Friday, 24 March 2023

Saint Patrick's Confessions

Bringing the series of posts in honour of Saint Patrick to a close on the octave of his feast day with another Australian newspaper offering, an 1884 article quoting his Confession, although the writer refers to Confessions in the plural. I have always found it a truly wonderful thing that we are able to hear the voice of our patron saint, 'a unique voice from the dawn of Irish history' as one modern scholar puts it, through his own writings. As Philip Freeman notes in his 2005 book Saint Patrick of Ireland - a Biography:

Patrick's letters were restricted to those who read Latin until the nineteenth century, when the first English translations appeared. In the last hundred years more than a dozen editions of the letters have been published. In spite of this proliferation, the writings of Patrick are poorly known to this day. Everyone has heard of Saint Patrick, of course, but the man most people know is little more than an icon who drove the snakes out of Ireland. This lack of knowledge about the real Patrick is truly regrettable, because he has such an amazing story to tell: a tale of slavery and brutality, pain and self-doubt, sorrow and constant struggle, but ultimately of perseverance, hope and faith. His letters, in the end, remain as a remarkable gift from an extraordinary man.

 Let's hope that in the twenty-first century we too can begin to rediscover and truly appreciate this remarkable gift:


Some years before his death, St. Patrick, the Irish apostle, wrote his confessions. The following extracts from this invaluable document will show the state of the writer's mind, and the spirit in which he left the world :— 

"You know," says he to the Irish people, "and God knows, what kind of behaviour I have had with you from my youth, in the belief of the truth, and in the sincerity of my heart. Moreover, in every province where I have been, I have made known my faith unto the people, and will make it known. God knows that I have defrauded none of them, nor have I stirred up any one against them through all our persecutions, lest on my account the name of the Lord might be blasphemed. When I had baptized so many thousands of the people, I might, perhaps, have expected from some of them a small compensation. Tell me if I have received aught, and I will pay it back. Or when I have ordained ministers, if I have asked from any of them even the price of a pair of shoes, tell me, and I will return to you more than I have received. And now I recommend my soul to God, who faithful, for Whom, in reproach, I have performed this mission. I pray God that He may give unto me perseverance, that I may bear for Him a faithful testimony until my transition to my God. This sun which we now see, by the help of God will rise for us every day; but he will never reign, neither will his splendor be lasting. But we believe in the worship of the true Sun, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who will never pass away; Who made all things by His own will, and shall remain for ever. He reigns with God the Father Omnipotent, and with the Holy Spirit, before the worlds were, now, and will reign through all ages of ages. Amen."

SAINT PATRICK'S CONFESSIONS, South Australian Weekly Chronicle, April 19, 1884.

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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. 

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Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Saint Patrick's Ink

As an old-school researcher I write out all my notes for the blog in longhand using a fountain pen and rather enjoy experimenting with different types and colours of ink. I was therefore pleased to find the following 1895 article with the intriguing title of 'Saint Patrick's Ink'. It pays tribute to the skill of those monastic scribes and scholars who produced the Irish illuminated manuscripts. The article is taken from the newspaper collection of the National Library of Australia, whose online TROVE resource is indeed well-named:


It is impossible to read the most ancient histories of the Irish saints without noticing how large a part books play in their lives.

In the library some cut the sheets of parchment, or even sewed together in the neatest way the odd shreds, for the monk must not waste the gifts of God, especially when they are rare and dear. They polished it on one side until it was smooth and laid it near the scribe. Others prepared the peculiar thick inks of the Irish writers, very much like varnish, in different colours. The red was the most beautiful, and after one thousand years it yet shines as the day it was first used. It was got from a kind of cockles collected on the seashore. Then there were black and green and golden inks, used in various thicknesses by the illuminators and the artists in miniature.

All these inks will resist chemicals that corrode iron. The ink was placed in thin, conic glasses attached either to the side of the desk or to the chair, sometimes to the girdle of the writer, often fixed to the end of a pointed stick placed upright in the ground, it is owing to this peculiar skill in making ink that so many of the old Irish manuscripts nave come down to us. They were like the cloth of corduroy — unless cut or burned up they were bound to last for ages — and are an eloquent symbol of that tenacious love of learning and that unquenchable faith which the hand of Patrick wrote in characters ineradicable on the very soul, in the very blood and innermost marrow of the Irish race.

"SAINT PATRICK'S INK." Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 - 1955) 16 February 1895: 1 (The Ovens and Murray Advertiser Supplement). <>.


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Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Hymn to Saint Patrick

Another stirring patriotic hymn to Saint Patrick, this time from 1884. The author was the then vice-president of Thurles College, an institution first established as a school in 1837 but which later became a seminary. It is still in existence today as Mary Immaculate College and the campus retains many of its splendid nineteenth-century buildings. It is obvious from Father Arthur Ryan's hymn that he is writing in the heady days of the Irish national revival. Saint Patrick is referred to as a 'patriot saint' who champions faith and fatherland and has stood by the Irish people as they battled for their freedom. It may be that in his sense that 'morn is breaking', the author is anticipating the First Home Rule Bill of 1886 and he ends with a prayer that free from the chains of sin, he may be laid in 'a freeman's grave', an aspiration with a political as well as a spiritual dimension:


THE following beautiful hymn, from the pen of the Rev. A. Ryan, vice-president , The College, Thurles, is taken from his lately published novena to St. Patrick :—

Hail, glorious saint of Ireland! We,
Thy children, raise our song to thee;
Defend our land, and make her free
From sin and Satan's tyranny.

Defend thy sons from every foe;
Strike thou, O patriot saint! the blow 
For faith and fatherland; and woe
To all who seek their overthrow!

As reptiles fled thy staff before, 
May viperous discords flee our shore, 
And strife and folly join no more 
To wreck our hope and rob our store. 

