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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

The third official of Patrick’s household was ‘Bishop Erc, his judge.’ This was the celebrated Bishop Erc of Slane, who was by profession a Brehon, or judge, before his baptism and subsequent elevation to the episcopate. When he rose up to do honour to Patrick at his interview with King Laeghaire on the Hill of Slane he is described as a mere youth, one of the king’s pages in the royal retinue, and, no doubt, attached to the school of Brehons at Tara. Like the young poet Fiacc of Sletty, he was after some time promoted to the episcopal rank, and made bishop of that very place where Patrick blessed him for his faith and courtesy. But he still continued his legal studies, and hence was a most suitable person to be chosen by Patrick as his judge or assessor in all cases connected with the Brehon code that might be carried before his tribunal. Such a dignitary was, in fact, indispensable to Patrick, especially after the purification of the Brehon code by the Commission of Nine, of which Erc himself was a member. He became famous as a righteous and painstaking judge, and his selection by Patrick as chief judge of his ecclesiastical court shows the practical wisdom of the Saint in his government of the Irish Church. In the Lebar Brecc the following quatrain, in Gaedhlic of course, is added after the name of Erc:—

Bishop Erc—

Whatever he adjudged was just.

Everyone who passes a just judgment

Bishop Erc’s blessing succours him.

It is a very beautiful thought that the righteous judge still looked down from his high place in heaven and watched over the judgments of the Brehons of Erin, giving his patronage and blessing to every righteous judge in the land. Bishop Erc was the spiritual father of the great St. Brendan of Clonfert, and in his old age he must have resigned his see of Slane, for we find him chiefly residing in the west of Kerry beyond Tralee, which seems to have been his native territory, though he came of the royal line of Ulster’s kings.

We also find that he was an intimate friend of the great St. Brigid of Kildare. Under his protection the holy virgin went on a missionary journey through a great part of Munster, and dwelt some time with her nuns in a little convent nigh to where Bishop Erc dwelt in the South. That place was certainly Termon Eirc, as it is still called, by the sea near Ardfert. But he afterwards returned to his own little church at Slane, where he died A.D. 512. His hermitage still stands in a lonely glade within the demesne of Slane, close to the river—a sweet, retired spot for the old Brehon to end his days in peace and prayer.






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




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