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Title: St. Patrick, The Father of a Sacred Nation
Author: Loughlin, J. F.
Language: English
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                              ST. PATRICK

                             ST. PATRICK,
                     THE FATHER OF A SACRED NATION

                               A LECTURE
                       Rev. J. F. LOUGHLIN, D.D.

                     PUBLISHED FOR THE BENEFIT OF

            _Copyright, 1889, by Rev. J. F. Loughlin, D.D._


 The Father of a Sacred Nation.

    “And the Lord said to Abram: ‘Go forth out of thy country, and
    from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house; and come into
    the land which I shall show thee. And I will make thee a great
    nation, and I will bless thee and magnify thy name, and thou
    shalt be blessed. I will bless them that bless thee, and curse
    them that curse thee; and in thee shall all the kindred of the
    earth be blessed.’”――GENESIS XII.

Addressing myself this evening to the task, so dear to every priest
whose veins are warm with Celtic blood, of paying this annual tribute
of praise to St. Patrick and the consecrated land of our fathers, I
must, first of all, cast aside the vain hope of being able to say
anything new upon a subject which for many generations has engaged
the talents of one of the most eloquent races of the modern world.
Fortunately, you do not expect or wish to hear anything new on this
subject; the perennial charm of the theme, like that of the old,
familiar melodies of our fatherland, lies mainly in the hallowed
memories which sway your souls as you listen. I have, therefore,
determined to follow the well-beaten track; and I have chosen for my
text that passage of Holy Writ which the wisdom of my predecessors
has oftenest selected as the most appropriate. Indeed, there exists
so striking a resemblance between the office and mission of the Irish
apostle and his children in the New Dispensation, and the office and
mission of the illustrious patriarch and his seed in the old, that
this command given by Almighty God to Abraham, and these promises made
to him and his descendants, may, without the change of one iota, be
transferred to St. Patrick and his people. At a time when ignorance
and error were creeping over the earth and involving all the children
of Adam in gross darkness, the Lord called Abraham forth from his
country and his kindred to make him the father of a sacred nation, of
a nation which should remain the dwelling-place of light and truth
amidst the universal gloom, and which, in God’s appointed time, should
communicate its inherited blessings to all the kindred of the earth.

Now, coming down to the fifth century of the Christian era, we find
in the calling of St. Patrick an exact counterpart to the calling of
Abraham. True religion appeared to be once more upon the point of
disappearing from the earth. The Eastern Churches, torn and debased
by endless heresies, dissensions and schisms, were rapidly sinking
into that miserable abyss of apostasy from which they have never since
permanently arisen. The condition of the Western Church was equally
critical; for although, thanks to the transcendent genius of St.
Augustine and the divine zeal and authority of the Roman Pontiffs, the
pestilential tide of Pelagianism had been forced back to its native
Britain, yet storm-clouds were gathering in the depths of the Northern
forests and on the Eastern tablelands, which seemed fated to sweep
away civilization, law, science and religion from the face of the
globe. Already the first tremendous billows of barbarian invasion had
rolled over Europe and spent their fury among the sands of Africa.
Alaric the Goth had ravaged Italy and sacked Rome; Genseric the Vandal
sat enthroned in the ancient city of Carthage. And this was but the
beginning of evils; for innumerable hordes were still to come, urged
on by love of adventure and lust of conquest, but yet more by their
eagerness to escape the advancing shadow of the terrible Huns, those
most savage of all barbarians, whose gigantic empire, dreaded alike
by Goth and Roman, was stretching itself over hills and valleys, dense
forests and lofty mountain peaks, morasses, seas, rivers and trackless
deserts, from the wall of China to the banks of the Rhine.

It was at this emergency that God spoke to the heart of the great saint
whose memory we are gathered to honor: “Go forth out of thy country
and from thy kindred and out of thy father’s house, and come into the
land which I shall show thee.” And where is this land which the Lord
has chosen? Where is the home of those who are to enjoy light whilst
darkness enshrouds the earth, and liberty whilst all Europe is trampled
under the feet of Goths and Huns and Vandals? Far away in the West
there stood an island, moderate in extent, wonderful in fertility,
vying with the emerald in beauty, whose rugged cliffs, beetling over
the unconquered ocean, marked the extreme limit of the known world.
This happy island had been for untold centuries inhabited by a people
who, protected by their watery ramparts from Scythian incursions and
Roman conquests, and unimbued with the vain subtleties of Grecian
philosophy, maintained a sturdy independence, and tenaciously adhered
to the laws, the institutions and the religion of their ancestors.