In the darkest night, by tempests torn, 
The bark of Erin rode forlorn: 
Then wert thou by, to cheer and warn; 
Now, lo! the radiance of the morn. 
Yes, morn is breaking, father dear — 
The Eastern skies are bright and clear; 
Thou wert our star through midnight drear, 
In noontide's peril still be near. 
Be near to guide the patriot's hand, 
Be near to make our people stand 
A fearless, true, united band. 
For freedom, faith, and fatherland. 
Oh! guard our Irish loyalty  
To all that's justly, nobly free, 
To powers that rule by God's decree, 
To Church, to country, and to thee. 
Saint Patrick, may thy banner wave 
Triumphant o'er the enfranchised slave; 
From chains of sin thy suppliant save, 

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Monday, 20 March 2023

Of Irish Interest: Hymn to St Patrick

Although in recent days I have been looking at the grave site of Saint Patrick in Down, the cause of our national apostle has always been championed by Armagh, Ireland's seat of ecclesiastical authority. The city's historic Saint Patrick's cathedral was appropriated by the new state church at the time of the Reformation, so it was not until after Catholic Emancipation was achieved in 1829 that the building of a Catholic cathedral could commence. The foundation stone was laid on Saint Patrick's Day in 1840 and work continued until 1873 when the cathedral was dedicated and opened. Michael, Cardinal Logue (1887-1924), continued work on the interior of the building, which was rededicated and reopened in 1904, and below is the text of a hymn which was sung on that occasion. It was published in the American Catholic newspaper The Sacred Heart Review in its 'Of Irish interest' column aimed at the large expatriate community of Boston. The sentiments of the hymn mirror those of similar compositions of the time, and interestingly this one was also translated into Irish:
Of Irish Interest.
A notable feature of the exercises incident to the rededication and reopening of the Armagh Cathedral, the other day, was the "Hymn to St. Patrick" originally written by the Rev. G. O'Neill, S. J., and translated into Irish by Tadhg O'Donoghue. The Irish words were sung in unison by the choir, the tune being an ancient Irish air of extreme beauty which had been adapted to them, and which fitted the hymn as happily as if they had been composed for each other. The Hymn in English is as follows; —
Dear Apostle, blessed Patrick, faithful lover of our land; 
Thou so tender in compassion, in thy fortitude so grand, 
See thy children gathered round thee, let thy heart be opened wide 
To the voice of their appealing; be our father and our guide. 
At thy word the pagan island blossomed red and blossomed white,
As a garden of God's pleasure, in the dawning of the light; 
And the evil spirits fleeing from each holy rite and prayer 
Left to Jesus and to Mary evermore that land so fair. 
Blessed Patron, make us faithful, as thy martyr sons of old; 
Loving still the Church, our Mother, with an ardent love and bold. 
Make us wise to battle Satan in his cunning and his might; 
Give us strength to conquer sorrow, give the scorn of base delight. 
O  console our drooping courage, as we battle day by day 
'Gainst the world and its beguiling and our hearts that still betray; 
Let thy prayer, on earth so mighty, be our aid till peril cease, 
Till we hail thee in the gladness of the everlasting peace!

The Sacred Heart Review, Volume 32, Number 7, 13 August 1904, p.13.

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Sunday, 19 March 2023

Saint Patrick's Grave

Following yesterday's 1882 newspaper article lamenting the sorry state of the reputed grave of Saint Patrick at Downpatrick, County Down, today we have a description of the restored site as unveiled in 1900. The project was spearheaded by Belfast Presbyterian solicitor and leading Celtic Revivalist, Francis Joseph Bigger (1863-1926). We can see the influence of the Celtic Revival in Bigger's choice of inscription and of the cross. Why he chose a cross from Lough Ree, on the Shannon, is unclear to me, as is his decision to carve the name of Patric alone and omit his fellow Irish patrons Saint Brigid and Saint Colum Cille. For the tradition was that all three of the Irish patrons shared a common grave. Doubtless those visitors who came to the spot read in their guidebooks the rhyme 'Three saints in Down one grave do fill, Patrick, Brigid and Colum Cille' but now it was Patrick alone who would be remembered at the site. The renovations of 1900 were certainly an improvement on what had gone before but below is a picture of the grave as it looks today, with a tarmac walkway and a cobblestone border.


To all Irishmen, both at Home and abroad, it will be of interest (says the Irish Weekly) to hear that the reputed grave of St. Patrick in the Cathedral yard at Downpatrick has been put in order, and marked with a lasting memorial placed there after much thought and at considerable expense. It is unique of its class, and will be another distinctively attractive feature to the many remarkable historical remains in the immediate vicinity of Downpatrick. Visitors to the spot will not be shocked to find the site of the grave marked only by a few broken stones and a rugged hole scraped in the earth with nothing distinctive to record the name of him who did so much to spread Christianity throughout the land, and whose remains are believed to be here interred The memorial stone is a rough weather-broken boulder of granite weighing about seven tons, taken from the mountain side of Slieve-na-Largie, near Castlewellan, where it rested at a height of 600 feet above the sea. Upon the upper surface of this boulder has been incised an Irish cross, faithfully reproduced from one cut on an equally rough, unhewn stone found on Inisclearaun, one of the islands of Lough Ree, on the Shannon, and not far from Clonmaonoise. Here St. Dairmid founded big famous ecclesiastical settlement about the middle of the sixth century. The name 'Patric' has also been cut in Irish characters copied from the earliest known Celtic manuscripts. This simple, but massive, treatment is considered to be a near approach to the form of a grave slab, which would have been used about the fifth century— the date of the Saint's death. The movement for the erection of the monument was initiated by the editor of The Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Belfast. The supervision of the work was entrusted to Mr. W. F. Fennel, M.R.I.A., architect, and excellently carried out by the Messrs. Hastings, of Downpatrick, who also so carefully restored the ancient town cross of Downpatrick, under the same auspices, a few years ago.

ST. PATRICK'S GRAVE.,New Zealand Tablet, Volume 07, Issue 23, 7 June 1900

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Saturday, 18 March 2023

The Grave of Saint Patrick


Last night on Radio Maria Ireland's show 'All the Saints of Ireland' I looked at the question of where Saint Patrick was laid to rest. Downpatrick, County Down emerged as the only place with an actual reputed burial site to which a visitor could be pointed. As I explained on the show, by the nineteenth century there was a lot of muttering about the shabby state of the grave, a sentiment reflected in the 1882 article below, syndicated in a New Zealand newspaper from The Cork Examiner. By this time the railways had reached Downpatrick making travel easier and encouraging the beginnings of tourism. Victorian visitors went armed with their guidebooks, anxious to see what historical curiosities their destinations offered, so it must have been something of a disappointment to read of Downpatrick's rich Patrician associations only to be be confronted with the reality of this unprepossessing grave site where not just Saint Patrick but his two co-patrons, Saints Brigid and Colum Cille, were said to rest. To make matters worse, the historic market cross which marked the grave was destroyed in a mindless act of vandalism. So, the picture of the grave site by the early 1880s is bleak indeed, but tomorrow we will have another newspaper article which describes how things changed dramatically twenty years later:

THE GRAVE OF ST. PATRICK. (From the Cork Examiner.)

