Friday 30 March 2012

Vignettes from the Lives of the Irish Saints: Saint Kevin's Vision of Saint Patrick

On a certain night, it is related, that St. Kevin and his monks were engaged singing a hymn to St. Patrick. Suddenly, the holy Abbot remained in a silent ecstasy, and then ordered his brethren to sing the hymn three different times. When the monks enquired, why they should sing it so often, the Abbot said: "Our holy Patron Patrick, whose hymn you have sung, stood on the pavement leaning on his staff, and he blessed us, when we ceased our singing." We are then told, that this was St. Patrick, the Archbishop, who had converted Ireland from the errors of paganism to the true Faith; who, many years before, had departed happily; and it is stated, that the efficacy of this hymn was to be found related in his Life. On the night following such occurrence, St. Kevin walked over the Lake with dry feet, from that place where he had sung the hymn of St. Patrick, with his monks, and he came to that spot, where his city afterwards stood....

Rev. John O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, Volume VI, (Dublin, n.d.), 51-52.

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Saint Fiacc's Poem on the Life of Saint Patrick

Below is a translation taken from an Irish Ecclesiastical Record paper on Saint Fiacc's hymn on the Life of Saint Patrick. I have not been able to reproduce either the Irish text or the footnotes, but both are available to consult online in the original volume. There is also a substantial introduction to the hymn and its author in the original paper which I have not reprinted. The hymn, like many in the Irish Liber Hymnorum, has its own preface describing where, when and in what circumstances it was written - or place, time and cause. Modern scholars are still debating this issue for themselves, the general consensus is that the hymn cannot be 5th-century on both linguistic grounds and the presence of elements associated with the later Armagh tradition.


Fiach of Sleibhte (Sletty) that composed this hymn for Patrick. This Fiach was son of Mac Ercha, son of Bregan, son of Daire Barrach (a quo Ui Bairche), son of Cathair Mor. This Fiach, then, was foster-son to Dubhthach Mac Ui Lugair, who was chief poet of Erinn. In the time of Laeghaire Mac Neill . . . . [a word effaced]; and it was this Dubthach who rose up before Patrick in Tara, after Laeghaire had desired that no one should rise up before him in the [house] ; and he was a friend of Patrick's from thenceforth ; and he was afterwards baptized by Patrick. [Patrick] went one time to the house of this Dubhthach in Leinster, and Dubhthach indeed gave great welcome to Patrick. Patrick said to Dubhthach," seek for me", said he, " a 'man of grade', of good family, of good morals, with one wife and one son". " Why seek you this, i.e. a man of that character?" asked Dubhthach. " To go into orders" [said Patrick]. " Fiach is he", replied Dubhthach, "and he went on a circuit into Connaught". Whilst they were thus speaking, Fiach came with [the tributes of] his circuit (or visitation). " Here is", said Dubhthach, "the person of whom we spoke". "Though he may be", said Patrick, "still he may not like what we have said". " Let a pretence be made of tonsuring me", said Dubhthach, " that Fiach may see". When Fiach saw, he asked, " Why do you seek to tonsure Dubhthach", said he, " for he is a loss to us, as there is not in Erinn a poet like him". " You shall be adopted in his stead", said Patrick. " My loss is less than Dubhthach's", said Fiach. Patrick then cut off Fiach's beard, and great grace came upon him afterwards, so that he read the whole Ordo Ecclesiae in one night, or in fifteen days as others say, and he received the degree of a bishop ; and therefore it is that he is archbishop of all Lagenia, and his successor after him. The place [where the hymn was composed] is Duma Gobhla, to the north-west of Sleibhte. The time, moreover, that of Lugaidh, son of Laeghaire, for he was king of Erinn then. The cause, also, to praise Patrick, and after his death it was composed, as some assert.

1. Patrick was born at Emptur ; this it is that history relates to us.
A child of sixteen years (was he) when he was taken into bondage.

2. Succat was his name, it is said: who was his father is thus told;
He was Son of Calpurn, son of Otidus, grandson of Deochain Odissus.

3. He was six years in slavery; human food he ate it not:
Cothraige he was called, for as slave he served four families.

4.Victor said to Milcho's slave: " Go thou over the sea":
He placed his foot upon the Leac (stone): its trace remains, it wears not away.

5. He sent him across all the Alps : over the sea marvellous was his course,
Until he staid with Germanus in the south, in southern Letha.

6. In the islands of the Tyrrhene Sea he staid: therein he meditated:
He read the canon with Germanus: it is this that history relates.

7. To Ireland he was brought back in visions by the angels of God:
Often was he in vision solicited to return thither again.

8. Salvation to Ireland was the coming of Patrick to Eochlaidh;
Afar was heard the sound of the call of the youths of Caill-Fochladh.

9. They prayed that the saint would come, that he would return from Letha,
To convert the people of Erin from error to life.

10. The "Tuatha" of Erin were prophesying that a new kingdom of faith would come,
That it would last for evermore : the land of Tara would be waste and silent.

11. The druids of Loegaire concealed not from him the coming of Patrick:
Their prophecy was verified as to the kingdom of which they spoke.

12. Patrick walked in piety till his death: he was powerful in the extirpation of sin:
He raised his hands in blessing upon the tribes of men.

13. Hymns, and the Apocalypse, and the thrice fifty (Psalms) he was wont to sing,
He preached, baptized, and prayed ; from the praise of God he ceased not.

14. The cold of the weather deterred him not from passing the night in ponds:
By Heaven his kingdom was protected: he preached by day on the hills.

15. In Slan, in the territory of Benna-Bairche, hunger or thirst possessed him not.
Each night he sang a hundred psalms, to adore the King of Angels.

16. He slept on a bare stone then, and a wet sackcloth around him:
A bare rock was his pillow; he allowed not his body to be in warmth.

17. He preached the Gospel to all: he wrought great miracles in Letha;
He healed the lame and the lepers : the dead he restored to life.

18. Patrick preached to the Scoti: he endured great toil in Letha:
With him will come to judgment every one whom he brought to the life of faith.

19. The sons of Emer, the sons of Eremon, all went to Cisal,
To the abode of Satan; they were swallowed up in the deep abyss,

20. Until the Apostle came to them; he came despite the raging tempests:
He preached, for three-score years, the cross of Christ to the Tribes of Feni.

21. On the land of Erin there was darkness; the Tuatha adored the Sidhi;
They believed not in the true Deity of the true Trinity.

22. In Ardmagh there is sovereignty: it is long since Emain passed away;
A great church is Dun-Leihglasse; I wish not that Tara should be a desert.

