Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Saints of Ireland (Reprise)

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Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, and for those of us who are Irish, it was a wonderful time to put a little extra emphasis on our Celtic heritage. Junior B was dressed up in full Irish colors yesterday, and I wore the honorary green shirt and Irish-themed bracelet that I have in my possession.
And we listened to Irish music. Lots of it.
A couple of years ago, near the time of My Lady Bibliophile's beginnings, I posted an article on Hugh de Blacam's The Saints of Ireland, a little green-bound book that I took out from the library and read with great enjoyment. If you're Irish, and would like to take a closer look at your heritage--or if you're not Irish, but you want to know what makes all us Celtic folk so passionate about our heritage--I hope you'll enjoy this reposting of my review of de Blacam's book:
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Once upon a time, in the year 387, a boy lived near Kilpatrick, in Scotland.  His parents were Romans, and he grew up under their roof until the age of 14 or 15, when cruel raiders swept down upon the land and stole him away to serve a people of Druids and pagans. He lived as a sheepherder for six years among this people, learning their language and their customs. He wrote of his relationship with Jesus Christ during his captivity. "The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." This boy had a dream, in which God told him to leave Ireland by taking passage on a ship at the coast. After a brief recapture and near starvation, he succeeded in his escape and reunited with his family. He studied for the priesthood, and in his heart, felt the call of the Lord to return to the Irish people and bring them the good news of Jesus Christ. In spite of past pain and past scars, he obeyed.  Constantly in danger of martyrdom, he labored among the Irish people for forty years until his death on March 17, 461, at Saul, where he built his first church.

You all know the man.

St. Patrick.

Continue on to the year 521 A.D., when a baby boy was born to a tribal chieftain, and given two names. One meant 'wolf', the other meant 'dove'. He was destined to fulfill both names in his lifetime.
This boy descended from royal blood, and could have become king, had he not chosen to study for the priesthood instead. He studied with 3,000 other students at Clonard Abbey, under St. Finian, and became one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Succeeding in his ordination as priest, he founded several monasteries and his reputation grew. But then something went wrong.
Finnian of Clonard possessed a copy of the Scriptures, a sign of great wealth. He refused to let Columba copy it, and the student went behind his back to copy it in the dead of night. When Finnian discovered his treachery, he took Columba before the king, Diarmit; and the king ruled that Columba should return to Finnian the copy of the Scriptures he had made. Though protesting, Columba could do nothing to change the king's verdict.

And he allowed a sprout of bitterness to grow up in his soul.

When Diarmit violated monastic security to capture and execute one of Columba's kinsmen, the priest called together his clan to do battle. As the war raged, he knelt in prayer for the victory of his men, with frightening success. The Ui Niell carried the day. Columba now stood in a position to claim the kingship at the cost of 3,000 souls.

Condemned by religious and secular authorities, perhaps grief-stricken in his own conscience, Columba refused to become king and accepted the penalty of exile to Scotland, swearing to bring 3,000 souls to Christ--the number of men whose deaths he had knelt in prayer against.

With twelve men, he left for the tiny island Iona. But in his soul, he grieved at leaving his native Ireland.
Book Review
To follow more of Columba's story, I direct you to today's book review: The Saints of Ireland, by Hugh de Blacam. (Also known as Aodh de Blacam). This book is older, and harder to find, but well worth the reading for an overview of two important Irish missionaries. De Blacam enthusiastically sets forth the lives of St. Columba, or Columcille, and St. Brigid, a woman missionary to Scotland.
The account of their calling, their ministry, and their miracles brings a whole new meaning to St. Patrick's Day--because these people are an offshoot of Patrick's ministry. Due to Patrick's faithful evangelism in Ireland, he raised up a generation of Christians to evangelize his own native Scotland, which I find a beautiful example of God's working out all tragedy for good. Though Patrick was grieved to leave his homeland, it was through his obedience that Christianity came to the people who would minister to his own land in future.
Hugh de Blacam gushes occasionally over the greatness of these saints; perhaps because of their connection to Roman Catholicism. I had to smile when he spent two or three pages mourning the common mispronunciation of St. Brigid's name, and deploring the nicknames 'Patty' and 'Biddy' as disrespectful to two of Scotland's greatest saints. But I didn't find it irksome, and it was helpful, as I had pronounced Brigid's name completely wrong up to that point.
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I don't think you'll find the account of St. Columba's battle in this book, or if you do it is marginalized as much as possible. Saints, after all, are supposed to be perfect, and historians dispute certain facts of Columcille's life, not knowing whether they are factual or legendary. I don't pretend to know. But I like the account of the battle, and I also enjoy some other legends surrounding Columcille's life and death, including an account of the Loch Ness monster. (You can find the legends of Columcille's life in Life of St. Columba by Adomnan of Iona. I've not read the entire book, but I include it based upon a high recommendation.)
Whatever is fact, whatever is legendary, this man's ministry came as a result of St. Patrick's obedience to the call of God, and his forgiveness to those who enslaved him. The story of their lives, however faulty, however hyped, portrays quite clearly the forgiveness and redemption of Jesus Christ. We have a call just as they do, to go forth and make disciples of all nations--no matter our past pain, as in the case of Patrick; or our past sins, as in the case of Columba. Thank God that through Jesus Christ we are free from the chains that others try to bind us with, or that we fasten on ourselves.

And that, my friends, is the true message of St. Patrick's Day.
Lady Bibliophile


  1. Ah...the story of St. Columba and the Loch Ness monster has always fascinated me. ;)
    Reading this post reminded me of the school report you did a few years ago on St. Columba. I haven't read a lot about these two men, but I do know a little bit about their lives and sometime I'd like to explore more. :D
    Happy St. Patrick's Day!


    1. I enjoyed researching for that school report, and also listening to Diana Waring's stories about him on CD. Perhaps you'll listen to those too, someday. :D

      And some of his legends. O.o Epic.


  2. Ah yes, Columba. I will have to put him on my list of people to research further.... ; ) I'll have to see if our library system has any of those books.
    And I am glad you have the true story of Saint Patrick here...he was a wonderful Christian brother who is so often misremembered (or forgotten entirely) on Saint Patrick's Day.
    Lovely post, Schuyler, I was really hoping there would be something Irish up!
    E.H. ;)

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! I knew I must post something Irish on Tuesday, and thought this was probably the most Irish post I had inspiration for, as I'm currently reading about Germans. :D

      Schuyler :)


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