Tuesday 9 June 2020

Apostle of Scotland and Patron of Ireland

Today is the feast of Saint Colum Cille and to mark the occasion I reprint below a newspaper article from 1905.  The author, who signs himself only as 'J.B.', presents a picture of Saint Colum Cille as an all-conquering heroic figure who is not just a great saint but also a great patriot. Indeed the land of Ireland, from which he now lives in exile, is so holy that the very breezes which blow there were like 'Zephyrs of Paradise' to him. The article is thus very typical of the romantic, nationalist view of Ireland and its saints found at this time. It packs in many of the tropes from Columban hagiography and ends with a prayer from the liturgy. May I wish everyone the blessings of our tertiary patron's feast!

Saint Columbkille.

Saint Columba Abbot, Prince, Priest, Apostle of Scotland, and Patron of Ireland, was born at Gartan, in the County Donegal, in the year 521, and died at Iona in the year 595. "He was," says Alban Butler, "one of the greatest Patriarchs of the Monastic Order in Ireland, and the Apostle of the Picts". He was surnamed Columbkille from the great number of Monastic Cells of which he was the founder. "Columba," said St. Fintan, "is not to be compared with philosophers and learned men, but with Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles. The Holy Ghost reigns in him; He has been chosen by God for the good of all. He is a sage among sages, a king among kings, an anchorite with anchorites, a monk of monks."

He was forty-three years old before he left Ireland for Iona, and in the meantime, according to Usher, he founded a hundred Monasteries. According to O'Donnell he founded as many as three hundred. "Venerated at home for his sanctity and wondrous miracles," writes Cardinal Moran, "he is ranked with St. Patrick and St. Bridget amongst the chief patrons of Ireland, whilst abroad the grateful piety of those whom he evangelised has awarded him the aureola of Chief Apostle of Caledonia. It is true that many years before the Mission of Columba others had preached the faith in Dalriada and the southern districts of Alba, but in consequence of continual wars and predatory incursions piety had again grown cold, and the light of truth was well nigh spent. He it was that revived there the spirit of piety, and renewed the fervor of Christian life. The Northern Picts, however, had never yet received the Gospel; but now that sanguinary and untameable race, which Imperial Rome could not subdue, was conquered by the Irish missionary. Before St. Columba elided his glorious career the whole nation was gathered into tho one true fold. Their glens and forests, their almost inaccessible mountains, and their distant islands were studded with Christian Churches and Monasteries, and resounded with the praise of the Most High. Pict and Scot hailed him with the utmost enthusiasm, regarding him as an angel in human form. His shining virtues won the admiration of all, for he rejoiced with them that rejoiced and wept with them that wept. He was a great Saint and a great Patriot, entering deeply and warmly into everything that affected the weal of Clan Nial or the honor of Erin. The very breezes that blow on the fair hills of holy Ireland were, to him like the Zephyrs of Paradise, and all his life he retained for Ireland the passionate tenderness of an exile. "Death," he said, "In faultless Ireland is better than life without end in Albyn." "Young traveller,'" he exclaims to a monk revisiting Ireland, "take my heart with thee and my blessing. Carry my blessing across the sea. If death should come upon me suddenly it will be because of my great love of the Gael." The birds that winged their flight across he took up tenderly, caressed, and fed until they were able to return to sweet Ireland, where they were born.

A great consolation was vouchsafed to him in a vision, and he foretold that long years after his death his remains should be conveyed across the sea and deposited in the same tomb with Saints Patrick and Bridget. "They shall bury me first in Iona, but by the will of the living God it is in Down that I shall rest in my grave with Patrick and Bridget, the spotless." Three bodies in one grave, and so it happened. From an old Latin poem we learn that in Down "Three Saints one grave do fill, Patrick, Bridget, and Columkille." Deeply as he loved his native land Columba was satisfied with his cell of exile, his stone pillar, his meagre food, his almost superhuman labor and austerities.

