Saint Patrick in History, by Father Thomas Joseph Shahan

detail of stained glass window of Saint Patrick, date and artist unknown; Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Knoxville, Tennessee; photographed on 16 September 2016 by Nheyob; swiped from Wikimedia Commons


Happy isle!
Be true; for God hath graved on thee His Namet
God, with a wondrous ring, hath wedded thee;
God on a throne divine hath Established thee;
Light of a darkling world! Lamp of the North!
My race, my realm, my great inheritance,
To lesser nations leave inferior crowns;
Speak ye the thing that is; be just, be kind;
live ye God’s Truth, and in its strength be free!
– Aubrey Thomas de Vere, “The Confession of Saint Patrick”

It is unfortunate that Saint Patrick found no chronicler to do for him what Adamnán did for Columba, or to enshrine him in his proper social and political setting after the manner of Saint Bede and Saint Gregory of Tours. It is true that he has left us three genuine Latin writings of his own – his Confession, his Letter to Coroticus, a British kinglet, and the curious chant known as the Lorica or Breastplate Hymn. Four “Sayings” and some proverbs are attributed to him; they are surely of great antiquity. So too are the pretty story of Patrick and the King’s Daughters, and his Vision of the Future of Ireland. All these remains of the Saint are accessible in the English translation of Dr. Wright. The oldest manuscript text of the Confession of Saint Patrick is found in the vernacular Book of Armagh, a miscellaneous parchment codex of excellent calligraphy, written early in the ninth century, and still preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. The scribe, Ferdomnach, believed that the worn old manuscript before him was the autograph text of the Saint; he also comments on its age and its difficult phraseology. Dr. Wright says of these Latin literary relics of the Saint that “notwithstanding the ruggedness of style and the want of accordance with grammatical rules, there is much to be commended in the simplicity of his style and unadorned dignity of his narrative”. The Confession has been translated into blank verse by Sir Samuel Ferguson in his Remains of Saint Patrick, and paraphrased in metre by Aubrey de Vere. The reader may consult Bishop Healy, Ireland’s Ancient Schools and Scholars, for a scholarly estimate of the writings attributed to Saint Patrick. Certain spurious writings are to be found in the Opuscula S. Patricii published by Ware in 1656 and by Villanueva in 1835.

The oldest known life of Saint Patrick is that written in Latin by Muirchu Maccu Mactheni about the year 690. He wrote at the dictation and with the help of Aedh, a bishop of Sleibhte (Sletty) who died in 698. This life was copied in 807 into the Book of Armagh. The somewhat faulty text of this codex was completed in 1884 from a Brussels manuscript by Rev. Edmund Hogan, S.J., in his Documenta de S. Patricio. It has been translated into English by Rev. Albert Barry, C.SS.R. Muirchu, with the professional humility of his time and kind, says in his prologue that he writes “with slender skill, doubtful authors, forgetful memory, obscure text and mean speech.” He knows that he was not the first to write about the Saint, for he expressly says that previous to him “many have striven to set forth this story according to what they had heard from their fathers and from those who from the beginning were ministers of the Word; but were never able to reach the one sure pathway of history on account of the very difficult nature of the narrative and conflicting opinions and much guess-work.”

A rhymed metrical life, written in Irish, is generally attributed to Fiacc, Bishop of Sleibhte and a quasi-contemporary of Saint Patrick. It is said to have been composed in the first half of the sixth century, and is described by Sir Samuel Ferguson as a very archaic example of the Irish language. Dr. Loofs in his Antiquae Britonum Scotorumque ecclesiae quales fuerint mores (Leipzig, 1882) is of the opinion that the hymn was composed after, and probably with the aid of, Muirchu’s memoirs.

The historians of Saint Patrick prize certain “annotations” of Bishop Tirechan of Meath taken down by him about 650 “from many seniors and from the lips or (and) the book of Ultan, the bishop of Conchobair, who was my spiritual father.” They were copied in 807 into the Book of Armagh, and were then held to be very ancient by the scribe of that book, for he comments on the great labor involved in their decipherment. They probably represent the widely scattered and miscellaneous materials, oral and written, out of which similar rude lives of Saint Patrick were compiled; very probably all such work had a pre-eminently local interest, and in its original telling embodied genuine traditions that could then be confirmed by existing monuments or remains. Time and war and neglect have effaced from the soil of Ireland many such evidences of the past.

Several (seven) ancient lives of Saint Patrick were published at Louvain in 1647 by Father John Colgan in his folio Trias Thaumaturga. With one exception, they are all very probably later than the ninth century, and are filled with legends and traditions of doubtful value and provenance. They abound with anachronisms and foolish and worthless fables.

Among these “lives” the seventh, known as the Vita Tripartita, has been held by many writers on Saint Patrick to be, if not the oldest at least the best authenticated document concerning him. Some have attributed its authorship to Saint Evan of Monasterevan who flourished in the sixth century. Cardinal Moran opines that in its actual state it must be assigned to the tenth century. Mr. Whitley Stokes believes that it must have been written after the middle of the tenth century. Father Barry says of the Tripartita that all the modem lives of Saint Patrick have been compiled mostly from it; they are therefore worthless, and have thrown discredit upon the great Apostle of Ireland. The Irish text has been edited with an English translation by Mr. Whitley Stokes, in the Rolls Series (London, 1887). But these two volumes contain a great deal more than the Irish text and English translation of the Tripartita. In them are printed and described in detail all the original texts (Latin or Irish) that in any way antedate or immediately follow the Tripartita and serve to throw light on the life of Saint Patrick. An admirable chapter of the Introduction deals with the “Social Condition of the Early Irish” and is based entirely on the text of the Tripartita. It is equalled only by Bishop Reeves’ study of the content of Adamnan’s “Life of Columba.” In the first volume are collected all the facts concerning Saint Patrick that Mr. Stokes considers more or less historical out of the great mass of manuscript material that has reached us. With a very few additions, these pages may be said to offer the gist of our knowledge concerning Saint Patrick. Mr. Stokes is of opinion that the Saint “had a reverent affection for the Church of Rome, and there is no ground for disbelieving his desire to obtain Roman authority for his mission or for questioning the authenticity of his decrees that difficult questions in Ireland should ultimately be referred to the Apostolic See.”

The Life of Saint Patrick by Jocelyn, a monk of Furness Abbey in Lancashire, written toward the end of the twelfth century, is the sixth of the lives accepted by Colgan. It is also found to be in the Bollandists. Jocelyn is not trustworthy, though like all such works, his story is of value for the opinions and mental attitude of his own time and surroundings.

