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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

This poem is called in Irish the FEAD FIADA, or Cry of the Deer, because it was chanted by the Apostle and his companions, when they sought, under the appearance of a deer and her fawns, to escape the deadly ambushes prepared for them by King Laeghaire, on their way from the Hill of Slane to Tara, at the early dawn of Erin’s First Easter Sunday morning. It is also called the Lorica, or Corslet of Patrick, because it was a shield to protect him and his against the wiles of Laeghaire and his Druids.

Prayer was always at every crisis of his life the sword and shield of Patrick, to protect himself and strike down the enemies of God. He was not insensible to danger on this occasion, for he knew that the Druids sought his life with implacable malice, and, moreover, possessed dreadful magical powers to injure those who were not specially protected by God. Hence faith and prayer were more than ever necessary for Patrick at this supreme crisis of his life; wherefore, we are told, he made this poem in Irish, “to be a corslet of faith for the protection of body and soul against devils, and human beings, and vices; and whoever shall sing it every day, with pious meditation on God, devils shall not stay before him.”

The demons claimed dominion over the elements, and sometimes, by God’s high permission, made use of their agency to work their own evil purposes on men. Patrick, in this poem, first of all appeals to the Holy Trinity, the Triune God, to protect him against all dangers, and weaken the might of the wicked. And, as the Druids sometimes wrought evil by the powers of nature, Patrick invokes all these creatures of God to be with him in this struggle and aid him against the wiles of the demon. That is the keynote of the whole poem.

We have not the same certainty of the authenticity of this poem as we have of the Confession and of the Epistle to Coroticus. Very high authorities, however, declare that it is the genuine work of our Saint, and, certainly, neither in language or sentiment is it unworthy of him, or inconsistent with the date to which it is ascribed.

Colgan refers to other writings attributed to St. Patrick, but we do not think that any of them can be regarded as authentic. We have explained elsewhere in what sense the Canoin Patraic, which we take to be the Book of Armagh, must be attributed to St. Patrick. It is a compilation, containing his genuine writings, and also the most authentic accounts of his life, but is his work in no other sense. If it be taken to mean the ‘Canons of St. Patrick,’ we have already explained in a special chapter how far, in our opinion, the so-called collection of Irish Canons can be fairly regarded as the work of St. Patrick.

As to the Irish Prophecies of St. Patrick, mentioned by Jocelyn, we believe the work is no longer in existence. He calls it a libellus or little treatise, but we find no reference to it in any of the earlier authorities. Such books of prophecies attributed to Patrick, to Brigid, and to Columcille, have, we suspect, been in circulation in Ireland for many centuries, but are destitute of any authority whatsoever. No doubt, Patrick was a prophet, and we have recorded in the Tripartite many prophecies of his, which appear to have been fulfilled in a very wonderful way, but we cannot go further in attributing prophecies, oral or written, to our national Saint.

There is also a ‘Rule’ attributed to St. Patrick, which has been lately printed by Mr. J. G. O’Keeffe, in the Journal of the School of Irish Learning, Dublin. It is a brief document, and ancient, probably derived from some original Rule written by St. Patrick. In its present form it cannot, we think, be regarded as the genuine production of our Saint.






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