Alanensis in the Mediterranean sea
(in the Lerins district, known
as Saint Honorat near Cannes in France) to pray, and was given Jesus
Christ's own staff on Mount
Arnum to hold him up. (An engraved stone on the side of the main
monastery of the island records
that Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, came there to study in the fifth
century the sacred sciences in
preparation for his mission to Ireland. The staff of Jesus Christ was
publicly burned in Dublin in
1538 during the reign of king Henry VIII of England.) In 432, Patrick
went back to Saint
Germanus, telling him of the vision and the staff. Patrick was then
sixty years old. He was sent back
to Pope Celestine, who had heard that Palladius had died. The chief
consecrator of Saint Patrick
was Bishop Amatorex of Autissiodorens. Pope Celestine lived only a week
after Patrick's
consecration, and was succeeded by Sixtus III (432-440). Celestine gave
Saint Patrick relics and
many books. At the moment of Patrick's consecration, the Pope also heard
the voices of the
children calling out: Crebriu and Lesru, two daughters of Glerand,
recorded as Saints by St. Fiacc.
Patrick later baptised the children. They said out of their mother's
womb, "All of Ireland cries unto
You." (This cry was to God, not to Saint Patrick.)

And so Saint Patrick returned to Ireland. Saint Fiacc does not record
the details of what happened
at Tara, but this is recorded elsewhere. In 432, Pascha (Easter)
coincided with the Druid (pagan)
festival. No fire was supposed to be lit but the new lighting of the
pagan fire. But Saint Patrick lit the
Easter fire first. The tradition warned King Laoghaire that if that fire
were not stamped out, it would
never afterward be extinguished in Erin. The king invited Bishop Patrick
to Tara the next day.
Patrick was reciting his Breastplate prayer (the "Deer's Cry") on the
way from Slane to Tara on
Pascha Sunday. King Laoghaire had stationed soldiers along the road,
expecting to intercept
Patrick before Tara. The Tripartite Life says, "Saint Patrick went with
eight young clerics and Saint
Benen (commemorated November 9th) as a gillie with them, and Saint
Patrick gave them his
blessing before they set out. A cloak of darkness went over them so that
not a man of them
appeared. Howbeit, the enemy who were waiting to ambush them, saw eight
deer going past them,
and behind them a fawn with a bundle on its back. That was Saint Patrick
with his eight, and Saint
Benen behind them with his tablets on his back." (The Tripartite Life
was an eighth century book in
three parts to be read in the three day celebration of Saint Patrick's

The wizards (Druids) before Saint Patrick's time predicted that an adze
head would come over wild
sea, his mantle hole-headed (vestments tailored with an opening for the
head, not cloth wrapped as
the Druids did), his staff crook-headed (Jesus Christ's Pastoral staff,
not straight as the Druids'
staves), his table in the anterior part of his house (an altar), and all
his household (the church) will
always answer, "Amen. Amen." They told the king that they would not hide
the truth from him, that
the posterity of this man would remain until doomsday, because he is the
herald of the Prince of

Saint Patrick was called by the Lord and sent to Ireland. He taught that
the Trinity is ever with us to
sustain us, even when all is misery. He knew firsthand. He taught that
God loves us, despite the
buffetings of the world.

Saint Patrick was diligent until the day he died. He dispelled iniquity.
He preached, he baptised, he
prayed, he constantly praised God with Psalms, he sang one hundred
Psalms every night, he slept
on bare flagstone with a wet quilt about him, and his pillow was a
pillar stone. He preached for
three-score years (including the time before his consecration as bishop
when he was a priest under
Saint Germanus). St. Secundinus records in his hymn that Saint Patrick
bore the stigmata of Christ
in his righteous flesh.

The folk of Ireland used to worship "si-de" (spirits). They did not
believe the true Godhead of the
true Trinity. But when Saint Patrick was finished, all Ireland believed
in the Holy Trinity, believed in
Jesus Christ, did not follow nature spirits, and the court at Tara was
replaced by the court of Christ
at Armagh. In his Confession, Patrick said that he was God's debtor for
the great grace of baptism
given to so many thousands, for the people reborn in God and then
confirmed, and clerics ordained
for them everywhere. "Not wishing to bore his readers," Saint Patrick
gives only a small mention of
persecution even unto bonds, twelve dangers to his life, and numerous
plots against him. For
example, Saint Odran, a charioteer for Patrick (commemorated February
19th) was warned of
danger and pretended weariness, so Patrick took the reigns, and Odran in
the place of honour was
killed with a lance meant for Patrick.

When Saint Patrick became ill, he decided to go to Armagh. He was met by
an angel, who took
him to see Victor, and Victor, speaking to him out of rushing fire,
said, "Primacy to Armagh; to
Christ render thanks. Unto heaven you shall go soon. Your prayers have
been granted: the hymn
you have chosen in your lifetime shall be a protecting corslet to all.
Those men of Ireland that are
with you on the day of doom shall go to judgement."

One of the clergy, Tassach (commemorated April 14), remained with him
and gave him
Communion. Saint Fiacc recalls Joshua: if the sun should stay still in
the sky for the death of the
wicked, how much more appropriate it should be for brightness to shine
at the death of saints.
Ireland's clerics came to wake Saint Patrick from every road; the sound
of the chanting (of angels)
had prostrated them. They said that the place was overrun with singing
birds: as Victor had
appeared as a bird, they thought the winged angels were birds. Saint
Patrick's soul had separated
from his body after pains. God's angels on the first night were waiting
upon it without ceasing. When
he departed, he went to the other Saint Patrick (of Glastonbury, called
Patrick the Elder,
commemorated August 24th), because Patrick, son of Calpurnius, had
promised Patrick the Elder
that they should go to heaven together. It is said that from the
eighteenth of March to the
twenty-third of August, to the end of the first month of Autumn, Saint
Patrick was with angels about
him awaiting old Patrick, and together they rose to Jesus, Mary's Son.

Saint Fiacc said, "Saint Patrick, without sign of vainglory, meditated
much good. To be in the
service of Mary's Son, it was a pious circumstance wherein he was born."

(Much later, in the twelfth century, King Henry II of England, after his
part in the death of
Archbishop Thomas Becket, received permission from the Pope to take over
Ireland, which had by
that time sent its monks to educate all of Europe. The Irish monks read
Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and
other languages. Henry II ruled that no Irish were allowed to attend a
seminary. All Irish
monasteries in Europe were taken away, mistaking the term Scot which
meant the Irish from the
north, with Scotland. After that, all of Europe fell into an age of
illiteracy which lasted until the

Mary Ryan D'Arcy notes in The Saints of Ireland that, although the staff
of Jesus Christ was
burned, the hand bell of Saint Patrick and a reliquary box still exist.


Mar 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/17/98


Thanks so much for the post. I have the icon of St. Patrick on my desk at the

All hail to St. Patrick, who brought to our island the gift of God's Grace, the
sweet light of God's Love!

Jack Clifford

William M. Klimon

Mar 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/17/98

nick cobb wrote in message <>...

>(Much later, in the twelfth century, King Henry II of England, after his
>part in the death of
>Archbishop Thomas Becket, received permission from the Pope to take over
>Ireland, which had by
>that time sent its monks to educate all of Europe. The Irish monks read
>Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and
>other languages. Henry II ruled that no Irish were allowed to attend a
>seminary. All Irish
>monasteries in Europe were taken away, mistaking the term Scot which
>meant the Irish from the
>north, with Scotland. After that, all of Europe fell into an age of
>illiteracy which lasted until the

This is a joke, right?

(1) Pope Adrian IV gave Henry permission to reform the Church in Ireland in
1155. When Henry actually arrived in Ireland 15 years later it was for
totally different purposes. Even then Henry's control over Ireland was
fairly meager.

(2) Although the Irish monks certainly had their intellectual attainments,
your ascriptions to them are certainly too generous.

(3) Seminaries are largely an invention of the 16/c, when they were mandated
for every diocese by the Council of Trent.

