‘Fighter’ for the Irish

Growing up in the “West” ( i.e. every geographic location from Athens moving West to the Americas) one assumes that all the ‘famous’ saints are Roman Catholic, or at least, European in origin and Catholic in affiliation.  However, we need to remember that The Church has always been One: one in essence, practice, faith, and undivided in unity from Pentecost until about the 11th century (1054 AD as some historians date it).  Thus all the saints of the Church from Pentecost to that sad, damaging division in the 11th century, known as the ‘Great Schism’  (when the Pope of Rome and the Church in the West broke from the one holy, orthodox, catholic and apostolic Church) can truly be labeled orthodox i.e ‘straight teaching/worshipping’ vs. ‘heterodox’ i.e (of many teachings) which often taught contradictory theology and was the antithesis of the ‘…faith given once for all….” as described by St. Paul.

And for those who think that this line of reasoning is false or ‘fable and myth’, be assured that even with an elementary study of church history the evidence above can be confirmed. Every Christian owes it to the integrity of their faith to discover the truth about our original home, the Oneness of the Church prior to all ‘20,000 plus divisions and denominations‘ that we have today.  The Body of Christ, and the Holy Trinity, are One in Essence and cannot be divided such as we see today.

Thus Patrick, the enlightener of Ireland, is often thought of as  a “Roman Catholic” saint, and yet the truth is this: Patrick as well as the Irish, and all the churches in what is now known as Great Britain were Orthodox, members of the one, holy, catholic, orthodox and apostolic church prior to the devastating division of West from East.  It would not be until the Synod of Whitby, when the Orthodox Bishops of Ireland were visibly and physically coerced by the emerging Western Roman Catholic church to ‘join or else’ –  the growing and power seeking Bishop of Rome.

But today, March 17, everyone is Irish!  And the Church around the world remembers the remarkable story of Patrick and the unified Body of Christ that existed for over a thousand years.  A man who was obedient to the calling of God.  Who despite years of turmoil and tribulation was used mightily by the Trinity for the enlightenment not only of Ireland, but ultimately of the entire known world.  For it was through monastic movement planted by Patrick, and learned by the Irish from the Desert Fathers of the Orthodox East, that the Irish became the spiritual arks, oases, and bastions of light and strength for the Church as she made her way through the Dark Ages.  Read the book How the Irish Saved Civilization’ to learn more.

So here’s Patrick’s story – enjoy – and by the way: “Go Irish!”

Saint Patrick, the Enlightener of Ireland was born around 385, the son of Calpurnius, a Roman decurion (an official responsible for collecting taxes). He lived in the village of Bannavem Taberniae, which may have been located at the mouth of the Severn River in Wales. The district was raided by pirates when Patrick was sixteen, and he was one of those taken captive. He was brought to Ireland and sold as a slave, and was put to work as a herder of swine on a mountain identified with Slemish in Co. Antrim. During his period of slavery, Patrick acquired a proficiency in the Irish language which was very useful to him in his later mission.

He prayed during his solitude on the mountain, and lived this way for six years. He had two visions. The first told him he would return to his home. The second told him his ship was ready. Setting off on foot, Patrick walked two hundred miles to the coast. There he succeeded in boarding a ship, and returned to his parents in Britain.

Some time later, he went to Gaul and studied for the priesthood at Auxerre under St Germanus (July 31). Eventually, he was consecrated as a bishop, and was entrusted with the mission to Ireland, succeeding St Palladius (July 7). St Palladius did not achieve much success in Ireland. After about a year he went to Scotland, where he died in 432.  Patrick had a dream in which an angel came to him bearing many letters. Selecting one inscribed “The Voice of the Irish,” he heard the Irish entreating him to come back to them.

Although St Patrick achieved remarkable results in spreading the Gospel, he was not the first or only missionary in Ireland. He arrived around 432 (though this date is disputed), about a year after St Palladius began his mission to Ireland. There were also other missionaries who were active on the southeast coast, but it was St Patrick who had the greatest influence and success in preaching the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, he is known as “The Enlightener of Ireland.”

His autobiographical Confession tells of the many trials and disappointments he endured. Patrick had once confided to a friend that he was troubled by a certain sin he had committed before he was fifteen years old. The friend assured him of God’s mercy, and even supported Patrick’s nomination as bishop. Later, he turned against him and revealed what Patrick had told him in an attempt to prevent his consecration. Many years later, Patrick still grieved for his dear friend who had publicly shamed him.

St Patrick founded many churches and monasteries across Ireland, but the conversion of the Irish people was no easy task. There was much hostility, and he was assaulted several times. He faced danger, and insults, and he was reproached for being a foreigner and a former slave. There was also a very real possibility that the pagans would try to kill him. Despite many obstacles, he remained faithful to his calling, and he baptized many people into Christ.

The saint’s Epistle to Coroticus is also an authentic work. In it he denounces the attack of Coroticus’ men on one of his congregations. The Breastplate (Lorica) is also attributed to St Patrick. In his writings, we can see St Patrick’s awareness that he had been called by God, as well as his determination and modesty in undertaking his missionary work. He refers to himself as “a sinner,” “the most ignorant and of least account,” and as someone who was “despised by many.” He ascribes his success to God, rather than to his own talents: “I owe it to God’s grace that through me so many people should be born again to Him.”  By the time he established his episcopal See in Armargh in 444, St Patrick had other bishops to assist him, many native priests and deacons, and he encouraged the growth of monasticism.

St Patrick is often depicted holding a shamrock, or with snakes fleeing from him. He used the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Its three leaves growing out of a single stem helped him to explain the concept of one God in three Persons. Many people now regard the story of St Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland as having no historical basis.

St Patrick died on March 17, 461 (some say 492). There are various accounts of his last days, but they are mostly legendary. Muirchu says that no one knows the place where St Patrick is buried. St Columba of Iona (June 9) says that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that Patrick was buried at Saul, the site of his first church. A granite slab was placed at his traditional grave site in Downpatrick in 1899.

Just for fun…  with the arrival of Spring, and the beginning of Spring Football under the new leadership of Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly.   Here are some great shots of the “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame…  Under the watchful eyes of the Christ the Teacher mosaic (otherwise known as ‘Touchdown Jesus’)  on the campus of Notre Dame.  The Irish Guard, lead the ND band, and blue and gold faithful into every home game in Notre Dame Stadium.

 Go Irish!



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