St Patrick’s Day

From The Catholic Encyclopedia, the magisterial 1912 edition, comes this account of St Patrick’s final days and the concessions he won from God for the people of Ireland. Some pretty bold claims here.

The saint, however, would not, as yet, descend from the mountain. He had vanquished the demons, but he would now wrestle with God Himself, like Jacob of old, to secure the spiritual interests of his people. The angel had announced to him that, to reward his fidelity in prayer and penance, as many of his people would be gathered into heaven as would cover the land and sea as far as his vision could reach. Far more ample, however, were the aspirations of the saint, and he resolved to persevere in fasting and prayer until the fullest measure of his petition was granted. Again and again the angel came to comfort him, announcing new concessions; but all these would not suffice. He would not relinquish his post on the mountain, or relax his penance, until all were granted. At length the message came that his prayers were heard:

  • many souls would be free from the pains of purgatory through his intercession
  • whoever in the spirit of penance would recite his hymn before death would attain the heavenly reward
  • barbarian hordes would never obtain sway in his Church
  • seven years before the Judgement Day, the sea would spread over Ireland to save its people from the temptations and terrors of the Antichrist; and 
  • greatest blessing of all, Patrick himself should be deputed to judge the whole Irish race on the last day.

Such were the extraordinary favors which St. Patrick, with his wrestling with the Most High, his unceasing prayers, his unconquerable love of heavenly things, and his unremitting penitential deeds, obtained for the people whom he evangelized.

At Saul (Sabhall), St. Patrick received the summons to his reward on 17 March, 493. St. Tassach administered the last sacraments to him. His remains were wrapped in the shroud woven by St. Brigid’s own hands. The bishops and clergy and faithful people from all parts crowded around his remains to pay due honour to the Father of their Faith. Some of the ancient Lives record that for several days the light of heaven shone around his bier. His remains were interred at the chieftan’s Dun or Fort two miles from Saul, where in after times arose the cathedral of Down.

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