Among the modern works on Saint Patrick those of Dr. Todd (1864), Canon O’Hanlon (volume 3 of his Lives of the Irish Saints, 1874-1904), M. F. Cusack (1871) and Father John Morris (1888) are worthy of special mention. The edition of the Tripartita by Mr. Whitley Stokes remains by far the most useful and instructive of all the publications of the nineteenth century concerning the Apostle of Ireland. In Aubrey de Vere’s delightful Legends of Saint Patrick (1872) the reader will find an exquisite metrical rendering of several themes in the life of the saint, also a preface from the hand of the poet that will repay the reading. A bibliography of Saint Patrick is wanting. Perhaps the new edition of Chevalier’s Repertoire will partially satisfy this need.

Saint Patrick was very probably born in the vale of Clwyd (Clyde) near the Roman colonial town of Deva (Chester). He states in his Confession that he was born in the district of “Bannavern Taberniae.” Muirchu says that this place was in Britain, “not far from our sea,” i.e., from the coast of Ireland, and adds that he had “always and for certain” found it to be the place called “Ventre,” the birthplace likewise of Conc hessa, the mother of Saint Patrick. In Fiacc’s Hymn his birthplace is put down as “Nemthur.” Father Barry assures us that “Deva,” i.e., Dyfradwy (heavenly river) is the British equivalent for the Irish words “Nemthur” and “Tabumiae.” Mr. Whitley Stokes says that Patrick was born about the year 373 at Nemptor, an Old-Celtic Nemetoduron, which may have been the older name for Ail Cluade (Rock of Clyde), now Dumbarton. He does not undertake to identify this place with the “Bannavem Taberniae” where the Saint himself says he was born, and where he was captured, but thinks that the latter site was “somewhere on the western sea-coast (armorica) of North Britain.” Concerning the date of the death of Saint Patrick, Mr. Stokes is of opinion that “after having spent sixty years in missionary work, partly as priest partly as bishop, he died at an advanced age (perhaps ninety years) on the 17th March, probably in or about the year 463, and was buried in Downpatrick.” He adds that the usual date of 493 “seems due to the desire of the Irish to make his age one hundred and twenty years, exactly equal to that of Moses.” Father Barry agrees with Mr. Stokes as to the year of the death of Saint Patrick, but thinks it more probable that he was born in 378 and was seventy-five years of age at his death. The very ancient statement in Fiacc’s Hymn that Saint Patrick preached in Ireland for sixty years has been shown by Father Shearman (Loca Patriciana) to be erroneous. It should read thirty years. The numerous writers who assert that Saint Patrick lived to the age of one hundred and twenty “are only links in a chain that is not stronger than the first link.” Most of them lived in later times and it is most likely that they all copied from Muirchu, as they had no special means of information. But the Roman numerals in Muirchu may easily have been changed during the various transcriptions. Father Barry is a cautious and a learned writer. His chronology of Saint Patrick is as follows:

  • 378 – Birth
  • 404-410 – Captivity
  • 410 – Arrival in Britain
  • 410-418 – Stay in Britain
  • 418 – Arrival at Auxerre
  • 432 – Departure from Auxerre
  • 433 – Arrival in Ireland
  • 463 – Death

While the main facts of the life of Saint Patrick are as well vouched for as proper historical prudence could require, the details of his life are shrouded in much obscurity. The mass of legendary material is owing, partly to the absence of a reliable controlling biography of known date and authorship, partly to the profound and universal veneration for his person that sought expression along the lines of the new religion, and partly to the imaginative ethos of the race of Cuchullin and Finn, from time immemorial a race of hero-worshippers. It is well to remember that during the fifth and sixth centuries of the Christian era in the West all historical writing is at a low ebb, as any one may see who will look through Mommsen’s edition of the Chronica Minora. If the story of contemporary imperial Rome be hidden in a quasi-night of silence, we need not wonder that men ignored the happenings in a remote island that even then was described by the imperial poets as Ultima Thule. The latter half of the fifth century in Roman Britain is broken only by a voice of lamentation and fierce reproach, that Gildas whose personality is much harder to outline than that of Saint Patrick. Moreover, the native Irish were just acquiring the content and method of their new Latin education, Roman alphabet and writing, Christian and profane history, a new philosophy of life and a vaster range of knowledge. They were still pre-eminently a people at school, and not a maturely cultivated race. Yet within a century from the death of Saint Patrick native Irish missionaries will be flooding the continental homes of Franks, Lombards and Romans. Columbanus, educated at Bangor, will be hailed as the best Latin writer of the opening century of the Middle Ages. We might add that the latest researches show an equal lack of reliable historical material for the saints of the early Merovingian epoch – yet Gaul had been for three centuries the home of Roman learning and letters. There is every reason to believe, however, that the principal reason of the obscurity that surrounds the story of Saint Patrick is the wholesale destruction of the Old-Irish manuscript treasures by the Danes during the ninth century. What was then lost may be estimated from the character of such a work as the Vita Columbae of Adamnan, written at Iona in the last years of the seventh century. Dr. Pinkerton said of it that “it is the most complete piece of such biography that all Europe can boast of, not only at so early a period, but even through the whole Middle Ages.”

Saint Patrick in History

Before the coming of Christ the great States of the world had been put together by conquest and made perfect by legislation and philosophy. At the bidding of fancy there rise before us the figures of Rameses and Sargon, of Cambyses and Alexander and Caesar, mighty men who welded with the sword empires they hoped would live forever. But cruel experience proved that the strength of the soldier, the cunning of the law-giver, and the wisdom of the thinker, were unequal to the task of supporting their own handiwork. Their successors must look on at its inevitable decay, disruption, and death. Still more, not only have these great peoples passed away politically, but their spirit and their ideals have gone out of the world, or if they yet live, they live transformed, in the service of views and purposes quite alien to those of ancient society.

If we turn to the nations which have grown up since the time of Christ, we shall find that their origin is quite different. I do not speak of the Roman Empire, which had reached the acme of its greatness when He was bom. This power was, and always remained, at heart a pagan, un-Christian power. For a century or two after Constantine it lived on a quarrelsome and arrogant life with the Christian society, so that it may be a question whether, in the end, the balance of benefit was for or against the pure primitive ideals of the Christian religion. In any event, Christianity found this state pre-existent, suffered unspeakably from it for long centuries, and during the period of reconciliation failed to transform its innermost being with her humble and heavenly spirit. The Roman Empire, even in the persons of Christian Emperors, remained to the end a jealous and overbearing power, arrogant and tyrannical, loath to recognize practically the Christian principle of the distinction between the spiritual and temporal orders.

