Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Saint Patrick as the Apostle to the Irish

We begin a series of posts to celebrate the Octave of the Feast of Saint Patrick with a view from the 1960s of the Jesuit scholar, Robert Mc Nally, in which he describes the development of the relationship between our national apostle and his people:

In the later legend of St. Patrick, his official relation to his people is variously interpreted, developed and magnified. For example, Sechnall, in his beautiful little hymn St. Patrick, Teacher of the Irish, preserved in the Antiphonary of Bangor, relates St. Patrick to Ireland as St. Peter to Rome: 
Constant in the fear of God and steadfast in his faith,
On him the Church is built as on Peter;
And his apostleship has he received from God—
The gates of Hell will not prevail against him.
Both Tirechán and Muir-chú in the Book of Armagh picture him as the new Moses, the spiritual leader of a new chosen people. Muir-chú's representation of him as the prophet Daniel before the pagan king of Babylon is built on the confrontation of St. Patrick and King Loegaire at Tara. But the noblest expression of St. Patrick's relation to the Irish is found in the letter which this "poor exile for the love of God" directed against Coroticus and his half-Christian soldiers. "For them," he writes, "it is a disgrace that we are Irish." These words reveal the cosmopolitanism of a perfect foreign missionary, who can identify himself racially with the people to whom he is communicating the universalism of Christianity.

Robert E. McNally, S.J., 'St. Patrick: 461-1961' in America, March 18, 1961.

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