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St. Ninian was out walking with a brother of the religious house of Candida Casa. At a certain spot they halted, opened their Psalters, and began to read. While thus employed a mountain-shower came suddenly on, but it wetted them not. The air formed around them into a protecting vault, and not a drop fell through. But presently St. Ninian lifted his eyes from the page, and a light thought, cogitatio illicita, crossing his mind, the rain fell both upon him and his book. His companion, seeing this, conjectured the cause, and gently expostulated with Ninian, who, recollecting himself, blushed, recovered his attention, and forthwith the rain ceased to wet him. St. Ninian died at Candida Casa, and was buried there. It is pleasant to have anything that can remind us of our good countryman long since at rest in the heavenly kingdom, and there is still a bell called Clog-rinny, or Bell of St. Ninian, rude enough to be the very bell that rung the brethren of Candida Casa to their prayers,1 and many churches, holy wells, and caves, still bear the name of Ninian, or Ringan, as the apostle of the southern Picts is often called. The site of Candida Casa is still pointed out, and this, our earliest ecclesiastical establishment, became the See of Galloway. Throughout the middle ages St. Ninian's famous shrine was a favourite place of pilgrimage, and for many years after his death devout persons came from all parts of Scotland, and even over from Ireland, to say their prayers to Almighty God at it. We had many communications with the great Irish Church in these early centuries; and before leaving the remotest period of the history of Christianity in this country it is well to know the story of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, as told by himself in the work called his 'Confession.' It may be read as a fair specimen of the career of many another mis
1 See Archaology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, by Dr. D. Wilson, p. 660.
sionary among the Celtic tr1bes. He was born at the end of the fourth century, or early in the fifth, at Nemthur, a place which is supposed to answer to Alcluyd, the capital of the Cumbrian kingdom, now Dumbarton, on the Firth of Clyde.
His parents, who were Christians, occupied a respectable if not a noble position. He says of himself and his companions in their childhood, ' We had gone back from God, and not kept His commandments, and were not obedient to our priests.' At the age of sixteen he was taken captive with many thousands of men, to Hiberio, as he invariably calls Ireland. At that time his father was living in the town of Bonavem Tabernicz, and was occupied in farming a piece of land in the neighbourhood. His captivity, full of bitterness and affliction, Patrick received as a punishment for his hitherto graceless life, and he seems to have looked back with gratitude to the paternal love of God during those early careless years. In Hiberio he was appointed to herd cattle. This was his daily work ; and then it was that God called him to Himself, and began to speak in a special manner to his soul. In the midst of utter desolation, cut off from any teacher, or book, or church, his vocation was growing every day, and the love of God was increasing in him. Prayer became a passion to him. In lonely woods and on the mountains by day and night he prayed, and in one day would say an hundred prayers, and at night almost as many. He was regardless of the snow and ice and rain, being replenished by the sunshine of the love of God. 'And I felt no evil,' he says, 'nor was there any laziness in me, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning within me.' Thus his spiritual growth went on, and in the poor herd-boy the future saint, by whose instrumentality so many precious souls were to be gathered in for our Lord, was gradually developed. At length his patient waiting had its reward, for after six years' captivity he heard in a dream a commendatory voice saying, 'Thy fasting is well: thou shalt soon return to thy country.' There was no prospect, humanly speaking, of the fulfilment of this promise, but in another dream the same voice told him that, at the distance of two hundred miles, the ship lay in readiness for his voyage. So he fled away, fearing nothing, and after some difficulty obtained a passage. But it was not till he had undergone many sufferings and privations that he was again with his parents in North Britain. Though there are no particulars recorded, and though fifteen hundred years come between us and that meeting, we may still imagine what it was to him after his painful banishment, and what it was to his parents to receive home again such a son. They besought him to stay with them for the rest of his life, and not to expose himself to fresh perils. But Patrick already perceived in his former persecutors the instruments of God, and it was becoming very plain to him that his special vocation was to Hiberio. This thought never left him, so that in his very sleep he seemed to hear the voice of the wild inhabitants of the forest of Focluith crying, 'We pray thee, holy youth, come and walk again among us.' And when perhaps hesitating as to the origin of the secret voice within him, in another dream he heard .a chanted strain, of which he could understand nothing except the refrain, 'He who gave His life for thee is He who speaketh in thee.' These and other inspirations confirmed him in his resolution of tearing himself from his own land, and from his parents, 'without honour,' and 'without a name.' He returned to Hiberio, 'for the sake of the Gospel, and of the promises,' and the great work of his life began. What that work was is best told in the simple language of the Confession. 'I am,' he says,'greatly a debtor to God, who hath vouchsafed me such great grace that many people by my means should be born again to God, and that clergy should be ordained everywhere for them, for the people who had lately come to the faith, the Lord having taken them from the ends of the earth. . . . Whence comes it that in Hiberio those who had not any knowledge of God, and up to the present time worshipped only idols and abominations, how are they lately become the people of the Lord, and are called the sons of God? The sons of Scots and daughters of chieftains appear now as monks and virgins of Christ.' The last words of the Confession are, 'But I pray those who believe and fear God, whosoever may condescend to look into or receive this writing which Patrick the sinner, although unlearned, wrote in Hiberio, if I have done or established any little thing according to God's will, that no man ever say that my ignorance did it, but think ye and let it be verily believed that it was the gift of God.'
Such is the history of St. Patrick as told by himself.
His Confession was transcribed at the end of the eighth century, or very early in the ninth, into the Book of Armagh, 'from the volume which Patrick wrote with his own hand,' and it is also copied, with considerable additions, in several MSS. On the foundation of the Confession is built the 'Lives.' These profess to tell of a special commission from Pope Celestine to St. Patrick to preach the Gospel to the Scots, and enter into an account, more or less full, of his vast missionary labours, of the great ecclesiastical schools he established, the churches, convents, and oratories he erected throughout the land, the clergy he ordained, and the virgins he veiled, decorating his triumphs with the most exciting legends and startling miracles. But it has been said, that' on the whole the biographers of St. Patrick, notwithstanding the admixture of much fable, have undoubtedly portrayed in his character the features of a great and judicious missionary. He seems to have made himself " all things," in accordance with the apostolic injunction, to the rude and barbarous tribes of Ireland. He dealt tenderly with their usages and prejudices. ... A native himself of another country, he adopted the language of the Irish tribes, and conformed to their political institutions. By his judicious management the Christianity which he founded became self-supporting. It was endowed by the chieftains without any foreign aid. It was supplied with priests and prelates by the people themselves, and its fruits were soon seen in that wonderful stream of zealous missionaries, the glory of the Irish Church, who went forth in the sixth and seventh centuries to evangelize the barbarians of central Europe.'1 St. Patrick died, according to the most probable tradition, on Wednesday, the 17th day of March 493. Legend and miracle run wild round his deathbed and grave, but it is enough to know that, in the words of his own magnificent hymn, 'In the strong power of an invocation of the Trinity, in the faith of the Trinity in Unity, ... in the power of the love of seraphim, in the obedience of angels, in the hope of resurrection unto reward, in the prayers of the noble fathers, in the predictions of the prophets, in the preaching of apostles, in the faith of confessors, in the purity of holy virgins, in the acts of righteous men,' Patrick was at his rest.