Sunday 19 March 2017

Did Saint Patrick Fund His Own Mission to Ireland?

We continue the series of posts in honour of Saint Patrick with a look at another of the questions raised by Dáibhí Ó Cróinín - did he, at least in part, fund his own mission to Ireland? Yesterday we saw that Patrick, then back in Britain, recorded a nocturnal vision in which he first read and then heard 'The Voice of the Irish' entreating him to come and walk again among them. Yet he also makes it clear that he did not act immediately on this plea. Indeed, as he says in section 28 of his Confessio 'I did not proceed to Ireland of my own accord until I was nearly worn out'.  In his writings Saint Patrick makes reference to the elders (seniores) and to Ó Cróinín:
The implication of his that Patrick's activities were, in part at any rate, sponsored (and perhaps also subsidised) by some senior churchmen in Britain. But he appears also to have provided his own financial resources for the undertaking, since he remarks in the Letter (s.10) that he had sold his noble rank (uendidi enim nobilitatem meam), which appears to mean that he sold off his parental estate.  
 Ó Cróinín then goes on to speculate that this may perhaps also explain the long delay in Patrick's return to Ireland:
Patrick may have been an only child...nowhere does he mention siblings. If he were the sole heir to his father's properties, Patrick could very well have sold them off to pay for his Irish mission. And if that were the case, it would explain too the long delay before his return to Ireland, for he may have had to wait until his parents had passed on before the opportunities provided by his inheritance gave him the necessary spur to return to Ireland.

Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, 'Saint Patrick', in A .J. Hughes and W. Nolan, eds., Armagh: History and Society - Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County (Dublin, 2001), 52-53.

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