In His own good time a just God called from the North and the East the nations whom the Romans, in their unjust pride, called barbarians. He delivered over to their hands the proud, idle, and corrupt Romans, for whom the whole world had become a slave, and whose avarice and rapacity were so great, even after two centuries of Christianity, that a Christian writer tells us how the provincial populations welcomed with effusive joy the terrible armies of the Goths and other uncivilized peoples from the North. From the fourth to the sixth centuries of our era these inexhaustible hordes overran the richest provinces of the empire, and established themselves in Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, along the Rhine and the Danube, and through the Balkan peninsula, so that nothing was left of ancient Roman greatness but a shadow self-imprisoned in his mighty fortress by the Golden Horn. In Europe, at least, the old political world was dead, and the beginnings of a new one were at hand, waiting for the appointed genius to give them form, order, life, and scope.

It was in the conversion of these barbarian peoples that the true power and charm of Christianity were made manifest. Among them it was independent of the civilization of the past, of the law and philosophy that it had perforce inherited. On both sides of the Alps it was dealing with peoples who had little of all three, or who possessed them of such a kind as not to interfere with the mission of the agents of Christianity. In the barbarian world it could begin its own civilizing work from the cornerstone of the Gospel, and could bend in a Christian sense every energy and gift of natural genius. Here, indeed, it could act as a universal spiritual force, with the strong social impact of repeated victories, and a dexterous skill born of long and varied experience with mankind East and West.

It has long since been pointed out by eloquent pens that the Christian religion has lent to every people who accepted it unreservedly, not only new and positive traits of character that lift them to an immeasurable height above their natural pagan past, but also a certain power of resistance and self-preservation. Thereby such a people holds forever its place in the world’s life, through vital contact with a universal and immortal society that is independent of temporal vicissitudes, however far-reaching the latter may be. Thus, to the Latin peoples, the Christian religion brought a regeneration of their ancient culture, a rare and fine hallowing of the affections and of the imagination, that culminates in the splendid poetry of a Dante and in the delicate mystic art of mediaeval Italy. From the Teuton the new religion took his native fierceness and hopeless individualism, his vague shifting religiosity, and gave him in its stead a sense of positive ideals at once concrete and holy, the notion of order and submission at once universal and practical, and the noble dream – alas! that it should be forever a dream – of a world in which all natural justice should be realized by a frankly Christian state in union with and under the tutelage of the Christian spirit. To the Greek this religion gave the last word of human philosophy, a most intimate sense of the Christian mysteries, the intellectual hegemony of Christian thought. At the same time it cut out the root of national fickleness and frivolity, and planted deep in the Greek heart a root of the tenderest personal devotion to Jesus Christ, the ever-glorious Conqueror of ignorance and sin, the Liberator of humanity – planted it so deep that in spite of error, narrowness of view, and adamantine stubbornness, that national mind has withstood for twelve centuries the ever-tightening pressure of Islam, and from the shelter of this impregnable refuge, looks hopefully yet for freedom, and a share in some future winning of mankind to Jesus Christ.

While these lasting reforms or betterments were worked in national character by the strong and saving grace of Jesus, the Divine Caller of the Nations, they were not done without the agency and intervention of His Church, in and through whom He wishes and perfects the calling of those whom He chooses. The Church works through her missionaries, as Christ first worked on the world through His Apostles. She knows no older, no diviner, no surer way than the preaching of truth by the mouths of men whom she authorizes to speak in her name, and to stand guarantors for the genuinity and integrity of her revealed message. Hence it is that at the opening of the Christian life of every modem European nation there stands some great and solemn figure – some original Apostle – who came to the tribes seated in darkness – came bringing gifts, first of spiritual freedom and uplifting, and then of the highest rational refinement of soul and body and social conditions.

These are the new conquerors, law-givers and philosophers, the new Sargons and Alexanders, and they differ from the old as heaven differs from earth, God from man, the spirit from matter, the infinite from the transitory. Not as ministers of pride and selfishness and ambition does this procession of great missionaries move across the face of Europe – oh, no! They come in lowliness and poverty and candor of heart, frankly condemning idolatry and vice and bravely offering Christ, the Church, the sacraments, appealing for belief and trust to their proper mission, to the clear holiness of their teaching, to the still audible voice of the natural conscience, and when God wills, to miracle and prophecy, as public proof of their right to be heard and heeded. There is Remi before the Franks, sweet and firm and shrewd, dominating by will and mind the gigantic; conquerors of the fairest provinces of the empire! There are Columba and Aidan compelling into Christianity by word of mouth the very peoples who had forever defied the sword of Rome, the painted Picts and the lawless Scots! There are Gregory and Augustine, who open the Christian life of the Angles and Saxons! There is Willibrord, alone among the terrible Frisians, scarcely more merciful than their own dark ocean in its anger! There are Ansgar and Olaf, who go fearlessly into the heart of the Viking’s land and tear from the hand of Thor his world-breaking hammer, and from the dripping beak of the raven of idolatry the scarcely breathing soul of the great-hearted Northland! There is Boniface, true herald of religion and civilization to the German fatherland, whose work has outlived that of Arminius and Charlemagne, even as spiritual and intellectual conquests are more durable than those of the sword.

To these men the nations of Europe are indebted so deeply that even when they no longer retain the unity of the faith they received from those apostolic hands, they still are conscious that through such apostles they came out into the light of a higher human life and reached easily and quickly a plane of social perfection to which they would otherwise have looked up in vain. In other words, with unanimous voice, the modern nations acknowledge that the place of each in history is conditioned, primarily, by the character and the work of those extraordinary men, their spiritual masters, who stood at the line of transition from the old to the new, and fixed indelibly upon each national character a certain bent or drift, who ground, as it were, into their very blood and being a certain tone and mood, certain qualities and proclivities, that are henceforth ineradicable and connote for all time the vocation of each Christian nation. What a mystery of history and grace! What a consoling proof of the divine origin of the Christian religion, that it should thus strike out, at the very first step of its independent career, the middle way of existence, should so securely maintain the claims of a cosmopolitan teaching and yet recognize the inalienable rights of that other work of God which is nationality! In all the painful issues presented to it, the claims of nature as against grace, the claims of the reason as against revelation, the claims of philosophy as against religion, of an intimate scrutiny of nature as against the world and the life of the spirit, it has never had a more delicate and trying situation than this – the perfect adjustment of religion with the spirit and ideals of nationality. That it has walked freely and successfully among the numberless pitfalls that beset this path through the ages, is no small proof that the lamp of the Holy Spirit goes before its feet, and that the voice of the Spouse is forever audible in its heart and consciousness.