When he left Ireland and settled in Iona he was then in the prime of life. Twelve companions, amongst them two first cousins and an uncle, accompanied him in his voyage. For 30 years after he was the legislator and the Captain of Christianity In those Northern regions. The King of the Picts received baptism at his hands. The kings of the Scottish Colony, his kinsmen, received the Crown from him on their accession, to the Throne. The islet of Iona was presented to him by one of these Princes. Here he and his companions built with their own hands their parent house, and from this Hebridean Rock in after times was shaped the temporal and spiritual destinies of many tribes and kingdoms. Formed by his teaching and example there went out from it Apostles to Iceland, to the Orkneys, to Northumbria, to Man, and to South Britain. A hundred Monasteries in Ireland looked to him as their Patriarch. His rule of monastic life was sought for by chiefs, bards, and converted druids. Clients seeking direction from his wisdom or protection  through his power were constantly arrlving or departing from his sacred isle. He had the gift of seeing men's souls— how they stood before God. On one occasion he foretold to his brethren the immediate arrival of a Pictish Chief, who was very aged, who had preserved intact the laws of nature, and who was now coming to receive the grace of faith and baptism, after which would follow a happy death. Soon the skiff arrived, the chief came ashore, and all else happened as foretold.

Like all great saints he was severe to himself and indulgent to others. His activity was incessant. Not a single hour of the day did he leave unoccupied without engaging either in prayer or in reading, or in writing, or in some other work. His fastings and watchings also were unwearied.  From his boyhood (according to his cousin, St. Adamnan) he had been brought up under Christian training in the study of wisdom, and by the grace of God he so preserved his body and the purity of his soul that though dwelling on earth he appeared to live like the Saints in heaven. He was angelic in appearance, graceful in speech, holy in work, with talents of the highest order, and consummate prudence. Ho was beloved by all for a holy joyousness ever beaming on his countenance revealed the joy and gladness with which the Holy Spirit filled his inmost soul.

 The Commentator of the Feilire of Aengus describes his appearance as that of a man well-formed, with a powerful frame. His skin was white, his face was broad and fair and radiant, lit up with large grey luminous eyes. His large and well-shaped head was crowned, except where he wore his frontal tonsure, with close and curling hair. His voice was clear and resonant so that he could be heard at the distance of fifteen hundred paces, yet sweet with more than the sweetness of the bards. His father, Feidlam, was descended from one of the eight sons of the great Niall of the Nine Hostages, who was Supreme Monarch of Ireland from the year 379 to 406, and his mother, Ethnea, belonged to the Royal family of Leinster. An old life of the Saint states that he was offered the Throne of Leinster and refused to accept it.

Before his death St. Columkille paid one visit to his beloved Ireland and made a comparatively long stay. At length he returned to Iona, where far into the evening of life he waited for his summons to the beatific vision. Death found him at the ripe age of almost eighty years stylus in hand tolling cheerfully over the vellum page. It was the last night of the week when the presentiment of his end came strongly upon him. "This day," he said to his disciple and successor Dermid, "Is called the day of rest, and such it will be for me, for it will finish my labors." Laying down the manuscript he added, "Let Baithen finish the rest."Just after Matins on the Sunday morning he peacefully passed away in the midst of his brethren. His feast is kept on tho 9th of June, and on Tuesday last the Church addressed to him the following prayer in which She wished her children to join :— "Let the intercession of the Blessed Abbot Columba, we beseech Thee, Oh Lord, commend us to Thee, that what by our own merits we are unworthy to receive we may obtain by his patronage, through Christ our Lord. Amen." J. B.