(4) Irish monasteries in Europe taken from whom? Irish connections to the
continental monastic scene were fairly tenuous by the late 12/c.

(5) All Europe in illiteracy?! Exactly the opposite! That was exactly the
period that the great Harvard medievalist Charles Homer Haskins dubbed "the
Renaissnace of the Twelfth Century"--one of the great periods of
intellectual endeavor in European history: it was the era of the founding of
the universities, of the discovery and translation of classical texts, of
the reform of monasticism and the birth of new religious orders, of advances
in all areas of learning.

William M. Klimon ("13")

University of Maryland School of Law
500 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786

nick cobb

Mar 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/17/98

William M. Klimon wrote:


Here is the full posting again with the author, Fr. Kristopher Dowling. I think
you should write him or call him and straighten him out. I think he lives in
Akron, O. and would love to hear from you!


By Fr Kristopher and Matushka Elizabeth Dowling

Source: "The Real Saint Patrick, Bishop of Ireland," Fr Kristopher Dowling's
Home Page

Return to the Celtic and Old English Saints Page

nick cobb

Mar 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/17/98

How's this, Bill--any better?



By Fr. Lester Bundy

The early Christian Church in Western Europe was legitimately Orthodox; it represented the
of Christianity in complete communion, faith, and practice with Eastern Byzantine
Christianity. In a
short article like this it is impossible to explore why this ceased to be true. Suffice it
to say that the
this relationship changed because the Western Church changed.

A manifestation of the blending of early Orthodoxy and Celtic traditions is seen in the
of a particular style of religious art, music, and poetry. We have very little evidence
today in regard
to ancient Celtic music and liturgy, but Celtic art and literature verify the Orthodoxy of
the early
British Church.

Looming large in the tradition of the early Celtic Church is the sometimes bigger than life
figure of St.
Patrick. Sometimes referred to as the "Apostle to Ireland," Patrick was born into a
Christian British
family about the year 390. At the age of sixteen he was captured by Irish pirates and spent
six years
as a slave in Ireland. After escaping and returning to Britain, he underwent a rudimentary
training for
ministry and was ordained. Eventually he was sent, as a missionary bishop, back to Ireland
where he
remained until his death, about 460. Patrick's life has become so overlaid with legend and
that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Nevertheless, it is clear that he was a
major figure of
great power and strength in the early Celtic Church.

The famous Breastplate of St. Patrick, which is roughly reproduced in hymn 268 of the 1940
Hymnal (Episcopal), was undoubtedly written much later than Patrick's life. Nevertheless it
the spirit of the early Celtic Church and Patrick's tradition. As such it is a powerful
demonstration of
the Orthodoxy of that tradition.

"I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same, The
Three in
One, the One in Three."

In Celtic religious art the "binding" of the interlacing forms of decoration are more than
decorative. They are a visual representation of the universality of the Triune God
interweaving and
penetrating all of Creation. It can be noted of course, that the interlacing motif is also
seen in
Northern European pagan art before Christianity. A close look at history, however, shows
that Christianity, from the very beginning, had its strongest appeal and significance in
the conversion,
and not in the extinction of indigenous culture. St. Paul's arguments against the Judaizers
reflects this
fact. Thus the early Christian missionaries and their converts found the prevenient Grace
of God
already intuitively reflected in Celtic art. An excellent example of both the art and
poetry of the Celtic
tradition can be found in David Adam's The Edge of Glory (Morehouse-Barlow, 1985).

The willingness of Orthodox jurisdictions to recognize the Orthodoxy of the Celtic Church
demonstrated in several ways. The existence of Western Rite parishes in the Antiochian
argues in favor of this idea, as does the inclusion of several "western European" saints
such as St.
Aidan and St. Boniface in the Orthodox Church in America calendar and the Antiochian

The early British Church and her Celtic bishops, priests, monks and nuns serve as visible
of a kind of "Western Orthodox" heritage worthy of veneration and celebration. Additionally
stories inspire us to continue to struggle to make sense of our religious faith and
experience in a
world that seems indifferent and hostile, knowing that inevitably, the Church is in the
hands of God.

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