23. Patrick, when he was in sickness, desired to go to Ardmagh:
An angel went to meet him on the road in the middle of the day:

24. Patrick came southwards towards Victor; he it was that went to meet him :
The bush, in which Victor was, was in a blaze: from the flame he (the angel) spoke :

25. He said : Thy dignity (shall be) at Armagh: return thanks to Christ:
To Heaven thou shalt come ; thy prayer is granted thee.

26. The hymn which thou chosest in life shall be a corselet of protection to all ;
Around thee on the day of judgment the men of Erin will come for judgment.

27. Tassach remained after him (in Sabhall), having given the communion to him :
He said that Patrick would return : the word of Tassach was not false.

28. He (St. Patrick) put an end to night; light ceased not with him;
To a year's end there was radiance; it was a long day of peace.

29. At the battle fought around Beth-horon against the Canaanites by the son of Nun
The sun stood still at Gabaon : this it is that the Scripture tells us.

30. The sun lasted with Josue, unto the death of the wicked : this indeed was befitting;
It was more befitting that there should be radiance at the death of the saints.

31. The clergy of Erin went from every part to watch around Patrick,
The sound of harmony fell upon them, so that they slept, enchanted on the way.

32. Patrick's body from his soul was severed after pains ;
The angels of God on the first night kept choir around it unceasingly.

33. When Patrick departed (from life), he went to visit the other Patrick ;
Together they ascended to Jesus Son of Mary.

34. Patrick without arrogance or pride, great was the good which he proposed to himself,
To be in the service of Mary's Son: happy the hour in which Patrick was born.

Patrick was born, etc

'Saint Fiecc's Poem on the Life of Saint Patrick' in THE IRISH ECCLESIASTICAL RECORD Vol. IV, (1868), 269-293

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Vignettes from the Lives of the Irish Saints: Saint Patrick's Winding Sheet

Hagiography portrays the male and female patrons of Ireland as having had contact with each other in life, including this story of the winding sheet which Saint Brigid, 'the pearl of Ireland', wove with her own fair hands for the dying Saint Patrick:

Within a few days after this, as the most holy senior, St. Patrick, sat near the city of Down, and not far from its church, he preached regarding the glory of Heaven, to a great multitude of religious and ecclesiastical men. Then, a wonderful splendour illuminated a certain place, in the eastern part of the churchyard. The pearl of Ireland, the illustrious St. Brigid, happened to be present. The saint commanded her, to declare this mystery of, and to account for, that Divine light. She then told, in the hearing of all the assembly, how that celestial light had consecrated and designated the place,  where a saint, most glorious and most dear to God, should shortly be interred.  Then, a holy virgin, named Ethembria, who was there, asked St. Brigid, to particularize the great person, who should there be deposited. The holy Brigid thereupon declared, that it should be the place of sepulture, for the Patron and Apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick; and, then, added further, that she would account herself most happy, if his sacred body might be wrapped in a winding-sheet, which she had spun and woven with her own hands. This she had prepared, for such a sacred purpose. Soon, the great light disappeared, but a vision of St. Patrick ascending to Heaven accompanied its vanishing. The blessed Apostle, knowing by Divine inspiration the holy virgin's desire, commanded her to go, and to bring that sheet, wherein the illustrious woman would have his body wrapt. He then went to the monastery of Saul, where falling sick, he expected the end of this life, or rather the beginning of another life that hath no end. The holy virgin Brigid was so wearied with the length and difficulty of her journey, that she could not come to him, so soon as she purposed. The Blessed Bishop, knowing in what distress the pious virgin was, sent chariots, to meet herself, and four other pious virgins, coming to Saul, where the saint lay sick. She soon presented him with the sheet, which he received very gratefully. Then, kissing his feet and hands, she and her virgins received his last benediction.

Rev. John O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, Volume III, (Dublin, n.d.), 782-3.

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig - The Feast of Patrick

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! It is always interesting to keep an eye on how the media report and present the feast of our national patrons. There is a marked difference between those of Saints Patrick and Brigid, Patrick is unencumbered by the neo-pagan baggage loaded on to Saint Brigid as his Christian credentials are too firmly established. Instead, most journalists set themselves to debunking popular myths about snakes and shamrock. They also seize upon the new Patrician scholarship which views Saint Patrick in a very different light to the all-conquering national hero of Canon O'Hanlon's time. A good example of this was published in 2010 in The Irish Times, although the title 'How Patrick beat Brigid to become our saint of choice' is somewhat misleading as the piece doesn't actually mention Saint Brigid at all.

The Irish Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2010


How did St Patrick get the gig as Ireland’s patron saint?

WHILE ST PATRICK has had the edge in terms of recognition as Ireland’s patron since the dawn of recorded history, St Patrick’s Day has only been a national holiday in Ireland since 1903, when the British Parliament passed the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act. St Patrick’s Day parades have a somewhat longer pedigree, with the earliest recorded taking place in 1762 in Manhattan, when the participants were Irish-born British soldiers. Parading for St Patrick’s Day does not seem to date back any further than the 19th century in Ireland.

Curiously, while the Irish held Patrick in the highest reverence, many centuries were to pass before the name Patrick began to be used as a personal name in Ireland.

The consensus among historians these days is that Patrick’s missionary activity in Ireland took place during the late fifth century. However, it was not until the seventh century that documentary material began to emerge in Ireland in any significant quantity. Some of the earliest of this furnishes evidence of the status in which Patrick’s memory was already held. A hymn, probably dating from the early seventh century, compares Patrick to St Peter and St Paul. A letter written in the early-630s by Cummian refers to Patrick as papa noster – “our father”.

So, how did Patrick acquire this stellar reputation within little more than a century of his death? For those wishing to push his cause, Patrick had a unique selling point among the saints of early Ireland: he was the only saint from the early period of missionary activity in Ireland who left a personal account of his spiritual life’s journey.

This was his Confession. Its natural style and lack of any obvious agenda have contributed to the universal view among historians that it is the genuine work of Patrick. It is at once a testament to one man’s strong Christian faith and a memorable adventure story. In the Confession Patrick relates how, as a boy, he was captured from his native Britain by Irish raiders and sold into slavery in Ireland, and how he eventually escaped, returning to Ireland some years later as a bishop to spread the Christian message in the land of his former captors. By his own account, Patrick baptised many thousands of people.

By the late seventh century, the Patrick machine, driven by the monastery of Armagh and its federation of churches, had moved into full swing, with the publication of two major works on Patrick – his life by Muirchú and the collection of Patrician data authored by Tírechán. These works were hugely influential in advancing the Patrician claims of the church of Armagh. At the hands of Tírechán and, more particularly, Muirchú, Patrick was transformed beyond recognition into a superhero. The humble bishop evident in the Confession had been replaced by a larger-than-life character, with a streak of vengefulness, who can match the druids as a performer of extraordinary deeds.

In practice, what it seems was being sought was control over all those churches associated with the earliest phase of evangelisation as well as a more general leadership of the churches in Ireland.

The Armagh propagandists had a further arrow in their quiver. They claimed possession of a collection of remarkable relics, with which no other early Irish monastery could compete. According to the seventh century Book of the Angel, these included the relics of the martyrs Peter, Paul, Stephen and Lawrence, and a sacred linen cloth marked with the blood of Jesus. The significance of such relics in terms of enhancing Armagh’s standing and generating revenue would have been considerable.

Moreover, the church of Armagh had the foresight – or good fortune – to link their cause with that of the emerging Uí Néill dynasty in the late seventh century. The confirmation of the Uí Néill, over the succeeding centuries, as the most powerful dynasty in Ireland went hand-in-glove with the consolidation of the cult of Patrick and power of the church of Armagh. By the time that Uí Néill power went into decline in the 11th century, the church of Armagh, and the reputation of its founder, had acquired an unassailable position in Ireland.

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Friday 16 March 2012

Ist Vespers for the Feast of Saint Patrick - Ecce fulget clarissima

Below is the text and accompanying translation of an Irish medieval plainchant hymn for 1st Vespers from Sarum-rite Divine Office manuscripts 79 and 80, preserved in Trinity College, Dublin. TCD 79 is an antiphonal, dating to c. 1431-1435, previously in use at the Church of St John the Evangelist, Dublin. TCD 80 is an early 15th-century Breviary thought to have come from Kilmoone, County Meath. Selections from the office in honour of Saint Patrick have been recorded by the ensemble Canty on the CD 'Apostle of Ireland- Irish Medieval Plainchant - An Office for Saint Patrick'. Dr Ann Buckley, who has worked on the manuscripts comments in the accompanying notes:

'Ecce fulget', included on this recording, is found in two parts in the Kilmoone Breviary (MS 80): the first part, strophes 1-6 and 11, was sung at First Vespers; and the second part, strophes 6-11 ('Ad hanc doctor') at Matins. The entire text of this hymn occurs also in the Trinity College, Dublin copy of the Irish Liber Hymnorum (MS 1441), a collection dating from the late 10th/early 11th century, although 'Ecce fulget' was added later. The only surviving melody associated with it is that found in the Kilmoone Breviary, a melody not unique to Patrick but in standard use in the Gregorian repertory.

Ecce fulget clarissima
patricii solempnitas,
in qua carne deposita
felix transcendit sidera.

Qui mox [a] pueritia
divina plenus gratia
vitam cepit diligere
dignitatis angelice.

Hic felici prosapia
ortus est in Britannia
perceptoque baptismate
studet [ad] alta tendere.

Sed futurorum prescius,
clemens et rectus Dominus
hunc direxit apostolum
hybernie ad populum.

Erat namque hec insula
bonis terre fructifera,
sed cultore ydolatra
mergebatur ad infima.

Ad hanc doctor egregius
adveniens patricius
predicabat gent[il]ibus,
quod tenebat operibus.

Confluebat gentilitas
ad ejus sacra monita
et respuens diabolum
colebat regem omnium.

Gaudebatque se liberam
remeasse ad patriam,
qua serpentis astutia
olim expulsa fuerat.

Qua propter, dilectissimi,
huius in laude presulis
psallamus christo cordibus
alternantes et vocibus.

Ut illius suffragio
liberati a vitio
perfruamur in gloria
uisione angelica.

Laus sit patri in filio
cum spiritu paraclito,
qui suo dono gratie
misertus est hybernie. Amen

Behold the shining brightness
of the solemnity of Patrick
when, having laid aside his body,
he happily ascends to heaven.

Already from his boyhood
he was filled with divine grace
and began to love the life
of angelic dignity.

This man of a blessed lineage
was born in Britain
and after receiving baptism
strove to attain the heights.

But the merciful and upright Lord
knowing the shape of future things
directed this apostle
to the people of Ireland.

For this island was
fruitful with the earth’s good things
yet dragged down to the lowest point
by its idolatrous worship.

When he arrived here
the distinguised teacher, Patrick,
preached to the heathens
that which he lived in his life.

The heathens assented
to his sacred warnings
and spitting out the devil
worshipped the King of all.

And rejoicing to be free
they returned to their homeland
from which they had once been expelled
through the serpent’s cunning.

Therefore, most beloved,
let us in turn sing psalms
with heart and voice to Christ
in praise of this bishop,

So that with his help,
freed from vice,
we may fully enjoy
the angelic vision in glory.

Praise be to the Father, in the Son
with the Spirit Paraclete,
who by his gift of grace
has shown mercy to Ireland. Amen

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Saint Patrick and Saint Paul

In the following article from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record of 1891, Father James Halpin compares the 'apostle of the Irish' with the great 'apostle of the Gentiles'. I was interested to see how the writer expressed a degree of irritation with the Patrician scholarship of his day, and his perception that scholars almost seemed to be in danger of failing to see the wood for the trees. The good Father Halpin preferred not to neglect the devotional aspect for the scholarly, including, of course, the late Victorian taste for epic poetry...


There is a strong and growing feeling that there are already too many theories about the life and labours of Ireland's national saint. It may be well, therefore, to say at the outset, that the title of this paper which may, at first view, appear somewhat startling does not imply that yet another is to be added to the number. Many are beginning to think that recent Patrician literature has concerned itself too much about a few controverted points in the life of our saint ; and too little, very much too little, about that beautiful life itself. They think that much of the theorizing on the subject might have been omitted without detriment either to the cause of historical truth or to the honour of the saint himself ; and, however ingenious or original or brilliant it may appear, they are sometimes at a loss to understand either the ground on which it rests or the good purpose it could possibly serve. In a word, there are in the saint's life, a few points which have hitherto been subjects of controversy and doubt ; with present materials they are likely, or certain, to remain so ; and it is the opinion of those to whom I refer, that it is wiser even were it not so necessary as it is candidly to acknowledge as much. And this for many reasons. Such authorities as O' Curry assure us that the materials of Irish history, to be yet written, are all but unlimited. His own researches in the field of Irish archaeology were rewarded by many valuable discoveries. The Tripartite Life, one of the seven in Colgan's Trias Thaumaturga, and perhaps the most prized of all the ancient lives of St. Patrick, was long lost, and was discovered only in comparatively recent times. Is it too much to hope for other and yet greater discoveries still in the same field ? or, may not future research decide once and for all some or all of those questions we now discuss so warmly, and upset many a theory that had cost its author much precious labour and time?

