Sunday 19 September 2021

Saint Patrick An Ancient Saint for Modern Times - Edmond Grace SJ

Saint Patrick: 
An Ancient Saint for Modern Times
Edmond Grace SJ
ISBN 9781788120197
eISBN 9781788124249

This is the fourth book published by Messenger Publications that I have read in as the last few weeks. The first I read was, Saint Ignatius of Loyola: A Convert's Story by Patrick Corkery SJ, and this was one of 4 I picked up while writing and researching for the review of that one. Being of Irish descent and my Father and Son both having Patrick as one of their 3 given names, I have always had a deep devotion to Saint Patrick. I loved the other books from Messenger Publications I had read and kept an eye out for this one to become available as an eBook. I picked it up and began reading as soon as I saw that it was available.

The description of this booklet is:

“This book delves into the myth of St Patrick, separating the biographical detail of his life and proposing a new way to understand the appeal of his life story. Dubbing him `the patron saint of the reconciliation of peoples' Edmond Grace SJ presents a new Patrick, a man whose experiences instilled in him a deep commitment to overcome differences of rank, place and culture in the service of Christ.”
I believe that this volume was originally published in 2005, it was republished in 2019 and the eBook released in 2021. Or this is a second work by Edmond Grace SJ with the title Saint Patrick. This volume draws extensively from the The Confessions of Saint Patrick (CP) and Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (LC), I have read a few different editions and translations of both over the years. One of the things that makes this volume great is the framing that Edmond uses. He looks at Saint Patrick through his own eyes, through those of history and through a third set. The author states:

“Patrick is about to reinvent himself again in a story that has never been told before. I saw it happen with my own eyes. Having been living in New York for almost a year I stopped one day at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, inside I found a woman deep in prayer with a true and transparent devotion. Even decades later I can sense her presence. There was no doubt in my mind that she was praying to St Patrick. I could see her looking at his statue high up in a niche with his nineteenth-century bishop’s outfit – crosier, mitre, vestments and beard. 

What was my reaction? I was not moved, as I should have been by so obvious a show of devotion, instead I was intrigued. The woman was African-American, and I wondered why she might be praying to St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The answer came to me after I stepped outside. She was praying to a man who had been taken by force across the sea and condemned to a life of slavery. He would escape from slavery – and from that land – but he returned to live among the people who had enslaved him, enduring much at their hands but living with a faith that enabled him to triumph over hardship.”

He refers to this ‘friend’ of Saint Patricks a few times throughout the volume, and looks at Patrick through those eyes and how she would see and experience or interpret the stories. In that same chapter we are informed that:

“Did you know that Patrick wrote the first two books to come out of Ireland? One is called The Confession, which is quite short, and then there is ‘the letter to Coroticus’ which is even shorter. You might say that they are too short to be called books but they were the first of their kind and, in those far off days, they had no competition. There would not have been a single bookshop in sight.”

This was a fact I was completely unaware of. The chapters in this work are:

One Day on Fifth Avenue
The Story of Patrick’s Big Brother
Roman, and Proud of It
Trouble and Prayer
‘In the Strength of God’
A Journey with Dogs
‘You’ll Never Guess …’
What Patrick Learnt and Taught
To the Rank of Bishop
The Ends of the Earth
Money Problems
To The Ends of the Earth

This is a little volume. It presented many stories I was aware of, and a few I was unaware of. But the third framework that the author used brought Saint Patrick to live in a new and important way for me. He states:

“Then one day I stood in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York looking at that woman praying to the patron saint of my land. She had a message for me: ‘You Irish have a claim on him but you do not own him. He belongs to everybody who wants to stop hating, everybody who wants to love those who do them wrong’.”

This is an excellent little read, that I can easily recommend. And it is one I know I will return to again. Weather you have a devotion to him, are of Irish descent, or from some far-off land, this volume will have much that you can relate to and learn from. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For all review of Messenger Publications books and booklets click here

For reviews of other books about Saint Patrick or prayers by and to him click here

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