Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Reasons for Celebrating St. Patrick's Day

He was not actually Irish, he didn't drive the snakes out of Ireland, nor was he ever officially canonized by the Catholic Church, but on March 17, the reputed day of his death is celebrated as St. Paddy's Day, both in Ireland and throughout the rest of the world. There are good reasons for breaking out the green beer and giving thanks, particularly if you have a drop of celtic blood, or a Christian, or just a believer in peace. In a real sense, "everybody's Irish" on St. Patrick's Day.

From what we know, Maewyn or Succat (celtic for clever in war) was born in a village called Bannaven Taberniae in Britan or Brittany in France about 387 AD. Patricius (which has evolved into Patrick) was the name given later in life by Pope Celestine after his consecration as a bishop.

Patrick was kidnapped by pirates at 16 and sold as a slave to the house of a Miliue (or Milchu), a Druid of the Dal Riada in what is now Antrim, Ireland. He stayed six years, tending sheep and taking care of the farm, and realized that he was called to live a religious life.

He entered a monastery in Gaul and studied under St. Germain, Bishop of Auxerre. At one point Patrick dreamed that a man called Victorious handed him a large number of letters, one of which was headed "The Cry of the Irish". While reading this letter he heard voices he recognized from in Ireland calling him to return.

Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 AD. He reputedly arrived at Wicklow and made his way along the coast, landing at the mouth of the River Slaney. There, a local chieftain Dichu was converted to christianity. Dichu gave Patrick a barn as his first church. Patrick got the attention of the High King (Laoghaire) by lighting a Paschal fire at Slane Hill, ten miles from Tara, where Laoghaire was conducting a pagan festival. By tradition, lighting such a fire before the King's was a capital offence and Laoghaire sent soldiers to seize Patrick. However, Patrick defeated the soldiers and succeeded in converting the King. Thereafter he preached throughout Ireland with the permission of the King. Although he did not single-handedly convert all of Ireland (he baptized over 120,000), St. Patrick played a large role, and helped lay a significant portion of the groundwork in the formation of monasteries, schools and at least 300 churches.

There are two works which are known to have been written by Patrick, Confessio, his autobiography, and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus. Coroticus, a Welsh chieftain (who was a Christian) had captured a number of recent Irish converts to Christianty, slaughtered some and sold the rest into slavery. The celtic tradition of internecine warfare had, once again, brought fellow Christians into battle against their brothers in Christ. This, Patrick proclaimed, must stop. Angrily, he said in the Letter...,

Like our enemies, they live in death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the number for God and confirmed in Christ!...The day after the newly baptised, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain)-the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people...
Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily ensnared. Together with him they will be slaves in Hell in an eternal punishment; for who committeth sin is a slave and will be called a son of the devil.
Wherefore let every God-fearing man know that they are enemies of me and of Christ my God, for whom I am an ambassador. Parricide! Fratricide! ravening wolves that eat the people of the Lord as they eat bread! As I said, The wicked, 0 Lord, have destroyed Thy law, which but recently He had excellently and kindly planted in Ireland, and which had established itself by the grace of God.
I make no false claim. I share in the work of those whom He called and predestinated to preach the Gospel amidst grave persecutions unto the end of the earth, even if the enemy shows his jealousy through the tyranny of Coroticus, a man who has no respect for God nor for His priests whom He chose, giving them the highest, divine, and sublime power, that whom they should bind upon earth should be bound also in heaven.
Wherefore, then, I plead with you earnestly, ye holy and humble of heart, it is not permissible to court the favour of such people, nor to take food or drink with them, nor even to accept their alms, until they make reparation to God in hardships, through penance, with shedding of tears, and set free the baptised servants of God and handmaids of Christ, for whom He died and was crucified.
...For Scripture says: Weep with them that weep; and again: If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it. Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have been sold, Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable, wicked, and apostate Picts!
...Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptised women as prizes-for a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever. Amen.
I testify before God and His angels that it will be so as He indicated to my ignorance. It is not my words that I have set forth in Latin, but those of God and the apostles and prophets, who have never lied. He that believeth shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned, God hath spoken.
I ask earnestly that whoever is a willing servant of God be a carrier of this letter, so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone, but rather be read before all the people, and in the presence of Coroticus himself. May God inspire them sometime to recover their senses for God, repenting, however late, their heinous deeds-murderers of the brethren of the Lord!-and to set free the baptised women whom they took captive, in order that they may deserve to live to God, and be made whole. here and in eternity! Be peace to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

His demand for sodality and a change in the relations of the celts would eventually tame the violent expression of celtic life, and bring peace and an end to slavery. St. Patrick's abolitionism would find a place in Irish Christian thought--a path which the sons of Eire took into their hearts.

Now this is something to celebrate!

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism

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