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2020. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

The Story of Saint Patrick - A Legend in Verse

To celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, below is a poem describing his life by a nineteenth-century priest ministering to an Irish expatriate congregation working in the heavy industries of England. The introductory paragraph tells us that the writer, Father George Montgomery, wanted to foster devotion to Ireland's patron among the young and so adopted the form of street ballads, then popular in industrial towns and cities. Father Montgomery was an interesting character, this blog tells us that he was a convert from Protestantism in the heady days of the Tractarian movement. This perhaps explains his desire to emphasize in the poem that Saint Patrick had Papal approval for his mission. So on this day, let's honour the memory of this hard-working Black Country priest as well as that of our hard-working patron, Saint Patrick, as we enjoy The Story of Saint Patrick - A Legend in Verse:



The Story of S. Patrick.

A Legend in Verse, by the late Rev. G. Montgomery, of Wednesbury.

[The following story, in verse, of the life of S. Patrick, here given in a somewhat abridged shape, was written in moments of leisure snatched from the laborious duties of a missionary priest, placed in the heart of the mining and iron-working district of South Staffordshire. Its writer had in view mainly the instruction of the young of his flock, to whom he wished a knowledge of the history of the Patron Saint of their native country to become a household possession. The better, as he thought, to secure this end, he has given his lines the form of the popular ballads often heard in the streets, sung or recited by ballad street-singers. We ask a prayer, for the honour of S. Patrick, for the repose of the writer’s soul, who is now passed away from the scene of his former labours by a death accelerated through the cares and troubles of his mission.]

Patrick, our Erin’s famous saint, the subject of this lay.
Was born in greater Brittany, the Church’s lessons say;
Nigh years three hundred and threescore from that great day of mirth,
When Angels sang the Saviour born, we date Saint Patrick’s birth.

He had not sixteen summers seen, when, lo, a pirate band,
Ruthless, on deeds of plunder bent, approached Taburnia’s strand.
Then, marching from their mooring place, by a bold captain led,
They to Taburnia’s peaceful homes with evil purpose sped.

They sacked the homes, they swept the fields, they bore the youths away;
They captured, with his sisters twain, our Patrick on that day.
They put to sea, this heathen crew, they gained the Irish soil;
They spread themselves along the beach, and there displayed their spoil.

A wealthy chieftain came to buy, to him was Patrick sold,
But what befel the little maids the legends have not told.
We trust that God, at Patrick’s prayer, took up the children dear,
To be in joy with Saints above, safe from distress or fear.

The steward of Saint Patrick’s lord now sent the lad to keep,
Upon a far wild pasturage, his master’s flock of sheep.
There, heedless of the frost and snow, and of the driving rain,
He rose before the light to pray upon the open plain.

He for his people did deplore, that they in sin were found,
Whereby their homes had been despoiled and they in exile bound.
For he who loves, the Scripture saith, shall pardon crave for sin,
And so did Patrick’s prayer avail the souls of men to win.

Now Patrick, by decree of God, was soon at large to be,
Yet twice again was captive ta’en, and twice again set free.
Thus oft was he by sorrow tried, as gold is tried in fire,
That from his heart God’s love might burn as dross all base desire.

For God had chosen him to teach, and by his zeal to save,
The very Pagan race with whom he once had lived a slave.
But he who goes the faith to preach, should be with knowledge fraught,
So Patrick humbly went to those by whom he might be taught.

He crossed to Gaul, he visited the great Saint Martin there,
And studied long with Saint Germain, the Bishop of Auxerre.
He learned all holy discipline, and piously he took
Most earnest care to be well versed in knowledge of God’s book.

But Patrick knew that ere he sought the heathen’s hearts to move,
He must commission have from Rome, at Rome his faith approve.
For Christ on Peter built His Church, surnaming him The Rock:
To Peter gave the keys, and said, “ Thou, Simon, feed My Flock.”

And every Christian ought to know that in the See of Rome
Peter doth ever live and speak, and ever hath a home.
So thither Patrick bent his steps, and found of Peter’s line
The prince who sat on Peter’s Throne, by name Pope Celestine.

