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

PATRICK, having now established his primatial See, found it necessary to convene a Synod for (a) the purpose of ascertaining and defining the nature and extent of his own jurisdiction; (b) for recognising and proclaiming the due subjection of the Irish Church of Patrick to the See of St. Peter at Rome; (c) for making such statutes and regulations as the special circumstances of the Irish Church rendered necessary. Patrick knew well that such national or provincial synods were held from time to time throughout the Universal Church, as a matter of obligation incumbent on the metropolitan who summoned them, and on all the prelates of the province or exarchate, who were bound to attend them. “Such councils were the essential framework, as it were, and bond of union and of good government in the Church, and became part of its ordinary machinery early in the second century, and, probably, from the very beginning, but are first mentioned of the East by Firmilianus, of Caeserea, in Cappadocia, where they regularly, and, of necessity (necessario) recurred in Asia once a year for purposes of discipline, and of the west by St. Cyprian at the same period.”

We may be quite sure, therefore, that Patrick, so exact in the discharge of all his duties, would take an early opportunity of convening the Irish prelates to confer with himself on the needs of the Irish Church, and make suitable regulations or Canons for its discipline and government. We know, too, that such was the fact. The Book of Armagh makes reference to some of the more important Canons enacted by Patrick and his fellow-prelates; and we have more than one collection of Canons handed down to us from the earliest times, as enacted by Patrick in these Synods.

It is only natural to suppose that these Synods were held at Armagh, although, perhaps, one was held at the great Feis of Tara, which was celebrated by Laeghaire, as the Four Masters tell us, in 454.

The famous Canon in the Book of Armagh stands in the names of ‘Auxilius, Patricius, Secundinus, and Benignus.’ Now, if Secundinus died so early as 447, this Synod must have been held at an earlier date, perhaps 444, when, according to the Annals of Ulster, Armagh was founded. But, in our opinion, Secundinus lived until 457, and, therefore, might have assisted at this Synod, if it were held at the Feis of Tara, or even so late as 457 in Armagh.

In discussing this question, it is necessary to distinguish carefully between what we may call the ‘Armagh Canon,’ attributed to ‘Auxilius, Patricius, Secundinus, and Benignus,’ and the ‘Canons of the Synod of Patrick,’ which, in its own Acts, is described as ‘the Synod of the Bishops, that is, of Patricius, Auxilius, and Iserninus.’ Here Secundinus is left out, so also is Benignus, which shows that both were probably dead at this time, for otherwise, being destined Heirs of Patrick, their names would certainly not be omitted. Whence we infer that the Synod was celebrated most probably at Armagh, and after 467, the year in which Benignus died.

Then there is what is called the ‘Irish Collection of Canons,’ which does not purport to be the legislation of any particular Synod, but, as its name implies, a collection of canon law used in the Irish Church, and which, as we might naturally expect, includes not only the Canons of the Synods of Patrick and his colleagues, but also many other Canons from the general legislation of the Church appropriate to the needs of the Irish Church. This ‘Irish Collection’ of Canons was published about the year 700; and is itself distinct from the ‘Canons of the Irish Synod held in 694 or 695, but not, of course, by Patrick.

Of all the Patrician Canons, by far the most important is that found in the Book of Armagh, and which, for brevity sake, we may call the Armagh Canon. It contains two parts—the first asserting the primatial rights of Armagh to which we have referred elsewhere; the second asserting the supremacy of the Chair of St. Peter in Rome over the See of Armagh itself, as well as over all prelates and judges in Ireland. The fact that Secundinus is mentioned as one of those who issued the decree proves that it was issued before his death, and, therefore, at the latest, before 457. On the other hand, as special reference is made to the prerogatives of the See of Armagh, it cannot have been issued before the year 444, which is the earliest date assigned to the foundation of Armagh. The second part is as follows: ‘Also, if any very difficult cause shall arise, unknown to all the judges of the tribes of the Scots, it is duly to be referred to the See of the Archbishop of the Irish, that is Patrick, and to the examination of that prelate. But if in that See with its sages it cannot be easily decided, then the cause of the matter aforesaid, we decree, is to be referred to the Apostolic See, that is, to the Chair of Peter, having authority over the City of Rome.’

This Armagh Canon clearly recognises the Chair of Peter, the Apostle, which rules in Rome, as the supreme judge of controversies for the Irish Church in all matters of doctrine, morals, and discipline—whatever grave cause may arise—and that is, in briefest form, the essence of the supremacy of the Holy See. Armagh had its own primacy; but if the matter could not be settled in Armagh, then it was to be referred to Rome. That is all; but it settles the question.

It has been said, however, that this decree from the Book of Armagh proves nothing regarding the primacy of Rome, but that Patrick acted wisely in appointing some Court of Appeal, the best and wisest in Christendom, when the Irish prelates could not settle the matter themselves.

It will be observed, however, that the decree directs them, as a matter of obligation, to refer it to the Apostolic Chair—the Chair of Peter the Apostle—and that this was the real ground of the reference, namely, that it was the Apostolic See. And so the Irish prelates understood in after times, for when a really grave question arose regarding the date of Easter and the form of the tonsure, the Synod of Magh-Lene in 630 decided, as St. Cummian of Clonfert tells us in his Letter on the Paschal Question, to refer the dispute to Rome, ‘in accordance with the canonical decree, that if questions of grave moment arise, they shall be referred to the head of Cities.’ ‘Wherefore we sent such as we knew to be wise and humble men to Rome to ascertain the Roman theory and practice, with a view to a final settlement of the question.’

The Canons known as the Irish Collection were not, so far as we can judge, collected in their present form before the year 700, hence their way of formulating the Canon of the Book of Armagh is somewhat different, but not less expressive. ‘Patrick decrees:—If any grave controversies arise in this island, they shall be referred to the Apostolic See’. Exactly; Patrick was the author of the Canon, with the assent of Auxilius, Secundinus, and Benignus; and then long after their death it was embodied in the form in which we now have it in the Collection of Irish Canons. But the Book of Armagh gives the original form, and the original authors of the decree, and its authority is altogether independent of the authority of the Collection of Irish Canons.






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




Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com