Whatever of this, we repeat that, with present materials, there are some few questions that are not likely to be solved. About the exact year of his birth, for instance, we have no less than five opinions, resting each on respectable authority. What avails it to continue the discussion, unless for the privilege or pleasure of differing from such writers as Colgan and Lanigan, Villaneuva, Jocelyn, and Tillemont. Nor does the question of place appear nearer to solution. The weight of authority seemed in favour of France ; but the balance is, perhaps, on a level since Cardinal Moran decided in favour of Scotland. And when we come to localities, there are nearly a score that claim the honour.

Again, why should it appear a matter of surprise or importance if we must leave a few such questions unanswered? A very long list, we think, might easily be made out of names the greatest in history, sacred and profane, about which similar doubts exist ; nor would St. Patrick be the only national apostle in the list. Not to go further, is it settled where St. Augustine, England's apostle, was born? Indeed, it is wonderful how little we do know sometimes of even the greatest names. Someone has undertaken to put into one sentence and it does not err in length all that is known for certain of the greatest dramatist that ever lived ; and when it comes to the question of writing or pronouncing his name an. elementary one, as would appear the learned cannot agree. In future time there maybe similar doubt about the very name of the arch-heresiarch of latter times, for the very good reason that he seems to have changed it as often as his doctrines, and to have written it himself in no less than four or five different ways. What wonder if, in the case of a saint who lived fourteen hundred years ago, we cannot determine the place of his consecration or the exact year of his birth?

And, if another reason of the same kind may be added, what we do know for certain is very much, very edifying, and worthy of our deepest attention and study. It is found in his own authentic writings. Few as they are and this is one of the strange things about him they nevertheless tell us more of his inner self than what we know of saints who wrote at much greater length.

It is a picture unique in the history of God's Church ; a beautiful picture from whatever standpoint we look at it. A great soul prepared by God for the highest mission by fitting graces and rarest gifts ; labouring with a zeal, and rewarded with a success, the like of which the world had seldom, if ever, seen equalled! Even from another and lower standpoint there is much to study and admire in the story of his life : scenes varying from the tenderest pathos to the highest drama. No wonder that such a life, with the countless legends of pathos and beauty that circle around it, should have attracted the fancy of one of Ireland's truest poets, or that the genius of Aubrey de Vere should have weaved out of such a theme a work which of itself should place his name very high among the greatest of English poets.

With those who make the lives of God's saints a study, nothing is more common as we must have observed than comparison and contrast. All have much in common ; there is, as some one has said, a family likeness between them all ; but yet a beautiful study it must be to inquire how, like star differing from star in glory, saint differs from saint in some special grace or gift that is all his own. As an example of such study, we would have quoted, did space permit, a beautiful passage in which, writing of his own St. Philip, one of his greatest sons, compares him to other saints of his time, and in a few words, worthy of so great a master of language, pointing out what he had in common with each, as well as what distinguished him from all (Newman, Idea of a University, page 235.)

But why, it may be asked, do we go back, in order to find a prototype for our saint, to the Prophets and Apostles ? The answer is, the comparison is not ours. It has been made and repeated by the biographers of St. Patrick, from St. Evin, who lived in an age so close on the saint's own, down to Fr. Morris and Dean Kinnane. It occurred to us that there must be good reason for a comparison thus frequently and authoritatively suggested, and that it would be an interesting study to seek out what the reasons were. This is the aim of the present paper : the study must be flattering to us as children of St. Patrick ; it may be edifying; it certainly has the negative merit which some recent theories can hardly claim that it can do no harm; and if the tendency, if not the effect, of some of those latter was to make people begin to doubt of the very existence of a saint, every event of whose life was the subject of endless controversy, it will have a counteracting effect, if we so far take that life and all its main events as certain, as to compare him to so great a saint, and one of so decided a personality, as the Apostle of the Gentiles.

We have said that St. Patrick's biographers generally compare him to St. Paul: one or two examples will suffice :

"A just man, indeed, was this man : with purity of nature, like the patriarchs ; a true pilgrim, like Abraham ; gentle and forgiving, like Moses ; a praiseworthy psalmist, like David ; an emulator of wisdom, like Solomon ; a chosen vessel for proclaiming truth, like the Apostle Paul ; a man full of grace and the knowledge of the Holy Ghost, like the beloved John ; a fair flower-garden to children of grace, a fruitful vine-branch . . . a lion in strength and power, a dove in gentleness and humility, a serpent in wisdom and cunning to do good ; gentle, humble, merciful to the sons of life ; dark, ungentle towards the sons of death ; a servant of labour and service of Christ ; a king in dignity and power for binding and loosening, for liberating and convicting, for killing and giving life." (Tripartite Life)

And in the hymn, of St. Sechnall or Secundinus, nephew of our saint, we find :

"Quem Deus misit ut Paulum
Ad gentes apostolum
Ut hominibus ducatum
Proeberet regno Dei"

With most of the comparisons in these passages we are not concerned now. To some of the prophets St. Patrick bore an evident resemblance notably to Moses, to whom he is often likened in the olden lives ; but this we must leave to another time, if not to another pen. Moses on the mount with God, and Patrick struggling on Cruachan; Moses before Pharao, and our saint before Laeghaire, whose heart was hardened like that of Pharao ; Moses leading the Israelites through the desert, and Patrick, on his return from captivity, obtaining food miraculously for his followers in the wilderness are pictures which we need only place side by side ; and they are only some of the points of striking, and we might almost say mysterious, resemblance between the two. The grandeur of his miracles, his familiarity with heaven, his constant intercourse with and guidance by his angel Victor, remind us rather of a theocracy than the magisterium of the Church, and suggest comparison with the saints of the Old rather than of the New Law.

The name of St. Paul is specially mentioned in both of the passages quoted, and it is with it alone we will now concern ourselves. The saints of God are distinguished one from another chiefly in this, that each seems to have what may be called a characteristic gift, a peculiar grace, a spirit which may be called his own. If, therefore, we would compare or contrast one with another, our first thought must be about the distinguishing grace of each. What was the distinguishing gift of St. Paul? Fortunately we get an answer from the distinguished writer already referred to :he treats of this very subject in two places: - 

"And I think his characteristic gift is this that, as I have said, in him the fulness of divine gifts does not tend to destroy what is human in him, but to spiritualize and perfect it. According to his own words, used on another subject, but laying down, as it were, the principle on which his own character was formed ' We would not be unclothed [he says], but clothed upon ; that what is mortal may be swallowed up in life.'"