Pre-eminent among these spiritual conquerors stands the Christian apostle whom a multitude of men yet honor – Saint Patrick. He is the founder of one of the most powerful and lasting of spiritual empires, a great and kingly apparition upon the scene of Keltic society, in a time of universal wreckage, when old states and older civilizations crumbled beneath sword and flame, when the old order went out in confusion and despair –

“With thousand shocks that come and go.
  With agonies, with energies,
With overthrowings and with cries.
  And undulatings to and fro.”

There is something grandly calm and patriarchal about Saint Patrick. It may be that the endless enthusiastic repetition of his story has created an atmosphere of legend in which he appears idealized and uplifted beyond the plane of common mortals, yet we have sufficient of the best historical data to justify us in our admiration. Were there no more than his admirable Confession which breathes the spirit of a Saint Paul, and his splendid letter to the lawless chief Coroticus, we should yet have much more than has been preserved of many an ancient saint whose titles have never been questioned. Extremely old Christian hymns of the Irish – the purest specimens of their venerable language – depict him as a man of the noblest and most intense faith, the most childlike confidence in God, the most ardent and devouring love for the people whose shepherd he had become. He accomplished one of the most far-reaching, bloodless revolutions when he made the Kelt Christian, for by that act he implanted in the heart of Christian Europe a leaven of zeal and ideal devotion to religion which even yet potently permeates and vivifies vast masses of Catholicism.

The Irish Kelts were a highly cultivated people when Saint Patrick came to Ireland. They had considerable barbaric luxury in dress and weapons and dwellings. They used ornaments of gold and silver and ivory. They had many kinds of musical instruments, and their tournaments or knightly games of chivalry argue a people advanced in the social arts and intent on their cultivation. Their priests, the Druids, possessed a great deal of knowledge of a certain kind. Such as it was, the pagan youth of Ireland flocked to hear them in the depths of the forests, under the spreading oaks or on the grassy summit of some swelling hill. The land was filled with poets and philosophers and historians, who cultivated the national language of their country while the idioms of modern Europe were yet dormant in a degenerating latinity.

In his magnificent epic of “Congal,” Sir Samuel Ferguson has sketched with the hand of a master the true outlines of the Irish society that Patrick found before him when he began his apostolic career.

Seldom, if ever, have lines throbbed with a richer music than those in which he describes the Ireland that confronted Saint Patrick –

“From where tumultuous Moyle
Heaves at Benmore’s foot-fettering rocks with ceaseless surging toil.
* * *
South to the salt sheep-fattening marsh and long-resounding bay
Where young Cuchullin camped his last on dread Muirthevne’s day;
And southward still to where the weird De Danaan kings lie hid,
High over Boyne, in cavern’d cairn and mountain pyramid;
And on the right hand from the rocks where Balor’s billowy caves,
Up through the funnelled sea-cliffs shoot forth the exploding waves,
South to where lone Gweebarra laves the sifted sands that strow
Dark Boylagh’s banks; and southward still to where abrupt Eas-Roe
In many a tawny heap and whirl, by glancing salmon track’t,
Casts down to ocean’s oozy gulfs the great sea-cataract.”

Only a man of learning and refinement could hope to make an impression on such a society. Saint Patrick had studied in the best schools of France and Italy. He had seen much of the world, for he counted some sixty years when he listened to the voices of the Irish. His first converts were among the learned men. He himself spread everywhere the love of learning by preparing little manuals or catechisms of doctrine which he spread gratuitously among the people, by introducing the Roman alphabet, and popularizing the Latin tongue, then and for centuries after the channel of polite intercourse and all higher culture of Western humanity. He instructed in reading and writing the men and women he gathered in his monasteries. He sent the young Irish abroad to learn the wisdom of the ancients from the monks of Tours and Lerins. He reformed the ancient Irish laws and made a Christian digest of them. In his incessant journeys over Ireland he left everywhere broad tracks of light behind him, for he was always surrounded by scribes, architects, goldsmiths, and carpenters. He was scarcely dead when the whole island appears dotted with schools established by his most cherished disciples. It was he who gave a Christian direction to the natural and lively curiosity of the Kelt, and made the Christian Irish indubitably the most scholarly and cultivated people of the early Middle Ages.

After the first work of conversion, he puts himself in harmony with the political institutions of the land. The ancient Irish polity was based on the clan, the political unit of the country, the framework of society that had been imported from the far Orient It was scarcely more than an enlarged family. Ties of blood, a common education, common ideals of manhood and virtue, and an undefined common interest in vast tracts of grazing land, were the cement that held this society together. It was a simple patriarchal condition, well enough for a gentle and remote people in time of peace, but too weak to withstand the shock of war or of the impact of a more organized and more aggressive state.

No doubt Saint Patrick saw this, but the Irish were very fond of their ancient institutions. And then he may have expected that the strong organization of the Church would familiarize them with a higher and better form of government. Saint Patrick directed his efforts to gain the good-will of the chieftains and kinglets, who held a sort of loose authority over their fellow tribesmen. They gave him lands, built him little wooden churches, assured him protection for his monasteries and immunities from many public burdens. They sent their children to learn from the Christian clergy Latin and Greek, also other strange lore that the Druids and the bards had hitherto monopolized. Thus the Church in Ireland grew into the very marrow of the Irish State. She furnished it with breadth of view, solidarity, political insight, and civil harmony – qualities in which it was by nature sadly deficient. The churches and monasteries and schools were everywhere in the hands of the clans who founded them. They put bishops and priests of their own kith and kin over them. Thus the spirit and form of ecclesiastical administration penetrated by a natural and easy process into the civil and temporal order. It was not, it is true, without some imperfections, some derogations from the usual hierarchical development; yet, all in all, the Irish State was never more flourishing than in the three centuries which elapsed from the death of Saint Patrick to the arrival of the Danes. The memories of those Arcadian days never died out among the people. In song and legend they have been perpetuated to our own time. A thousand years after their passing an unknown Irish poet caught a last glimpse of those days of comparatively popular happiness in a song that can never die, even in James Clarence Mangan’s wonderful paraphrase, that is incapable of expressing the warm color and lively sentiment of the original Irish –

“A plenteous place is Ireland for hospitable cheer.
Where the wholesome fruit is bursting from the yellow barley ear;
There is honey in the trees where her misty vales expand,
And her forest paths in summer are by falling waters fann’d.
There is dew at high noontide there, and springs i’ the yellow sand
   On the fair hills of holy Ireland.
* * *
“Large and profitable are the stacks upon the ground.
The butter and the cream do wondrously abound;
The cresses on the water and the sorrel are at hand.
And the cuckoo’s daily calling his note of music bland.
And the bold thrush sings so bravely his note i’ the forest grand
  On the fair hills of holy Ireland!”

