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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

We have already heard something of Milcho’s palace and kingdom. He seems to have been a Magus or Druid, and, certainly, must have been a most obstinate pagan. The tale is a very strange one, almost incredible, but in later historic times we have read of men allowing themselves to be burned rather than abjure their errors, and we can well understand that it does not need much more obstinacy to burn oneself for the same reason. Milcho must have been then an old man, for Patrick was sixty, and he had been Patrick’s master when the latter was a youth of sixteen. So we may fairly assume that he was now at least about seventy years.

‘Patrick,’ says the Tripartite, ‘went to impress faith on Milcho,’ and, knowing his avarice, he took gold with him to make his preaching more acceptable to the greedy old miser. Perhaps he also meant to begin by offering the gold as the price of his own ransom, which his old master might still consider his due. But Milcho was unwilling to believe, and he declared it shameful ‘to believe in his own slave and be subject to him.’ Think of a Virginian planter taking a new religion from one of his own runaway slaves! Yet he feared that Patrick, by magic or by gold, or by some other artifice, might bring this great disgrace upon him in his old age, so he took counsel of the Evil One, who suggested, says the Tripartite, how to prevent it. So Milcho entered into his palace with his gold, his silver, and all his treasures, and then set fire to them all, so that he and they were consumed together, ‘and his soul went down to hell.’

Now Milcho had heard that Patrick was approaching from the south, when he adopted this diabolical counsel, so it came to pass that when Patrick arrived at the right or south-eastern flank of Slemish Hill on his journey, looking down over the valley of the Braed, he saw the palace in flames, and he knew by inspiration what happened. For the space of two or three hours he was silent, standing there on the mountain’s slope, where the cross still stands to mark the spot, sighing and groaning in spirit at the awful fate of his old master; and then he said to his companions, “Yonder is the fire of Milcho’s house; he is after burning himself lest he should believe in God at the end of his life.” “Upon him,” he said, “there lies a curse; of him shall be neither king nor Tanist; his seed and offspring will be in bondage after him, and he shall not come out of hell for ever.” Then Patrick went no further north, but, turning about right-handwise to the south, he retraced his steps to Magh Inis, even to Dichu, the son of Trichem, his host, and favourite disciple. There, we are told, Patrick stayed a long time, sowing the faith, until he brought all the men of Ulidia (Uladh) by the net of the Gospel to the harbour of Life. There is no doubt that Patrick, towards the end of his life, spent many years in Saul bringing the men of Ulidia to the harbour of Life, but the statement here seems to refer to his stay amongst them during the winter of 432 and the early spring of the following year. That he preached the Word of Life fruitfully in Lecale and its neighbourhood is shown by the number of ancient churches with which the whole place is studded, as well as by the many vivid traditions that still survive in the memory of the Catholic inhabitants. Memorials of St. Patrick—churches, stations, wells, or beds, are to be found in every parish; his memory, too, is still fondly cherished with the greatest veneration, and, as we know, he loved the people dearly, and chose Saul to be the place of his death, and Down of his resurrection.






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