And again, in the sermon, "St. Paul's Characteristic Gifts," he says :

" To him specially was it given to preach to the world who knew the world; he subdued the heart who understood the heart. It was his sympathy that was his means of influence ; it was his affectionateness that was his title of empire." (Newman, Sermons on Various Occasions)

Readers of the life of St. Patrick need not be told that all this applies to him as literally as to his great prototype, Human sympathy, elevated by grace and spiritualized till it became a most burning zeal for souls, was also a characteristic of his. It is remarkable that of two of his most recent biographers one (Fr Morris and Dean Kinane) heads a chapter "St. Patrick's tenderness of heart," and another " St. Patrick's zeal for souls." Aubrey de Vere, in describing the saint addressing some chieftain and his court, thus beautifully touches the same trait in the conclusion of his description:

"... Gradual thus
With lessening cadence sank that great discourse,
While round him gazed Saint Patrick, now the old
Regarding, now tho young ; and flung on each
In turn his boundless heart, and gazing longed,
As only apostolic heart can long,
To help the helpless."

(Legends of St Patrick)

But the best evidence of this spirit of our saint is found in his Epistle to Coroticus, every line of which breathes the tenderest sympathy and the most ardent zeal for the souls of his people. Some of these had been carried away captive by the Welsh marauder ; from his hands they are likely to pass as slaves to the Picts and Scots ; and the saint after a first expostulation in vain sends a letter to Coroticus himself.

The tender pathos, when he speaks of his captive children, reminds us of the Epistle to Titus or Timothy or the beloved Philippians ; while the fierce denunciation of the tyrant himself vies with anything to be found in the Epistles to the Corinthians. Outside the parable of the Good Shepherd it would be hard to find a finer picture of what the good shepherd should be : -

"What shall I do, O Lord? . . . Lo ! Thy children are torn round me and plundered . . . Ravening wolves have scattered the flock of the Lord . . . Therefore I cry out with grief and sorrow : O beautiful and well-beloved brethren, whom I have brought forth in Christ in such multitudes, what shall I do for you ? I grieve, O my beloved ones ... I have abandoned my country and parents, and would give my soul unto death, if I were worthy.

Perhaps the virtue, after zeal and charity, that is most conspicuous in the two saints is humility. It may be said to be a characteristic of both, and both express it and they are constantly giving expression to it in language very similar. If St. Paul is the " last of the Apostles," a "persecutor of the Church," "carnal," and "sold under sin," St. Patrick is " a sinner," and " the unlearned," "the rudest and least of all the faithful," and was brought "captive to Ireland, as we deserved, for we had forsaken God."

If the spirit of the two saints be so similar, if their characteristic gifts be identical, we should expect that the resemblance should show itself (2) in the style of their writings and (3) in the method of their missionary labours. And so, we think, it is. Like everything about St. Patrick, his style is marked by a strong distinctive personality ; so much so, indeed, that some one has said it is inimitable. It is, according to an ancient writer, its own witness ; yet we are constantly met with passages in both the Confession and Epistle which remind us of St. Paul's Epistles, in phrase and style, as well as in sentiment. True, an explanation may be found in St. Patrick's thorough acquaintance with Sacred Scripture. That he studied in the most famous centres of learning and sanctity, and that Sacred Scripture formed part of his course, are equally certain. The Tripartite mentions his visit to St. Martin at Marmonties ; Probus assures us that he spent many years with St. Germanus at Auxerre ; and another writer assures us that he studied Scripture at Borne. Wherever he studied it, there can be no doubt of his remarkable familiarity with it ; his frequent quotations, and still more his constant allusions, bear ample testimony to a knowledge of every part of Scripture that was simply wonderful. This may explain any similarity in style, as well as in ideas, of the kind referred to; but we think it would be as satisfactory and, perhaps, more reasonable to say that, as the two great souls were similarly gifted by God, so, when they came to speak, their thoughts clothed themselves in like words and phrases.

The same principle would explain the similarity that is said to exist between passages of the Lorica and St. Francis Hymn to the Sun; for among more modern saints there is none to whom our national apostle can be better likened than the seraphic Francis; a fact which we may say in passing may go some way to account for the mutual attachment and devotion of their children to this day. Without making any attempt at collating, which would be unnecessary for those who are familiar with St. Paul's style, it will be sufficient to quote one or two passages from writings with which we are, perhaps, less familiar. Does not the following remind us of a conclusion of some of St. Paul's Epistles ?

" In that day we shall arise in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Jesus Christ, and all redeemed we shall be, as it were, the sons of God, and co-heirs of Christ, and made like to His image in the future. For from Him,and in Him, and by Him are all things ; to Him be glory for ever. Amen." (St Patrick's Confession)

In another part of the same we find and it shall be our last quotation :

" And on another night, whether in me or near me, God knows, I heard eloquent words, which I could not understand until the end of the speech, when it was said : ' He who gave His life for thee is He who speaks in thee,' and so I awoke full of joy. And, again, I saw one praying within me; and I was as it were within my body, and I heard, that is, above the inner man, and there he prayed earnestly with groans . . . and I awoke, and remembered that the Apostle said : ' Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity.'" (Rom. viii. 26.)

In fine, a word on the method of their labours. Both became all things to all men, and in a very special manner. The method of St. Patrick was not that of sweeping change or general revolution : the very opposite is particularly noted. He adapted and perfected rather than rejected. The laws he found before him he sought to purify, rejecting only what may not be retained. Witness his taking part in the compilation of the Senchus Mor in A.D. 439 :

" I to that people all things made myself,
For Christ's sake, building still that good they lacked,
On good already theirs". (Aubrey de Vere, Legends of St Patrick)

Even whatever knowledge of art and handicraft he found he carefully used for the glory of God, and the purposes of his mission. The same author, in a poem entitled St. Patrick's Journey to Armagh, describes his usual following ; and, after mentioning Benignus his psalmist, Lecknall bishop, Ere his brehon, Mochta his priest, he adds :

". . . And Sinnell of the bells,
Eodan his shepherd, Essa, Bite, and Tassach,
Workers of might, in iron and in stone,
God taught to build the churches of the faith
With wisdom, and with heart-delighting craft."

