Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Happy St. Patrick's Day
Jonal entry 964 | Friday, March 17, 2006
This being my favorite saint's day, I thought I'd reprise a couple of related pictures from Armagh, Ireland. All over the little Emerald Isle (about the size of South Carolina) there are wells, mountains, churches, castles and other sites that St. Patrick is alledged to have visited, blessed, founded, or otherwise affected. But Armagh, County Down, was the episcopal see of his archdiocese and both the Church of Ireland (Anglican, Episcopal) and Roman Catholic churches have their cathedral sees there still. The Anglican one, pictured above with my son Mike standing next to its sign, is on the hill that the saint's own cathedral originally occupied.
As Ireland was ruled by England for some 500 years, including the time when King Henry VIII revolted from the Roman Pope and established the Anglican Church, there are "Church of Ireland" churches in all the major towns and cities and despite the great majority following of the Catholic church, the Anglicans still have most of the historic sites like this one, and also the burial place of Patrick, St. Columba, and St. Bridgit at Down Patrick in the same county (now dominated by the relatively modern city of Belfast) in the still-English-loyal northern province of the Island called Ulster.
At right is an imposing statue of Patrick that's outside the Roman Catholic cathedral, atop another hill in Armagh. Born (in 387) at an uncertain coastal site in what is now Wales or Scotland, Patrick was the son of Christian Roman parents, believed to have been part of the empire's bureaucracy (patricians, hence his name), when England was a province of the Roman Empire. While idling along the seashore in his teens, he was kidnapped by pirates from what was then Pagan Ireland. They traded him into slavery as a shepherd in this same section of Ireland, where he spent his adolescent years in relative solitude. During this time, he fell back on the Christian teachings of his childhood, and spent much of his time in prayer.
Finally, he felt God leading him to escape, which he managed to do, getting passage on a ship from near where the city of Dublin now is, to what is now northern France (Gaul). In France, he prepared for the priesthood in a monastery, and eventually had a dream in which children from Ireland beckoned him to return to their island to bring it the gospel. Though he was not the first Christian to try to evangelize Ireland, he was the first to be successful, seeing the whole island turning to the church in a short time. Evangelists who introduce the gospel to whole populations are regarded "apostles" in the church, thus Patrick is called the Apostle to Ireland. He is also considered the first significant Christian missionary after the close of the New Testament era three centuries earlier.