This holy Pope he caused our Saint awhile in Rome to bide,
Then with full power he sent him forth a Legate from his side.
With holy haste our Saint proceeds unto Hibernia’s shore,
Eager to bless the land he loved, and gift it from God’s store.

’Twas on a glorious Easter Day, at Tara’s famous hall,
Saint Patrick met the Irish king, the bards and chieftains all.
“I come,” quoth he, “a humble man, the strong and proud to face.
In the Name of the Blest Trinity to bring you truth and grace.

"Let God arise, and let His foes scattered before Him be;
Let them that hate Him, like thin smoke, at His bright presence flee.”
Chanting these words the Saint dispersed the demons of the air,
Who then, with purpose fell, swarmed in the Court of Leogaire.

And God was with Saint Patrick’s work, and blessed all that he wrought,
Whereby the champion gained at last the prize for which he fought.
The people flocked to be baptised; pastors o’er all the land
Were consecrated and ordained by Patrick’s own right hand.

To many maids and widows, too, he gave the sacred veil,
And gathered them in order due within Religion’s pale.
And by the right he had from Rome, our Saint made this decree.
That in the city of Armagh the primate’s chair should be.

Thus he who once as slave did keep a farmer’s fleecy flock,
As Prelate great for Christ did fold the faithful Irish flock.
And God in mercy granted him before his course was run,
To see his loved Hibernia for Christ and Mary won.

Satan since then has often tried, with all his force and guile,
To seize again the land he lost when Patrick blessed our isle.
But quite in vain are all his wiles to change her steadfast will,
For Ireland's heart unfailing cleaves to God and Mary still.

And Erin’s faith hath well withstood the scoffer's biting gibe,
The scaffold, sword, and prison cell, and often-proffered bribe.
So let all pray that in this land, this holy faith may last,
By virtue of Saint Patrick’s prayer, till time itself is past.

The Monthly Magazine Of The Holy Rosary; Under The Direction Of The Dominican Fathers, Volume 1, 1872-1873, 211-214.

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

Saturday 1 February 2020

The Mary of the Gael

Today to celebrate the Feast of Saint Brigid we have an account of our national patroness from the 1920s which was among a stash of interesting historical pieces I discovered at the online collections of the National Library of Australia.  It seems that the Australian press syndicated articles from the religious press around the world - the one below originated in the Catholic Pictorial, a publication I am unfamiliar with. The article is unattributed but the author has brought together the usual mix of modern poetry and episodes from medieval hagiography to present an edifying portrait of Saint Brigid and her meaning for the Irish people. It would have readily translated to the Irish diaspora in Australia where the presence of the redoubtable Patrick Francis, Cardinal Moran, as Archbishop of Sydney from 1884 to 1911, had resulted in his securing a relic of Saint Brigid for his adopted country. So, whether you are in Ireland or Australia or anywhere else in the world marking Lá Fhéile Bríde, Beannachtaí na Féile ort!


The Mary of the Gael.

The beauty of the King hath set thy soul on
A radiant rapture glows with thy eyes, thy
soul's desire
Leans up in ecstasy unto the angels' choir,
The beauty of the King hath set thy soul on

The beauty of the King hath caught and
chained thy heart.
No one, no one on earth can tear thy soul
From the great glowing love that binds thee
to His Heart,

The very fibres of thy soul are love, should love depart
Life too must fly with it.
 Thou livest in His Heart,
The beauty of the King hath caught and chained thy heart.

The beauty of the King hath set thy soul on flame,
A wondrous gladness brims within thy heart.
His sacred Name
Is honey to the lips which eagerly proclaim
The wonders of His love which set thy soul
on flame.

After the name of the glorious Apostle St. Patrick, there is none so dear to the hearts of the scattered Gael as that of St. Brigid. Saints and poets have sung her praises down the centuries, and bestowed on her the glorious title of 'Mary of the Gael.'

Faughart, near Dundalk, in the County of Louth, claims the honor of being her birthplace. Her parents were born Christians and descendants of the Kings of Ireland. From the beginning it was quite plain that Brigid was a child of grace, and that God had marked her out for some wonderful career.

