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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day - March 17

March 17th
Saint Patrick
I am the son of the deacon Calpornius….My father was from the village of Bannauente Berniae….it was there that I was captured when I was almost sixteen years old. I did not really know the true God when I was brought in slavery to Ireland (1)….Here the Lord revealed to me my sense of unbelief so that I could repent of my sins…. He watched over me before I knew Him …. He had compassion for me just as a father has for his son (2) ….When I came to Ireland I spent each day tending sheep and I prayed many times during the day (10)….one night I heard a voice in my sleep saying to me, “How good it is that you are fasting, you will soon return to your own country…..Behold, your ship is ready.” …. after this I ran away and left the man to whom I had been enslaved for the past six years. By the strength of God, Who has always guided me in good places, I fearlessly reached the ship (17)…. Once again, I spent a few short years with my family in Britain….one night as if in a vision I saw a man come from Ireland…. it was as if he was bringing thousands of letters to me. He gave me one of them and I read the first line which started “the voice of the Irish.” As I started to read it was as if I could hear the voices of the people who were living at the wood of Voclut which is near the Western Sea. These shouted out as if in one voice: “We implore you, O holy boy, to come here and be with us.”(23)…the Lord granted that I become a bishop (32)…. I give
  constant thanks to God Who has kept me faithful in the day of my trial. To this day I offer my soul to Him as a living sacrifice to Christ the Lord, for He has saved me from all my anguish (34)…. It would be too long for me to tell the whole story of all my labors or even just to tell some parts of it. Suffice it to say the Lord rescued me from slavery many times and saved my life from mortal danger twelve times over…He often gave me, poor wretch that I am, divine messages forewarning me of future dangers(35)…. I am more than ready to freely give my very life for the sake of His name (37)….For I am most truly in God’s debt (38)…. In truth I bear witness in exaltation of heart before God and His holy angels that I have never had any other motive other than the Gospel to go back to the people from whom I barely escaped(61)…. I beg of those who believe in God and fear Him, that if you decide to read or receive this work of unlearned Patrick which he has written in Ireland, do not credit me with the little I have done according to God’s pleasure. Rather conclude, as is indeed true, that anything I have achieved was a gift of God. This is my Confession before I die (62). “ (excerpts From The Confessio of Saint Patrick)
As I researched the life of Saint Patrick I kept reading the words, “not many facts are known,” “details of his life are uncertain,” and then I struck a pot a gold, must be the luck of the wee bit a Irish I have coursing through me veins. I came across a work by Saint Patrick himself, The Confessio which I have quoted from above and a second work from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition. The article on Saint Patrick written by Patrick Francis Cardinal Moran Archbishop of Sydney just prior to his death in 1911, relied on ancient biographies of Saint Patrick as well as oral tradition. I have summarized some of the highlights below.

Saint Patrick was Apostle of Ireland, born at Kilpatrick, in Scotland, an island of Britain under Roman rule in 387. Captured by Irish pirates at 16, Patrick became a slave to Milchu, a druidical high priest, tending to his flocks on the slopes of Slemish, near the modern town of Ballymena. Son of a Catholic deacon, Patrick had not spent much time learning about God, but under captivity he was moved by the Spirit to pray almost continually day and night. In his Confessio he writes “the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same.”

After a vision, Patrick escaped Milchu and ran 200 miles to where he met a ship that would bring him back to Britain and his family. During the six years Patrick served Milchu, he acquired knowledge of the Celtic language and the details of Druidism.

Home in Britain, Patrick pursued study to enter the priesthood, studying and working under Saint Germain. During this time, Patrick had visions of the “children of Voclut….near the Western Sea” (the wood thought to be near Killala, Co. Mayo) who would cry “O holy youth, come back to Erin and walk once more among us.”

Pope St. Celestine I on commendation of St. Germain sent Patrick to “gather the Irish into the one fold of Christ.” Patrick returned to the country where he had been enslaved and went to see his former master Milchu to give him a blessing. As Patrick continued toward Slemish, he was “struck with horror on seeing at a distance the fort of his old master Milchu enveloped in flames.” An ancient record accounts that Milchu gathered his treasures into his mansion, set it on fire, and jumped in. The record adds, “His pride could not endure the thought of being vanquished by his former slave.”

Patrick’s kidnapping and years of slavery proved to be divine providence, by fully preparing him for his apostolate in Ireland. He returned to the land of his captivity a Bishop, through humility and faith taught Christianity to the pagan people of Ireland using their native tongue, personally baptizing thousands, ordaining priests, and converting many in royalty to Christianity. God clearly can and does “write straight with crooked lines”.

There are many legends and stories written about Saint Patrick. Did Saint Patrick really banish all snakes from Ireland as we have all heard and seen depicted in art? Did he really use the Shamrock to explain the Christian God? There is little evidence of the first literally happening and modern science shows no indication that snakes have ever been indigenous to Ireland, but the serpent or snake is a symbol of paganism and druidism and Saint Patrick did put an end to these practices in Ireland. When it comes to the Shamrock, it is quite plausible that Patrick did use this very common plant to explain the very complex idea of the Holy Trinity to the Irish people.

On March 17, 461, Saint Patrick received his summons to his reward after having received the last Sacraments, food for his journey. Today we celebrate a humble and courageous man, a Saint who heard God’s call, and embraced the call with open arms. Let us honor Saint Patrick by imitating his virtues, one of which may well have been temperance. Not temperance as in never drinking, but as the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it - the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods.  CCC 1809
Happy Saint Patty’s Day,
may the road rise to meet you,
and the wind be always at your back.

St. Patrick
Apostleship of Prayer
Fr. James Kubicki, S.J.

St. Patrick’s Prayer
Christ, be with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I Sit,
Christ where I arise.

For items related to St. Patrick, please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures.

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