How like is all this to the spirit and method of him who became all things to all men, and who while he was "the special preacher of divine grace is also the special friend and intimate of human nature," who would circumcise the beloved Timothy to please the Jews, and who would himself conform to the rite of the Nazarites for the same purpose!

Again, it is pointed out by writers on St. Patrick and, indeed, we cannot fail to remark it that he, as if instinctively, first sought the enemy in his "centre and citadel" Royal Tara, Ailech of the Kings, Cruachan, and Cashel; such seemed to be the goals to which he would first direct his steps ; and if he turned aside at all it was to seek out the stronghold of another and more powerful enemy, that of idolatry ; for one of his first visits was to Magh Slecht to destroy the great idol Crom Cruach. In like manner do we find his great prototype in the great centres not of a nation only, but of the world in Athens and Corinth, in Jerusalem and Rome. St. Patrick, boldly preaching the Gospel before council of king and brehon and druid, seems but a counterpart of St. Paul, proclaiming the name of Christ to the Jews in their synagogues, and to Gentiles in the very Areopagus.

There are many other points of resemblance of a minor kind, which we can only mention in a few words. Their mission was the same: St. Paul preached to the Gentiles; St. Patrick to "a barbarous nation." In both cases there was a vocation direct from heaven ; its manner was like in each case, for the description of the scene in which St. Patrick heard a voice he knew not whether "within him or close by," and in which "fell scales from mine inner eyes," remind us, surely, of the great event that happened on the way to Damascus. St. Paul only knew Christ and Him crucified; St. Patrick Tillemont tells us was learned only in Scripture and sacred science. Both stand out unlike to, and distinct from, all around them, by a strong and peculiar personal character. In fine,when we hear of "the unearthly elevation" of his (St. Patrick's) character; that his character had a decided, though human share in his work ; that he " subdued rather than persuaded," and that the "peculiar character of his apostolate came from the conviction of a special message from God," we cannot but feel that all this applies equally to the great Apostle of the Gentiles.

We have stated that the comparison we have been thus far considering is suggested by all the biographers of our saint. The beautiful life by our distinguished countryman, Aubrey de Vere for, indeed, his series of poems may be said to be a life is no exception ; and, as we have quoted from him so often, we may fitly conclude by a passage in which he refers to it :

". . . The words that Patrick spake
Were words of power. Not futile did they fall ;
But, probing, healed a sorrowing people's wound.
Bound him they stood, as oft in Grecian days
Some haughty city sieged, her penitent sons
Thronging green Pnyx or templed Forum hushed,
Stood listening to that people's one true voice,
The man that ne'er had flattered, ne'er deceived,
Nursed no false hope."


IER, Vol.12, (1891), 413-422

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

The Burial Place of Saint Patrick- Paper 3

In this final paper ecclesiastical historian, Father Sylvester Malone, argues for Saul rather than Downpatrick as the burial place of Saint Patrick. Although he examines the same evidence as Bishop John, Father Malone takes a more sceptical approach and reaches different conclusions.


THE burial-place of our national saint, like other incidents connected with him, has been a matter of doubt and discussion. The doubt arises from the contradictory notices in the Book of Armagh. These notices appear in one place to favour the claim of Downpatrick to the burial-place; in a second place, the claim of Saul quite convenient to it; and in a third place, the claim of Armagh. The value of each of these notices is not the same, but depends on the intrinsic evidence of the statement, as well as on the bias and intelligence of the writer, and on the age to which he belonged.

The claim of Armagh is very slender, and rests merely on the possession of some relics of St. Patrick of some kind, coupled with the supposition of only one Patrick having been in the early Irish Church; but the existence of two Patricks and their respective identities have been established in a former number of the I. E. RECORD. I am not in accord with those who deny the existence of bodily relics of St. Patrick in Armagh during the ninth century. It was natural and usual to desire the possession of some relic of a saint less renowned than St. Patrick ; and that Armagh procured some bodily relic of him is clearly evidenced in a passage in the Book of Armagh. This passage, which must have escaped the notice of the advocates for Armagh, taken by itself would seem to favour their pretensions. [" In ecclesia australi ubi requiescunt Corpora Sanctorum peregrinorum de longue cum Patricio trausmarinoruin caeterorum que Justorum.'' (Book of Armagh, fol. 21, a. 1.]

The biographers of our national saint have surrounded his death and burial with childish miracles. A comparison instituted by them between him and Moses, however edifying it may be, has led to error on several incidents in his life and the circumstances of his burial. The advocates for Downpatrick have so rested the story of his death and burial on a supernatural basis, as scarcely to leave a human fringe for historical criticism. Nevertheless, the proofs adduced by them appear to me quite questionable, while I judge those in favour of Saul to be highly probable.

I now give a description of St. Patrick's burial-place from the oldest, most impartial, and consistent account in the Book of Armagh. Tirechan, in a lengthened summary of the saint's life, taken from the oral and written account of Bishop Ultan, who lived in the middle of the seventh century, states that St. Patrick was like to Moses in four things, and the fourth thing was that " no person knew where are his bones." The writer then continues to state that two hosts contended for his body during twelve days without night ; and on the twelfth day, as the contending parties were going to give battle, each party saw with themselves the body on a bier, and in consequence refrained from fighting.

Then, as if to justify a departure, by the discovery of Columkille, from the likeness to Moses, the writer continues thus in reference to the burial and the prophetic gift of Columkille :

" Columkille under the influence of the Holy Ghost pointed out the burial-place of St. Patrick, makes out for certain where it is, that is in Sabul-Patrick, that is in the church, as a sprout from the waves, beside the sea, where is the bringing together of relics, that is of the bones of Columkille from Britain, and the bringing together of all the saints of Ireland on the day of judgment."

Now, nothing can be clearer than this valuable statement. The burial-place is stated to have been at the Sabul or Barn of Patrick : there was only one such place, and that within two miles of Down. The passage just quoted calls for a few remarks. First of all the absence of darkness during twelve days of waking is only a natural explanation of the effect of the lights over the corpse; and though there may have been a desire on the part of some people from Armagh to have the burial take place with themselves, we need not suppose there was a disposition to come to blows: a little exaggeration in the description is only very natural. The saint's wish was a command; and, as stated in the Book of Armagh that wish was carried out by his burial in Sabul or Saul. A holy rivalry for the possession of his body was a mark of religious zeal. Hence in another passage in the Book of Armagh, in reference to this subject, the writer states that without divine intervention, "it was impossible to have the peace kept about so illustrious and saintly a corpse." Friendly contention then about the body of our saint was only what decency required.

There is no good reason for doubting that some of the relics of St. Columkille may have been enshrined with those of St. Patrick, though the principal part of them were not located in Ireland till the end of the ninth century. St. Columkille in full health is said, in the Book of Cuana, to have come to St. Patrick's grave, and to have enshrined some of the relics buried with him ; and it is not unnatural to suppose that when dying he or his followers after his death wished to have some of his own relics rest with our national apostle.

The allusion to the gathering together of all the Irish saints at Saul is grounded on a petition found in his confession, to the effect that he should lose none of the Irish given him by God. In consequence of this, some Lives stated that God "left to him the judgment of the Irish on the day of doom." This tradition took another form, according to Tirechan : it was one of the three petitions which he made when dying; namely, ''that each of us repenting, even in the hour of death, would be saved on the day of judgment and escape hell." The church beside which our saint was buried - the sabul of Patrick stood, as a sprout from the wave, near the sea. The tidal waters flowing through the inlet of Strangford Lough flooded the low-lying grounds, even under the very shadow of Saul. Even down to the present century, the low ground was occupied by a standing lake, a mile in circumference, and is still called the salt marsh ;but, in early times, before a rampart was thrown up to dam the waters, the Sabul Church, peering above the wavelets, appeared to spring from the very waters. Now what is the reply usually given to this clear and natural statement, that he was buried in Saul ? This only that Saul meant Downpatrick! Such a reply scarcely deserves notice. We have another proof that St. Patrick was buried in Saul: it is found in the Fourth Life as given by Colgan. Saul is incidentally mentioned in connection with a plaything that accidentally fell into St. Patrick's grave there. The incident is alluded to as follows : -

"A boy playing about the church of Saul let his hoop drop into a chink in St. Patrick's grave; and having put down his hand to take it up could not withdraw the hand. Consequently, Bishop Loarn, of Bright, a place near at hand, was sent for ; and on his arrival addressed the saint thus: 'Why, O Elder, dost thou hold the hand of the child?'"

Here we have a statement incidentally made in reference to one of the incidents that filled up the life of our saint. It is made without a design of propping up a political or religious system. It was made at a time when Saul was comparatively insignificant, and when Downpatrick, owing to its situation, as a great emporium, had risen to importance, and was the seat of the chief of Ulidia.

Let us now examine what is said in reply to this proof. The reply is that St. Patrick did not hold the hand of the boy at all; that the phrase tenentem manum seems a translation of Irish in the Tripartite, gabail lama - expelling; that our saint only drove away the boy who gave annoyance; and that Bishop Loarn, who probably outlived our saint, was one of his religious family. The interpretation thus quoted is given on the authority of Dr. Stokes; but, with great respect for his accurate knowledge of Irish, he is not to be implicitly followed, as has been proved elsewhere. But before dealing with this, his opinion, I have to observe that though the Book of Armagh makes mention of a Loarn settled in Connaught, there is no warrant for stating that there was a Bishop Loarn in Downs, during the saint's lifetime; nor is there the least warrant for stating that he died before our saint. There is no valid reason then producible for denying the certain statement of the biographer -that St. Patrick was dead and in his grave when Bishop Loarn was sent for.

I now deal with the objection founded on the opinion of Dr. Stokes ; namely, that tenentem manum was a mistranslation of gabail lama, "expelling," and that consequently St. Patrick was not dead, nor his grave made on the occasion referred to, but "drove away" the playing boy perhaps with too much harshness : in confirmation of this latter view, the Tripartite is appealed to as an authority for stating that St. Patrick was not "always meek and patient;" and hence the rebuke of Bishop Loarn for probably too much harshness.

Well, an explanation that involves a censure on our national saint for harshness towards an unthinking boy at play is very suspicious. Besides, even if the boy were annoying the saint, as alleged, and if the saint exceeded the limits of moderation in correction, was it a case for having a bishop sent for, and have him rebuke his superior? Moreover, when the bishop came on the scene our saint's action was continued; and if tenentem manum meant expelling, the boy must have been persistently bold during the time the bishop was being sent for, and was coming to the church; and this fact should render impossible the charge of harshness for driving away the boy.

Again, if tenentem manum in the Latin Life be, as stated, a mistranslation of gabail lama in the Tripartite, and as Dr. Stokes has stated that the Irish Life was written in the eleventh century, while, the Latin was written in the ninth century, how could the latter be a mistranslation of the former?

In good truth, the writer of the Latin Life knew the meaning of tenentem manum ; and if he wished to express the idea of expulsion he had only to use the proper and natural Latin expello. On the other hand, if the writer of the Tripartite intended to express the same idea, he would have used, as on all other occasions he did use, the word indarb.

The Irish as well as the Latin phrase meant literally "seizing the hand," and figuratively "overpowering" or "thwarting." But I am told that other instances in the Tripartite countenance "expelling" as the meaning of the phrase. Well, all the instances which occur to me I will submit to a test. In looking into page 118 (Roll's Tripartite), I find the phrase gebthar do lam, "thy hand shall be seized." This was a reply from the angel to St. Patrick, who refused to budge till he obtained the privilege of rescuing as many souls from hell as hairs on his chasuble. The reply meant, "you shall be overpowered," and nothing more. The editor of the Tripartite inferred from the remark of St. Patrick about budging, that the reply had an antithetical meaning, but the inference was not correct.I alight on another instance. St. Patrick wished to establish a house in Assaroe, but was opposed by Coirbre " who sent two of his people to 'prevent him,'" gabail lama.

But a more crucial instance of the phrase occurs in page 156 of the Roll's Tripartite. Our saint wished to establish a house in Inishowen ; but Coelbad " prevented him in regard to it," gabail a laim ass, which the editor renders by "expelling thence." Now the addition of the word ass here, and not in the other instances, is translated by "thence." But surely we understand that when there is question of a person being in a place, and of his expulsion, the expulsion is from that place. The addition of the word ass then is unnecessary on the supposition that the phrase gabail lama in the other instances without it meant "expelling." I shall not dwell on another instance, in page 164, which has the same meaning ; and in these instances the word ass means not "thence" but "in regard to it."

That such is the meaning of ass, is very clearly brought out in page 163. It is there stated that our saint wished to take a place in Cell Glass, and (dlmotha do ass) "he was refused," according to Roll's editor, but properly and literally "it was refused to him in regard to it." The editor having no meaning for ass, but "thence," and seeing such a translation to be unmeaning, he did not translate it at all. The Irish word ass lends itself to various idiomatic phrases with which the learned editor is apparently not familiar. I hope now it may be admitted that the allusion to the detention of the boy's hand in St. Patrick's grave was not a mistranslation of the Irish, and that it establishes a belief in the writer of Vita Quarta as to the burial-place of St. Patrick in Saul.

