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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

WE do not know to what country Palladius belonged, although the great interest which he took in the churches both of Britain and of Ireland would seem to imply that he or his family was in some way connected with the former country, either by birth or official station. We know, however, for certain, on the authority of the contemporary chronicler, St. Prosper of Aquitaine, two most important facts in his history: the first is, that he was in 429 Archdeacon of St. Celestine in Rome, and that it was at his instance the Pope sent St. Germanus to Britain to root out the Pelagian heresy from that country. The second fact is, that he himself was consecrated a bishop by Pope Celestine two years afterwards, in 431, and was sent as first bishop to the Scots, that is the Irish, who believed in Christ.

The Irish authorities then take up the narrative, and tell us exactly what afterwards happened.

The Book of Armagh says that Palladius was unable to convert the Irish ‘because no one can receive anything on earth, except it be given to him from heaven’; and also because ‘the wild and savage men’ to whom he preached would not readily receive his doctrine, and he himself was unwilling in the face of these difficulties to remain in a strange land, but preferred to return home to him who had sent him. However, on this return journey, after having crossed the first (or Irish) Sea, and begun his land journey, he died in the territory of the Britons.

The Scholiast on Fiacc’s Hymn enters into further details: for he adds that in Ireland Palladius founded some churches, namely Teach na Roman, that is the House of the Romans, Killfine, and others. But, not being well received by the people, he was compelled to go round the Irish coasts towards the north, until at length he was driven by a tempest to the farthest part of Mohaidh towards the south, where he founded the church of Fordun (in the Mearns), and was known under the name of Plede. This passage clearly implies that the tempest drove the saint round the west and north of Scotland—a wild inhospitable coast on which he did not wish to land until he reached the estuary of the Dee.

Then Colgan’s Second Life enters into further details of the Irish Mission of Palladius. He landed, we are informed, on the territory of the men of Leinster, where Nathi Mac Garrchon was chief, and who rudely opposed him. But others listened to his preaching, and he baptised them and built for them three churches in that same district, one of which is Cellfine, in which he left books that he got from St. Celestine, and a box containing relics of St. Peter and St. Paul and other saints, and waxen tablets, on which he used to write, and which bear his name Pallere, or Pallad-ere. The second church was Teach na Roman; and the third was Domnach Ardec, or Domnach Aracha, in which are buried the holy men of the family of Palladius—Silvester and Salonius (Solinus), who are honoured there. Shortly afterwards he died in the plain of Girginn, in the place which is called Fordun, but others say he was crowned with martyrdom there.

This extract defines the territory in which Palladius preached, the churches which he founded, and gives the name of the chieftain who opposed him, as he also opposed St. Patrick. Nathi was son of Garrchu, and ruled over the territory or tribe known as the Hy-Garrchon from his father’s name. They dwelt on the sea plain from Wicklow to Bray Head; and hence we find that both Palladius and Patrick must, as Keating expressly tells us, have landed at Inver Dea, which is now known as the Vartry River. It is exactly such a harbour as would suit the light craft of the time—a stretch of fine sand on which they could draw up their boats or run them into the river as would be found most convenient. The Fourth Life gives one further particular; that:—“others say that Palladius was crowned with martyrdom in Hibernia”—the common statement being, however, that he died in the region of the Picts.

These few paragraphs really contain all we know about Palladius. His Mission in Ireland was a failure; he himself felt it to be so; he founded three churches, indeed, in one district, but founded no more; and then disappointed and broken-spirited he tried to return home, but met his end either from natural causes or from violence in the region of the Picts, that is at Fordun in Magh Geirginn. The narrative is clear, is natural in the circumstances, and is substantially the same in all the authorities.

It is clear, therefore, that Palladius had little or no share in the work of the great St. Patrick. And that is emphatically stated in the Annotations to Tirechan as given in the Book of Armagh, and in the very passage which informs us that Palladius was sometimes known by the name of Patrick. Here it is:—

Palladius episcopus primo mittitur, qui Patricius alio nomine appellabatur, qui martyrium passus est apud Scottos, ut tradunt sancti antiqui. Deinde Patritius Secundus ab angelo Dei Victor nomine, et a Caelestino Papa, mittitur. Cui Hibernia tota credidit, qui eam pene totam baptizavit.

It was Patrick, therefore, second of that name, not Palladius, whose teaching all Ireland received, and by whom almost all Ireland was baptised.

If it be asked how was it that these different saints bore this name of Patrick, the answer is that it was not a personal name, but an honorary title at first given to laymen, and afterwards to eminent ecclesiastics. The nearest example is the title of Monsignor now given to distinguished ecclesiastics whom the Pope wishes to honour. Something similar took place in the fourth and fifth centuries. The ancient and honourable title of Patricius or Patrician, which under the Republic was only applied to noble Romans, under the Empire came to be an official title given at first to eminent officials of the Empire, and afterwards, when the Empire became Christian, to eminent ecclesiastics also.






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