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By Andrea F. Phillips

Calf deep in swampy water, I stood still, frozen in my tracks as the swish of my galoshes suddenly suggested an ominous thought, snakes.

After hurricanes Katrina/Rita/Gustave our wooded property looked like a war zone: tangled saplings, downed trees, and water oaks, like felled giants, the crevasses of their uprooted root systems now muddy pools so inviting to reptiles. Taking the dog out for a long walk that morning I hadn’t thought of this unsavory scenario.

Now, with a tingle of terror, I whispered – St. Patrick, protect us from snakes! As I called the dog, and retraced my steps, I thought, this is the first time I’ve prayed to St. Patrick…Wonder if he hears me…Wonder if the story about him banning snakes from Ireland is true…

Days later, it was my husband’s turn to take the dog into the woods, only he knew what the swampy ground could hold and grabbed a scythe.

“Come see what I killed,” I presently heard his baritone through the open door. Lying in the grass was a large Copper Head, a snake as striking as it is poisonous.

Again I shuddered. Then, What day is this? March 17…St. Patrick’s day! I understood: I heard you. Stay out of the woods.

Feeling a personal connection with the saint of miracles and lore, I jumped at the opportunity to write about him. So, since Catholic means Universal, here it comes to you, via South Louisiana, the amazing story of good St. Patrick.

St Patricks Breast Plate Prayer Banner

 

Early life

Born in Kilpatrick, Scotland, Patrick’s parents were Calphurnius and Conchessa, the former from a high-ranking Roman family, holding office in Britain. Conchessa was a close relative of the great St. Martin of Tours.
At age sixteen, Irish raiders abducted Patrick and sold him into slavery to an Irish chieftain, Milchu, who used him as a shepherd.

In this solitude, the youth took solace in prayer, a habit that lit in him the fire of love of God – a fire that would later ignite the Catholic Faith in Ireland. During those years in captivity, he also learned the Celtic language, and became acquainted with the customs of the Druids, a knowledge that would later be crucial to his apostolate.  After six years, admonished by an angel, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain.



Priesthood, appointment to Ireland, and Bishopric

But now, his heart was set on dedicating his life to God in the priesthood. He studied in Tours and at the famed island-monastery of Lérins, and was later ordained by the great Saint Germain. Still, Patrick’s thoughts were with Ireland, and, from time to time, he had visions of Irish children who called to him, “…come back to Ireland, and walk once more among us.”

Pope St. Celestine I, the great combater of heresies and devotee of the Blessed Virgin, dearly wished to conquer pagan Ireland for the Faith, and sent Bishop Palladius to the island. However, the Bishop was terrified of the fierce pagan chieftain, Wicklow, and soon gave up the enterprise. Hearing of the aborted mission, St. Germain sent his disciple of 18 years, Patrick, to Rome to obtain permission to evangelize Ireland. After receiving the Papal blessing, the saint returned to the green isle, now to do battle with the forces of paganism.

 

Ireland

Patrick and his companions landed in Ireland probably around the year 433. They made their way north to the mouth of the River Boyne, where Patrick began to evangelize and performed his first miracle in defense of Our Lady and the Nativity of Jesus, converting many. At once the Druids were up in arms against the Christian intruder. One chieftain, Dilchu, tried to strike the saint with his sword, but his arm became petrified, and he joined Patrick and accepted instruction.

Patrick heard that in defiance to him, Leoghaire, the supreme monarch of Ireland, published an edict. On Easter Sunday, all households must extinguish their lights. Only at Tara, the place of the king, would a fire remain lit. All Druids and courtesans convened on Tara. They feared this messenger of Christ was beginning to win the Irish.
The fearless man of God knew that this was his opportunity to, once and for all, plant the cross in Ireland. Patrick encamped on the hill opposite Tara, and lit a huge Paschal fire rivaling that of Leoghaire.

In a panic, the Druids said to their leader, “O King, this fire which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict will blaze forever in this land unless it be, this very night, extinguished.”  A dispatch of Druids and armed men was sent to Patrick’s hill and repeated attempts made to extinguish the fire but to no avail. There were also snares and assaults prepared for Patrick, all of which, by divine protection, he dodged unscathed. His powerful prayer,St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate is said to have been composed by him for his clash with paganism.

On Easter day, the missionary band, preceded by a youth carrying aloft the Holy Gospels, and followed by St. Patrick wearing miter and crozier, entered Tara. The Druids tried all their spells and incantations on the courageous company. After much effort, they finally succeeded in bringing darkness over the valley. Patrick prayed to the Lord, and the sun shone forth. Then, by demonic power, the Arch-Druid Lochru was lifted up in the air, striving to gain control over the saint. But at Patricks’s prayer, Lochru was dashed on the rocks.

 


Conversion of Ireland 

On this day, Irish paganism was dealt a mortal blow. Beginning with the king, St. Patrick began to evangelize the court, soon making a convert of one of the ministers, Dubhtach. It is on this occasion that St. Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock, three leaves on a single stem, to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity to the assembled chieftains. 

St. Patrick spent his life working for the complete conversion of his beloved Irish. He particularly directed his apostolate to the chieftains, knowing that if the heads were conquered, their people would follow. And thus it happened that through his untiring evangelization, supported at times by great miracles, he conquered Ireland for the Holy Catholic Faith. Churches and monasteries arose, and religious orders were founded. St. Patrick is said to have consecrated 350 bishops. 

Saint Patrick died on March 17, 493. His remains were wrapped in a shroud by St. Brigid. Bishops, clergy and faithful from all parts crowded around to offer due honor to the Father of their Faith. According to ancient records, for several days a light shone around his bier. The cathedral of Down was build on his grave. 

 

St Patricks Breast Plate Prayer Banner

 

  


In my research about our great saint, I was not able to substantiate the popular claim that he expelled all snakes from Ireland. The claim seems to be a pious legend, lost in the mist of time. - Andrea F. Phillips, author


 References:

First Photo by: Andreas F. Borchert
Shamrock Emblem by: Setanta Saki

The prayer, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, mentioned in the text is also found here


  

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for September 17, 2021

Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which...

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September 17

 

Charity is that with which

no man is lost, and

without which

no man is saved.

St. Robert Bellarmine


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Robert Bellarmine

Under Elizabeth I, his writings were forbidden reading under...

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St. Robert Bellarmine

Roberto Bellarmino was born into impoverished Tuscan nobility at Montepulciano on October 4, 1542. He was the third of ten children born to Vincenzo Bellarmino and Cinthia Cervini, a sister of Cardinal Marcello Cervini, who later became Pope Marcellus II. Educated at the Jesuit College in Montepulciano, he entered the Society of Jesus at the age of eighteen. After studying philosophy at the Roman College, he taught first at Florence and then at Mondovi. He began his theological studies in Padua in 1567, but was sent to Louvain two years later in order that he might obtain a fuller acquaintance with the heretical teachings of the time.  

Bellarmine was ordained a priest in Flanders and quickly obtained a reputation both as a professor and a preacher, attracting Catholics and Protestants alike by his sermons. In 1576 he was recalled to Italy, and entrusted with the chair of Controversies recently founded at the Roman College. He proved himself equal to the arduous task, and the lectures he delivered were later compiled into his most renowned work, “De Controversiis” - Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith. Bellarmine's monumental work was the earliest attempt to systematize the various controversies of the time, and made an immense impression throughout Europe. It dealt such a blow to Protestantism in Germany and England that special university chairs were founded in order to provide replies to it. Theodore of Blaise, an important Protestant leader who succeeded Calvin, acknowledged that “This is the work that defeated us.” So numerous were the conversions wrought by it that Queen Elizabeth I of England decreed that anyone who was not a doctor in theology was forbidden to read Bellarmine’s writings under penalty of death. To the present day, it remains an uncontested standard of orthodoxy that has yet to be superseded. In recognition of this, Benedict XV gave Bellarmine the title of “Hammer of Heresies” in 1921.  