After all, the ancient form of the Irish State and the peculiar conditions of its Church are things of the past If that was all the Kelt had by which to remember his first apostle, it is not improbable that he would have met with the oblivion into which other holy missionaries have fallen. There is something more to the work of Saint Patrick. He molded anew the Irish character, that subtle and delicate, but real expression of the underlying forces, energies, and ideals of this people. Their Church and State might undergo many vicissitudes – but the new spiritual physiognomy which Saint Patrick stamped upon the soul of this marvelous race is nevermore lost – it lasts forever as a distinctive birthmark in Christ.

The Irish pagan character was very unlike anything in Europe. Its chief note was a fierce and sweeping ardor that all the Middle Ages recognized in the famous phrase – perfervidum ingenium Scotorum. This burning temperament of soul manifested itself in the immense joy of war for war’s sake, in the pleasures of the hunt and the passion of a life spent habitually in the open, in athletic games and races, in competition and rivalry with the animal world, in efforts to pierce the secrets of their wonderful ocean, and to reach the mythical mystical land that ever beckoned them westward. We have yet an entrancing pagan literature that the ancestral piety of the Christian Irish has cherished and saved. It exhibits a race in whom ardor, the high sustained passion of daring and executing, is the chief feature of national life. In none of the world’s great literatures is there a higher expression of the passion of battle than the youthful Cuchullin, a more romantic seeker of high exploits than Finn. Personality and action are almost deified in these archaic tales. They exhibit a unique original humanity straining in every faculty for glory, fame, honor, distinction in whatever was then held highest and most desirable.

We know, too, that this nature was generous. The element of selfishness in any shape was peculiarly odious. He was truly a kingly man, a worthy chieftain, whose table groaned with abundant food, who scorned to take for himself any spoil of war save the deathless glory of his high deeds, who gave the poets beakers of gold and rare weapons, who was even an image of Queen Nature, forever giving and rejoicing in his gifts. These pagan Irish are self-sacrificing; they die for one another; they carry life lightly in their hands, and gamble for it at the slightest provocation.

They are affectionate to a fault. In all the world of ancient literature there is no Lycidas note of affection like the “Keening” of Cuchullin over the dead body of Ferdiadh, no such heroism of sisterly devotion as the heart-rending “Sorrows of the Children of Lir.” Here is the true fountain of chivalry, far away in pre-historic days on the soil of Inisfail. Here the heart comes by every natural right with a fulness and a sense of innocence that bring us to the long-locked gates of Eden. Here the friendship of man for man, the love of man for woman, the attachment of brother and sister, the strong bond of companions at arms, stand out with Homeric freshness and simplicity. They are proud, too, with all the pride of a war-like and adventurous ancestry that runs back into the twilight of history, and glories in the untainted strain of its blood, the elevation of its origin, and the prowess of its he- roes. They are exclusive over against the peoples of the continent, and watch with jealous care every approach to their island paradise. Their Erin is to them a thing of inexhaustible joy, and all their unrestrained love of nature breaks forth forever in its praise – its velvety plains and emerald hill-sides covered with gentle kine, its solemn primeval forests where the wild deer roves, its sheltered valleys covered with ripening fruit, its majestic rivers teeming with fish. From the blossomy apple and the spreading oak whole aviaries of song-birds gladden the sweet air that is bathed and perfumed with almost celestial dews. Every cliff and crag and soaring peak is gray with history, enshrined a hundred times in the popular heart by deeds of war or love or adventure. And the vast echoing seas that shut in and protect this little world of the Kelt are themselves the home of endless marvels, the native element of omnipotent and immortal spirits, who watch and rule the world of man and nature from the oozy recesses of their watery palaces.

And yet, in the midst of all this manifold activity, this golden pride of life, this magnificence of existence, there rings a fine and delicate melancholy, like a sad low chiming, the note of the soul’s dissatisfaction, the note of reminiscence of heavenly origin, of the vague sense of heavenly destiny. Smiles are dissolved into tears, the song of gladness trembles away in sighs, the proud music of the harp runs out in an uncertain jangle – there is everywhere a sharp oppressive sense of the shortcomings and imperfections of life.

Finally, this people is beyond all others individual, self-centred. It is a people of families, brooking with difficulty any tightening of the social bonds. Every chieftain’s house offers asylum, as far as he can cast his spear. Their immediate allegiance is proud, easily worn, easily cast aside – in this old world a man is worth what his right arm can do in open fight, or knightly joust, or in the chase of the flying red deer. What we now call society or the state was then very embryonic; it had not yet grown to perfection by gradual absorption of the large and free life of the individual.

It was the fierce and arrogant individualism, this supreme consciousness of personal worth and capacity, coupled with immemorial freedom from invasion and incredible fondness for the island home, that prevented the development of an Irish State along the lines of the great mediaeval polities of the continent. In a sense there was too often no law in the land, and each great chieftain did what seemed best in his own eyes. But this is no more than what happened at the same time in Saxon England, in the France of the Karlings, and in many other parts of Europe. Had the land been left free from Norman invasion, or had that invasion been executed with the same thoroughness as in England, there is no reason to doubt that the political genius which the Kelt has displayed in the nineteenth century would have asserted itself sooner in Europe, notwithstanding the rather flippant generalizations of Mommsen and minor writers apropos of the character of the Gauls.