So far as the natural character is concerned, the Irishman from his
very first appearance on the stage of history has preserved, almost
unaltered, his well-known characteristic traits. He has ever been
generous in his impulses, quick-witted, impressionable and hospitable.
The spirit which pervaded the legislation of our primitive ancestors
was rather that of modern than of ancient civilization. Three things
the Irish people have consistently detested down from the days of
Milesius――despotism, the so-called “right of primogeniture” and
landlordism――three evils, whose baneful dominion in the island has been
founded on the ruins of the nation’s independence. By their ancient
law of tanistry, all dignitaries in the land, from the chief monarch
down to the humblest canfinny, were chosen by the free suffrages of
their countrymen. “The law of tanistry,” says an unfriendly English
historian (Lingard II, 86), “regulated the succession of all dignities
from the highest to the lowest. It carefully excluded the sons from
inheriting, as of right, the authority of their father; and the
tanist, or heir-apparent, was elected by the suffrages of the sept
during the lifetime of the ruling chieftain. The eldest of the name
and family had, indeed, the best title to this distinction; but his
capacity and deserts were previously submitted to examination, and
the charge of crime, or cowardice or deformity might be urged as
an insuperable objection to his appointment.” So jealous were our
forefathers of their political liberties! Nor did it agree with their
notions of equity that the firstborn son should enjoy an exclusive
or preponderating right of inheriting his father’s wealth. Their law
of gavelkind prescribed that a man’s movable property should descend
to all his sons equally, without any consideration to primogeniture.
And what about the land? Why, a landlord has always been an odious
character in Ireland. The primitive Irish preferred pasturage to
agriculture, and I believe that preference is again become quite
fashionable among the landlords over there. A man in the olden times
possessed his land only so long as no death occurred in his sept.
But, to quote Lingard, “at the death of each possessor the landed
property of the sept was thrown into one common mass; a new division
was made by the equity or caprice of the canfinny, and their respective
portions were assigned to the different heads of families in the
order of seniority.” This regulation, whilst it impresses us favorably
as evincing the national love of fair play, must still be admitted
to have been a crude and primitive arrangement. But it is amusing to
observe that what modern socialists vaunt as a novel invention of the
nineteenth century was fairly tried and wisely discarded centuries ago
by the common sense of the Irish people. Their criminal code bore the
impress of the national gentleness; for it is agreed that they always
shrank from the actual infliction of capital punishment. Their religion
consisted in the worship of all those great objects in nature which
are most apt to excite the veneration of a race highly imaginative
and poetical――the sun and moon, the consuming flame and the running
stream, the mighty tempest, the awful mountain, and, above all, the
mysterious shade of their oaken groves. And thus they continued for
ages unmolested to sing to their wild harps the praises of their gods
and the renown of their ancient heroes.