In 1588 Bellarmine was made Spiritual Father to the Roman College, but in 1590 he went with Cardinal Gaetano as theologian to the embassy Sixtus V was then sending into France to protect the interests of the Church amidst the troubles of the civil wars. While in France news reached him that Sixtus, who had warmly accepted the dedication of his “De Controversiis”, was now proposing to put its first volume on the Index. This was because he had discovered that it assigned to the Holy See not a direct but only an indirect power over temporal authorities. Bellarmine, whose loyalty to the Holy See was intense, took this greatly to heart; it was, however, averted by the death of Sixtus, and the new pope, Gregory XIV, even granted to Bellarmine’s work the distinction of a special approbation. Gaetano’s mission now terminating, Bellarmine resumed his work as Spiritual Father, and had the consolation of guiding the last years of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died in the Roman College in 1591. Many years later he had the further consolation of successfully promoting the beatification of the saintly youth. It was also at this time that he sat on the final commission for the revision of the Vulgate translation of the Holy Scriptures.

In 1592 Bellarmine was made Rector of the Roman College, and in 1595 Provincial of Naples. In 1597 Clement VIII recalled him to Rome and made him his own theologian as well as Examiner of Bishops and Consultor of the Holy Office. “The Church of God has not his equal in learning,” he stated when making him a Cardinal in 1599. Bellarmine’s appointment as Cardinal Inquisitor soon followed. In 1602 Bellarmine was appointed as the Archbishop of Capua and consecrated by Pope Clement VIII himself, an honor usually accorded as a mark of special regard.

Three years later, Clement VIII died, and was succeeded by Leo XI who reigned only twenty-six days, and then by Paul V. In both conclaves, especially that latter, the name of Bellarmine was much before the electors, greatly to his own distress. The new pope insisted on keeping him at Rome, and the cardinal, obediently complying, demanded that at least he should be released from an episcopal charge the duties of which he could no longer fulfill. He was now made a member of the Holy Office and of other congregations, and thenceforth was the chief advisor of the Holy See in the theological department of its administration.

Bellarmine became one of the most important figures of the Counter-Reformation and the period will be forever marked by his method of confronting heresy: he understood that one cannot do away with a heresy by only preaching the truth; it was also necessary to attack and smash the error. By this method he converted heretics, bringing them back into union with the Church. The profound spiritual treatises that emanated from his pen earned for him the title of Doctor of the Church. But while he was a champion of orthodoxy and a brilliant polemicist, Bellarmine was also a man of capable of dealing with the most sensitive souls guiding them to sanctity as he did with St. Louis Gonzaga. This prodigious apostolate could only spring from a great calmness of spirit and deep interior life.

His death in the summer of 1621 was most edifying and a fitting end to a life which had been no less remarkable for its virtues than for its tremendous achievements. Accordingly, there was a general expectation amongst those who knew him intimately that his cause would be promptly introduced and swiftly concluded. However, reality proved to be otherwise. Although he was declared Venerable in 1627, technical obstacles arose in regards to the beatification process, delaying the progress of his cause for 300 years. Bellarmine was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and declared a Doctor of the Church and patron saint of catechists the following year.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the so...

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One Good Turn Deserves Another

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the sorrows of Mary. He would often remain alone in the chapel to commiserate the sorrows of his Lady.

So intently did he meditate on the sorrows endured by Mary Most Holy that, moved by compassion, he was accustomed to wipe the face of a statue of the sorrowful Virgin with a little cloth, as though real tears flowed there.

Now this good priest became quite ill. When he was given up by his physicians, and was going to breathe his last, he saw a beautiful Lady by his side. She consoled him with her words, and with a handkerchief gently wiped the sweat from his brow.

With this, the priest was miraculously cured.

When he found himself well, he said: "But, my Lady, who are you who practice such charity towards me?" "I am she," answered Mary, "whose tears you have so often dried,” and she disappeared.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

There was once a priest who had a special devotion to the sorrows of Mary. He would often remain alone in the chapel to commiserate the sorrows of his Lady.