Historical setting: Remembering 5th Century Ireland
Today, I venture again into young George’s crumbs of Latin, and I’m reminded of another Christian of awkward tenses whom I only caught in a glimpse about a century ago.[Author’s footnote] He cut a deep swath of Jesus’ love through the middle of the once pagan Ireland. But his sainthood is not because he died a martyr. He didn’t. He died as an old man among the friends he had gathered along his way. Yet it is very clear to me why he is called a saint.
The story is told that Patrichus was captured by an Irish raiding party and taken from his life of privilege, his family and his home in Celtic Brittany, when he was a teen. He was sold as a slave. In his rare bits of writings he portrays this captivity as a time of cold and suffering, isolation and days-on-days of thankless work tending herds. He allowed himself to listen to God’s relentless presence and was driven by a voice of promise: first the promise to leave that place; then, some years later, forgiveness transforming his hurt and loss into the yearning to return to the people of Ireland as their faith leader. He brought the simplicity of the ever-present, loving God of Creation.
He guided peacemaking among leaders in a warring land. He established and rekindled Christian monasteries into communities of caring for people.
His magical or, call it miraculous power to bring Jesus’ love to the pagan world came through his gift of empathy — not by ecclesiastical councils or by winning arguments or wars. He brought order and guidance through caring and spiritual presence – not by rule and punishments.
The trail he left was of love for all people and sacred appreciation for Creation. It’s still there, planted deep in that land forever. The music and the art of the people are never stifled by punitive order, rather the creative chaos is simply turned so people can see it clear and shining from the face of our one Creator, parent of love and life.
I suppose, with the help of God, I do know of saints, so I ask young George “What do you know of St. Patrick?”
“Were he Roman or Frank?”
“They say he was Celtic.”
He asked, “Do you want to know how God made the Franks beat the Goths?”
“Will I have to edit your grammar in that chapter too?”
“Sooner or later I’ll write it all down. It will be significant.”
(Come again tomorrow)
[Author’s personal note] Before I started this blog, my spiritual journey into Christian history took me more deeply into 5th Century Ireland. I wrote a book After Ever, about the poem attributed to St. Patrick, “Breastplate.” I have no plan to market that book so it is a little read manuscript, never even run through the printer on my desk. But in 2018 and ‘19 I did a lot of research about ancient Ireland and set my Lazarus character there. Some of the things in this day’s blog (the basic facts) I learned from that research, and some conclusions are drawn from inferences of changes in Irish Christianity after Patrick.