This is the nation which the Lord has chosen for His peculiar
inheritance; this the land upon whose fair horizon the Sun of Justice
is about to rise, never more to set. Ireland, hitherto thou hast borne
no yoke. Thy hills have never echoed the shouts of invading legions;
no captive Irish Chieftain has ever graced the triumph of a Roman
General. But that which Cæsar could not do, Christ will do. Pagan Rome
dared not attack thee; but Christian Rome has already given the signal
for the assault. Behold, hastening over mountain and sea, armed with a
staff received from Jesus, strengthened with ample jurisdiction from
the Supreme Pontiff, fearless, undaunted, Patrick advances, a host in
himself. No novice in the apostolic warfare is this new champion of
Christianity. Inured to toil, as well by the hardships of bondage as
by long years of extraordinary penances, instructed in the science of
God by the most distinguished masters of his age, having served under
two great commanders in a brilliant campaign against heresy in Britain,
he brings to the task allotted him by Providence ability, skill,
experience and the prestige of past success. He lands upon the coast
of Erin, uplifts the standard of the Cross and takes possession of the
island in the name of Christ and of His Vicar. The peaceful glories
of his conquest it is needless to recount, for they are indelibly
engraven upon the hearts of a grateful race. The Christian world viewed
with astonishment the unprecedented spectacle of a nation gained to
the faith without bloodshed, without persecution, almost without
resistance. Never did the arrows of the Divine word fly with such swift
and telling effect as when shot from the lips of St. Patrick. That
Gospel which had fallen powerless upon the proud ears of Epicureans and
Stoics in the Areopagus, although preached with all the inspired energy
of St. Paul, fell with a crushing weight upon the artless idolatry
of Tara. Before the triumphant march of the Irish apostle idols fall
and vanish forever; warlike chieftains bow their heads to baptism;
princely youths and maidens put on the monastic garb; the Druids are
changed into priests and bishops, and every harp within the land is
attuned to sing that Patrick’s God is become the God of Erin. Thus has
the obedience of the new patriarch, the Christian Abraham, been amply
rewarded. He is in possession of the land which the Lord had shown
him. He is become the father of a great nation, which, to the end of
time, will enshrine his blessed name in their heart of hearts with
religious enthusiasm. Generations shall come and go, but the memory of
St. Patrick will never fade. Happy Ireland! which welcomed so great an
apostle; and happy apostle! whose lot was cast among so affectionate a

But now his work is done, and the time has arrived when the saint is
destined to receive a second call from Almighty God――a call, this time,
not to labor, but to repose, not to go forth again upon a lifelong
pilgrimage, but to enter into his eternal home. From his episcopal
throne in Armagh the aged conqueror beholds the entire nation subject
to his spiritual authority, and through him subject to Rome, and
through Rome subject to Christ. Religion flourishes throughout the land
with the simplicity of infancy combined with the full vigor of manhood.
How changed is Erin now from what she was that day when Patrick in his
early youth was cast upon her shore a despised and downcast slave. And
oh! if we were worthy, my friends, to enter into the sanctuary of our
venerable father’s meditations, as he recalls one by one the events
of his long and checkered career. It is only now, when the drama of
his life is hastening to its close, that he can fully appreciate the
beautiful unity of design which has reigned throughout it, and can
perceive how all the occurrences of his life, even the most painful
and the most mysterious, were by the hand of God woven skillfully into
the great mission for which he had been chosen. But thy trials are now
past, thy day’s work is finished; “go forth,” faithful servant of the
Lord; thy Master’s arms are extended to embrace thee.

In this supreme moment, one thought only, I think, disturbed the
fullness of the saint’s blessedness――the thought that in Ireland no
one had been found in all these years of his labors who would add
to his apostleship the crown of martyrdom. How he envied St. Peter
his cross, St. Paul his sword, St. Bartholomew his knife, St. John
his caldron! He had been like these princes of the Church in life,
wherefore shall he be unlike them in death? _They_ witnessed unto
Christ amidst excruciating torments; is he placidly to expire on his
couch? They died hooted and scoffed at by an unbelieving populace; he
finds himself surrounded by loving and attentive children. What means
this innovation upon the fate of Apostles? But courage, great saint;
God looks not upon the gift, but upon the heart. Though the Irish are
not a people destined to make martyrs, but rather to become martyrs,
yet has not thy whole life been one prolonged martyrdom? Thy slavery,
sanctified by prayer and patience, was a martyrdom; thy sacrifice of
country, of kindred and of the comforts of thy patrician home was a
martyrdom; the ardent zeal which consumed thy life in the hardships
of the apostolate was a martyrdom; and whatever may be wanting to thy
crown in the shape of torments or persecutions thou shalt receive
vicariously in the heroic sufferings of thy children in future ages.
Happy fate! Ireland’s apostle suffers not _from_ his children, but
_in_ them and _with_ them. I love to dwell upon this sweet scene of
St. Patrick’s dying moments. It is a spectacle of which Ireland alone
can boast. She alone manifested for her apostle during his lifetime
the same filial reverence which she has paid to his memory since his
death. The nation stood at his bedside to cheer his declining strength
with tender solicitude. And the saint, whose love for his children was
stronger than death, forgetful of himself, concentrates his failing
energies upon the one great object of his affections and his triumphs.
Gather about your aged father, children of Ireland, and catch the last
precious words which are quivering upon his lips. “Grant me this
favor, O Lord,” he murmurs, “that my people may remain ever true to
the faith I have taught them.” With this prophetic prayer on his lips,
the blessed man of God passed away to his heavenly home. He passed
away; but his spirit remained with his people, and throughout all the
vicissitudes of their extraordinary history they have remained ever
“true to the faith.”