AWAY in the far north, in the quaint little graveyard of the Cathedral Church of Down, lies the grave of St. Patrick. In the Saint's lifetime called Dun-de-leth Glaiste, the town in which the honoured remains were interred became known as Downpatrick. This ancient borough has been singularly privileged in Irish ecclesiastical history in having not less than three saints interred in its old and venerable cathedral churchyard, the ancient chronicle tolling us that —
"One grave in Down three saints do fill—Patrick, Bridget and Columbkille."
For centuries, and even up to the present day, the shrine of our patron saint and of his great fellow-labourers in the cause of Irish evangelization, has been annually visited by hundreds of pious pilgrims, the tradition of the neighbourhood affirming that miraculous cures of physical ailments have been obtained by helpless sufferers. In the "Life of St. Patrick" written by the Nun of Kenmare, we find it stated that when the Patron Saint died at Saul (a little village lying a couple of miles eastward of Downpatrick, on the shore of Strangford Lough), in the year 465, a dispute arose between his followers as to which of the two places his remains should be removed to. It was known that the Saint's wishes pointed in the direction of Armagh; but, anxious to prevent dissension among his disciples over his remains, and unwilling to express a decided preference for either place, he gave instructions for bis funeral to the effect, that when his body was removed for interment it should be placed on a bier drawn by two young bullocks which should be permitted to go without hindrance or guidance in whatever direction they chose, and that wherever the bullocks should stop, there his remains should be buried. The bullocks stopped at Dun-de-leth Glaiste, where his place of sepulture was accordingly made. Close beside, stands the Cathedral Church of Down, one of the most venerable ecclesiastical structures in Ireland, and nearly opposite the southern side of the Cathedral tower, on the highest part of the old burial-ground (which in itself forms a hill), is the grave of St. Patrick. To a stranger, the first look begets disappointment. Instead of a jealously-guarded crypt or tomb, worthy even in a small degree of the great Apostle, the eye rests on a flat green sod, 7 feet long by 7 feet wide, with a hole at the east end, 20 inches square by 8 inches deep, which, from the veneration of the Saint and by a continuation of visitors, is rapidly developing into much larger proportions. Up to the year 1846 a magnificent Irish stone cross, dating from centuries before, stood at the head of the Saint's grave, and was a source of pride to the inhabitants of Downpatrick, as well as of interest to visitors; but in that year a band of vandals, at the dead hour of night, dragged the sacred emblem from the grave of the Saint, and, conveying it a short distance, deposited it with ignominy in the common town drain. The indignation of the inhabitants was profound, and on the action of the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral, who at once offered a reward for its discovery, the violated Celtic stone cross was restored to its place at the head of St. Patrick's grave. Again it was stolen, doubtless in the hope of obtaining further reward; but on that occasion it was unfortunately smashed into many fragments, and being after a time recovered, they were placed beyond reach of future sacrilege, by the Dean and Chapter, in the east end of the cathedral. And so the grave remains unmarked by brass, or stone, or monumental urn. . . . Indeed, the grave itself would have been ere now in much worse condition than it is, were it not for the thoughtfulness which has, for many years past, prompted Mr. Robert H. Bell, a native of Downpatrick, to bestow some gratuitous attention upon it.

THE GRAVE OF ST. PATRICK. (From the Cork Examiner.),New Zealand Tablet, Volume X, Issue 476, 26 May 1882

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Friday, 17 March 2023

The Death and Character of Saint Patrick

A beautiful tribute, drawn from hagiography, on the death and character of Saint Patrick. A saint's death marks the end of his earthly life, but the beginning of his heavenly life as an intercessor. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the chronology of Saint Patrick's career, something which I have posted on previously here, the calendars have always agreed that March 17 is his feast day. Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig Oraibh Go Léir!

The Saint's Death and Character.

Full of years, like the prophet of old in this as in much more; with the prayers and blessings of a people whom he had so often prayed for and blessed; in a land, which he had found in darkness, and which he left to be the brightest jewel of the Church, the old man lay down to die. Borne on the cold March wind the watchers heard sounds of angelic voices, the first notes of that chorus of praise which should last in Erin as long as the waves should break on the shore of Strangford Lough. It was on the 17th of March, 493—day to stand beyond all saints' days in Erin's calendar; yes, and in thousands of churches and in millions of hearts, and in lands as yet unknown. Victor, faithful angel once upon Mount Slemish, faithful to the end, summoned Bishop Tassach: Patrick must have the Viaticum for his last journey, and the Godspeed of the people.
That journey was easily made, for the saint's road from labour to rest is very short.
St. Evin shall tell us what manner of man this was whose body lies in Saul, and whose soul lives with God: "A just man indeed was this, 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 flashing fire, with force and warmth of heat to the sons of life, for instituting and illustrating charity, 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. . . Though great his honour here, greater honour will be his in the day when judgment will be given on the fruits of his work."
Here, standing out clearly recognisable amid so much that time has dimmed, is the personality to which the eyes and hearts of the Irish race have ever fondly turned. About dates and places and the authenticity of this miracle and that, there might be question, but there can be no question about the person whom we see and, love. He is strong and tender. Strong, terribly strong, against evil-doers, and above all, as a father is against those who would his children wrong. He is tender, too; tender to the dwellers in that land which he first trod as an Apostle—the land of Britain; but above all, tender to his own who call him father, who cherish his traditions and cling lovingly to the land which he made to be an Island of Saints, and which, through much sorrow, he has kept faithful until now. The almost fierce devotion of his children to him seems to share that twofold character of strength and tenderness which made St. Evin call him a lion and a dove—"gentle, humble, merciful to the sons of life, dark, ungentle towards the sons of death." May that love remain, strong and tender, until the day on which according to the promise of the Mount, Patrick shall be told to count his flock upon the right hand of the Judge.
Thus therefore saith the Lord,
"So long as sea girdeth this isle,
so long, thy name shall hang
In splendour o'er it like the stars of God.

—From the Very Rev. Canon Ryan's "Life of St. Patrick."

 Southern Cross, Friday 18 March 1904, page 7.