She was instructed by St. Mel and made great progress in virtue, and in the love of God. By degrees she came to understand the vanity of earthly things, and the supreme importance of laboring for a heavenly inheritance. Looking up to Heaven one day the child said, 'This shall be mine,' and her life was one long effort to attain it.

When she made known her determination to leave the world and consecrate her life to God, all were against her. Her father and brothers were angry, and Brigid was sorely persecuted and tried. At the age of sixteen she said farewell to family and friends,' and accompanied by seven companions, received the religious1 veil from the hands of St. Macaille. This holy Bishop was their master in the spiritual life, and he took an interest in their temporal welfare and built a convent for them.

When the great day of their profession came, Brigid ,and her companions knelt before their humble altar to make their vows to the King of Kings. At that hour we are told that a bright light shone round our saint proclaiming her sanctity and her religious destiny as the light of Ireland. Her fame spread far and wide, and number of holy maidens came to join her Community. The time was at hand when she could go forth through the land to assist and console the heart of Ireland's aged apostle.

Holy Recollection.

It would be a mistake to think that in her external labors, she forgot for a moment the recollection and devotion of a consecrated religious life. Her miracles and works were extraordinary, but her constant union with God was still more wonderful. She herself confessed to St. Brendan, 'The Son of the Virgin knoweth that from the hour I set my mind on God I never took it from Him.'

Though a shining example of all virtues, mercy and love of the poor and suffering were the chief characteristics of her life. One day the Bishop gave a beautiful discourse on the Beatitudes. Each of the sisters chose one for a special devotion. Brigid herself chose mercy.

Every page of her life testifies to her love for the afflicted of all kinds, and most of her miracles were worked in favor of the poor. With good reason one of our modern poets writes: —

'O Saint thou favorite of the poor,
The wretched, weak and weary,
Like Mary's was the face she bore,
Men called her 'Erin's Mary.'

In her lowliness and humility she washed the feet of lepers and travelled far and wide to release poor captives. Her sweetness and pity softened and charmed all, and every prison door was opened to her. Her apostolic labors extended over the four provinces, and everywhere she succeeded in founding convents. In these the young women were taught everything necessary to make them worthy of a new Christian nation.

What she loved herself she and her nuns taught to others, namely, constant piety, early rising and hospitality. St. Brigid was offered many suitable places for her foundation. Soon one was chosen, and there amid great rejoicings her church and convent were commenced. A giant oak spread out its strong branches to protect as it were the little Community that now nestled in its shade. Hence the name of that ever-glorious foundation Kildare — 'The church of the Oak.'

Like that giant oak, Brigid's monastic settlement beginning in this humble way, grew in beauty and strength mid storm and shine. Kildare grew to be a great school from which went forth teachers to Ireland, England and Scotland.

Great masters assembled at Kildare to teach science and art, and while students learned these, they also drank in virtue and piety. Besides St. Patrick, to whom Brigid was a most dear child, there were many other illustrious saints and bishops who were united to her in the closest friendships and often came to ask her wise counsel.

She assisted at the death-bed of St. Patrick. At his desire she had made his winding-sheet and brought it with her to wrap round his holy body.

After his death St. Brigid redoubled her efforts in the interests of the Irish Church, and worn out with labors she breathed forth her, pure soul to God on the first day of February, 525, at the age of eighty-seven.

Though many centuries of storm and strife have passed over the Irish race since the land was hallowed by the footsteps of St. Brigid, still her holy life and example are daily producing fruit in the Church. To-day thousands of the daughters of Erin are giving up, as she did, friends, home and country to carry on the glorious apostolate begun so long ago under the great oak at Kildare.

—'Catholic Pictorial.'

ST. BRIGID. (1926, December 16). Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW: 1850 - 1932), p. 47. Retrieved December 19, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116780642

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