Indeed, the history of Catholic Ireland seems to be only the sequel
or prolongation of the life of her apostle, and, on the other hand,
the life of St. Patrick might pass for an excellent allegory of the
subsequent history of his people. That same admirable unity of design
which we observe running through the life of St. Patrick, that same
Providential shaping of all circumstances to the working out of a
Divinely appointed mission, is unmistakably discernible in the history
of Ireland. She was destined to be the sacred island, the eternal
home of orthodoxy, the seminary of apostles; and this peculiar mission
demanded and procured for her the special fostering care of Divine
Providence. But, before advancing further, it may be useful to make a
few preliminary remarks.

Man is a very complex piece of work, and may therefore be viewed from a
hundred different standpoints. Hence the histories that can be written
of him are as multifarious as are the relations in which he stands to
things seen and unseen. Let the warrior, the statesman, the political
economist, the scientist, the man of letters and the moralist, sit down
to write histories of the self-same race or nation, and you will be
surprised at the kaleidoscopic variety of their respective productions.
The man of war will entertain you with a narration of brilliant
exploits on field and wave. Kings and emperors at the head of mighty
armaments are his heroes; sieges and battles, the impetuous charge
and the gallant repulse, the roar of the cannon and the gleam of the
bayonet――these form the matter of his drama. The statesman leads you
into the cabinet of princes, to teach you how treaties are concluded,
laws enacted and the populace ruled. The political economist revels
among bewildering statistics, shows how the resources of a country
are developed, and expounds the philosophy of supply and demand. The
scientist follows the student into his quiet chamber, and traces the
steady advancement of human knowledge. The man of letters narrates
the growth of literature and language. The moralist studies the
vicissitudes of the eternal struggle between virtue and vice. Humanity
presents a different aspect to each of these historians; and very often
an age which is pronounced by one of them most dismal and disastrous
will be lauded by another as the brightest in the annals of the race. I
have mentioned several classes of historians; but these do not exhaust
the capabilities of the subject. There is another relation in which a
man or a nation may be viewed; and it is the highest and noblest of all
our relations――our relation toward our Almighty Creator. This is not
only our highest relation; it is, moreover, one which animates all the
other relations. Men were not created to be food for cannon, as the
warrior seems to suppose; nor to be the dupes of politicians; nor for
any other terrestrial object, high or low. Man’s destiny is to work out
the supreme designs of Divine Providence. That historian is, therefore,
the wisest who, with due reverence, endeavors to read human events in
the light of God’s high decrees.

Now, Ireland’s destiny is so patent that he who runs may read it.
Geographically secluded from the profane world, she was chosen by the
Almighty, like Palestine of old, to be His inalienable inheritance,
the impregnable citadel of Revelation and the seminary of an Apostolic
race. In a world so tempestuous as this, where decay and mortality
are written upon the face of all things, where the greatest nations,
as well as individuals, are prone to fall and to become persecutors
of that faith of which they are the natural protectors, it was
necessary that the Church should have some nation upon whose fidelity
she could securely rely, and from whose bosom she could, in times
of dire distress, replenish her spent forces. That chosen nation is
Ireland, my friends. Whilst Rome has always been, and will always
remain, the head of the Church, Ireland is her right arm. The Roman
Pontiff is the General-in-Chief of the people of God; but the Irish
are his forlorn hope, ever to be found in the thickest of the combat,
passionately attached to their Chieftain, and yielding a filial and
rational obedience to his venerable commands. In thus extolling Ireland
I have no wish to rob other nations of their due meed of praise. Many
of them have deserved well of the faith. Many of them have powerfully
contributed to its propagation and suffered much for its preservation.
But none of them contests with our Isle of the Saints the honor of
being in the most complete and tender manner consecrated to the
religion of Jesus Christ. All other nations have a profane as well as a
sacred history. They have achieved power and glory through wars waged
in other interests than those of religion――interests oftentimes opposed
to those of religion. The history of Ireland since her conversion,
on the contrary, has become thoroughly identified with that of her
religion. Her national greatness and her national glory are derived
from her faith. If she has taken to arms, it has been to defend her
faith; for Ireland’s enemies have invariably begun by overturning her