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Wednesday, 8 February 2023

In the Footsteps of St. Brigid

We bring the series of posts in honour of Saint Brigid to a close with an interesting travelogue from an Australian Franciscan priest, who recorded his impressions of a visit to Kildare in a 1908 newspaper article. Father Fitzgerald is writing in the heyday of the Irish national revival and we will see a number of the features and tensions of this era expressed in the article. First, we see the romanticism in his lovely portrait of Saint Brigid as the mother of holy virgins. I noted that in his description of her home he attributes the presence of men in the double monastery at Kildare to a need, not to have priests on hand, but to have fighting men able to repel attackers. In his account of the wayside homes of the west, we see the idealization of the Irish peasant, who Father Fitzgerald sees as 'the real Irish people'. We also see how the Irish language is viewed as preserving the cultus of the Irish saints and as a protection against outside, foreign influences. There is a particular fear, one which I have seen expressed in other sources of this era, that people are giving secular 'lately-invented' names to their children. At my main site I have gathered a number of these sources together on a page dedicated to Irish saints' names for children here. When he finally arrives at Kildare, Father Fitzgerald leaves us in no doubt that his was a pre-ecumenical era. He is clearly upset by the fact that this historic site is no longer in Catholic hands, but is at pains to assure his home readership that the Australian Protestant is not like the usurping Irish invader and despoiler. He ends with a romantic, if unrealistic, vision of the day when the Catholic bishops will reconsecrate the cathedral at Kildare and once again lead the praise of Saint Brigid in the language of their forefathers:

In the Footsteps of St. Brigid

By Father Fitzgerald, O.F.M.

The traveller looking eastward from the carriage window on a Dublin-bound train from the South of Ireland cannot fail to see a magnificent round-tower which will attract his attention by its beauty and its  height. It is 136ft. high. Near by is a sacred edifice. Should the traveller be acquainted even slightly with Irish history, his eyes will linger lovingly on the spot when he calls to mind that those piles of ancient buildings mark the place where abode St. Brigid, the greatest saint of Ireland after St. Patrick, who has been accorded the glorious title, of 'the Mary of the Gael.'

The Mother of Holy Virgins.

As one looks back through the wreck and ruin, prosperity and triumph, of 1500 years to the very dawn of Christianity in Ireland we see St. Brigid coming forth from the forests of benighted paganism as the handmaid of the great St. Patrick, rich in the endowment of natural talents, richer still in the possession  of spiritual treasures with which she has been blessed by the Giver of all good gifts. She is to be the mother of those millions of holy virgins, who in all ages since, have risen up like fair lilies from Irish soil, and who now in their home above follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth.' Irish people and their posterity call that day blessed when Patrick's feet touched the shores of Erin, when he came as the messenger of God to shatter the chains of the captive daughter of Sion and lead the warlike clans of Eire into the admirable light of truth. No less blessed was the day when Brigid, nurtured like Patrick in bondage, taught like him in the school of persecution and austerity, knelt before the saintly Bishop and took the white veil of virginity, and thenceforward her sanctity and learning and administrative gifts, became a staff to the weak and an eye to the blind, and in a most wonderful way spread the blessings of Christian truth over the land. Tradition and history combine in the statement that the day of her reception— back in the fifth century — she placed her hand upon the wooden altar, and forthwith the verdant beauty of springtime appeared thereupon.

Her Home.

In her zeal for the propagation of the Gospel she journeyed through many parts of Ireland, and the names by which these places are known to-day bear witness of her memory. But Kildare— cill-dara, the church 'of the oak,' became her home where she founded her monastery, and, close by, a monastery for men, as in those troublous times when barbarian incursions were not infrequent it was necessary for the protection of the nuns that men skilled in the use of arms should be at hand to drive off the foe. She inhabited there a little room beside a gigantic oak, or, as some say, she lived in an apartment cut out of a tree. Thither from all parts pilgrims and visitors came for counsel and consolation, and in the pioneer conditions of the infant Church in Ireland, her noble womanly qualities and graces found ample scope in calming the internecine strife of princes and chieftains, and by her sweet persuasive advice in subduing the vindictive bands still now to the doctrine of Our Saviour's forgiving spirit. What a heritage of virtue, of exemplary penance, of penitential austerities, has she left after her, and what countless monasteries sprung up in which her spirit still lived as an inspiring influence for centuries after her death, and still lives, even to the present day.

In a Wayside House.

If one goes among the people, especially of an Irish-speaking district one will find in almost every house a Maura and a Breege. Those real Irish people, tenacious of their cherished traditions, are, thanks to God, still strangers to those notions of fashion instituted by a so-called superior civilisation. The beautiful principles which are the guardian spirits of every true Catholic home are treasured by them still, as if it were but yesterday that the Irish Saints walked among them, as if the echoes of prayer and praise resounded still in the aisles and sanctuaries of their abbeys and churches. I am often reminded of this when calling into a wayside house or humble cabin here in the West. As you stand on the earthen floor and look up to the ceiling where the rafters and beams cross each other you will often see several little wooden crosses. Many more are there, but they have become indistinguishable through smoke and age. Each succeeding feast-day of St. Brigid a little cross is placed there in honour of the saint. The latest one is the whitest, and the family can thus trace back many years of their lifetime's history.

As Father Dineen pointed out in a masterly panegyric on the Irish Saints at the Maynooth Union, a few days ago, the Gaelic League is doing a great good for religion,  for by propagating the Irish tongue literature, and customs, it is bringing back to us the cultus of the Irish Saints, who, he says, are forgotten by so many. "The greatest Ireland," says Father Dineen, "is beyond the skies." And surely it will be a grand work to popularise their names, and to banish from the people that contemptible custom of giving lately-invented names to the children, rather than choose a name from that vast array of saintly men and women, whose virtues, as history testifies, have made Ireland one of the 'brightest gems in the diadem of the Church. On the same occasion Dr. Healy remarked that 'he often found at Confirmation-time that children took the name of the nun that taught them — sometimes Sister Angelina, &c. He expresses the hope that for the future they will make the sacrifice of suggesting an Irish Saint's name.

What I Saw in Kildare.

I went down to Kildare the other day. But, lo, strangers are in the holy place. The sacred precincts, including the round tower and spot where the oak stood and the fire of St. Brigid burned undimmed for 12 centuries, and the cathedral and tower, are all in the hands of Protestants. I recompensed the sexton with a shilling for showing me over the august shrines of 'our' Catholic forefathers, where everything speaks of them, where the tombs and their inscriptions, give the lie to the invaders, whose broken tablets cry out in protest against the usurpers, and within the cathedral itself, now used for Protestant worship, there is still a mouldy smell of dust and bones, which all the spices of Araby, cannot sweeten, and which seems to stop the breath of the worshippers, for that dust and those bones belonged to our Catholic ancestors, who lived and died in the One True Church. And then, forsooth, the likes of Tyrell, of Trinity College, who are paid out of pilfered Catholic funds, write poems and ask: 'Why do Catholics build new churches?' Well, they will cease to build them when they see a prospect of getting back their own.

