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By Andrea F. Phillips

Calf deep in swampy water, I stood still, frozen in my tracks as the swish of my galoshes suddenly suggested an ominous thought, snakes.

After hurricanes Katrina/Rita/Gustave our wooded property looked like a war zone: tangled saplings, downed trees, and water oaks, like felled giants, the crevasses of their uprooted root systems now muddy pools so inviting to reptiles. Taking the dog out for a long walk that morning I hadn’t thought of this unsavory scenario.

Now, with a tingle of terror, I whispered – St. Patrick, protect us from snakes! As I called the dog, and retraced my steps, I thought, this is the first time I’ve prayed to St. Patrick…Wonder if he hears me…Wonder if the story about him banning snakes from Ireland is true…

Days later, it was my husband’s turn to take the dog into the woods, only he knew what the swampy ground could hold and grabbed a scythe.

“Come see what I killed,” I presently heard his baritone through the open door. Lying in the grass was a large Copper Head, a snake as striking as it is poisonous.

Again I shuddered. Then, What day is this? March 17…St. Patrick’s day! I understood: I heard you. Stay out of the woods.

Feeling a personal connection with the saint of miracles and lore, I jumped at the opportunity to write about him. So, since Catholic means Universal, here it comes to you, via South Louisiana, the amazing story of good St. Patrick.

St Patricks Breast Plate Prayer Banner

 

Early life

Born in Kilpatrick, Scotland, Patrick’s parents were Calphurnius and Conchessa, the former from a high-ranking Roman family, holding office in Britain. Conchessa was a close relative of the great St. Martin of Tours.
At age sixteen, Irish raiders abducted Patrick and sold him into slavery to an Irish chieftain, Milchu, who used him as a shepherd.

In this solitude, the youth took solace in prayer, a habit that lit in him the fire of love of God – a fire that would later ignite the Catholic Faith in Ireland. During those years in captivity, he also learned the Celtic language, and became acquainted with the customs of the Druids, a knowledge that would later be crucial to his apostolate.  After six years, admonished by an angel, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain.



Priesthood, appointment to Ireland, and Bishopric

But now, his heart was set on dedicating his life to God in the priesthood. He studied in Tours and at the famed island-monastery of Lérins, and was later ordained by the great Saint Germain. Still, Patrick’s thoughts were with Ireland, and, from time to time, he had visions of Irish children who called to him, “…come back to Ireland, and walk once more among us.”

Pope St. Celestine I, the great combater of heresies and devotee of the Blessed Virgin, dearly wished to conquer pagan Ireland for the Faith, and sent Bishop Palladius to the island. However, the Bishop was terrified of the fierce pagan chieftain, Wicklow, and soon gave up the enterprise. Hearing of the aborted mission, St. Germain sent his disciple of 18 years, Patrick, to Rome to obtain permission to evangelize Ireland. After receiving the Papal blessing, the saint returned to the green isle, now to do battle with the forces of paganism.

 

Ireland

Patrick and his companions landed in Ireland probably around the year 433. They made their way north to the mouth of the River Boyne, where Patrick began to evangelize and performed his first miracle in defense of Our Lady and the Nativity of Jesus, converting many. At once the Druids were up in arms against the Christian intruder. One chieftain, Dilchu, tried to strike the saint with his sword, but his arm became petrified, and he joined Patrick and accepted instruction.

Patrick heard that in defiance to him, Leoghaire, the supreme monarch of Ireland, published an edict. On Easter Sunday, all households must extinguish their lights. Only at Tara, the place of the king, would a fire remain lit. All Druids and courtesans convened on Tara. They feared this messenger of Christ was beginning to win the Irish.
The fearless man of God knew that this was his opportunity to, once and for all, plant the cross in Ireland. Patrick encamped on the hill opposite Tara, and lit a huge Paschal fire rivaling that of Leoghaire.

In a panic, the Druids said to their leader, “O King, this fire which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict will blaze forever in this land unless it be, this very night, extinguished.”  A dispatch of Druids and armed men was sent to Patrick’s hill and repeated attempts made to extinguish the fire but to no avail. There were also snares and assaults prepared for Patrick, all of which, by divine protection, he dodged unscathed. His powerful prayer,St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate is said to have been composed by him for his clash with paganism.

On Easter day, the missionary band, preceded by a youth carrying aloft the Holy Gospels, and followed by St. Patrick wearing miter and crozier, entered Tara. The Druids tried all their spells and incantations on the courageous company. After much effort, they finally succeeded in bringing darkness over the valley. Patrick prayed to the Lord, and the sun shone forth. Then, by demonic power, the Arch-Druid Lochru was lifted up in the air, striving to gain control over the saint. But at Patricks’s prayer, Lochru was dashed on the rocks.

 


Conversion of Ireland 

On this day, Irish paganism was dealt a mortal blow. Beginning with the king, St. Patrick began to evangelize the court, soon making a convert of one of the ministers, Dubhtach. It is on this occasion that St. Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock, three leaves on a single stem, to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity to the assembled chieftains. 

St. Patrick spent his life working for the complete conversion of his beloved Irish. He particularly directed his apostolate to the chieftains, knowing that if the heads were conquered, their people would follow. And thus it happened that through his untiring evangelization, supported at times by great miracles, he conquered Ireland for the Holy Catholic Faith. Churches and monasteries arose, and religious orders were founded. St. Patrick is said to have consecrated 350 bishops. 

Saint Patrick died on March 17, 493. His remains were wrapped in a shroud by St. Brigid. Bishops, clergy and faithful from all parts crowded around to offer due honor to the Father of their Faith. According to ancient records, for several days a light shone around his bier. The cathedral of Down was build on his grave. 

 

St Patricks Breast Plate Prayer Banner

 

  


In my research about our great saint, I was not able to substantiate the popular claim that he expelled all snakes from Ireland. The claim seems to be a pious legend, lost in the mist of time. - Andrea F. Phillips, author


 References:

First Photo by: Andreas F. Borchert
Shamrock Emblem by: Setanta Saki

The prayer, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, mentioned in the text is also found here


  

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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