Such, in brief, was the people with whom Saint Patrick was destined to spend nearly all his very long life. He entered intimately into every phase of their national character. His name is connected with numerous sites in nearly every county; his whole life was one constant wandering over the island, dealing with nobles and lowly, with priests and poets, with men and women. When he dies they are no longer the same people. A transforming breath has gone through their innermost soul. That fiery ardor is now apostolic zeal. The children of the nobles, no longer jealous and exclusive, overflow the mainland of Europe, and for many a century no figures are so familiar on the highways and byways of Central Europe as the wandering Irish missionaries. The ardor with which they once threw themselves into battle or adventure is now consumed in the cause of the Gospel. They penetrate the remotest fastnesses of the Alps and the Vosges and the Apennines. There is scarcely a blue mountain lake or hidden valley of Switzerland that these immediate children of Saint Patrick did not reach. What Christian missionaries have been doing within our time in darkest Africa, they did then in a nearer Africa – they preached Jesus Christ to benighted pagan populations of Europe at the risk of their lives, and laid the foundations of Christian society so deep that never since have they been overthrown. In them the world saw again that missionary zeal which once swept like a prairie fire through the society of Greece and Rome. With a holy restlessness they spread the kingdom of Christ, calling themselves His warriors and their labors a warfare for Him – peregrinari pro Christo. They went out like bees from a hive, not only through Lower and Middle Germany, along the Rhine and the Main, the Meuse and the Scheld, but over into the awful solitudes of the Jura, into Burgundy, and down into Italy, where, among the Lombard pagans and Arians, at Bobbio, in the very heart of the Apennines, Columbanus built the famous monastery that shed the light of culture for many a century throughout all Italy, and kept the sacred flame burning when it had elsewhere gone out in cold and hopeless night. The same ardor is shown in their domestic life They covered their little island with a vesture of churches. They opened countless schools, where their own valuable learning divided the scholar’s devotion with Latin and Greek. They caught the fire of asceticism that marked this monastic age, and forthwith it flamed mightily in thousands of hearts, so that almost from their conversion these great ferocious Scoti, the dread of the Roman legions, were a people of saints. Even if all told about the first order of Irish saints be not true, enough yet remains to show that this fervid Keltic soul had in one bound equalled in self-mastery the very fathers of the desert themselves. Up to the eighth century the Irish monks are the romance, the perfect idyll of the original Christian thought. To look again upon this fine and perfect rendering of an unworldly Christian spirit, we must wait until Francis blesses the valleys of Umbria with his presence, and universal nature, earth and sea, bird and beast, again obeys that gentle and absolute holiness which wins irresistibly from God the use of His omnipotence, and weaves afresh those ties that in the days of original innocence bound the world in glad subjection to man.

The native generosity of the Keltic character rose through Saint Patrick to a higher plane – henceforth, with lavish hand, it showers upon the spiritual society of the Church whatever is dearest and most precious. There is an almost violent stormy gratitude in the way in which the countless churches and monasteries of Ireland are raised in the earliest Christian days. The best land is transferred to the Church, the children of the nobles follow the land into the sanctuary, privilege and exemption and high esteem are given out unsparingly. Men are proud to call themselves the slaves of the great missionary saints, and the virgins of Ireland fill the cloisters that rise for them on every hillside and in every valley. The barbaric splendor of their ancient art, in gold and silver and bronze, in the cunning degance of handwriting and illumination, in the mystic sculpture of deep and holy symbols, adorns henceforth the spaces of the church more often than those of the palace. Seldom, if ever, has a race thrown into the lap of Christianity all that it had and all that it was with so much passion and so little reserve as this race.

All this it did for love. Here must have been the strong leverage of Saint Patrick in prying this ancient people out of its place in paganism. He must have appealed mightily and compellingly to racial affections. He must have held Christ before them so sweetly and with such potent unction of tongue and life that resistance was impossible. When he is gone, their literature and history show no more the old natural affections of the race, though occasional echoes and reminiscences of it float back into their Christian life like the delightful colloquies of Oisin with Saint Patrick. They have heard a voice from on high – the Holy Spirit has moved their noble natures. They have a vision of celestial things – God, Jesus, Heaven, the saints. Henceforth, and forever, countless children of that race will prefer the mystic love of God to all human attractions; will set their faces towards the hilltops of Christian perfection; will forever turn aside from the current of this world’s life into the delicious byways where the heart communes with God alone. Here, right in the world’s broad path of progress, is planted a whole people, like an inexhaustible spring of sanctity, an eternal protest against the materialism and self-sufficiency of life, an eternal example, souvenir, mirror of Christianity in its halcyon days, ere yet the Christian peoples had got themselves stained and worn with the conflict of centuries. And if sacrifice be the proof and the price of love, let it be written down in letters of adamant on a wall of brass that no people in the history of the Church has tried more steadily to realize that love of God through Christ which is all that there is to Christianity.

If Saint Patrick offered higher motives and a broader field of action to the ardor. generosity, and affection of the Irish people, what shall I say of his influence on the colossal pride that once distinguished the Scotic man? In the face of history it might seem odd to speak of any such pride surviving in so deeply tried a race. Can the hardest granite resist the endless impact of the hammer and the chisel? Can any spirit withstand the continuous pressure of physical and spiritual violence? Must not the strongest oak, standing alone, stripped of its graceful foliage and abundant branches, go down before an unceasing tornado, and exhibit to the passer-by the bleeding roots that almost clasped the bed-rock of creation? Why mention pride and Ireland in the same breath? Rather let the Prophet Jeremiah cry out over her, even as he cried in strong anguish over Jerusalem, that lay stricken and bleeding in his spirit: “Who will give water to my head and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep, day and night, for the slain of the daughter of my people.” Here we enter the domain of a transcendental sorrow, a sorrow so old, so sad, so continuous that it might well have left all human pride behind, in its long pilgrimage toward the far-away seat of divine justice. In the multitude of oppressors and the infinite ingenuity of their cruelty this ancient race at one time lost interest in names and dates and details – it was only conscious of the hugest of world-wrongs, and waited patiently, clad in invincible protest, for the turn of the wheel.

And yet this ancient pride of race has not gone without its elevation and purification. In the furnace of affliction it has been transmuted into something very holy and spiritual, the pride of constancy in faith. There is, perhaps, no people in the world so proud of its faith as the Irish, so at one with all its joys and triumphs, so cavalierly devout and believing toward an ideal Catholicism. To them the content of Catholicism, as they know it, is as sacred as those fabled tears of Christ that hallowed the quest of the Holy Grail, and if a frontispiece were needed for the history of their supreme constancy, it might well be that masterpiece of Albrecht Durer, where the Christian knight holds on his way undaunted amid a hundred perils of the earth and air, his eyes fixed on some golden distant vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. For a truly spiritual Catholicism they have let go all that other peoples held deaf. In the ten centuries and more during which an independent state existed among the Christian Irish there was little or no conflict with the representatives of their religion. At all times these men looked upon their office and duty as a service in the highest sense of the word, a toilsome rendering up of self to the common good in the spirit of Christian affection and along the principles and lines of evangelical teaching. For three centuries, and those the darkest of Christian history, the little island was almost the sole source of Christian missionary work in Europe. The most frank and full assertion of Christian ethics, as laid down in the Gospel, is to be sought in the writings of Christian Irishmen during this epoch. Whoever will read with attention the fragments of the correspondence of Saint Columbanus of Bobbio will agree with the writer that they reveal an intimate personal grasp of Christian discipline and a moral fearlessness that we meet again only in the person of his contemporary, Saint Gregory the Great.

Saint Patrick transformed that subtle intimate kinship with nature, which made the ancient Irish heart so responsive to all that is graceful and winsome and eloquent in the charms of sea, sky, and earth. He expressly approved the cultivation of all that was innocently natural. But he opened the eye of the Irish mind to a world above nature, of which color and outline and odor, and all that made life an unbroken spring were only the shadows, the harbingers. Henceforth, a real attainable heaven took the place of a mythical impossible land of earthly delights. The gods of the Keltic pantheon vanished from the hearts of men, and in their place came in the Blessed Trinity, the Happy Sight of God forever, the eternal abiding with the Blessed Mary, and with all those holy men and women who had died to the flesh that others might live to the spirit. Erin remained a lovely and a holy land, the vestibule of Paradise, drenched with its sweet odors – but it no longer satisfied the expanded hearts of the Irish, for whom henceforth life itself was but the stepping stone froth darkness to light, from the bosom of chaos to an infinite and eternal existence.

Thereby the root of their melancholy was sterilized. The rift in the lute was healed. In place of the old irritating doubt came a consoling sense of security. There is yet sadness, there is yet weariness of spirit – but it is the sadness and weariness of the soul spiritually homesick for die certain land of final rest and complete peace. In the ancient Irish literature there is no longer the note of despair. The great legendary sorrows of the Keltic soul are now replaced by tender and pious litanies, by prayers that melt away into a flood of tears, by hymns that hold the angels more attentive than ever the brush of Correggio or Raphael. We know now that it is not too much to maintain that one of the chief roots and sources of the exalted mysticism of mediaeval Europe is precisely this transfigured and Christianized Kelticism, which for long centuries overflowed the continent, nourished the spirit of adventure and chivalry, outbid and out-rivalled the weaker and more mediocre classical spirit, and got itself forever immortalized in the great sculpturesque poem of Dante.

Finally, the intense individualism of the Kelt was gradually toned down by the sense of a heavenly and holy membership in the Universal Church. The rude and vigorous warriors who told Alexander that they feared nothing except that the vault of the sky might one day fall, brought to Christ the sacrifice of their strenuous and ardent souls. Men who could scarcely wait the hour of victory for the assertion of their individual self, in camp, at the council table, in parliament, gathered by thousands under the mild rule of some one holier than themselves, and broke by long lives of self-restraint and self-punishment the immemorial ancestral bent towards absolute and unrestrained freedom. They had fought off all attempts to create a compact state at the sacrifice of their personal liberties, but they melted easily in the crucible of the Church, and let themselves be worked into a religious unity that has withstood since then every adverse force. The peculiar national soul which bristled with anger at any show of compulsion, was like a little child, docile and biddable before the soft breath of love.

Thus Saint Patrick is the great teacher of the Irish, and this people rightly retains for him that gratitude which nations have always shown the Irish. towards those who first led them from ignorance to knowledge, from barbarism to civilization, from slavery to freedom. He impressed himself on the soul and heart of the Irish people, as the ancient prophet bent over the dying child, eye to eye, lip to lip, and breathed into him the spirit of his own life. To this new chosen people he was Abraham and Moses, the law and the prophets; he closes the first era of their life since the pre-historic day when they moved out of the far Orient, world-wanderers and world-subduers, and he opens the second era in Christ Jesus, that runneth even yet, to end only in the second coming of the Lord. A very old legend has it that at the last day the men of Erin shall be judged by Saint Patrick alone, and there is an element of truth in the thought that such apostolic labors ought to be rewarded with a seat among the twelve on that dread day when the children of men shall stand before the Sun of Justice, and all hearts shall be at last laid bare and open as the faces of little children. Many other missionaries of the nations are yet held in gratitude on the ancestral sites of their work. But Saint Patrick stands forever apart from them as a benefactor, a man of peculiar and transcendent genius in whom the race saw itself mirrored, who caught its ethos with accuracy and sympathy, and opened before it, at a psychological moment, a spiritual world of which it had been uneasily dreaming, but whose portals none of its grave prophets had yet been able to locate. He arouses rightly in the Irish of all time something of the reverence and the inspiration that the archaic eponymous founders of Greek cities once awoke among the dwellers in Argos or Ionia.

Saint Patrick goes with the Irish race the world over, for the true site of his work, the abiding altar that he raised to God, was the heart of the people. As God scattered the Greek among nations east and west for the training of the intellect, as He drove the Jew like a hard resisting wedge into every society of antiquity for the confession of one God and the assertion of human unity and equality, so He seems from age to age since their conversion to have scattered the Irish people like a sacred chaff, to fructify on all sides, and keep alive the idea of and the devotion to the religion of holy and undefiled Christianity, a Christianity ever fair and vigorous, ever consistent and cosmopolitan, ever fondly thoughtful of the claims and rights of nature, devoted to the human institutions of law and order and State and nation – yet ever conscious that above and beyond all these things are Jesus Christ, His Revelation, His Church, and that whatever conflicts hopelessly with this divine order can be neither true nor permanent, nor even desirable for human welfare.

If we praise Saint Patrick it is because he was God’s instrument in history. He himself was the humblest of men, and timorous to the end about his own salvation. Perhaps I can leave in the minds of my readers no more beautiful picture of this great man than that executed by an old Irish chronicler some thousand years ago:

A just man indeed was this man, with purity of nature like the patriarch’s; a true pilgrim, like Abraham; gentle and forgiving of heart, like Moses; a praiseworthy psalmist, like David; an emulator of wisdom, like Solomon; a chosen vessel for proclaiming truth, like the Apostle Paul. A man full of grace and of the knowledge of the Holy Ghost, he was like the beloved John. A fair flower garden he appeared to children of grace; a fruitful vine branch he is called, as also a sparkling fire, with force of warmth and heat to the sons of life, for instituting and illustrating charity. A lion he is said to have been in strength and power; a dove in gentleness and humility; a serpent in wisdom, and wise in knowing how to do good. Gentle, humble, and merciful he was toward the sons of life, dark and ungentle toward the sons of death, as also a servant of labor and in the service of Jesus Christ. A king he was in dignity and power for binding and loosing, for liberating and convicting, for killing and giving life.

