Holy Courage.


Every March Ireland and the wider Irish diaspora celebrate St Patrick`s Day. St Patrick was a humble shepherd from England who arrived in Ireland in the fifth century. According to the legend he was taken by pirates and then sold on as a slave and forced into indentured labour by his captors.


In extremis he found succour in his Christian faith and soon became a missionary, but he was tested numerous times. The romantic poet Robert Southey dedicated a poem to St Patrick describing his “holy courage” amidst great adversity. Before St Patrick`s arrival Ireland was a pagan country riven with violent tribal conflict, so his divine quest to spread the Christian faith was met with severe resistance.


An Irish warrior called Oisin met and conversed with him as they both travelled on their separate missions. This encounter was immortalised in the poem “The Wanderings of Oisin” by WB Yeats. In the poem Oisin`s devotion to his warrior life wanes as he witnesses the exile and death of his fellow warriors. Oisin sees the light and finds fulfillment in the peaceful and contemplative doctrine of Christianity.


St Patrick inspired the brothers of Skellig island. This order of Monks established a community in the harshest environment, an outcrop of the Atlantic. These brave, hardy monks endured a life of complete isolation, but were strengthened by their dedication to their faith and vocation. This sense of dedication underpins the spiritual and cultural identity of Ireland, something that St Patrick himself described as “holy and constant, exalted, just and admirable”.