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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

‘Bishop Macc Cairthinn, his champion,’ is the next entry in the household list. The Irish term simply means his strong man—a tren fer. Now Patrick had need of a strong man. There were no bridges in Ireland, and many could not be crossed on a chariot, for the ground was broken and rough. But stepping-stones were placed at these fords, which, however, were sometimes too far apart for an old man to step lightly over, and the flood was sometimes high, and the middle reaches of the streams were often deep and dangerous. Here it was that an active young giant like Bishop MacCartan came to aid his master. If the stream was shallow he led him gently over from stone to stone, guiding his footsteps and bearing his weight, but, if it was deep and dangerous, he took the old man on his broad shoulders and bore him lightly over the flood from step to step, and when the steps were too far apart, or had been carried away by the flood, then he was tall enough and strong enough to carry Patrick through the rushing waters without so much as wetting the feet of his dear master. And we know that such was his custom, for it is stated in express terms—ut solebat.

But the young giant might have been the champion of our Saint in another way too. Sometimes the rude chieftains of the time treated the companions of St. Patrick with violence and cruelty, as when the wicked Cairbre drove his servants into the river Sele, or Blackwater, near Telltown, in Meath. Sometimes he himself and all his companions were received with a shower of stones, as happened at Enniscrone, near Ballina, when the Saint was crossing the Moy, at Bertragh, where the accursed Gregaide received them with such a shower of missiles. Sometimes, too, the Druids and their hirelings were hostile and actually violent. It was well on such occasions for the aged Saint to have, close at hand, an active man of might, with a formidable staff, whose very look was apt to inspire fear, if not respect, into those who had no regard for grey hairs or holy apparel. If the danger was grave, St. Patrick knew how to use his spiritual arms, but for ordinary cases a big priest with a big stick and a strong arm was a useful and, indeed, a necessary companion in those lawless times. St. Mac Cartan deserved his promotion when he got it; so he said himself; and so St. Patrick, like a sensible man, admitted; but like other superiors, he was rather unwilling to lose a trusty and faithful companion so long as he could avoid it.






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