None of the great Christian missionaries has acquired a firmer hold than Saint Patrick on the imagination and gratitude of vast multitudes of men in the New World. For many millions he is a living link between the present, so full of the good things of the world, and the past, so full of faith and spiritual thoughts and hopes. He exercises still a personal charm over every generation of the Irish people, who never can fail to see in him their racial characteristics idealized, Christianized, and elevated to a worthy place among the great influences that go to the shaping of society. At the opening of the twentieth century a splendid cathedral, dedicated to God under the invocation of Saint Patrick, lifts its white spires above the world’s greatest market-place, a pledge of Christian temper and spirit, and a promise of the perpetuity of Christian faith as a principal element of civilization. Beneath the Southern Cross a last great Donaghmor, another glorious memorial of Saint Patrick, a monument of Christian art, arises as if by magic from that Australian soil where the savage man but yesterday roamed in untrammelled lawlessness. The creation of this lovely flower of Christian genius seems like a consecration of the great new State that, almost unnoticed, has taken its place in the family of nations, and in which the children of Saint Patrick have borne, and bear yet, an honored name and exercise an influence for good in things temporal and spiritual. From pole to pole the world is today dotted with churches, schools, and institutions over whose portals is written with pride the name of Saint Patrick, but whose foundations are laid deeper than eye can see or plummet can reach, for they are imbedded in the hearts of more than twenty-five millions of men who recognize Ireland as their immediate Holy Land and the humble fields of Downpatrick as the resting place of one who earned their race in Christ Jesus.

His name is henceforth a name of glory, one that rightly deserves the veneration of all men. It is borne with pride by countless descendants of the ancient race which he long since, on the borderland of history and legend, won over to the Lord Jesus as a needed auxiliary in the night of ruin and horror that was settling over the European culture of Greek and Roman. May it never shine less in the generations to come! It is a holy name, like a banner inscribed all over with dates and places of victory – only not the battlefields of blood and rapine, but the battlefields of spiritual conflict. Their roll-call begins at Iona and Lindisfarne, Ripon and Malmesbury, and goes on to the far southern lands of Europe, to Luxeuil and Annegray and Fontaines in the Vosges, to Bobbio, splendor of mediaeval scholarship in the rugged Apennines, to the fair meadows of Reichenau in the lovely Rhineland, to Saint Gall, that Swiss stronghold of Irish clerics, whence swarmed forth countless missionaries into every part of die wild Aleman land. To them all, the names of Saint Patrick, Brigid, and Columba were a kind of human trinity of saints, whose spirit and precepts were the sublimest fruits of the Christian religion. Surely he was no common man who could command from his grave these armies of spiritual conquerors, whose memory alone could direct on its native soil the transformation of an old and peculiar civilization, and who yet retains, though fourteen centuries intervene, a personal relation to every member of that newer and greater Ireland which has grown up across the far Western Ocean, and farther still, amid the solemn splendors of those Antarctic seas, that were closed, even to the dreams of mankind, in the days of Saint Patrick.

What message has the grand old missionary of Jesus for his children scattered the world over? Comes there no voice any more from the eloquent urn that was the oracle of the Western world when the conflict was on between barbarism and civilization, between rationalist Arianism and the faith in Jesus Christ as truly God and truly Redeemer? Verily, he speaketh yet, and in no uncertain tone, and with no lack of personal example. The conflicts of the future are conflicts of the mind. All the past struggles of humanity pale away before the coming line of battle, far-stretched and stoutly entrenched, between the spirit and the temper of Christian faith and the spirit and temper of those who accept this brief and imperfect world as the be-all and the end-all of human life. Here there may be truces, compromises, cessation of warfare from exhaustion – but a genuine peace is impossible. The conditions are the same as those that surrounded the conflict of the pagan State of Rome and the society of the Christians – one or the other is destined to go down in the end. It is, indeed, a conflict unto death between two worlds – the world of the present and the world of the future. “To your tents, O Israeli” Happy he who can find a formula of conciliation in this multitudinous battle, more painful and distressing than was ever waged among the children of men.

The children of Saint Patrick may well look to the rock from whence they are hewn. In him and his immediate successors the two great modern passions – the passion of knowledge and the passion of fatherland – are admirably combined with the highest religious passion – the perfection of the individual soul and its mystic union with the Creator and Rewarder. For centuries the saint and the warrior, the bishop and the chieftain, cherished and completed one another. It were too long a story to relate in detail what victories over ignorance, stupidity, and barbarism the human sciences owe to the individual labors of Irishmen and to certain peculiar institutions of Ireland, in the confused and perilous centuries of transition from one civilization to another. In this, as in many other things, Ireland only followed the trend imposed on her life by Saint Patrick – the trend toward a union of sanctity and learning, of a co-ordinated love of the fatherland that is below and the eternal fatherland that awaits us above. We may all rightly pray for some spark of that supremely sensible temperament of soul which holds firmly to the rights of heaven, revelation, Jesus Christ, Christianity, without sacrificing or depreciating the natural order established of God and confided to us by Him with the duty of answering one day for its administration. In a beautiful poem, entitled ” The Ways of War,” Lionel Johnson, one of the latest comers in Ireland’s long procession of lyric singers, strikes a note so true, so high and commanding, that I cannot forbear to quote it:

“A terrible and splendid trust
  Heartens the host of Inisfail;
Their dream is of the swift sword-thrust,
  A lightning glory of the Gael.

“Croagh Patrick is the place of prayers.
  And Tara the assembling-place;
But each sweet wind of Ireland bears
  The trump of battle on its race.

“From Dursey Isle to Donegal,
  From Howth to Achill, the glad noise
Rings; and the heirs of glory fall.
  Or victory crowns their fighting joys.

“A dream! a dream! an ancient dream!
  Yet, ere peace come to Inisfail,
Some weapons on some fields must gleam.
  Some burning glory fire the Gael.

“That field may He beneath the sun.
  Fair for the treading of an host –
That field in realms of thought be won.
  And armed minds do their uttermost

“Some way to faithful Inisfail
  Shall come the majesty and awe,
Of martial truth that must prevail,
  To lay on all the eternal law.”

Here, indeed, lies at least one great province of endeavor in the opening century – the devotion to the Christian truth. Majestic and eternal, indeed, it still welcomes every blade that is freed for the defence of so holy a cause. May every succeeding decade see the numerous children of Saint Patrick ever more distinguished among those who contribute to every branch of learning! May they be leaders of international repute, bold and original benefactors of a yet suffering humanity, physicians of a world that unhappily cherishes the thorn of its own discontent! May men look again to the green land that rises in virgin splendor from the Atlantic for a multitude of examples of personal union and concord between the immovable claims of religion and the indispensable utilities of human science, its incredible conquests and sacrifices, its ever-clearer function as an interpreter of the wisdom and power of an infinitely good and provident Creator!

About This EBook

The text of this ebook is taken from the book Saint Patrick in History, by Father Thomas Joseph Shahan, D.D. The edition used was published by Longmans, Green, and Co. in 1904.