Page 7, 19th February 1971

19th February 1971
Page 7
Page 7, 19th February 1971 — Following St. Patrick back to the Simple Faith

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Organisations: Congress
Locations: Glasgow, Dublin, Rome, Durham


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Following St. Patrick back to the Simple Faith

IT seems to me that there are

a number of "in" words and names in constant use in Christian conversations today, and, among those more frequently in use are "Hans Kung," "Pope John," "Vatican II," "renewal," and "aggiornamento."

Gaels, Great Gaels, and Great Gaels Entirely, frequently join in the conversational use of these words and names, and 1 propose to join in the fun myself — speaking, of course, as a Minor Gael.

Hans Kung once said that the Irish people could do more to bring about the renewal so desired by John XXIII than any other Christian people in the world. Without having been to Ireland when he made this broadcast statement, his hunch would seem t9 have been right. He sensed that within the so-called conservatism of the Christian faith in Ireland, for which we are so often criticised, there was, paradoxically, a conserving of a living faith by the majority of the people.

This was the simple faith which had once united Europe. This was basically a desire and an endeavour to follow the simple Christocentric life so perfectly set out by our Patron Saint in St. Patrick's Breastplate, when he sang: Christ be with me Christ within me Christ in my headway, Christ in my wake. Christ alow and Christ aloft, Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left.

Christ with me waking, walking and steeping, Christ in every heart thinks on me, Christ on every tongue speaks to me, Christ in every eye beholding, Christ in every listening ear.

The simplest Arran sailor carving through the Atlantic waves in his currach could sense this. The simplest fisherman could see this like the salmon in the waters of a pool. This suggestion of an almost visual surrounding by Christ, in the hymn, of Patrick was taken up by the people of Ireland, and they have never quite recovered from its delight and wonderment.


Patrick, England's greatest gift to Ireland, and perhaps to the world, is certainty worth taking into consideration when you are planning a holiday in Ireland. If you are a city dweller seeking escape from twentieth century squalor and its distractions, then the hidden Ireland of Patrick has a rare and distinctive quiet and repose to offer you.

Patrick still lives, in many ways. There is, for example, Croagh Patrick, which means the Reek or the cone-shaped hill of Saint Patrick, 2,510 feet sheer above Clew Bay in County Mayo. It is comparatively easy to walk or climb. The view, from the summit, of hundreds upon hundreds of islets in the bay below, and the vistas to the North and to the deep South, are tremendously rewarding.

It was on this mountain that Patrick fasted for forty days and forty nights and wrestled with Christ. His tenacity here was such that it has always proved to me, if proof were ever needed, that he was indeed an Englishman. No Irishman would have lasted that long, and got the better of the bargain. The concession, it is said, that our patron procured, was his presence to help us on the final day of judgment of the Irish nation.

The ascent of Croagh Patrick can be done easily enough in the summer and, if you do not wish to do it alone, there is an annual day of pilgrimage, when thirty to forty thousand pilgrims climb the Reek and hear Mass at the summit from dawn onwards, While the holiday-pilgrim may feel more comfortable and able, in good brogue shoes, to undertake the climb, he need not be surprised at the hundreds who climb the stony mountain in their bare feet.

A MEDIEVAL HEALTH FARM If Mayo mountaineering is not quite your line, you may be a weight-watcher or a calorycounter or a health farm addict. If this is the case, then Patrick has just the place for you on Lough Derg. It is a medieval spiritual, mental and physical health farm which still attracts over thirty thousand pilgrims each year. It is situated in the incomparably beautiful county of Donegal. Doors open on June I and close on August 15.

You are rowed from the mainland to a fabulous island dominated by a lantern-shaped Basilica, The whole small island looks like one floating monastery. Three days fasting on Lough Derg soup, and doing the rounds and exercises in hare feet, is a unique experience, and most pilgrims want to return a second and a third time. Only the Trade Description Act prevents one from further praise of Saint Patrick's Purgatory.

If you are not the active type of tourist, then follow the more gentle steps of the apostle of Ireland at Slane in County Meath, and at Royal Tara. It was at Slane, tradition tells us, that Patrick was said to have lit the first paschal fire in Ireland and celebrated its first Easter. At Tara in A.D. 428 he converted Laoghaire, high King of Ireland, to Christianity.

Should you be so entirely lazy as not to follow the footsteps of Saint Patrick to the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, or to anywhere else, then the least you can do to keep your Patrician one-upmanship alive is to go and see his famous bell in the National Museum in Dublin.

ONE MILLION AT MASS The last occasion on which this famous bell was rung was that of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 1932, when it was used at the concluding High Mass in Phoenix Park, and was heard by the congregation of one million people.

Patrick so stirred things in Ireland that the Irish missionary monks of the early Middle Ages won for us the title of Instela Sanctorion. The movement was at its peak in the eighth and ninth centuries.

England was, of course, the nearest target for these wandering monks. and they were soon angling for Saxons. So we have Saint Aldan in the middle of the seventh century, first Bishop of Lindisfarne and apostle of the Anglo Saxons: Saint Cuthbert was at this time Bishop of Durham, Saint Fursey apostle of Eastern England, and Saint Kentigern was first Bishop of Glasgow, which all goes to show that "renewal," like tourism, is a two-way thing.

In things tourist, the art of communication is probably one of the most difficult things to accomplish successfully. You may think that you are getting your message across to find, alas, that all too frequently the recipients already have certain fixed ideas.

We have, for example, a certain vision of a spiritual picture and a physical picture of Ireland, which we think we have projected successfully, only to find that this is not quite the way our recipients have been brought up to see it in some parts of the world.

A DELIGHTFUL IRISH PICTURE For example, I once asked the late Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop John O'Hara, for his picture of Ireland. He gave it to me. It was delightful. It was humorous and it was pleasing. But, he added, if you were to consult the Encyclopaedia Catholica (perhaps the one Pope John XXIII most, used) you would find this

physical description of Ireland.

"Ireland is the extreme western outpost of the continent, formed by a large plateau of ancient rocks roughly oblong in shape (not the rocks — the plateau), with a depression in the middle. At the north-east and south-east corners it is bordered by ancient high ridges worn by erosion and glaciers. The climate is characterised by mild temperatures, constant humidity and nebulosity," And further on one reads: "In the central depression there are meadows and pastures which feed .a large amount of stock, mainly bovine."

Later it appears that 93 per cent of the non-bovine population of this "oblong with the depression" is Catholic.

CAUSE FOR INVESTIGATION Clearly, as the Apostolic Delegate pointed out to me, this physical description needed a little amplification. To call the Golden Vale a depression is an understatement. The Ring of Kerry is rather inane than an old ridge worn by glaciers and so on.

One of these days I feel I must investigate this depression, in Rome.

Since this edition of the Encyclopaedia Catholica, we have "Ryan's Daughter," quite a different picture altogether. There is really only one solution, and that is to come on over and see Ireland for yourself and make up your own mind about it.

We believe you will find yourself among friends and get on famously.

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