Wednesday 9 August 2023

Saint Patrick Apostle of Ireland - Alice Curtayne

Saint Patrick Apostle of Ireland
Alice Curtayne
Anthonian Press

Saint Patrick Apostle of Ireland Alice Curtayne

I first encountered the works of Alice Curtayne in 2018, since then I have read works by her a titles of 26 times. I have been slowing tracking down all her volumes. If my research is accurate she wrote 22 books, 10 booklets or tracks, she was an editor and translator of 2 volumes. She also contributed numerous articles to various newspapers, magazines and religious publications. Some of her volumes I have read a number of times. I read this one with great anticipation. Most of Curtayne’s works never had North American editions. I have had a hard time finding them. Recently I discovered that the National Library of Ireland will scan out of print books for a price. 

I have no description or dust jacket information from this volume. The back cover appears to be a photo of a statue of Saint Patrick. There are 8 pen and ink illustrations in the volume. I highlighted several passages my second time through the volume. Some of them are:

“SAINT PATRICK was known in his childhood by a name now unfamiliar in Irish ears, the name, Succath. Although born at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland, he was a Roman of the Romans. His father, Calphumius, held the office of Roman magistrate at that northernmost comer of the Roman Empire round about the year of Patrick's birth, 387. His mother, Conchessa, was indubitably of the Latin race, too. She was a near relative of the famous Saint Martin of Tours.”

“Succath, or Patrick, displayed all through his life the typically Roman qualities of endurance and simplicity. It is of such- almost tragic necessity that the reader should think of him in terms of Rome, rather than in terms of Scotland, because of what these names connote to-day, that one must enlarge upon his Romanity even at the risk or tedium. It would not have mattered in what part of Britain this son of a Roman Decurion happened to have been born. All Britain was at that time a peaceful Roman province.”

“At the date of Patrick's birth, England, and a tract of Scotland had been governed from Rome for two hundred and sixty-five year: for nearly four generations, that is. Every reader has probably seen how a family can change status in one lifetime, shifting from aristocracy to the lowest rank, and conversely, and accommodating itself to the change.”

“Patrick grew up in a community moulded by Roman law, speaking the Roman language, using Roman measurements, coinage, methods of commerce, and influenced mainly by Roman ideas.”

“The fringe of the Roman Empire suffered continuously from sporadic raiding on the part of the barbaric tribes without. Attracted by the prosperity within that compact union of order and stability, pirates were continually nibbling at its borders. The high-spirited Patrick, in his sixteenth year, was in this way plunged into the most searing experience of his life. While walking near his father's villa, he was seized in a pirate's raid on Kilpatrick, flung without ceremony into a ship and taken away to be sold into slavery.”

“The Youth, who was not merely freeborn, but a patrician, became the slave of four Pagan households. This means that he had to do all the most menial work for them, like carrying water, procuring firing, cleaning yards and outhouses, grooming horses, polishing arms. He had, too, lead their flocks of sheep out to the mountain slopes every day and gather them home at nightfall.”

“Superadded to the rigours of his work was the personal harshness of his master, Michu. But it was not even these aspects of his life which made the change so atrocious to the young Christian. In this land where he had been cast ashore, he discovered a ghastly negativeness. There were no churches, no fixed form of worship, no community prayer, no religious sanctions such as had formed him. Here they did not know God.”

“The Roman lad had too a manner of living, a sweetness in his eyes and smile, and a splendid force of endurance which powerfully attracted the Pagan children.  Again, his mind was stored with things of which they had never heard. It was evident that he possessed some secret. They were perpetually asking him question, but when Patrick answered, he placed them under a pledge of secrecy for fear of Milchu. It is clear from the great affection testified by Patrick in later life for these children that they constituted for him all the human consolation of his captivity.”

“In his friendship with the children of Milchu, the children of Ireland too possession of his heart.”

“The sixth time Patrick saw the Spring painting with delicate splendour this country-side which he learned to love, his helplessness became suddenly intolerable. He resolved to escape to his own kindred and among then both equip himself and procure the necessary help to save the Irish people from themselves.”

“The consensus of opinion now is that port was Westport, in Mayo. The distance from Ballymena in Antrim to Westport in Mayo, is, roughly, two hundred miles. It must have taken even the son of a Roman Decurion, so inured to exposure that he was as hard as nails, the best part of a week to tramp this distance.”

“At any rate we find him many years later as the monastery of Saint Martin of Tours, who, it will be remembered, was related to his mother.

Patrick therefore prepared for ordination to the priesthood on the Continent, and received at that same time a training in monastic discipline. The rigours of penitential exercises certainly can have had no terror for him after his experiences in Antrim. The children of Ireland, with their pleading eyes and eager questions, were always in his dreams. And he was haunted by the idea that their voices were calling him, to come back and teach them.”