The Usurpers of Our Altars and Our Homes.

The chief cause of antagonism between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland is this: That the latter know they are in wrongful possession, and it is one of the bad traits of human nature to hate those one has injured. The many honest-minded Protestants of Australia are quite a different class from the invaders and usurpers of our altars and our homes in Ireland, and the riflers of our holy shrines.

The Sacred Fire of St. Brigid.

History says that the sacred fire of St. Brigid burned for about 12 centuries — to the days of Elizabeth, and the spot is pointed out to-day beside the round tower. Please God, like the prophets of fire of old, though long concealed, it will again burn forth and gleam in the same old consecrated spot, whereon knelt those myriads who are gone before us, when the Mass bell will ring again within the ancient Cathedral of St. Brigid; where the urn-shaped vases that stand on the bare altar to-day, like crematory receptacles on a pagan mausoleum, shall be replaced by these lights which are emblematic of Him Who is the Light of the World, and when after centuries of forlorn isolation from the religion of St. Patrick, the ''Gloria in Excelsis" shall be heard there once more, and the tabernacle lamp relighted. Does not a vision rise, before our eyes of a gathering of Irish Bishops, from all parts of Ireland, and from the greater Ireland beyond the seas, assembled together at some future day for the solemn function of re-consecrating the ancient Cathedral of Kildare, when an immense concourse of fervent Catholics will join in the solemn function, and thank God that the longed-wished-for hour has come at last, when in the old spot, so dear to her, they can salute St. Brigid in the language of their forefathers, as the fairest of Erin's virgins, the chief patroness of their country — the Mary of the Gael.

'In the Footsteps of of St. Brigid of Kildare', The Catholic Press, September 3, 1908, p. 11. Retrieved December 19, 2017, from

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Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Saint Brigid's Fire

Although I have found many examples of verse in praise of Saint Brigid by nineteenth-century Catholic writers, below is one by a Protestant author, Alessie Bond (1841-1902), daughter of a Church of Ireland rector and wife to another. Although she would share with Catholic writers of the period an approval of Saint Brigid's womanly role as a practical exhibitor of Christian charity, there is no mention of our patroness here as the 'Mary of the Gael'. The Protestant tone of this lady's work is perhaps visible in the second verse with the reference to Saint Brigid learning that life was 'in Christ alone' and in the evangelical zeal of the final verse. I do find it somewhat ironic though that she has chosen for her theme the perpetual fire that supposedly burnt at Kildare, since this was a victim of the Reformation suppression of the monasteries and was reputedly extinguished on the orders of a bishop of her own church!


BY the wood of the oak, in green Kildare,
In a low stone cell of the chapel gray,
They have shown the place where a maiden fair
And a chieftain's daughter, knelt to pray.

She had heard the tidings by angels brought,
She had learn'd that life was in Christ alone;
She had clasp'd the faith the Apostles taught,
And had cast away her gods of stone.

On the things of Heaven she placed her mind,
And watch'd for the way her love to show;
She tended the sick and she led the blind,
And she taught the poor what they should know.

Saint Brigid died, but the legends tell,
She had lighted a flame where none now appears,
Charging her maidens to tend it well,
And it died not out for six hundred years.

Plunder and tempest and hostile band
Might ravage the valleys of green Kildare,
Might kill the peace of her lovely land,
But not that flame, nor her people's prayer.

Where is the fire of devotion now,
To burn through a lawless age and ill?
Shall clearer light show neglected vow.
And wiser virgins have fainter will?

Arise and shine! for the spell is o'er.
Wave high the torch they would rend away!
Let the words of God, as they were of yore.
Be the beacon of Erin till break of day !

Alessie Bond, The Cairns of Iona and Other Poems, (Dublin, 1873), 33-34.

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Monday, 6 February 2023

Saint Brigid in the Woods

Continuing with the octave of posts in honour of Saint Brigid with an episode depicting some of the difficulties she experienced during her childhood. The holy childhood of a saint often forms part of a written Life, but in the case of Saint Brigid we are given a glimpse into the less holy domestic arrangements of her father Dubthach's household. Brigid's mother, we are told, is one of Dubthach's slaves and this is something which does not sit well with his wife, who attempts to poison her husband's mind against her unwanted stepdaughter. Indeed, Brigid's stepmother is every inch the stereotypical 'wicked stepmother' of secular tales who even places Brigid in a Cinderella-type role as a domestic drudge and general scapegoat. Interestingly, the story which follows is not to be found in the Vita of Cogitosus, the earliest of Saint Brigid's Lives, but features in the vernacular Bethu Brigte and other later sources. It is reprinted here from an 1899 edition of the American Catholic monthly journal The Pilgrim of Our Lady of Martyrs:


WHEN the gentle St. Bridget — or St. Brigid, as she is now more properly called in Ireland — was a child, many were the crosses which she had to endure, and, strange to say, none more grievous than those inflicted on her by her stepmother.

This woman entertained an unnatural hatred for the sweet and lovely maiden whom God had given into her charge. One form her hatred took was to embitter against St. Bridget the mind of Dubthach himself, her father. Whatever the child might do, the step-mother declared was ill-done, wicked, and deserving of punishment, and many a stinging reproach and heavy blow followed her false accusations.

Poor little Bridget bore it all sweetly. She never retorted, she never complained; and yet no change came over her parents. They only grew worse, and finally their beautiful child was driven to tend the swine in the forest.

Noble little lady though she was, Bridget did not shrink from this degrading office. She knew that God would regard the humility of His handmaid, and so she went gladly into the woods and the fields with her repulsive herd, and thought only of thanking our Lord Who had thus deigned to grant her a share in His sacred sufferings. When her cruel stepmother had kept her in the kitchen at home, she had washed the dishes and done every other menial task with alacrity and holy joy; and so now she drove the swine hither and thither or checked their wanderings with no less happiness and care.

All the while, however, her heart was united to God. Here at the foot of a tree and there in the shadow of a rock, she would fall on her knees and thank Him for His mercies in creating and redeeming her, and would tell Him how she longed to merit by good works to see His adorable Face one day in eternal glory. This spirit of prayer God chose before long to make the means of revealing to her father how holy a child she was.

God permitted her once to remain so long abstracted in prayer that some of the swine roamed off a great distance without her knowledge. Two thieves chanced to pass at the time and, seeing their opportunity, forthwith drove two of the herd away before them. They had not gone far when Dubthach drew near them, which so alarmed them that they abandoned their booty and fled Dubthach recognized the swine as two of his own herd, and in his wicked heart resolved to punish his innocent child.

He concealed the two swine, and, putting on a pleasant countenance, came where Bridget was sitting. After a few words of ordinary business, he grew very savage and demanded of her an account of the herd. She must let him see whether she had not lost some of them by her foolish devotions. She could never pray and tend swine at the same time.

Bridget, without a suspicion of ill, raised her heart as usual to God and then asked Dubthach whether he would not count the herd and see whether any were missing. Still full of indignation, the man did so, and, to his amazement, found the number correct, the two swine which he had concealed being miraculously restored. Again and again he counted, but always with the same result.

Abashed and awe-stricken, Dubthach then hurriedly withdrew to his castle, and so deep an impression did the miracle make upon him that for many a day afterward his sweet child was free from his persecutions.

The Pilgrim Of Our Lady Of Martyrs Vol. XV, 1899 , 49-50.

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Sunday, 5 February 2023

To Dear St Brigid, Ireland's Patroness

Another offering today from the Victorian popular religious press as we continue the series of posts in honour of Saint Brigid. The following poem originated in 'The Irish Catholic', but was syndicated in the Australian press, in this case the Advocate, a weekly Catholic newspaper published in Melbourne.  Our patroness is here depicted in her role as an intercessor for Ireland and its people. Verses two and three ask that she cast her mantle over the people as a protecting shield from unspecified dangers which threaten, just as she sheltered their ancestors from 'cruel foes' in days of yore. Verse four asks that the youth of Ireland be preserved from falling away from the way 'of loyal faith and stern duty', a peculiarly Victorian way of appealing to the young.  In verse five Saint Brigid's intercession is also sought for the dying, with the hope that in the struggle to leave this life she will banish their fears. But it is the final two verses which really reflect the era of the nineteenth-century national revival in which this tribute was written. The penultimate verse, with its naive hope that 'soon' the praises of God and Saint Brigid would be sung in our own dear language, reminds us that the revival of the Irish language was a part of the national movement. In what is presumably an allusion to the shamrock, the poem ends with a soaring statement of the Irish nationalist vision in a request that Ireland will never sever the 'triple leaf' of faith, in prayer and love and duty, to God and country unto death:

To Dear St. Brigid, Ireland's Patroness.

Soft as an angel's whisper
Comes the thought of thee, sweet Saint,
Erin's bride, and gentle guardian,
Free from evil, and its taint.

Come, and with thy mantle shelter
The children of our Isle,
Dangers threaten, O protect them
From the demon's treacherous smile.

'Neath that shield no dart shall pierce them.
Oft of yore it screened from foes
Those who claimed its truthful succour,
In the midst of cruel foes.

Save the youth; the tempter's watching
To beguile them from the way
Of loyal faith and stern duty,
Oh! dear saint, we humbly pray.

Come to those who claim thy succour,
The evening of whose life draws near.
Stay, uphold them in the struggle;
Near thy heart they need not fear.

Soon our "Gaelic tongue" will echo
Thoughts of thee and all thy ways,
In our own dear Irish language
God and thee we all shall praise.

Ask that Ireland ne'er may sever
The 'Triple leaf' of Faith,
Faith in prayer, in love, in duty,
To God and country unto death.

—"Irish Catholic."

To Dear St. Brigid, Ireland’s Patroness,  Advocate, ( March 16, 1901),  p. 2.

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Saturday, 4 February 2023

Told of St Brigid: Some Legends

One of the most popular types of story associated with the Irish saints are those involving their interactions with the animal creation. The vogue for 'Celtic Christianity' in recent decades has tended to give the impression that Irish saints are unique in this. Yet such stories are associated with saints of the universal church and ultimately go back to the tradition of the Desert Fathers of the east. The Irish however, did put their own stamp on stories involving saints and beasts and in his 2008 study Saints and Animals in the Middle Ages, modern scholar Dominic Alexander devoted a chapter to what he titled 'The Irish Variant'. He includes the story below, which shows how Saint Brigid is as wily as the fox she rescues, taken here from an Australian newspaper account of 1926, but whose original can be found in the seventh-century Life of Saint Brigid by Cogitosus and repeated in some other later Lives. Alexander argues that this story probably originated as a secular tale, as it doesn't quite fit the usual pattern of the animal's 'wild' nature being overcome in its interaction with the saint. As he remarks:

Now this story, it can be argued, exemplifies Christian morality: the saint shows compassion, and the king, who does not, is therefore tricked and punished as a result. Yet the story violates basic patristic parameters when it comes to animal miracles. The animal is obedient to God and the saint up to a point, but its wild nature is clearly in no way compromised by the service it renders the saint. Indeed the proverbial cunning of the fox provides the punch-line of the story. This story looks very much like a secular morality tale than one that would have emerged directly from the ecclesiastical context of hagiographic writing. 

Dominic Alexander, Saints and Animals in the Middle Ages (Boydell Press, 2008), 72.

He goes on though to suggest that due to the popularity of this tale Cogitosus may have felt obliged to include it in his Vita and it remains one of the most popular of the many stories told about Saint Brigid:

Told of St. Brigid.


Many legends testify to St. Brigid's power over the lower creation. Now it is a story of some wild animal pursued by hunters flying for protection to the convent lands, and living ever afterward in a domesticated state with Brigid's flocks and herds. Again it is a picturesque scene, such as the Saint on the brink of a pond with a flight of wild ducks fluttering round her, coming at her call, and allowing themselves to be stroked by her hand. A legend in which Reynard makes a creditable figure is one of the fairest of all.

While cutting firewood one day on the outskirts of a forest, a workman employed by St. Brigid saw a fox straying about, and thoughtlessly killed the animal, not knowing that it was a tamed creature, in whose tricks and gambols the king of the territory took great delight. On learning what had happened, he became exasperated, ordered the poor man to be put to death, and directed that his wife and children should be reduced to slavery.

Shocked at the cruelty of the sentence, the man's friends ran to the Abbess and told her of the unhappy fate awaiting her retainer and his family. Immediately she ordered her chariot to be yoked, and drove across the plain in the direction of the royal rath. 

Passing through the forest, the Saint called to her a fox which she saw running in the distance; and, instantly obeying, it jumped into the chariot and quietly lay down, nestling in the skirts of her habit. Having arrived at the king's residence, she earnestly entreated that the poor man should be liberated from his chains, while she represented that he was not really accountable for what he had done, and pointed out how disproportionate was the heaviness of the chastisement to the lightness of the offence.

The king, however, was inexorable, and declared that the prisoner should not be set free unless a fox equal in cunning and tricks to the one he had lost should be procured. Then, continues the legend, our Saint set before the king and his courtiers the fox which had accompanied her in the chariot, and which appeared to rival the former one in gambols and devices. Seeing this, the king was greatly pleased, and forthwith commanded the captive to be set at liberty.

The Abbess drove to her convent with a glad heart, leaving her late travelling companion in high society at Court, but with no injunction laid on him to give up his free life in the woods and dwell in bondage in the house of kings. So, when Reynard had finished his feats, playing and sporting for the great folks, he adroitly mingled with the outer crowd, and, in an opportune moment, scampering off to the wilds, with the hosts of Leinster behind him, both foot and horse and hound, he speedily regained his freedom and his den. But the king did not go back on his 'bargain, and St. Brigid was held in greater esteem than before.

"Told of St. Brigid." Freeman's Journal, 28 January 1926.

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Friday, 3 February 2023

Hymn to Saint Brigid Patroness of Ireland

Continuing the octave of posts in honour of Saint Brigid with another hymn in her praise, a late nineteenth-century offering, published in The Freeman's Journal in Sydney, Australia in 1897.  It is unattributed and as these newspapers often syndicated articles from other sources, it may well have originated in the popular religious press in Ireland itself. Verse three alludes to Saint Brigid's traditional virtues of purity and charity and, appropriately for this blog, the final verse makes reference to her as one of our three patrons. There is even an air suggested to which this hymn could be sung. Initially I didn't recognize 'The valley lay smiling before me' but when I saw that it is also known as 'The pretty girl milking her cow' I realized I did know this melody and was able to try out the lyrics.



(Feast Day, February 1.)

Saint Brigid, how fondly through ages
Thy name is endeared to our race,
How brilliant through history's pages
The track of its glory we trace;
Ah! ever be cherished through Erin
That light which thy virtues have shed,
To-day and henceforth be thou dear in
Our isle, as in days that are fled. 
Saint Brigid, how deep the devotion
Long nurtured to thee, the green isle,
Till it 'swelled like the tide of the ocean.
Sunlit — 'neath thy virginal smile;
Oh ! sooner may cease the white surges
To break on her emerald shore,
Than cool the devotion that urges,
Sweet Patron, thine aid to implore. 
If, glorious Saint Brigid, the splendour
Of purity beams through our land,
Fair homage to thee should it render
Whose lily waves high in thy hand;
And well may the poor Irish maiden
Rejoice in thy fame and thy name,
White purity's robe thus arrayed in
While burning with charity's flame. 
With Columba and Patrick we've named thee
Chief Patron of old Innisfail,
And well have her Annals proclaimed thee
As true to the trust of the Gael;
Then potent protectress, may never
Thy love or thy prayer for us cease,
But our Mary of Erin be ever,
Till reach we the Kingdom of peace.

Air: — The valley lay smiling before me.

"HYMN TO ST. BRIGID, PATRONESS OF IRELAND." Freeman's Journal, 30 January 1897.

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Thursday, 2 February 2023

Saint Columba's Hymn to Saint Brigid

We begin a series of posts to run until the octave of Saint Brigid's Day with a translation of the hymn Brigit bé bithmaith, one of the earliest Irish language hymns, possibly going back to the seventh century. The preface in the Irish Liber Hymnorum suggests a number of possible authors including Saints Ultan of Ardbreccan, Broccán Clóen and Columba. I have already posted two alternative translations at the blog, one by Whitley Stokes from an 1868 article on Broccán Clóen which you can read here and another here from 1908 where authorship is attributed to Saint Columba. The translation below appeared in the Boston Catholic newspaper The Pilot in 1848, it is much less literal than either of the others, but its rhyming style would have appealed to a nineteenth-century audience. The hymn is also attributed to Saint Columba here by author "J.C.M.":



Oh, Bridget, Virgin ever bright, 
Oh, golden torch of love and light, 
Rich lamp illumining earth's dark dome, 
Guide us to our eternal home! 
Defend us, Bridget, mighty Saint, 
From every evil touch and taint; 
Defend us from all wiles and woes. 
And from our fierce infernal foes. 
Create in us, anew, afresh, 
A spirit that shall hate the flesh: 
Oh! Blessed Virgin, Mother, give 
To all new power to love and live! 
Thou holiest saint of these our days, 
Worthy unutterable praise, 
Protect green Leinster from all harm 
And keep her sons from vain alarm! 
O! pillar of our kingdom, grandest! 
To Patrick next, that chief, thou standest! 
Thou blessed maid, thou Queen of Queens. 
On thee each soul devoutly leans! 
And after this vain life be past. 
Oh, let our lot with thine be cast! 
And save us in that last dread day 
When Heaven and Earth shall flee away!


* “A work more than a thousand years old, if the copy in Colgan’s possession, now in St. Isidore’s, Rome, be the same as that in Trinity College library.

Boston Pilot, Volume XI, Number 40, 30 September 1848

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Wednesday, 1 February 2023

'The Queen Mother of the Irish Church': A Sermon for Saint Brigid's Day


Marking Saint Brigid's Day 2023 with a sermon delivered in 1915 at Saint Brigid's Church in the Northbridge district of Perth, Western Australia. If nothing else, these stirring, vintage sermons make us aware of how much has changed over the course of the last century. The Venerable Archdeacon Smyth paints a picture of Ireland as a nation faithful like no other, whose people withstand the wiles of proselytisers and whose women are renowned for their virtue.  Saint Brigid he describes as 'the glory of the Irish race' and 'the Queen Mother of the Irish church' and he concludes by urging his expatriate audience to 'invoke her aid with the prayer "St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland, pray for us."' Amen to that and the blessings of the feast to all!

ST. BRIGID— The Mary of Ireland

A Special Day at St. Brigid's, West Perth

Sermon by Archdeacon Smyth

Monday last being the feast of St. Brigid, patroness of West Perth parish, a Missa Cantata was sung at St. Brigid's Church on Sunday last. Last year was celebrated, by a general Communion of the children, the silver jubilee of St. Brigid's schools. Twenty-six years ago the first Catholic school was opened in the parish. It had a small beginning, but in the brief span: between then and now the parish has made rapid strides, and to-day St. Brigid's owns one of the finest blocks of Church buildings that can be found in any Catholic diocese. The parishioners have good reason to be proud of them, and the genial and zealous rector of the parish should draw consolation, in the midst of many worries and exacting duties, from the fact that a fine spirit of faith is to be found in the parish. The feast day of its patroness was observed as a special day, and the Masses were largely attended. The choir, under  the baton of Father Kearin, at the Missa Cantata, which was sung by Father D. B. Verlin, rendered Ravenello's Mass, which was composed in honour of St. Joseph Callasanctius, a saint who had a special devotion for the Mother of God and which was not inappropriate to the feast day of St. Brigid, the Mary of Ireland. The music and the singing gave additional solemnity and devotion to the ceremony.

In the evening the church, was thronged with an expectant congregation, who came to hear a panegyric on the saint by the Venerable Archdeacon Smyth, of Bunbury. It was an eloquent and forceful review of the life-work of the saint, and a fine tribute to the fidelity of the Irish people to the ancient faith.

The Sermon

Taking for his text, "Be just and you shall have everlasting remembrance," the Archdeacon said: The words of the Royal Prophet were as trite as they were true. No man, unless he be just and acceptable to  God, would live in everlasting memory. Our instinct alone told us that fact. And so it was that in the affairs of time we give honour to the just, and we love to cherish the memory of the righteous. Hence the Catholic Church clings to and holds in benediction the memory of those righteous ones who by the sanctity of their lives and their charity have shed a lustre upon the world. Nations and governments are grateful to those who have served them, perhaps not wisely, but too well, and we find them raising costly monuments to their memory — statues of bronze and marble — carved columns and brass tablets, and in other ways with all the magnificence that wealth and human art could employ giving expression to their gratitude and seeking to perpetuate their memories. But how often were such efforts  vain and futile. The years roll, away and time showed that nothing remained of those great ones but the  shadow of a name. Only in the spiritual world, when the Church of  God takes possession of a memory  inspired and sweetened by virtue, only, then did that memory remain and become a permanent legacy to
the world. Where were the memories of the great ones of the Greek and Roman Empires? — where the memories, of Alexander, Cyrus, and Napoleon, meteors who flamed for a moment of time , and passed away—where are they? Who cared! Yet the names of the Patricks and Brigids and the saintly ones of the Church whose lives were devoted to religion and to the inculcation of charity and virtuous living remain. Time passes and centuries roll away, their names live. How true of the Apostles who spread the light of the Gospel and the seed of God; they saw their work of sacrifice and love blossom into fruitfulness that gave new pages to history and glory to the nations. And so it was that out of the centuries that evening came to them the name of St. Brigid, the patroness of their parish, one of the elect of God called by Him to be the glory of the Irish race. They had dedicated everything to her.

Their past and their present enshrined the memory of her whom the Church remembers as the Queen  Mother of the Irish Church — the Mary  of Ireland, and whose feast they would celebrate on the morrow. There was no need to review the story of her life. They all knew her zeal, her righteousness and her love of virtue. Of Royal stock, her supernatural life gave promise of great sanctity. God opened to her mind the future of the great Church she and Patrick founded and nursed and cared for. She saw its failures, its long night of persecution, and its ultimate triumph. Favoured with great personal beauty, she had all the needs that wealth could give her, and she had all the graces of excellent teaching — but above all it was in her beauty of soul she excelled. Her humility, her wisdom and her virtue raised her above all her contemporaries. Her beauty she kept for God; no royal gifts could win her in marriage; she flew to the cloister and consecrated her life to Him. In eloquent words the preacher told how she established her first convent— the Cell of the Oak, and how through many labours and vicissitudes she  worked to bring the little children of Ireland to the feet, of Christ, and through her zeal and her wisdom became the patroness of art and learning. How throughout the land she went at the invitation of Bishops to spread the name of Jesus and to sow the seed of the Christian virtues so that the women of Ireland might be known the world over for their love of chastity. Her name, continued the preacher, is perpetuated in the names of Irish places and her memory, lives in the people's hearts. The ignoramuses of the time may rail at the name of Brigid, but with the Irish race it will always be a holy name. Her long and fruitful life,  from the moment she commenced her missionary work unto the day when at the age of 75 at Kildare she gave it back to her Creator, was one filled with labour, sacrifice and charity. Having, seen in vision by the favour of Almighty God the fruitfulness of her work, how she must, have revelled at the splendor of her labors for the Irish Church and the richness of the harvest of virtue that was to be reaped from the seed of her teaching. So it is that the womanhood of Ireland, treasuring the virtue taught to them by the glorious life of Brigid, had become the mothers of a host of Irish saints. Since her death fifteen centuries had rolled away, and many changes had come over Ireland— her language had been near to being forgotten— customs had vanished, even the physical features of the country, had changed— all things had changed only the Faith that St. Brigid had helped to plant.

Everything perishes but the work of God. Many a nation had been given a privilege as great as the Irish  people, but none have remained so faithful. The day of wrath and persecution came and they grew ashamed of the old faith. But the Irish Church remained in the face of every danger faithful to the teachings of Brigid and Patrick; its women have been the most faithful, and virtuous throughout the ages.

Ireland is a beacon light which beckons to the world with the admonition, "Come here and admire God's work." Her children faced the rack, the scaffold, and the dungeon for their faith. The curse of the reforming invaders tore up her sacred books, broke down her altars, burnt her manuscripts, destroyed her art treasures, and made desolate the land; yet, hunted, proscribed though the Irish were, they kept the Faith. The green sward of Ireland is fertilised by human blood shed for the faith of Jesus Christ planted by Brigid and Patrick. In swift and telling words the preacher sketched the horrors of the famine years and the wiles of the souper to win the starving Irish from their allegiance to the, ancient faith, and recited a touching instance of the fidelity of a little boy, who with his mother was dying of hunger within reach of the souper's kitchens. The mother, tempting him to save himself by accepting the soup of the proselytiser, he, cried, "Mammie, let us go to God — let us die together." Such was the marvellous fidelity which characterised the Irish exiles in founding the Church in the Great Republic of  America, and here in Australia.

Keep the faith, said the preacher in conclusion, love the faith of Patrick and Brigid; show your loyalty to it; it must never be sullied or tarnished or mixed with sin. Love St. Brigid for her purity. Invoke her aid with the prayer "St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland, pray for us." Transmit the faith to your children, and so, being loyal to her, St. Brigid will be with  you in life and in death.

"ST. BRIGID--The Mary of Ireland" The W.A. Record, 6 February 1915.

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