15 March 2012

'The gift of God' - the faith that St Patrick brought to the Irish

Saturday, 17 March, is St Patrick's Day and Ireland's National Day.

One of Miss Cunningham's pupils in Rutland St School in the heart of Dublin half a century ago tells how St Patrick came to Ireland twice, the second time to stay there. You will notice that in this Brown Bag Production, done a few years ago, the pope who gave St Patrick permission to go to Ireland as a bishop bears a remarkable resemblance to a much more recent pope!

Mary, the young girl telling the story, has Patrick being kidnapped in France. I'm more inclined to think he was from Wales, much nearer to Ireland. But we don't know. Scholars can't identify 'Bannavem Taburniae', Patrick's native place as mentioned in the opening paragraph of his Confession. Young Mary sees Patrick's reluctant willingness to return to Ireland as a missionary. There is no doubt about the truth of this because the saint writes about his struggle in his Confession, the authenticity of which no scholar doubts. It and the Letter to Coroticus are the only writings of the saint that we have.

 Slemish, County Antrim in the north-east of Ireland where St Patrick is said to have worked as a shepherd while a slave. It is generally believed that St Patrick came to Ireland as a bishop in 432 and that he died on 17 March 461.

Each time I read his Confession I'm struck by the saint's knowledge of Scripture. Texts from the Bible are interwoven with his own words. He had a strong sense of the faith being a gift from God as this extract shows. Words from Scripture are in italics. The English translation is by Bishop Joseph Duffy, the Latin is Patrick's own and the Irish version is by Bishop Liam Mac Philibín (William Philbin).

 My decision to write must be made, then, in the light of our faith in the Trinity. The gift of God and his eternal consolation must be made known regardless of danger, I must fearlessly and frankly spread the name of God everywhere in order to leave a legacy after my death to my brothers, and children, the many thousands of them, whom I have baptized in the Lord. And at the very end of the Confession: Do not attribute to me in my ignorance the little I achieved or pointed out which pleased God. Let your concusion and the general opinion rather be the real truth, that my success was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die.

In mensura itaque fidei Trinitatis oportet distinguere, sine reprehensione periculi, notum facere donum Dei, et consulationem aeternam, sine timore fiducialiter Dei nomen ubique expandere, ut etiam post obitum meum exagallias relinquere fratribus et filiis meis, quos in Domino ego babtizaui, tot milia homniumAnd at the very end of the Confessio: ut nemo umquam dicat, quod mea ignorantia si aliquid pusillum egi uel demonstrauerim secundum Dei placitum; sed arbitramini et uerissime credatur quod donum Dei fuisset. Et haec est Confessio mea antequam morior.

Mar sin, de réir creidimh sa Tríonóid is ceart dom comhairle a dhéanamh, bronntanas Dé agus an sólás síoraí a chur in iúl gan aird ar chontúirt, ainm Dé a leathadh i ngach áit gan fuacht gan faitíos ionas go bhfágainn tar éis mo bháis oidhreacht ag my bhráithre agus ag mo chlann, a liachtaí sin mile duine a bhaist mé sa tiarna. Agus ag deireadh na Faoistine: . . . nach ndéarfaidh aon duine choíche go mba é m’aineolas ab údar le cibé beagán a rinne mé nó a léirigh mé de réir thoil Dé. Ach ceapaigí agus creidtear – is é lomchlár na fírinne  é -  go mba é tabhartas Dé é. Agus siúd í m’Fhaoistin roimh bhás dom.

Please pray that the present generation of Irish people, many of whom, perhaps even a majority, have rejected the gift of God, our Christian Catholic faith that St Patrick cherished so deeply, may, with God's grace, re-discover it. 

Lord, through the work of Saint Patrick in Ireland 
we have come to acknowledge the mystery of the one true God 
and give thanks for our salvation in Christ; 
grant by his prayers that we who celebrate this festival 
may keep alive the fire of faith he kindled.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


Dóchas linn Naomh Pádraig, Aspal mór na hÉireann,

Bring hope to us, St Patrick, great Apostle of Ireland,

Ainm oirearc gléigeal, solas mór an tsaoil é.

Illustrious, glorious name, he is the great light of the world.

D'fhill le soiscéal grá dúinn d'ainneoin blianta i ngéibheann.

He came back to us with the gospel of love, despite years of captivity.

Grá mór Mhac na páirte, d'fhuascail cách ón daorbhruid.

Great love of the Son, freed all from oppression.


Sléibhte, gleannta, máighe,'s bailte mór’ na hÉireann:

Hill, valleys, plains, large towns of Ireland

Ghlan sé iad go deo dúinn, míle glóir dár naomh dhil.

He cleaned them for ever, a thousand praises to our dear saint.

Iarr’maid ort, a Phádraig, guí orainn na Gaela,

We ask you, Patrick, pray for us Irish,

Dia linn lá 'gus oíche 's Pádraig Aspal Éireann.

God and St Patrick Apostle of Ireland be with us day and night.

First stanza repeated.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig faoi mhaise daoibh!
A Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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