Saturday 27 May 2023

Saint Patrick - Gerard Culkin - CTS Biographies

Saint Patrick
CTS Biographies
Gerard Culkin
Catholic Truth Society
CTS Booklet B560

This book was another that was harder to track down, it was well worth doing so. I love readings books that are part of the CTS Biographies series. I have read some published just this year (2023) and some over 100 years ago. This is one of three different biographies of Saint Patrick from the Catholic Truth Society I have read. 

They are:

There was no description on the back of this book and I failed to find one online. I did find at least two printings of this volume, one with the Irish flag colours on the cover and the other with green white green strips across the cover. The back of this edition lists several others Biographies from the CTS I would love to lay my hands on:

B419 St Alphonsus – Anthony Foy C.SS.R.
B414 St David of Wales – David Crowley D.D.
B404 St Catherine of Siena – Alice Curtayne
B336 St Paul – Rev. T. O’Donoghue

I have only been able to track one of them down online and that copy did not ship to Canada. So once again I read a volume from the Catholic Truth Society and add a few others to my ever growing wish list. But back to this specific volume. And the sections in the volume are:

Saint Patrick
Patrick's Early Life
Patrick on the Continent
Patrick in Ireland, 429-461
The Fame of St Patrick

It has a bibliography at the end references 5 volumes on Patrick or Christianity in Ireland. I highlighted numerous passages while reading this small volume. They are:

“Saint Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, was already venerated as an angel of God in his own lifetime and with the passage of years his fame grew, so that, like some king or hero of antiquity, the true story of his life was soon obscured by legends and fables. For many years now historians have been trying to disentangle the true facts about the saint from the many stories that were later told about him, with some very strange results.”

“The plain fact is that we know very little for certain about St Patrick. Almost all that we do know is derived from two short works written by Patrick himself, the Confessio which he wrote to defend himself against the slanders of his enemies, and a letter which he wrote to a British chieftain called Coroticus. Two hundred years after the saint's death two Irish scholars, Tirechan and Muirdu, wrote accounts of his life, and it seems probable that some authentic traditions about him and his work are preserved in their writings and in the early Irish annals.”

“The story which follows is based largely on the evidence of Patrick's own writings. It is a brief account of what most modern historians would accept as reliable fact about the Patrick who was born in Britain in the late fourth century, who passed several years of his youth as a slave in Ireland, and who, about the year 432, returned to that country to preach the Gospel and establish the Church there.”

“Patrick tells us that he was born in Britain, at a place called Banavem Taberniae, which was probably in the west of the country, perhaps on the Severn estuary, and certainly near the sea. The year of his birth was about A.D. 385, not long before the Romans left Britain to defend their own country from the attacks of the barbarian invaders. Patrick came of noble stock. His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon and a decurion, or city councillor, and his grandfather, Potitus, was a priest.”

“Patrick tells us that up to the time of his captivity he had been a somewhat careless Christian, but the hardships of his life in exile turned his thoughts to God. His faith was strengthened by his sufferings: he found the gift of prayer, and he was filled with the spirit of God. He learned the language of his captors, and perhaps already made a first attempt to convert some of them.”

“In the course of the next few years Patrick travelled widely in search of instruction; in one of the sayings attributed to the saint in the Book of Armagh he speaks of his journeys 'through the Gauls, in Italy, and in the isles which are in the Tyrrhennian sea'. Where these travels began and how long they lasted we do not know, for Patrick mentions no dates and no places; but it is believed that he spent some time, either now or earlier, at Lerins, off the coast of Provence, in the famous monastery founded about the year 410 by St Honoratus, and he certainly visited some of the many other monasteries and hermitages which had been established in the other islands of the Mediterranean in the course of the late fourth century. Almost certainly it was at Auxerre, in Gaul, that he finally settled and stayed for some fifteen years or more. There he had as his teachers two holy bishops, Amatus, who ordained him deacon when he was about thirty years of age, and German us, one of the most distinguished churchmen of the day.”

“Through all these years Patrick never lost sight of his objective, to return to Ireland when he was fitted for the task of preaching the gospel to the pagan people. The opportunity finally came to him in the year 432, when, according to the best reckoning, he was about forty-seven years old.”

“Meanwhile it would seem that Patrick had so impressed Germanus and the clergy of Auxerre by his humility that some time after the departure of Palladius he was ordained priest and sent in the company of a senior priest, Segitius, to join the mission in Ireland. In the course of his journey, while still in Gaul, he was met by messengers bringing news of the death of Palladius. He at once returned to Auxerre, and Germanus, who clearly saw himself as commissioned by the Pope to make provision for Ireland, now saw that Patrick was indeed destined to become the leader of the mission.”

“And there are stories, or legends, of saints in Ireland before St Patrick's time. Ibar of Beg Ere in Wexford, Ailbe of Emly, and Declan of Ardmore are said, according to one story, to have worked in Ireland as missioners with Ciaran of Saigher. But all of this is very uncertain, and Patrick in his own writings makes it clear that he worked among a people who were still completely heathen.”

“By the time of his death the faith had been preached throughout the entire country, bishops established, there was a native clergy, hundreds of churches had been built, monasteries founded and many holy women dedicated to the service of God and the Church.”

“The legends of the saint and the stories of the miracles and the wonders he worked are many, but the recorded facts are few indeed, and it is not possible to construct anything more than a mere outline of his missionary life.”

“About this time Patrick founded his own church, to which a monastery was attached, at Armagh. It was here that he spent the later years of his life, and after his death Armagh was recognized as the primatial see of Ireland.”

“Yet there can be no doubt that Patrick was the ruler of the Irish Church, and that that Church recognized the supreme authority of the Roman see. 'A single canon quoted in the Book of Armagh decrees that difficult questions should be brought before the archiepiscopal see of Armagh, and in the last instance be decided by the apostolic see of Rome'.”

“As early as the seventh century his feast was observed on 17 March.”

“In the year 563 St Columba, with twelve companions, left Ireland and settled at Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, to begin the conversion of the Picts. From Iona in 635 St Aidan was sent to become the bishop of Lindisfarne and convert the people of Northumbria. In the year 590 St Columbanus, the greatest of all these missionaries, left Ireland for the continent and in the next few years evangelized parts of Gaul and Burgundy, penetrating as far as Italy, and everywhere founding or reforming monasteries as schools of sanctity and learning.”

“Of all the missionary saints of the Dark Ages there are few indeed whose achievement can be compared with that of St Patrick; there is none whose fame and influence has proved more enduring.”

This was a wonderful little biography. And of the three from the CTS I have read it is my second favourite. The one by Kerr is first but not by much. I am thankful I was able to track this down and give it a read. One of my son’s middle names is Patrick and he asked if he asked to read it after I finished it. I will likely return to this little booklet again. It was so inspiring and it will challenge readers of all ages. I can easily recommend this book.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.


Books in the CTS Great Saints Series:
Antonio Rosmini - J.B. Midgley
Bernard of Clairvaux - J.B. Midgley
Benedict Patron of Europe - J.B. Midgley
Charles Borromeo - J.B. Midgley
Dominic - J.B. Midgley
Elizabeth of the Trinity The Great Carmelite Saint - Jennifer Moorcroft
Francis de Sales - J.B. Midgley
Gemma Galgani Gem of Christ John Paul Kirkham
George: Patron of England - J.B. Midgley
John Baptist de La Salle - J.B. Midgley
John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft
John Vianney - J.B. Midgley
Louis Marie de Montfort His Life, Message and Teaching - Paul Allerton SMM
Martin de Porres - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Patrick Missionary to the Irish - Thomas O’Loughlin 

No comments: