By Virginia Carlin
Virtually everyone loves St. Patrick, although most people think of him as an Irishman because he spent most of his life in Ireland. The English claim him as their saint because he was born in a town along the western coast of Britain. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is actually now owned and operated by the Anglican Church. He was born around 385 A.D., apparently in Scotland, but captured at the age of 16 by Irish pirates. His family was part of the landowning aristocracy of the island, part of the Roman Empire. Patrick’s Roman name was Patricius (meaning noble). His father, Calpurnius, was a Deacon of the early Christian religion and his grandfather, Potitus, was a priest. Calpurnius was in charge of collecting imperial taxes.
Their estate was close to the sea. Since Patrick called himself a Romanus (Roman) is it possible Patrick was actually an early Italian? Of course, no one today ever seems to think of him as such. Ha, I love the story! Perhaps that is the reason people of all nationalities enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’ s Day, dressing in green and holding parades and parties. It’s enjoyable reading about the Romans, Celts, Druids, Patrick and Ireland. One wonderful book is “How the Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill, a delightfully written history of Patrick’s life. Noted Historian Kenneth Clark’s “Civilization” devotes a chapter, “The Skin of our Teeth” in which he gives full credit to the Irish contribution. Known as the Celts, a few settled in Greece; others crossed to France and Spain, while some settled in Cornwall and Wales. By 350 B.C. they reached Ireland, thus becoming the Irish. (Other Celts settled in Northern Scotland). From the Celtic invasion in the fourth century B.C. to the invention of books about nine centuries later, when oral lore began to be written down, it was a timeless Ireland. Patrick as a shepherd-slave was torn from civilization. “I prayed before daybreak, and faith grew in the love of God, and the spirit was aroused.” He was no longer a carefree boy, but a holy man -a visionary.
Patrick escaped to a ship sailing to the continent. At the Monastery of Lerins he became a Deacon, a Priest and, in time, the first missionary Bishop in history. Visions of a multitude of people were begging him to walk among them. He returned to Ireland. “I put myself in the hands of God”. He changed their pagan virtues to Faith, Hope and Charity. As the Roman lands went from peace to chaos, Ireland did the opposite, rushing from chaos to peace. Patrick transformed Ireland and became a true Irishman. His mission nurtured Irish scholarship. The Irish began collecting, in their libraries, every written thing they could find – the Holy Bible, Art and old Greek and Latin literature. The Hebrew Bible was saved, transmitted by scattered communities of Jews. Greek literature was preserved by Byzantium, but illiterate Europe without Latin literature would hardly have developed its great national literatures without the example of the Irish, the first vernacular literature to be written down. They re-established literacy and new life into the exhausted literary culture of Europe, established the base for the great Irish writers who followed to this very day…AND THAT IS HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION. It’s also why it is very easy to understand why St. Patrick is considered the Patron Saint of Ireland.
(Virginia Carlin is author of the popular history, “I Remember Marco…A Tale of Two Villages”)