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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 April 14, 2021

Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is . ....

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April 14

 

Some seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge:
that is curiosity.
Others seek knowledge that they may themselves be known:
that is vanity.
But there are still others who seek knowledge in order to serve and edify others,
and that is charity.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Bénézet of Avignon

"Bénézet, take your rod and go down to Avignon, the capita...

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St. Bénézet of Avignon

Bénézet or “Little Benedict” was a French lad, pious and thoughtful beyond his years who minded his mother’s sheep. He was deeply concerned about how dangerous it was for poor people to cross the unpredictable Rhône River.

It is said that during an eclipse, in the year 1177, he heard a voice that said to him: "Bénézet, take your rod and go down to Avignon, the capital's waterfront: talk to people and tell them that we must build a bridge."

In the Middle Ages the construction and repair of bridges was considered a work of mercy. Though Bénézet knew nothing of building bridges, he took his staff and obeyed the call.

At first the bishop of Avignon dismissed him as being daft, but after witnessing several miracles performed by the holy shepherd lad, he supported the enterprise, and the Brotherhood of Bridge Builders was formed with wealthy sponsors. For seven years Bénézet conducted the operations.

The Provençal shepherd-turned-bridge-builder died in 1184 when most of the difficulties with the construction had been overcome. The mighty bridge, completed four years later, measured 900 meters long and spanned the river with 22 arches, connecting one of the main pilgrimage routes from Italy to Covadonga on the Atlantic coast of Spain.

Bénézet’s body was interred in a small chapel on the bridge itself. This chapel, standing on one of the bridge's piers, was dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Rhône boatmen. In 1669, when part of the bridge collapsed from the force of the current, his coffin was taken up and in 1670 opened before the Grand Vicar. The body was found to be intact, even the bowels were sound and the color of his eyes fresh. The body was first translated to the Cathedral of Avignon and finally interred in the Church of St. Didier in the city.

The fame of Bénézet's bridge in Avignon was spread far beyond the borders of France by the children’s song, Sur le Pont d’Avignon, which is sung all over the world, even in China.

        Photo on Left by: Elliott Brown                                               Photo on Right by: Charles Greenhough

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

I turned to God, but God seems to remain deaf to me. Why is...

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Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayer?

Question:  I pray and pray, but I feel as if God is not listening. We always had a good, peaceful family life, but these last years have been tough. We don’t seem to be getting along and our finances have taken a turn for the worse.

I am so anxious about this situation that, not having anyone to turn to, I turned to God.

But God seems to remain deaf to me. Why is that? In addition, what do I say to certain people, agnostics and atheists, who laugh at prayer, saying it is nonsensical and only a figment of the imagination with no real value?

Answer:  God is faithful to His promises, and God promised to answer our prayers. “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9–10).

If God promises to answer our prayers, He will do so infallibly. But in prayer there are two sides: he who asks and He Who gives.

Our part is to ask. How must we ask?

Saint Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church, teaches in his book Prayer, the Great Means of Salvation that prayer must be persevering and humble.

So many times we hear people saying: “Oh, I used to ask God for this and that and the other, but He never gave it to me. Now, ten years later, how glad I am that He didn’t!”

One thing is certain: God will not fail to answer a humble and perseverance prayer. Whether He chooses to grant what we ask immediately or make us wait, we must trust that He, regardless of appearances, is doing us good. What we think is good and what He thinks is good may be two different things: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways” (Isa. 55:8), but here is where we must abandon ourselves to His beneficent will. Our part is to be patient, calm and, above all, faithful, because this is the time for testing and later will come the time for full enjoyment.


Answering Atheists and Agnostics
As for atheists and agnostics, their skepticism proceeds from the fact that they, respectively, deny God’s existence or deny men’s capacity to know God.

In this case, we can only express our regret over their ignorance of this Supreme Being, our omnipotent Creator and loving Savior.

We may direct them to a few sources that may help in their search for the truth of His existence. Atheism and agnosticism can only be sustained in ignorance or ill will because the evidence of God’s existence is overwhelming.

Moreover, God will not hide Himself from those who seek Him sincerely and unconditionally.

Another consideration pertaining to non-believers is this: If God were to grant us absolutely everything we ask at a moment’s notice, such people might start believing purely out of self-interest.

They would look at God as a wand-wielding wizard. And God Our Lord is infinitely more than that. He wants us to know, love, and serve Him for Himself so that He can treat us as children and heirs and grant us unending happiness in Heaven.

"My impression is that the Rosary is of the greatest value not only according to the words of Our Lady of Fatima, but according to the effects of the Rosary one sees throughout history. My impression is that Our Lady wanted to give ordinary people, who might not know how to pray, this simple method of getting closer to God."  Sister Lucia, one of the seers of Fatima.

 

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I turned to God, but God seems to remain deaf to me. Why is that? In addition, what do I say to certain people, agnostics and atheists,

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