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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

MUIRCHU tells us, in the Book of Armagh, that when Patrick felt the end of his long and laborious life drawing nigh, he was minded to go from Saul, where he happened to be at the time, and repair to his dear church of Armagh, that he might die amongst his own, and there find the place of his resurrection. But such was not the will of God. As Patrick was setting out for Armagh, the Angel of God said to him, “Return to the place from whence you have come, that is, to Saul. There you shall die and enter on the way of your fathers, but your petitions have been granted by God, that is to say:—

“First.—‘That in Armagh shall be the seat of your jurisdiction.’

“Second.—‘That whoever on the day of his death shall recite the Hymn composed in your honour, you shall have the right to fix the penalty due to his sins.’

“Third.—‘That the children of Dichu, who received you with so much kindness, shall obtain mercy and not perish for ever.’

“Fourth.—‘That all the Irish in the Day of Judgment shall be judged by you, that is, all those whose Apostle you have been, even as the Lord said to the Twelve Apostles, you shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ ”

As Patrick was the Apostle of the Irish, God gave him the same privilege to judge his own people as He had promised to the Twelve to judge the tribes of Israel.

It would seem from the language in the Tripartite that Patrick was very anxious to return and die in his own city of Armagh:—

I have chosen a place for my resurrection,

Armagh is my Church;

I have no power over my freedom (his own acts),

It is bondage to the end.

It is Armagh that I love,

My dear thorpe, my dear hill;

A dun which my soul haunteth;

Emania of the heroes will be waste.

But the Angel consoled the aged Apostle. “No,” he said, “it will not be waste; thy crozier will be for ever in Armagh, and great will be the power and dignity of thy Church”—a prediction which has surely been fulfilled, for though false priests and ruthless foes have desolated Patrick’s Royal City again and again, it has risen anew from its ashes. Patrick’s power has never failed. Patrick’s crozier has never been broken. His successors have been driven repeatedly from the Royal Hill, as the Popes have been driven from Rome; they have been hunted, imprisoned, and slain; but the succession has not failed; the crozier was always there, as the Angel foretold. And in our own time we have seen the great twin towers rise in pride and strength over Patrick’s City, proclaiming to all the world that Patrick is still enthroned on Macha’s Hill, clothed in larger glory, for the Comarb of Peter has robed his seat in the crimson of Rome, in which it was never draped before. These truths were brought home to the minds of thinking men in a very striking way on the 24th July, 1904, when for the first time in Irish history, two Cardinals, one the heir of Patrick, the other a special delegate from the Pope himself, accompanied by all the Prelates of Ireland, with many also from England and Scotland, and surrounded by the representative clergy and laity of all the land, met on Macha’s Hill to dedicate the beautiful new Cathedral of Armagh for the worship of God, under the invocation of St. Patrick.

We have no particulars of the last illness of our great Apostle. At the age of 120 years he must have been very feeble in body, only longing for the hour when God would call him home. He might well say, with Simeon: ‘Now, thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word, in peace.’ His long day’s work was done. He had finished his course and kept the Faith, and saved the people whom the Lord had given him. ‘And now,’ he says in his Confession, ‘I give up my soul to my faithful God, whose poor minister I am, but it was He Himself chose me for this work. What return shall I make to Him for all that He has given to me—what shall I say or what shall I promise to my Lord? He, the searcher of hearts, knows that I have long been desirous to drink of His chalice and die for His sake, if it were only His will. One thing only I ask from my Lord, that I shall never lose His people whom He has won for Himself here at the ends of the earth. I pray the Lord to give me perseverance and make me His faithful witness to the end of my life; and let all believe that whatever little I have done is the gift of God. And this is my Confession before I die.’

The Tripartite then gives its own eulogy of Patrick. ‘A righteous man verily was this man, with purity of nature like the Patriarchs. A true pilgrim, like Abraham. Mild, forgiving from the heart, like Moses. A praiseworthy psalmist like David. A student of wisdom, like Solomon. A choice vessel for proclaiming righteousness, like Paul the Apostle. A man, full of the grace and fervour of the Holy Spirit, like John the youthful. A fair herb-garden, with plants of virtues. A vine branch of fruitfulness. A flashing fire, with the fervour of the warming and healing of the Sons of Life, for kindling and for enflaming charity. A lion in strength and might. A dove for gentlenesss and simplicity. A serpent for prudence and cunning in what is good. Gentle, humble, merciful unto the Sons of Life. Gloomy and ungentle to the Sons of Death. A laborious and faithful servant unto Christ. A king for dignity and power as to binding and loosing, as to liberating and enslaving, as to death-giving and life-giving.’

Then, having in one sentence, summed up the labours of the Saint, the writer adds the brief statement that ‘Patrick received Christ’s body from Bishop Tassach according to the Angel Victor’s counsel; and then sent forth his holy spirit to heaven in the hundred and twentieth year of his age. His body is here still on earth in honour and veneration.’

Tassach was bishop of the neighbouring church of Raholp. That church was founded by St. Patrick himself, who placed Tassach over it, and, it would seem, gave him some intimation that he was destined to give his beloved master the Sacrifice at the approach of death. It is some two miles north-east of Saul, and about 100 yards from the road which leads from Downpatrick to Ballyculter. The ruins of a church are there still, but hardly date back to the time of St, Patrick. The ancient name was Rath-colpa, and Reeves says that the elevation of church area over the surrounding field would go to show that it was built within an ancient rath, from which it doubtless took its name.






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