St. Patrick in Connaught

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter IX. ...continued

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When such was the spirit of the old kings of Erinn who received the faith of Christ from Patrick, we can scarcely marvel that their descendants have adhered to it with such unexampled fidelity.

After the conversion of the princesses Ethnea and Fethlimia, the daughters of King Laeghairé, St. Patrick traversed almost every part of Connaught, and, as our divine Lord promised to those whom He commissioned to teach all nations, proved his mission by the exercise of miraculous powers. Some of his early biographers have been charged with an excess of credulity on this point. But were this the place or time for such a discussion, it might easily be shown that miracles were to be expected when a nation was first evangelized, and that their absence should be rather a matter of surprise than their frequency or marvellousness. He who alone could give the commission to preach, had promised that " greater things " than He Himself did should be done by those thus commissioned. And, after all, what greater miracle could there be than that one who had been enslaved, and harshly, if not cruelly treated, should become the deliverer of his enslavers from spiritual bondage, and should sacrifice all earthly pleasures for their eternal gain? Nor is the conversion of the vast multitude who listened to the preaching of the saint, less marvellous than those events which we usually term the most supernatural.

The saint's greatest success was in the land [2] of Tirawley, near the town of Foclut, from whence he had heard the voice of the Irish even in his native land. As he approached this district, he learned that the seven sons of King Amalgaidh were celebrating a great festival. Their father had but lately died, and it was said these youths exceeded all the princes of the land in martial courage and skill in combat. St. Patrick advanced in solemn procession even into the very midst of the assembly, and for his reward obtained the conversion of the seven princes and twelve thousand of their followers. It is said that his life was at this period in some danger, but that Endeus, one of the converted princes, and his son Conall, protected him.[3] After seven years spent in Connaught, he passed into Ulster; there many received the grace of holy baptism, especially in that district now comprised in the county Monaghan.

It was probably about this time that the saint returned to Meath, and appointed his nephew, St. Secundinus or Sechnal, who was bishop of the place already mentioned as Domhnach Sechnail, to preside over the northern churches during his own absence in the southern part of Ireland.

The saint then visited those parts of Leinster which had been already evangelized by Palladius, and laid the foundation of many new churches. He placed one of his companions, Bishop Auxilius, at Killossy, near Naas, and another, Isserninus, at Kilcullen, both in the present county of Kildare. At Leix, in the Queen's county, he obtained a great many disciples, and from thence he proceeded to visit his friend, the poet Dubtach, who, it will be remembered, paid him special honour at Tara, despite the royal prohibition to the contrary. Dubtach lived in that part of the country called Hy-Kinsallagh, now the county Carlow. It was here the poet Fiacc was first introduced to the saint, whom he afterwards so faithfully followed. Fiacc had been a disciple of Dubtach, and was by profession a bard, and a member of an illustrious house. He was the first Leinster man raised to episcopal dignity. It was probably at this period that St. Patrick visited Munster, and the touching incident already related occurred at the baptism of Aengus. This prince was singularly devoted to religion, as indeed his conduct during the administration of the sacrament of regeneration could not fail to indicate.

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[2] Land.—Near the present town of Killala, co. Mayo.

[3] Protected him.—Book of Armagh and Vit. Trip.


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