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Saint Patrick Our Contemporary

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.

          When the ends of the earth came marching in
          To torch and cresset gleam.
          And the roads of the world that lead to Rome
          Were filled with faces that moved like foam,
          Like faces in a dream.

GK Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse

 

 

 

A great deal of frivolity, much of which Saint Patrick no doubt condemns, obscures our perception of the great saint who brought the Cross to the Emerald Isle.  We forget many things about Saint Patrick as he is reduced to mascot status for Ireland.  Among things which we forget is that his time in regard to Catholicism is quite similar to our time, and that as a result Saint Patrick seems like quite a contemporary figure to me.

Catholicism in Western Europe during the life of Saint Patrick seemed to be on the path of extinction as military conquest by pagan tribes, or tribes nominally Arian heretics, seemed to presage an end to the Church in the West.  The urban centers were dying, the hearts of Christianity in the Roman Empire.  As Saint Augustine lay dying in 430, his beloved city was under siege of a Vandal army, and the Church in North Africa was entering a bitter night of persecution for a century.  In Saint Patrick’s Britannia, the Roman legions had been withdrawn and the Island was undergoing a pagan conquest which would virtually extirpate Christianity there.

In our time we see Catholicism on life support throughout Western Europe and predictions abroad about the death of the Church.

In human terms the forecast for Christianity seemed much more dire in the time of Saint Patrick than in ours.  How did the Church survive in Saint Patrick’s day?  Because Catholics, most of whom are lost to history, took up the Cross of Christ and followed Him.  Through their preaching, courage and kindness, and the Truth of the Faith, they converted individuals and populations, until the Church rose again, immeasurably stronger than before.

That is what we must remember about Saint Patrick.  He did not give way to despair.  He was filled with zeal for Christ and a zeal to save his neighbor.  At the end of his Confession Saint Patrick has this passage:

And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my
   God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood
   for his name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left
   unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by
   dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the
   air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had
   saved both my soul and my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we
   shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of
   Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs
   of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for
   him and in him.

To convert the world to Christ, that is precisely the spirit we need today.  Pray for us Saint Patrick that we may have some fraction of your faith, zeal and courage, to do in our day what you did in yours.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

3 Comments

  1. And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my
    God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood
    for his name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left
    unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by
    dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the
    air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had
    saved both my soul and my body.
    .
    A courageous inspiration from Saint Patrick, the likes of which are unheard these days from anywhere in mercy for anguished souls, suffering realities of hypocrisy, lies, and apostasy.
    .
    Frivolity: as if Mardi Gras – will the sun shine on parades and bring a ‘great day for the Irish’, the mandatory corned beef and cabbage (guilty: smelling the cloves…), no Novenas, wearin’ o the green, abstinence – nah, political agendas ‘in your face’, and the parties at night without stories about St. Patrick.

  2. St Patrick has become the great symbol for Ireland, but sadly St Patrick seems to represent parties with often much alcohol involved. St Patrick is not only a symbol of Catholic Ireland, but also Christian and spiritual Ireland. As St Patrick is also the patron saint of the Church of Ireland. Still St Patrick’s Day parades being celebrated in America for almost three hundred years, has been an inspiration for St Patrick’s day celebrations worldwide and a celebration of the Irish community world wide.

  3. ‘In Saint Patrick’s Britannia, the Roman legions had been withdrawn and the Island was undergoing a pagan conquest which would virtually extirpate Christianity there.

    In our time we see Catholicism on life support throughout Western Europe and predictions abroad about the death of the Church.

    In human terms the forecast for Christianity seemed much more dire in the time of Saint Patrick than in ours. How did the Church survive in Saint Patrick’s day? Because Catholics, most of whom are lost to history, took up the Cross of Christ and followed Him. Through their preaching, courage and kindness, and the Truth of the Faith, they converted individuals and populations, until the Church rose again, immeasurably stronger than before.’
    .
    Then, this five minutes …
    .
    http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com/2015/03/this-is-important.html

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