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#3474 - Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz
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"God chose foolish little me from all of you who seem so wise and expert in the law," [Patrick] wrote to the bishops, "... and without any of you complaining at the time."
"St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography"
by Philip Freeman
~ ~ ~
Monday, March 08, 2004
'St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography' captures soul of extraordinary figure
By Tim McNulty
Special to The Seattle Times
As St. Patrick's Day approaches, a new biography, "St. Patrick of Ireland," fleshes out the life of Ireland's celebrated patron saint. With uncommon insight and clear, unadorned prose, Philip Freeman supplants old myths with a true-life tale no less wondrous. No snake herding or mystic battles with druids and kings here, just the intriguing story of a runaway slave who changed the course of Irish history.
Patrick was born a nobleman in late fourth-century Britain as Rome was losing its grip on the western empire. His father was a government official and deacon in the Christian church, his grandfather a priest.
Ireland at the time was a remote island untamed by Roman law. Sparsely settled and ruled by warrior chieftains, it was a barbarian realm to Patrick and his fellow Roman citizens, the far edge of the inhabited world.
Patrick was not yet 16 when he was captured and taken off in chains by Irish pirates. Young and fit, he was spared from the massacre visited upon older captives and children and was sold into slavery in northwestern Ireland. He spent six years there, herding sheep on the storm-swept uplands of Mayo.
In Freeman's view, this experience as a slave without hope in a foreign land forged a spiritual faith in the young Patrick and a fierce compassion for the downtrodden. Both would empower his later mission to bring the gospel to Ireland, indeed to adopt this remote island as his home.
Remarkably, Patrick escaped. In a flight worthy of the old Irish epics, he traveled some 200 miles overland across the island and found passage on a trading ship back to Britain. There, in a dream, he heard a chorus of Irish voices urging him to return "and walk among us," to minister to Ireland's people in need.
Most of what is known of Patrick comes from two remarkable letters he wrote late in his ministry. One was a scathing condemnation sent to the soldiers of Coroticus, a British village king who captured, massacred and enslaved a community of Irish Christians newly converted by Patrick. The other was a defense of his work among the Irish to British bishops who attacked his integrity from afar.
Both are biographical, deeply personal and passionate. They represent the earliest written record to come from Ireland and provide unprecedented insight into the soul of an extraordinary historic figure.
Freeman, a classical historian who has written extensively about Ireland and Celtic culture, gives these letters a new translation. Drawing on recent archaeological and historic research, ancient literature and Irish law, he frames a portrait of Patrick within the context of his times that is both discerning and fresh.
Freeman stresses the importance of Patrick's work with oppressed populations in Ireland, particularly women. Women were classed with children and slaves under Irish law. Seen as property, they had no legal rights. Female slaves were subject to immeasurable abuse.
Patrick introduced Christian ideals of human dignity and equality under God, and women from all ranks of society converted to Christianity in large numbers.
Patrick finessed the dangerous political landscape of prickly tribal chieftains with goodwill, fortitude and well-placed bribes. Throughout his three or four decades of missionary work he traveled much of northern Ireland, established churches, ordained Irish priests and bishops and inspired a scholarly and monastic tradition that became a touchstone of civilization for Middle Age Europe.
As writer Thomas Cahill pointed out, Patrick was the first human being in the history of the world to speak out unequivocally against slavery. The Christian church sanctioned it, of course, which no doubt led to some of Patrick's trouble with the bishops. When the bishops summoned him back to Britain to face review, he refused. He saw his work in Ireland as a mission given him by God. "God chose foolish little me from all of you who seem so wise and expert in the law," he wrote to the bishops, "... and without any of you complaining at the time." Even in the fifth century, he had mastered the bite of Irish wit. Patrick's unmarked grave remains somewhere in Ireland; a few sites claim him. But anyone wishing to pay contemporary tribute would do well to visit this fine biography.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
"St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography" by Philip Freeman
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743256344?ie=UTF8&tag=nondualitysal-20&linkCode=xm2&creativeASIN=0743256344
W. B. Yeats
The Lake Isle of Innisfree.
I will arise and go now, and go to
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for
peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
Fingers Pointing to the Moon
by Wei Wu Wei
In the Foreword, Ramesh Balsekar tells the reader, "Wei Wu Wei was not a Chinese but a wealthy Irish aristocrat (Terrence Gray), highly educated at Oxford University, and authority on wines and race horses."
Wei Wu Wei published his books between 1958 and 1974. They were basically incomprehensible to the mainstream spirituality audience of the times. Nowadays his voice sounds almost too familiar.
Here are some snippets from the book:
The Saint is a man who disciplines his ego. The Sage is a man who rids himself of his ego.
The Saint retains the illusion of a "me" and lives inside his mirage. The Sage walks through this mirage and finds that there was no "me" in reality.
~ ~ ~
Memory may be regarded as the cement of the ego.
~ ~ ~
Is one not everyone in one's dreams? And when one is awake (as it is called)?
~ ~ ~
Every time we use the word "ego" we are talking nonsense.
~ ~ ~
Many of us know, are convinced intellectually, that our bodies are unreal but nevertheless ninety-nine percent of our thoughts and actions are based on the belief in their reality.
~ ~ ~
There is no path to Satori. It cannot be attained. As we have seen, all the Masters tell us that we cannot seize Reality: it is Reality that seizes us. And we must not strive for it, because Mind cannot be reached through mind.
But we can prepare ourselves for it. This preparation consists in attaining -- attainment is on the plane of phenomena -- a state of consciousness in which as many hindrances as possible are removed, ... so that Reality may be able to seize us if It will.
~ ~ ~
The act of perceiving (sensorially) is real; that which is perceived is unreal.
This brief statement is more important than it appears.
~ ~ ~
Fingers Pointing to the Moon
by Wei Wu Wei
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