I am aware that this supernatural way of presenting Irish history is
not palatable to some individuals of our race who are tainted with the
materialistic infidelity which infects the present age. _Some_ there
are――not many, indeed, for materialism and infidelity are snakes that
do not thrive in Irish soil――who hear this Catholic doctrine with ill
will. They think it likely to breed a fatalistic apathy in the national
breast. They fear it may dull the edge of patriotism and reconcile
the popular heart to oppression and treason. Impious folly! Do they
imagine the Irish are like the Turks, that they cannot distinguish
God’s eternal purpose from man’s petty malice? Believing as we do that
Christ’s sufferings were predestined, are we the less disposed to
detest the cowardice of the unjust judge, the fury of the infatuated
populace or the base treachery of Judas Iscariot? You forget, too,
my infidel philosopher, that we are discoursing, not upon Ireland’s
unknown future, but upon her glorious career in the past. That past
cannot be understood without a constant reference to God’s adorable
counsels. To the eye of the infidel history presents nothing but a
disjointed succession of contradictory events, which follow each other
without order, without meaning. It is only when we survey the life of
an individual or of a nation from the standpoint of Divine Providence
that we are enabled to soar above “the whips and scorns of time, the
oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,” and to seize things with
the intelligent eye of the Christian philosopher.

But to return from this digression. There are, as I remarked, so many
points of analogy between the life of St. Patrick and the history of
Catholic Ireland that a poetical mind might fancy the saint ended his
mortal career only to begin life over again, on a grander scale, in his
children. The life of St. Patrick divides itself into three distinct
periods, the first two of which are preparatory to the glorious labors
of the third. The first sixteen years of his life were years of peace
and happiness, unmarred by sin or sorrow. During this period the young
saint, sheltered from this evil world in the bosom of a religious home,
and surrounded by models of Christian virtue, expanded in the rich
bloom of unsullied innocence. Then followed the epoch of his trials
in bondage, when the tender plant was plucked from its native soil
and cast upon the bleak Northern hills. Here in the stern school of
adversity the delicate became rugged; the child was developed into the
man; and the modest youth began to dream of bold enterprises and vast
spiritual conquests. Thus St. Patrick was trained to the Apostolate;
and did not Divine Providence pursue the self-same course with the
Irish nation? In the history of Catholic Ireland we discern these same
distinct periods――the blameless, childhood, the stormy adolescence and
the apostolic manhood.

1. Whilst darkness and desolation were covering the rest of the
earth――whilst Huns and Saxons, Goths and Vandals, Moors and Saracens
were carrying despair and death into all corners of Europe,
Asia and Africa――whilst one by one the bright lights of ancient
Christendom――Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Carthage――were being
extinguished――Ireland, exempted by a special grace of the Almighty
from the universal misery, continued for three centuries to be the
unmolested sanctuary of the faith, the asylum of learning, the nursery
of saints and missionaries. How wistfully we now look back through
all the intervening horrors upon those happy days of the nation’s
childhood, when, quite unconscious of the dark future in store for her,
she consecrated her virgin heart to the service of God; when churches
and monasteries crowned each hill and nestled in each dale; when the
air was ever laden with melodious psalmody and the perfume of prayer;
when, unable to contain within her generous Celtic breast the fullness
of her joy, she sent forth, as a presage of her future apostolic
labors, her Columbas to the Isles of the North, her Columbanuses into
the heart of Europe, and launched her Brandans upon the western waves
to search out new realms for Christ.

The exceptional character of Ireland’s position was fully appreciated
by the other nations of Europe. She was looked upon as sacred ground,
and her people were recognized as enjoying in a very special manner
the friendship of our Saviour. I narrate a thrice-told tale. To her
sheltering bosom there flocked from all Christendom studious souls
thirsty for knowledge, repentant souls longing for seclusion, virtuous
souls in quest of refuge and models; and they found knowledge in her
schools, discipline in her cloisters, and the humblest peasants in the
land could teach them, by precept and example, the path of Christian
perfection. For the Irish at their conversion did not put on religion
as an outward garment. The Catholic faith sank deep into their souls,
and became the center of their private and public life. It absorbed and
assimilated all their thoughts and aspirations. For their faith they
lived and studied; in it they reposed their individual happiness and
their national glory.

2. But a change was to come over the face of the island. Indeed, these
centuries of happy tranquillity were intended to be only a period of
preparation, only an introduction to its history. A Christian nation
can no more than a Christian individual hope to follow Christ by
any other way than that of the Cross; and as well the nation as the
individual must employ such periods of peace and quiet in preparation
for the struggle which is certain, sooner or later, to supervene. That
fateful day at length arrived for Ireland. I can fancy, my brethren, a
scene in heaven like unto that which ushered in the sorrows of patient
Job. Once more, methinks, “on a certain day when the sons of God came
to stand before the Lord,” the foul prince of darkness obtruded his
hateful presence upon that blessed company. Then spoke our Divine Lord:
“Hast thou considered my chosen people, that there are none like them
in the earth, simple and upright men, and fearing God and avoiding
evil?” But Satan, answering, said: “Doth Erin fear God in vain? Hast
not thou made a fence for her and her house and all her substance round
about, blessed the works of her hand, and her possession hath increased
on the earth? But stretch forth thy hand, and touch all that she hath,
and her bone and her flesh, and then shalt thou see that she will bless
thee to Thy face.” The Almighty, willing to glorify His elect and the
power of His grace, took up the challenge so impudently cast before
Him, and gave permission to Satan to wreak his fury on the devoted
nation, making, however, the same reservation in her favor which He
had made in the case of His servant Job, that the Evil One must spare
its life. A conflict thereupon ensued which stands unparalleled in the
annals of the human race. Never were the engines of infernal warfare
brought to bear upon the children of men with such preternatural
skill, with such overwhelming force, with such fiendish cunning, with
such stubborn persistence, yet never did the infernal serpent sustain
so thorough, so crushing a defeat. Wars and famines; invasions,
conquests, confiscations; the cruel steel of a ferocious soldiery; the
brutal whip of an implanted band of robbers; the haughty insolence of
a State-fed heretical clergy, and the canting hypocrisy of swarms of
professional proselytizers; the ingenious machinery of an infamous
legislation――in fact, what evils that can afflict a nation were not
made use of in the attempt to eradicate the faith from the breasts
of the Irish? Yet every new onslaught of the enemy issued in a fresh
triumph for Catholic Ireland. Satan wrested from her everything but
that which was the sole aim of all his efforts――her Faith.

No doubt, my friends, the subject of Ireland’s unutterable woes has
often forced itself upon your minds, and at the remembrance of her
sufferings the tear has sprung to your eye, and your cheeks have burned
and your breast heaved with just indignation at the inhuman wretches
who, age after age, have lent themselves to Satan to be the instruments
of his cruelty. But have you never looked beyond the physical miseries
of each day and hour? Or have the wails of Erin’s exiles, the dying
moans of her outcast children, as they famish by the wayside, and the
bitter torments of her legions of martyrs so stunned your soul as to
make you incapable of appreciating the moral grandeur of the scene?
Oh, then, you have never conceived thoughts worthy of Ireland! You
have seen nothing but her humiliations; you have not discovered the
Divine glory which shines through them. You have seen the wretched work
of man, but not the all-shaping, merciful hand of God. My mission,
brethren, is one, not of hatred, but of charity; hence you must not
expect to hear from me either a pathetic narration of Ireland’s wrongs
or a vehement invective against her oppressors. Indeed, whilst I
am very far from wishing to extenuate the infamy of those who have
outraged and devastated the land of our fathers, yet, instead of
fostering rancor against them, I feel more disposed to bless their
infatuated malice, which, under the supreme control of Providence,
has so chastened and sanctified the nation as to make it the model
of Christendom. If Ireland, like the other nations, had “rested on
her lees, and had not been poured from vessel to vessel nor gone into
captivity” (Jer. 48:11), she, too, would have been a profane nation,
with her measure of worldly greatness and with worldly ambitions and
aspirations; but she would not have attained that noble station in
the Church to which she was predestined, and for which a long series
of trials was the indispensable preparation. Who does not sympathize
with St. Patrick under the lash of his captors? But Patrick’s bondage
was necessary for Ireland; and, brethren, Ireland’s bondage was
necessary for the world. She was led into captivity, not only that the
world might have a brilliant illustration of the heroism of Christian
patience and resignation, but, especially, that it might have what it
sorely needed, a nation of Apostles.

