Saint Patrick, The Darkness and The Dawn

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.

G. K. Chesterton

With all the fun and frivolity that has become associated with Saint Patrick’s Day, we lose sight of the man and of the saint.  Saint Patrick was a pivotal figure, not only in the history of Ireland, but also in the history of Western Europe and in the history of the Catholic Church.  He is also very much a saint for our time.

The Fifth Century, the time of Saint Patrick, was a time of disaster for both the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church.  Barbarian invasions rent and destroyed the Empire in Western Europe and Africa, and the Barbarians, when they were not pagan, were adherents of the Arian heresy.  The Church had spent three centuries spreading throughout the Empire and had eventually become the faith of the Empire.  Now all of that painful progress seemed undone as the Empire died and the Church seemed mortally wounded.  In Patrick’s native Britain, by the end of his life, pagan Germanic hordes had invaded and were well on their way to destroying the Faith throughout most of that island.  The lights of faith and learning seemed to be going out forever.

In this chaotic darkness, Patrick, a man on fire with the love of Christ, was commissioned by Pope Celestine I to erect the Cross in a pagan land.  In the face of defeat and despair, the Church went on the offensive.  The Pope had already sent Saint Palladius in 431 to Ireland as the first bishop of Ireland, but the emerald isle remained overwhelmingly pagan.  Saint Patrick would be the second bishop of Ireland, as he embarked upon a lifelong mission to every Irish man, woman and child who could hear his voice.  Tireless and fearless, he endured captivity no fewer than 12 times as he preached the Gospel throughout Ireland.  Wherever he went he established churches and ordained priests.  The results of his efforts Saint Patrick summed up in his Confession:

I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: ‘To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, “Our fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.”’ And again: ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth.’

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Hurrah For Saint Patrick!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

Today is the feast day of one of the greatest saints to ever trod the green earth, Saint Patrick.  Born at the time of the crumbling of the Roman Empire, with pagan hordes overrunning Britain, he planted forever the cross of Christ in Ireland.  Here we have, in his own words, his report on his great mission:

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