Notwithstanding the political and social greatness to which Downpatrick had risen, and the comparative obscurity of Saul, there is evidence of its claim to St. Patrick's burialplace being recognised in succeeding ages. Thus, the Four Masters, under the year 1293, state that the relics of St. Bridget and Columkille were discovered with the remains of St. Patrick at Patrick's Saul. The discovery, witnessed by the Archbishop of Armagh, was accompanied by miraculous manifestations. The same statement is made in the Annals of Ulster. The fact remains, that at the end of the thirteenth century, we find solemn testimony, confirmatory of the statement made in the Book of Armagh, in the seventh century, in favour of Saul being the burial-place of St. Patrick.

Now, in reply to the several clear and natural statements made, without the aid of supernatural agency, in favour of Saul, what are we told ? This, that Saul meant Downpatrick, and that tenentem manum did not mean "holding the hand." And the proof in favour of the rival burialplace, of what is it composed? Merely of mystery, visions, and miracles ! That one angel was commissioned by another to send St. Patrick to him ; and the saint, having gone, was told by the angel from a flaming bush (a) that his death would be in Saul ; but, as a compensation to Armagh, that it should have primacy; (b) that there was to be no darkness for twelve days, or rather partial day for the rest of the year; that angels waked St. Patrick with vigil and psalmody during the first night, whilst all who came to the wake slept ; that oxen, yoked to the bier, were to be left to themselves to carry the corpse to the destined burial-place ; (c) that the rival provinces of Down and Armagh were kept from deadly fight by the swelling tide which became instinct with life ; that on the ebb of the tide the people of Armagh, fording the river, fancied they saw the bier carried on towards Armagh, till it disappeared at Cabcenne stream; that the corpse was to be buried, by angelic directions, seven feet deep in the earth ; that the relics should not be removed from the earth, but a church built over them; (d) and yet, that no person knew where was the burial-place : all this supplies material for the argument in favour of Downpatrick!

But I would offer a few hurried remarks (a) We are told in one place that St. Patrick went to the angel, but quite the contrary in the next page. (b) The primacy is said to have been given then to Armagh ; but it had been given, on as good authority, long before then to Armagh. (c) The angel directed a very practical direction that a church should be built where the oxen were to stop, over the corpse. What if they had not stirred from Saul, where there was a church, or moved to a place where there was already a church ? (d) It is strange that, as the Armagh people acknowledged the finger of God on the disappearance of the phantom bier, they paid no heed to the angel's directions, and were determined to give battle or have the corpse, (e) It is equally strange that a church directed by angels to be built, was undertaken only at the end of the seventh century. The narrator states that when a foundation for the church was being dug, quite recently ('novissimis temporibus'), flames issued from the grave. Does not this prove that the burial-place was known, notwithstanding the similarity to Moses ? Besides, the angel, in directing the building of a church, and directing that the delvers should sink the grave seven feet deep, must not have intended that the burial-place should be unknown. I may be told that a mistake in regard to Saul should rather be admitted than a whole cycle of miracles in defence of falsehood. Well, however unpleasant the fact, it must be admitted that unenlightened zeal or dishonest bias can sport with miracles for its own ends ; and the Book of Armagh affords ample proof of it in another passage.

The Book of the Angels tells its readers that an angel having tapped St. Patrick out of slumber, snatched from his long vigils, announced that God " gave him and to the diocese of Armagh all Ireland." The saint then is represented as deprecating such a large and unnecessary gift, because of receiving already a peculiar rent, given freely, though a debt ordained by God, from every free church, and as having no doubt that this debt would be decreed for the future bishops of Armagh by all cenobitical monasteries. What a caricature and profane libel this on the saint's disinterestedness! The writer ought to have remembered the Confession -

They have given me small voluntary gifts, and some of their ornaments upon the altar ; but I returned these to them, though they were displeased with me for so doing. But ... I wished to keep myself prudently in everything ... so that unbelievers may not, in my ministry, in the smallest point, have occasion to defame it."

But, perhaps, since I have baptized so many thousands, I may have accepted half a screapall. Tell it to me, and I will restore it. When the Lord ordained everywhere clergy, through my humble ministry, then if I asked the price of my shoe, tell it against me, and I will restore you more. I spent for you, that they may receive me."

In order to prop up the claims of Downpatrick, angels must commune with each other ; man had to abdicate the possession of his senses ; the brute beasts are brought to the scene to act their part ; and the waters became instinct with life " in digging deep valleys, while, at the same time, piercing the air" as a barrier against contending provinces. Heaven and earth are moved, with their inhabitants, in order to neutralize an historical and the earliest statement in favour of Saul. This simple and natural statement, in striking contrast to its contradictory, tells us that our saint, overtaken by the sickness of death at Saul, was there buried. Saul was his first love, the scene of his first missionary success, and the closing scene of his divinely-favoured apostolate. The alleged signs and wonders in connection with the burial resemble others on which, before the present, I had to observe that their extravagance appeared in proportion to the evidence of the falsehood in support of which they appeared to be manufactured. Downpatrick possessed nothing in fact, in association, in prophecy, not even a church, suggestive of a burial-place. Neither the glory of God, so far as it is allowed us to raise a corner of the mysterious veil, nor edification of man called for Divine interposition on the occasion. As to the dying wish of the saint, it certainly did not lean to Downpatrick, nor probably, notwithstanding the repeated and accentuated assurances to the contrary in the Book of Armagh, to Armagh; for his wish on such a matter would be an absolute command; and as to a chosen spot, "all Ireland was given to him as his diocese."

It was only natural, then, in the circumstances that the great high priest, the glorious national apostle, would lie where he fell; and, if it were not natural, it would be a matter of indifference to him who, in his extreme old age, had to say :

" I daily expect murder, or to be circumvented, or reduced to slavery, or to a mishap of some kind . . . And if ever I have imitated anything good on account of my God, Whom I love, I pray Him to grant me that, with those proselytes and captives, I may pour out my blood for His name's sake, even though I may be deprived of burial, and my corpse most miserably be torn limb from limb by dogs or wild beasts, or birds of the air should devour it."

In conclusion: the alleged angelic direction in regard to the burial of St. Patrick in Down, and to the church to be built over him, is still further proved to be false by the fact that law and custom forbade any person in the fifth century to be buried in a church, or a church to be built over him, unless he was a martyr.


IER, vol 15, 1895 341-351

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.