Thursday, 20 March 2014

'A Living Holocaust to the Almighty' - the Ascetical Regime of Saint Patrick

We continue the Octave of posts in honour of Saint Patrick with this account of his ascetical practices from Volume III of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints:

The course which the saint held in his devotion, as it was most admirable, so did he continue it daily, without any intermission. Every day was he wont to recite devoutly the whole Psalter, with Canticles, Hymns and St. John's Revelation; besides these, he offered two hundred other prayers. Three hundred times in the day, with genuflections, did he prostrate himself in prayer and adoration, before God; and, in singing the canonical hours, he was accustomed to bless himself a hundred times, with a sign of the Cross. Moreover, it was his custom every day to celebrate Mass, with great devotion and reverence ; neither did he omit to preach constantly to the people, nor to teach his disciples. The night-time, which he divided into three parts, was spent in a most holy and austere manner. The first part of it he employed, in reciting twice fifty Psalms, and in making two hundred genuflections ; the second part, he passed immersed in cold water, his heart, eyes and hands being directed towards Heaven, while saying the third quinquagenary of Psalms, with other prayers. The third part, he allotted to his sleep, having for his bed a bare stone, with another stone serving for a pillow. He scarcely allowed himself any rest, and he preferred, for the sake of mortification, such an uncomfortable posture. His loins were girt with a rough and coarse hair-cloth, steeped in cold water, to keep his body in due subjection, lest it should rebel against the spirit. His fasts were frequent  and long continued, while he lived on the coarsest food, and offered himself, as a living holocaust, to the Almighty. Moreover, he remained, from Shrovetide until Easter without food.

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