Thursday 23 March 2023

Saint Patrick's Staff of Jesus

In 2018 I posted a series of posts on one of the most famous of all of the relics associated with Saint Patrick - the
Bachall Ísu (Íosa), or Staff of Jesus. Below is a reminder of the story of how the Irish patron came to acquire Christ's staff, published in the American journal The Pilgrim of Our Lady of Martyrs in 1889:

WHEN the young St. Patrick escaped to Gaul after his second term of captivity in Ireland, he heard in spirit the Irish people crying to him from the woods of Tirawley, in Mayo: " "We beseech thee, holy youth, to come and walk amongst us and set us free."

Come, holy one, long preordained!
For thee the swans of Lir are singing;
Come from the morning, orient-stained,
Thy Mass-bell thro' our valleys ringing.

Man of the hooded hosts, arise!
Physician, lo! our souls lie dying —
Hear o'er the seas our piteous cries,
On thee and on thy God relying.  [1]

Moved by their spiritual wants, the devout youth at once began his studies to prepare himself for holy orders.

In the course of these studies, St. Patrick travelled much in France and Italy and the islands of the Mediterranean. He stopped longest, perhaps, at the noble monastery of Lerins, shortly after the death of its founder, the great St. Honoratus,  and here he received his celebrated "Staff of Jesus."

He had had a vision in which an angel told him to repair to this island, and visit a holy recluse named Justus who was living there — doubtless the same as the Bishop Justus who assisted at the Synod of Arles in 450. St. Patrick eagerly sought him out, and noticed, by the way, that in a certain part of the island lived a number of devout men, some of whom were in the bloom of health while others were quite old and decrepit. Justus, he learned, had formerly been the leader of these men, but for some years latterly had retired apart for greater security in his heavenly meditations.

"Hail, servant of God!" exclaimed St. Patrick, on finally meeting the hermit at the door of his cell; "the peace of Christ be with thee!"

For a moment Justus looked astonished, and then, raising his hands in joy to heaven, cried: " Thanks be to God! Thou art Patrick, a messenger of Jesus Christ. Long, long have I awaited thy coming."

The two Saints spent some hours in spiritual conversation, hardly noticing the flight of time, so wrapt were they in God, when the deep shadows of evening began to fall about them. Hereupon Justus arose and begged St. Patrick to enter his cell and join him in his repast of cool spring-water and bread seasoned with a few small herbs.

"But stay, good brother," said St. Patrick ; "who has told thee my name ?"

"As we take our meal, I will tell thee," answered Justus, and as soon as they were seated he told him this story:

"My brethren whom you have seen," he said, "and I were from our youth, which was many, many years ago, devoted to works of charity. Our doors were always open, and no stranger sought our help in the name of Christ and went his way unaided. So it fell out, one night, that a footsore pilgrim asked us for food and shelter. He bore a long staff in his hand, and seemed to have come a long journey. We received him with warmest hospitality, putting him no curious questions and giving him the best that our means afforded.

"He seemed grateful, and on the morrow arose with a smiling face to depart; but, as we gathered round him to bid him adieu, a sudden transformation came over him. His garments turned white as snow, and his face radiant, though softer than the sun. A heavenly fragrance was diffused about him. We gazed at him only once, awe-stricken, and fell upon our knees in adoration. It was Christ Jesus whom we had sheltered.

" 'Fear not,' He said in the gentlest accents, you have received your God in person this time, to reward you for the thousand times you received the poor and the sick and the tired in His name. And thou, Justus,' He said, bending over me, receive My staff and keep it till, after long years from now, there come to thee a pious pilgrim named Patrick. Give it to him, for he shall have a mighty mission to perform for Me.' So saying, our Lord ascended into the clouds before us. Ever since that day, we have retained our youthfulness and vigour, while our children who then were only infants have grown decrepit with age. As soon as I saw thee, my brother, I knew that thou wast Patrick, and, lo! I fetch thee thy staff."

St. Patrick humbly knelt to receive the heavenly gift, which he regarded as a divine symbol of his call to preach the faith in Ireland. After lingering some days with Justus, he set out to throw himself at the feet of the Sovereign Pontiff, St. Celestine I.

Many were the miracles wrought by the sacred staff, and even the great St. Bernard tells us, in his life of St. Malachy, that in his own day it was held in highest esteem by the Irish as a venerable relic of their Apostle. A charter of Henry III., now preserved in the British Museum, confers "a Knight's Fee, at Inistioge, on John Comyn, Archbishop of Dublin, for guardianship of the Staff of Jesus."

But by and by thieves broke into the fold of Christ. The precious relics of Irish faith fared ill at their hands, and Browne, the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, impiously ordered the sacred Staff of Jesus to be publicly burned with many other relics in High Street.

[1] From Thomas Darcy M'Gee's St. Patrick's Dream. 

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2018. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment