Saint Patrick - An Ancient Saint for Modern Times - Messenger Publications. Edmond Grace SJ.
'Christ in hearts of all that love' ( Saint Patrick's Breastplate )
Fr Grace's pamphlet is welcome. It is a step towards getting rid of so much nonsense that has surrounded Saint Patrick in recent times. He chips away at the accretions that have accumulated around the authentic image of Saint Patrick.
It is nearly forty years since I purchased a plaque of the saint and I still have on my shelf. It is entitled " Padraig " (The Gaelic name for Patrick). It depicts a youthful Patrick in traditional shepherd's outfit, staff in hand, guarding the flock. Physically well developed, mentally alert, he peers into the dark night that surrounds him on Slemis Mountain in Co Antrim.
The young Patrick had been brutally dragged from his home and family by, what the Romans would term Barbarians, and sold as a slave to a wealthy landowner and then put minding sheep. Such trauma would have broken most but not Patrick. He would get back to his family and started planning his escape from day one. Meanwhile he would concentrate on physical fitness by hard work and he would observe habits and behaviour of those around him. He was a Baptised Christian and he tells us himself that he also developed a prayer life . He was seen as a hard worker and a good shepherd and made no trouble for his master. This would stand him well later on.
Eventually when he judged the time was right, he made his escape. Well planned and brilliantly executed he made it home. There was much trouble on the way and he tells us himself that death was never far away. Any modern state would have given him a place in their special services units.
After some years at home with family he was ordained priest and then bishop. With his talent and experience Patrick could have chosen a comfortable and lucrative diocese and that is probably what his family and friends would want for him. But not what Patrick would choose. He would go as a missionary to Ireland. Madness !!!people and family would have rightly said. For Patrick this was his Vocation. My own opinion is that, deep down in his heart, Patrick was in love with Ireland and it's people and further more he wanted to give them Christ.
Patrick would not have treated the ' Celtic Culture ' with the contempt that it got from ' Gecko - Roman Culture '. So when he did return as a missionary he fused what was beautiful and good in that culture with the Light of Christ. What resulted was a Celtic Christianity.
In the centuries that followed Ireland became a great lighthouse that enlightened the dark ages. An island of Saints and Scholars. It was holiness and learning combating darkness.
Paul, Augustine, Patrick, all talented people who would have been successful in any walk of life, share an experience that would complete them as human beings - they encountered and accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour. Best summed by Patrick "Christ in hearts of all that love me". Patrick understood what 'Church' really meant and also he sought and accepted what was beautiful and good in everything Irish. Catholics might keep those two facts in mind at this trying time.
Fr Grace keeps close to the writings of Patrick - that is his Confessions and Letters and that is what makes his publication so accurate and valuable.
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