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Archive for the ‘St. Patrick’ Category

Sucat the faithful

Most people know him as Patrick, but his name was Sucat. And he was born in England, not Ireland. And he didn’t drink (ok, I’m only kidding about that last one). His mother was a sister or at least related to the famous St. Martin of Tours. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all appear to have been clergymen (no celibacy was enforced in these days in Britain. Indeed, the law of celibacy was ignored in Ireland and the Celtic church until it was imposed upon them in the 11th century).

When Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured during a raid by the Irish king Niall of the Nine Hostages and carried away to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. After six years in slavery, he escaped and was able to return to England. But his heart remained with the Irish.

He returned to Ireland in 432 and became the great missionary to the Emerald Isle. He suffered persecution and imprisonment and daily faced danger, attack, capture, and death.

Tradition says that it was during Patrick’s time at Tara (the capital of the Irish district of Meath) that he composed his “Lorica” (or “breastplate”). It was a prayer used when traveling to beg God for protection. We no longer realize the importance of such prayers but in the days of early missions into pagan lands they were invoked with great earnestness. Patrick said, “I daily expect either murder, . . . or to be reduced to slavery, or mishap of some kind. But I fear none of these things, on account of the promises of the heavens; for I have cast myself into the hands of the Omnipotent God, who rules everywhere, as saith the prophet, ‘Cast thy thought on the Lord, and He will sustain thee.’” It was in this spirit that he composed his “breastplate” and here are a few of the stanzas that indicate his awareness of his need for God’s protection:

I summon today around me all these powers,
Against every hostile merciless power directed against my body and my soul
Against the incantations of false prophets, Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heretics, Against the deceit of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and Druids,
Against all knowledge which hath defiled man’s body and soul.

Christ protect me today, Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wound, That I may receive a multitude of rewards.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees me,
Christ in the ear of every man that hears me.

His humility, modesty, and great zeal for the world of unbelieving men is remarkable. He was not eloquent and was always embarrassed that he could not speak with “clearness and brevity” but understood his calling as a child of God. We are here to be instruments of God in changing the world. This calling gripped Patrick and thus he was willing to live with holy abandon in the midst of a pagan and barbaric people, rebuking their sins and folly and calling them boldly to faith in Christ.

He deserves to be remembered. So, let’s do it. Lift one up for St. Sucat and pray that God raise up more men like him.

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St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We commemorate the life and work of Sucat (aka Patrick of Ireland). The life of Patrick (like so much else in the early centuries of the Church) is surrounded by mystery and legend. He was probably born in Dumbarton in England in the latter part of the 4th century, around 375-390 A.D. His mother was a sister of, or at least was related to, the famous Martin of Tours. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all appear to have been clergymen. When Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by the Irish raiding king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and carried away to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. His new master, Milchu, sent him into the fields to keep cattle. It was there, in the Irish fields, that Patrick began to consider the God of his fathers:

And there the Lord opened (to me) the sense of my unbelief, that, though late, I might remember my sins, and that I might return with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who had respect to my humiliation, and pitied my youth and ignorance, and took care of me before I knew Him, and before I had wisdom, or could discern between good and evil; and protected me and comforted me as a father does a son.

After many adventures and an interval of years of which little is known, Patrick was able to return to his mother and father who begged him never to leave them again. But though Patrick was out of Ireland, he could not get Ireland out of himself. One night he had a dream:

And there I saw, indeed, in the bosom of the night, a man coming as it were from Ireland, Victoricus by name, with innumerable letters, and he gave one of them to me. And I read the beginning of the letter containing “The Voice of the Irish.” And while I was reading aloud the beginning of the letter, I myself thought indeed in my mind that I heard the voice of those who were near the wood of Foclut, which is close by the Western Sea. And they cried out thus as if with one voice, “We entreat thee, holy youth, that thou come, and henceforth walk among us.” And I was deeply moved in heart, and could read no further; and so I awoke. Thanks be to God, that after very many years the Lord granted to them according to their cry!

In response to the dream, Patrick left for Ireland arriving around the year 432 and spent the rest of his life in evangelizing the Irish people. The “Lorica” (or “Breastplate”) was composed by Patrick as a prayer begging God for protection when traveling. We no longer realize the importance of such prayers but in the days of the early missions into pagan lands they were invoked with great earnestness. Patrick said, “I daily expect either murder, . . . or to be reduced to slavery, or mishap of some kind. But I fear none of these things, on account of the promises of the heavens; for I have cast myself into the hands of the Omnipotent God, who rules everywhere, as saith the prophet, ‘Cast thy thought on the Lord, and He will sustain thee.’”

God mightily blessed his labors and for that, we rightly remember him and give thanks for his life and faithfulness.

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Today we commemorate the life of one of the greatest and most courageous missionaries in the history of the Church: St. Sucat. Sucat (who changed his name to “Patrick” some time prior to 432 A.D.) became the patron saint of Ireland for his labors in spreading the gospel through that land. By the blessing of God upon his efforts, paganism was dealt a death blow and Christianity became the dominant religion. Here are a couple of quotes which give us a sense of the man:

Sucat denouncing sun worship:

“For that sun that we behold at God’s command, rises daily for us— but it shall never reign, nor shall its splendor continue, but all even that worship it, miserable beings, shall wretchedly come to punishment. But we who believe in and adore the true sun, Jesus Christ, who will never perish, neither shall he ‘who does His will’— but shall continue forever, — as Christ continues forever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty, and with the Holy Spirit, before the ages, and now, and through all the ages of ages.”

His evangelistic confidence:

“For I am greatly a debtor to the God who has bestowed on me such grace that many people through me should be born again to God, and that everywhere clergy should be ordained for a people newly coming to the faith, whom the Lord took from the ends of the earth, as He had promised of old by His prophets: ‘To Thee the Gentiles will come and say, As our father made false idols, and there is no profit in them.’ And again: ‘I have set Thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth.’ And there I am willing to await the promise of Him who never fails, as He promises in the Gospel: ‘They shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob;’ as we believe that believers shall come from all the world. . . . Therefore it is very necessary to spread out our nets, so that a copious multitude and crowd may be taken for God.”

Sucat, we salute you.

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