It’s almost impossible for us today to understand how serious the early Christians took Our Lord’s great commission expressed towards the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
For St. Patrick this meant returning to a country where he had been held captive, after he heard the voice of the Irish call out to him in a dream “We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us”. In the waning years of the Roman Empire it was still unusual for a bishop to go to a land not subject to the authority of the emperor and outside the protection of his legions. This, however, did not deter St. Patrick.
After labouring as a bishop for several years in Ireland and bringing countless souls into Christ’s Church, St. Patrick was dismayed to see them being scattered and slaughtered by Coroticus, a local ruler. In no uncertain terms does St. Patrick condemn those who would harm the Mystical Body of Christ. Writing about Coroticus and his men he says:
“I cannot say that they are my fellow-citizens, nor fellow-citizens of the saints of Rome, but fellow-citizens of demons, because of their evil works. By their hostile ways they live in death, allies of the apostate Scots and Picts. They are blood-stained: blood-stained with the blood of innocent Christians, whose numbers I have given birth to in God and confirmed in Christ.”
Like any good bishop, St. Patrick first sent word to the slavers, calling on them to repent and realize that if they did not change their sinful ways they were doomed to the eternal punishment of Gehenna. When this made no difference the Apostle to the Irish issued a chilling excommunication in which he addressed Christians with the following exhortation:
“even share food or drink with them until such time as they make satisfaction to God, and until they set free the servants of God. The Most High does not accept the gifts of evildoers. The one who offers a sacrifice taken from what belongs to the poor is like one who sacrifices a child in the very sight of the child's father. Riches, says Scripture, which a person gathers unjustly, will be vomited out of that person's stomach. The angel of death will drag such a one away, to be crushed by the anger of dragons. Such a one will the tongue of a serpent slay, and the fire which cannot be extinguished will consume.”
St. Patrick reminds us of the real fate that awaits those who would lead God’s’ people astray, and he applies the harsh medicine they need if they wish to save their souls. This is out of a real pastoral concern for the Christians under his care. This St. Patrick’s Day, let our prayer be for our civic and religious authorities, that they stand up for life and especially for the unborn.
St Patrick, Patron of Ireland, pray for us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, protectress of the unborn, pray for us.
Quotes are taken from St Patrick’s Epistola ad Milites Corotici. For a complete text of Patrick’s Confessio and Epistola in the original Latin with English and Irish translation go to confessio.ie