HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

OUR chief purpose in writing this new Life of St Patrick, when so many Lives already exist, is to give a fuller and, we venture to hope, more exact account of the Saint’s missionary labours in Ireland than any that has appeared since the Tripartite Life was first written. For this purpose we have not only thoroughly studied Colgan’s great work, and made ourselves familiar with the really valuable publications of our own times, but we have, when practicable, personally visited all the scenes of the Saint’s labours, both at home and abroad, so as to be able to give a local colouring to the dry record, and also to catch up, as far as possible, the echoes, daily growing fainter, of the once vivid traditions of the past.

We have no new views to put forward. We shall seek to follow the authority of the ancient writers of the Acts of St. Patrick, which we regard as in the main trustworthy. Those who do not like miracles can pass them over, but the ancient writers believed in them, and even when purely imaginary these miraculous stories have an historical and critical value of their own.

We find it convenient to classify our authorities into three divisions. The ANCIENT authorities are those that flourished before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, that is before A.D. 1172. The MEDIÆVAL authorities will include all those who make reference to St. Patrick’s Acts down to the beginning of the 17th century. The MODERN authorities will comprehend the rest, including Colgan and Usher, who have written from that date (A.D. 1600) to the present time.

We have resolved, however, to follow in the main the guidance of the ancient authorities, who, if credulous in things supernatural, had no motive but to write the truth, so far as it was known to them, for the instruction and edification of posterity. There was then only one Church, and they could have had no motive in representing St. Patrick to be anything else than what he was known to them—a great and successful Christian missionary of the Catholic Church.

Those ancient authorities are in substantial agreement on all the main points of our Apostle’s history. Some shallow critics of our own time, by unduly indulging in what is mere speculation, have brought confusion into the Acts of St. Patrick, but this confusion, like the morning mist on the mountain side, is rapidly passing away. We shall not follow their example; rather we shall adhere to the ancient authorities, and in so doing we follow in the footsteps of the really great Irish scholars of modern times, like Colgan, Usher, and O’Flaherty, who paid due regard to those ancient authorities, and under their guidance gave their own lives, with brilliant success, to the study of Irish history and antiquities.

The writings of St. Patrick himself must naturally be made the basis of any reliable history of the Saint. There is no doubt that the Confession and the Epistle to Coroticus were, as the Book of Armagh says of the former, originally written by his own hand. Every statement, therefore, in any Life of St. Patrick, ancient or modern, clearly inconsistent with the tenor of these documents must be rejected without hesitation.

Concerning the miracles related in most of the Lives the reader will form his own judgment. Some of the stories are, in our opinion, of their own nature incredible; others are ridiculous, and several are clearly inconsistent with Patrick’s own statements in the Confession. But we cannot reject a story merely because it is miraculous. The Confession itself records several miracles, and we are by no means prepared to say that St. Patrick was either deceived or a deceiver. The most famous Lives of the great saints of that age are full of narratives of the miraculous. St. Athanasius wrote a Life of St Anthony; Sulpicius Severus has left a beautiful Life of St. Martin; Paulinus of Nola has given us an authentic Life of St. Felix—these were great prelates and accomplished scholars, who had an intimate knowledge of those of whom they wrote, yet we find miracles recorded as undoubted events in every page of their narratives. The absence of the miraculous in any Patrician document is, therefore, no proof of its earlier date or more authentic character, as some modern critics seem to think. The most authentic and eloquent writings of that age are filled with such narratives of the miraculous, and the miracles were attested by most trustworthy witnesses, and are narrated as undoubted facts by contemporary writers. In this work our purpose is not controversial; it is to show St. Patrick as he was known to his contemporaries and their immediate successors who had known the man, or received the living stories of his disciples. Most people will think such a narrative is of far more value from every point of view than the speculations of some of our modern critics and philologists, who would rather do away with St. Patrick altogether than admit that he got his mission from Rome.

The manifold variations in the spelling of Irish words, and especially of Irish proper names, present great difficulty to a writer on Irish subjects, and render it almost impossible to adopt a uniform system. As we have, on the whole, followed the guidance of the Rolls Tripartite, both as to the Irish text and its English version, we have thought it desirable to adopt also its system of spelling the Irish proper names. No doubt many of its forms are now archaic; still they exhibit, we think, the language, especially in this matter of proper names, in simpler and purer forms than those which are at present in use; and, moreover, tend to preserve a uniformity of usage, which is surely to be desired. Hence, we have adopted, as a rule, the spelling of the Tripartite, especially in proper names, except in the case of certain well-known words, where a departure from the existing usage might be misleading.

X JOHN HEALY, D.D.,

Archbishop of Tuam.

ST. JARLATH’S,

September, 1905.






This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Attribution: Sicarr




Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com