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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

SOME few recent writers have done much to confuse the history of our national Apostle, and detract from the reverence which is so justly due to him as the spiritual father of the Irish people, by mixing up the events recorded concerning the ‘Three Patricks’ in our ancient annals, and in the Lives of St. Patrick. These writers complain that the ancient authorities are ‘so confused and inconsistent’ in their facts and dates, that it is impossible to reconcile their statements with the commonly received narrative of the life of St. Patrick, and so they undertake, of their own authority, to divide and distribute the various events narrated in the life of our great Apostle amongst the three saints who bore the name of Patrick. The result, as might be expected, is only to make confusion worse confounded, and to cause superficial readers to turn away with something like disgust from their vain speculations.

As a fact, however, the confusion will be found to exist not in ancient authorities but in the minds of the modern scribes who undertake to criticise them; and, with a view of presenting something new, very often mistranslate and misrepresent them. We do not mean to deny that both as to facts and dates there are many inaccuracies and inconsistencies recorded in the existing copies of those ancient and venerable documents. But they have reference to minor points, and in most cases have arisen from the ignorance and errors of transcribers. On the other hand, we assert that there is between them a very striking agreement in all substantial points, and that their statements afford no foundation whatever for dislocating the history of our national Apostle in this extraordinary fashion.

With a view to establish this statement we propose to give a brief sketch of the history of the ‘Three Patricks,’ which will show how carefully the early writers distinguished between them, and how little ground there is for attributing to any of them but one, the great glory of being the national Apostle of Ireland.

The phrase ‘Three Patricks’ is not found in the early Lives of our Irish saints, except once, where it is said ‘Three Patricks’ were together in a certain island of the Tyrrhene Sea, and where it seems to mean simply men of Patrician dignity, that is Patricii. The ‘Three Patricks’ to whom modern writers refer, and whom they mix up so much together, are Patrick Senior or Sen-Patrick, Patrick the Great, son of Calpurn, and Patrick Junior, his nephew.

Palladius also got the name Patrick as an alias from one ancient writer; but the main facts of his life are so well ascertained, that there can be no ground for mixing up his history with that of our national Apostle.






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