“It was said that of all the disciples trained by Germanus, Patrick proved the most illustrious. It was a unique training both in scholarship and in right living; but there is not space further to enlarge upon it here.”

“It was in the year 432 when Patrick approached the Irish coast for the second time. He was now a man in the prime of life, forty-five years old, austerely trained in the severest monastic discipline, versed in ecclesiastical organization, and a brilliant exponent of the Faith. He was, moreover, burning with interest in the land of his former captivity and present adoption. He was, accompanied by twelve companions, of whom at least one was a priest and elderly enough to be a counsellor. Patrick was, moreover, reasonably supplied with money, for one notices that at the beginning of his apostolate, he was always ready to provide the sum demanded for a safe conduct through regions of dubious friendliness. He brought with him altar-stones too, and vestments, and precious relics, given to him by the Pope, which it was his optimistic intention to enshrine in the churches that he saw in a roseate future scattered throughout the land.”

“They disembarked again at the mouth of the historic Boyne, and this time, not warriors but civilians: crowded wonderingly around the strangers. They cried out in astonishment and pleasure when Patrick began to speak to them in their own Celtic tongue, which he remembered perfectly after an interval of twenty-three years. It was an enormous advantage to him, and partly explains how he triumphed where Palladius had failed that be knew intimately the language of the people whom he sought to convert”

“This is the first miraculous happening recorded in connection with Patrick’s missionary labours in Ireland and Dichu was his first convert of note. He was a most important and useful convert, for he was a chieftain with power, and he immediately took Patrick under the protection of his military authority. Moreover, he was full of information about Ireland, which was invaluable to the stranger, particularly as Dichu refused henceforth to be separated from Patrick, and immediately joined him on his mission.”

“When his foreboding was changed to certainty, be brought out the children whom he had loved, and consoled them. They welcomed him as a brother. Milchu's son afterwards became a bishop, and the two daughters became nuns and founded a convent.”

“When Patrick arrived at the summit of Slane, with his little band of mi5"ionary assistants and converts he set about doing all this precisely as though he were in the security of Christian Rome,  and with all the thoroughness that circumstances allowed. There is in these rites, especially in a strange land, a peculiarly intimate consolation. The moment they had struck out the fire from the stone with flint, it seemed to Patrick's companions on the mission that they had effected communion with all Christian Europe, and not merely with the Church Militant, but with the Church Triumphant, too; and they chanted the great words of the ritual with a happy and ringing fervour that deeply impressed the neophytes in their company.”

“His mission being now invested with royal authority and several chieftains having gathered about him, he was heard with deferential respect. Accounts vary about the number of his converts, but there were at least several thousand. Of these the most notable was Conall, brother to the High King, who was baptised before the multitude. It was the first public baptism authorised by royal edict, performed by Patrick in Ireland, so that this day (April 5th, probably 433) is called in the old records, “the beginning of the baptism of Erin.” With the public baptism of Laoghaire's brother, Conall, there opened the most golden page in the history of Ireland.”

“The story of the conversion of Ireland is one of the strangest in the missionary annals. It was such a joyous affair, with such a minimum of resistance and bloodshed; the receptivity of the people was so eager, their adherence so permanent, More than that, the first converts displayed such humility, such an ardour of self-sacrifice from the moment of baptism, that it seems there was never a soil so miraculously prepared for the faith.”

“It is not that Saint Patricj never suffered physical resistance in his mission. He himself tells us that he was seized and imprisoned twelve times; once his death was decreed; once he was bound with chains. And there was one martyrdom among his group.”

“The truth of this legend cannot, of course be established, but fifteen hundred year have passes, and during that period the religious history of Ireland has been remarkable indeed, and compares strangely and favourably with that of all other Christian nations.”

“He dies of the 17th March, 493, at a place called especially dear to him, Saul (or Sabhall); for it was there Dichu had given him the site of the first church he dedicated in this country. When he dies Ireland was dotted with churches and monasteries.”

I hope those few samples give you a feel for this work. Over the years I have read a number of biographies of Saint Patrick. Some inspiring, some a little fantastical, and at least one that was way to academic. This one falls nicely in the middle. It contains several details I was previously unaware of. And as always I love Curtayne’s writing style, I am just drawn in and taken back in time to the events when reading her works. This is another excellent little volume from Curtayne’s masterful pen, if you can lay your hands on it I highly recommend it.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books and Booklets by Alice Curtayne:
A Recall to Dante
Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet
Lough Derg: St. Patrick's Purgatory
Patrick Sarsfield
Saint Anthony of Padua
St. Bernard Doctor of The Church 1933

Books Edited by Alice Curtayne:
The Complete works of Francis Ledwidge

Books Translated by Alice Curtayne:
Labours in the Vineyard by Giovanni Papin

Books Contributed to by Alice Curtayne:

Croagh Patrick  Alice Curtayne

Saint Patrick Apostle of Ireland Alice Curtayne

No comments: