Saint Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland
How did Orthodox Christianity come to this small green island off the shores of the European continent in the uttermost West? Unknown to many, Christianity in Ireland does have an Apostolic foundation.
The two Apostles whose teachings had the greatest influence upon the Celtic peoples were the brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee. After Pentecost, James first preached the Gospel to the dispersed Israelites in Sardinia (an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the east coast of Spain, which was used as a penal colony). From there he went on to the Spanish mainland and traveled throughout the northern part of Spain along the river Ebro, where his message was eagerly heard by the Celtic/Iberian peoples, especially those in Galicia (northwest Spain). This area continued to be a portal to Ireland (the land of the Gaels) for many centuries, especially for the transmission of the Good News.
Amidst all this maritime activity, a young man named Patrick was captured by an Irish raiding party that sacked the far northwestern coasts of Britain, and he was carried back to Ireland to be sold as a slave. While suffering in exile in conditions of slavery for years, this deacon’s son awoke to the Christian faith he had been reared in. His zeal was so strong that, after God granted him freedom in a miraculous way, his heart was fired with a deep love for the people he had lived among, and he yearned to bring them to the light of the Gospel Truth. After spending some time in the land of Gaul in the Monastery of Lérins, St. Patrick (†451), was consecrated to the episcopacy. He returned to Ireland and preached with great fervor throughout the land, converting many local chieftains and forming many monastic communities, especially convents.
It was during the time immediately following St. Patrick’s death, in the latter part of the 5th century, that God’s Providence brought all the separate streams of Christianity in Ireland into one mighty rushing river.
Why were the Celtic peoples able to receive Christianity so readily and so eagerly? On a natural level, the Celtic peoples had a great love of beauty which found overflowing expression as the Christian Faith, arts and culture developed in Ireland. Their extreme and fiery nature, which had previously been expressed through war and bloodshed, now manifested itself in great ascetic labors and missionary zeal undertaken for love of God and neighbor.
From the Orthodox Christian Information Center (http://orthodoxinfo.com/)
An Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
~Taken from the funeral Mass for Mr. Ralph Francis Turner, St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church, Bethesda, Maryland, 16 January 2012, eleven o’clock in the morning.