3. Yes, my friends, after withstanding for ages the open violence and
the insidious wiles of Satan, Ireland was advanced to the highest
station in the Church. “God,” says St. Paul, “has placed in His Church,
first of all, the Apostles;” and by an unparalleled grace the Irish
people were raised in mass to this sublime office. Other nations
have, indeed, given birth to illustrious apostles. Spain may well be
proud of St. Francis Xavier, Britain of St. Boniface and Italy of St.
Augustine. But Ireland has done still more: she has not sent forth
isolated missionaries; she has gone forth herself to the extreme ends
of the earth. Oh, how often in these latter days has not that stern
but salutary voice of God resounded through the island: “Go forth out
of thy country and from thy kindred and out of thy father’s house;”
and even though that high decree came disguised in the harsh tones
of a bailiff, with what filial acquiescence in the Divine Will have
not millions of her children bidden a sad farewell to their native
land, their humble hearth and their dearest kindred, and gone forth
to penetrate the wilds of America, the jungles of India and the sands
of Australia! Truly, “there are no speeches nor languages where their
voices are not heard; their sound is gone forth into all the earth.”
With unflagging zeal and superhuman endurance they have planted the
faith under every star of heaven, making the desert and the wilderness
bloom with all the beauty of Carmel and Saron. Oh! island of the
saints, how sublime is thy destiny! Everything pertaining to thee is
extraordinary and supernatural. Thou seemest to belong to a different
world from this, thou art so unlike the other nations of the earth.
Thou hast been trampled on by every passer-by. Thy haughty invaders
have disdained to call thee a nation. They have wished to sweep thee,
with thy language and thy institutions and thy religion, from the
face of the earth. Yet, lo! that which men despised and rejected, the
same has become the corner-stone of the edifice of God. The more they
trampled on thee, the more deeply didst thou cast thy roots; the more
they shook thy aged trunk, the more rapidly didst thou shoot forth thy
far-spreading branches.

What is there in nature more beautiful to behold than a majestic forest
tree in the spring-time, as it decks itself with the luxuriance of
its foliage and blushes in the pride of its variegated blossoms? How
you wish it could remain ever thus undisturbed! But that ought not
to be; for then it would live and die in selfish barrenness. To be
of immortal usefulness it must, first, be shorn of its beauty; the
fierce equinoctial blasts must wrench its seeds from it, and spread
them broadcast over the earth, and cover them from the wrath of winter
with the leaves torn from its moaning branches. Thieving birds must
carry away its fruits to scatter them on a distant soil. If, then, you
return to view that noble plant after wind and storms have worked their
will upon it, you will hardly recognize in the dreary, naked wood the
object of your admiration a few months ago. But wait a little. The
winter will soon be past, and you will find that the harm has not
been serious, much less irreparable. It will bud and blossom again in
a glorious resurrection; and behold! far and near a thousand saplings
are springing up, each reproducing the vigor of the parent stock. In
like manner, whilst nations which have enjoyed serene prosperity have,
so far as the sacred cause of Revelation is concerned, lived and died
sluggish and inactive, Ireland, rudely shaken by every wind of heaven,
has, without losing much at home, multiplied herself in every quarter
of the globe. Why, then, ought we not to bless the whirlwind which has
scattered our noble race? The tears of the exile were necessary to the
propagation of the faith; and whilst we sympathize sincerely with the
suffering individuals, we must never lose sight of the Divine purpose
which their sufferings are predestined to effect.

In the prosecution of this analogy between the life of St. Patrick and
the history of his people, we discover another point of resemblance
well worthy of consideration. St. Patrick was sent into captivity that
he might become familiar with the language and customs of the people
whom he was chosen to evangelize. So, too, the Irish, having been
selected by the Lord for the important work of evangelizing a great
part of the world, were subjected to the sway of that nation whose
wonderful enterprise has made her language the most generally spoken
by the human species. How little did the English dream, when they were
planting their proud banner on every remote corner of the globe, on
every island, on every coast, that Providence was making use of their
ambition for the advantage of a nation which they despised and of a
religion which they detested? Yet such the event proves to have been
the case. England’s discoveries and conquests simply paved the way for
the Irish and their holy religion. England forced the Irish to drop
the language of their fathers, and adopt that of their oppressors. She
was but too glad to offer them her ships, and induce them to establish
themselves in her colonies. But, my friends, England has lost, and is
losing, her hold upon her colonial possessions; whereas the Irish and
their blessed faith remain, and will remain, please God, till the end
of time.

But let us bring this discourse to a conclusion. I have endeavored to
show how far-reaching and enduring St. Patrick’s work has been. He is
become, in very deed, the father of a great nation, whose distinctive
trait is its inviolable fidelity to God. Like their apostle, the Irish
people were great and holy in the days of their prosperity; their
greatness and holiness were enhanced during the long ages of their
trials; and they have arrived at the summit of spiritual glory now
that God has scattered them far and wide to be the salt of the earth
and the light of the world.

Be mindful, therefore, of your mission, Irishmen and children of
Irishmen, and at the same time appreciate the formidable responsibility
which that mission lays upon you. No doubt, our great race will achieve
its sublime destiny, notwithstanding the frailties of individuals; for
though there may be weak and unworthy brethren amongst us――though there
may be Irishmen who are drunkards, and Irishmen who are dishonest, and
Irishmen who by other vices dishonor their country and scandalize the
unbeliever――yet the mass of our people are, in practice and principle,
“true to the faith.” But it is well for us to remember that it was
for no trivial purpose we or our fathers were transplanted into this
fertile region. Divine Providence has placed us here, as on a mountain
top, that men may have full scope to observe us, and may value our
faith by the works of righteousness which it engenders within us. And,
my friends, this great American nation into which we are incorporated
deserves well of us; for when the old world had cast us off, it
received us with open arms and welcomed us to an equal share in the
blessings which the Lord of nature lavishes upon it. But it is our
privilege, as well as our duty, to make a grateful return for this
hospitable reception; for whilst America possesses in abundance gold
and silver, food and raiment, yet, in a higher sense, she is sadly
destitute. She lacks that better food which fills the soul, and this
food she must receive from our hands. Faith perfected almost to vision,
supernatural love of God, unsullied chastity――these are the spiritual
riches with which the half-clad, half-starved emigrant comes laden
to these shores, and they are an ample remuneration for the many
kindnesses which he receives.

In conclusion, let us, as is meet and proper, cease not to offer up
fervent prayers to God, through the intercession of St. Patrick, for
the welfare of the land of our fathers. She has suffered enough; she
has been tried enough. “How long, O Lord, how long!” Already through
the many rents made by the stormy indignation of the civilized world
in the wretched patchwork of this last of Irish Coercion Acts which is
now weighing heavily upon her, we can catch most certain glimpses of
those happier days, long sighed for, long deferred; and I am confident
that when the noon-day of her temporal glory shall arrive, Ireland will
remain, as she has hitherto remained, true to her mission, “true to the
faith.” But of this I am sure, that if, as we earnestly desire, peace
with its abundance and liberty with her manifold blessings return to
nestle among her green hills, she will ever look back with an honest
pride upon the ages of her sorrows; she will “rejoice for the days in
which she was humbled, for the days when her eyes saw evils.”


       *       *       *       *       *

 Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

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