Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pray for us, Saint Patrick!

Timed for release on this, the Feast of Saint Patrick, Illuminator of Ireland, is an article claiming that the great missionary lied about his past in order to cover up his involvement in an unseemly family business. Roy Flechner, Professor of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at Cambridge, claims that Saint Patrick fled willingly (not kidnapped into slavery as the Saint claimed) to Ireland and probably brought his wealth with him in the form of slaves he would then sell.

Flechner claims that Patrick's story about being a former slave lacks credibility because:

"Once you escaped from slavery you lacked any legal status and anyone could imprison you and kill you, and this conflicts with what he said -- that he broke loose, crossed Ireland and then the Irish Sea to get back to Britain," he explained.

"He might not even have been acknowledged as a free man in his native Britain and could have been enslaved again there."

In defense of the original vita sancti, I will point out that Flechner's primary argument here is invalidated by its own premise. Surely people in that time knew the reality of their time better than we do today. If this story is implausible now, it would have been equally implausible then. That is, unless it were true. A free born person kidnapped into slavery who subsequently escaped was not, in fact, a renegade slave back in their native land.

So Flechner's argument is that Patrick wasn't kidnapped into slavery because then he would always be a slave. And since he wasn't kidnapped into slavery, then he went to Ireland willingly. And since he'd want some spending money in Ireland, he probably brought slaves to sell there.

Flechner claims that the best way to bring liquidated cash to a foreign isle was to transport humans in shackles across the water with the intention of selling them there. Sounds more unnecessarily complicated than bringing gold coins.

The argument is ultimately based on pure speculation which assumes a priori that the original tale is untrue. And if this article weren't sticking its finger in the eye of religious establishment, it would never have been published.

Pray for us, Saint Patrick, Illuminator of Ireland.

Troparion - Saint Patrick

Holy Bishop Patrick,
Faithful shepherd of Christ's royal flock,
You filled Ireland with the radiance of the Gospel:
The mighty strength of the Trinity!
Now that you stand before the Savior,
Pray that He may preserve us in faith and love!

Kontakion - Saint Patrick

From slavery you escaped to freedom in Christ's service:
He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil's bondage.
You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts.
In your journeys and hardships you rivaled the Apostle Paul!
Having received the reward for your labors in heaven,
Never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth,
Holy bishop Patrick!

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