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church—was there a single drop of blood shed on account of religion, through the entire course of this mild Christian revolution, by which, in the space of a few years, all Ireland was brought tranquilly under the dominion of the Gospel.”
ST. PATRICK PREACHING AT TARA. “ After remaining some time in Down, to which county he had returned from Dalaradia, St. Patrick prepared, on the approach of Easter, to risk the bold, and as it proved, politic step of celebrating that great Christian festival in the very neighbourhood of Tara, where the princes and states of the whole kingdom were to be about that time assembled. Taking leave of his new friend Dicho, he set sail with his companions, and steering southwards, arrived at the harbour now called Colp, at the mouth of the Boyne. There leaving his boat, he proceeded with his party to the plain of Breg, in which the ancient city of Tara was situated. In the course of his journey, a youth of family whom he baptised, and to whom, on account of the kindly qualities of his nature, he gave the name of Benignus, conceived such an affection for him as to insist on being the companion of his way. This enthusiastic youth became afterwards one of his most favourite disciples, and, on his death, succeeded him as Bishop of Armagh.
“On their arrival at Slane, the saint and his companions pitched their tents for the night, and as it was the eve of the festival of Easter, lighted at nightfall the paschal fire. It happened that, on the same evening, the monarch Leogaire and the assembled princes were, according to custom, cele- ! brating the Pagan festival of La Bealtinne ; and as it was a law that no fire should be lighted on that night, till the great pile in the palace of Tara was kindled, the paschal fire of St. Patrick, on being seen from the heights of Tara before that of the monarch, excited the wonder of all assembled. To the angry inquiries of Leogaire, demanding who could have dared to violate this law, his Magi or Druids are said to have made answer,—This fire, which has now been kindled before our eyes, unless extinguished this very night, will never be extinguished throughout all time. Moreover, it will tower above all the fires of our ancient rites, and he who lights it will ere long scatter your kingdom.' Surprised and indignant, the monarch instantly dispatched messengers to summon the offender to his presence; the princes seated themselves in a circle upon
the grass to receive him ; and, on his arrival, one alone among them, Herc, the son of Dego, impressed with reverence by the stranger's appearance, stood up to salute him.
That they heard, with complacency, however, his account of the objects of his mission, appears from his preaching at the palace of Tara, on the following day, in the presence of the king and the states-general, and maintaining an argument against the most learned of the Druids, in which the victory was on his side. It is recorded, that the only person who, upon this occasion, rose to welcome him was the arch-poet Dubtach, who became his convert on that very day, and devoted, thenceforth, his poetical talents to religious subjects alone.
“The monarch, himself, too, while listening to the words of the apostle, is said to have exclaimed to his surrounding nobles, “It is better that I should believe than die,'—and, appalled by the awful denouncement of the preacher, to have at once professed himself Christian."
CONVERSION OF THE IRISH PRINCESSES. “Resting for the night, on his way, at a fountain in the neighbourhood of the royal residence, Cruachan himself, and his companions, had begun, at day-break, to chant their morning service, when the two young princesses, coming to the fountain at this early hour to bathe, were surprised by the appearance of a group of venerable persons all clothed in white garments and holding books in their hands. On their inquiring who the strangers were, and to what class of beings they belonged whether celestial, aerial, or terrestrial, St. Patrick availed himself of the opportunity thus furnished of instructing them in the nature of the true God, and while answering their simple and eager questions as to where the God he worshipped dwelt, whether in the heaven or on the earth, on moun tains or in valleys, in the sea or in rivers, contrived to explain to them the leading truths of the Christian religion. Delighted with his discourse, the royal sisters declared their willingness to conform to any course of life that would render them acceptable to such a God as he announced'; and being then baptised by the holy stranger at the fountain, became in a short time after consecrated virgins of the church.”
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE SEE OF ARMAGH. “Having now preached through all the provinces, and filled the greater part of the island
with Christians and with churches, St. Patrick saw that the fit period was now arrived for the consoli. dation of the extensive hierarchy he had thus constructed, by the establishment of a metropolitical
In selecting the district of Macha for the seat of the primacy, he was influenced, doubtless, by the associations connected with that place as an ancient royal residence—the celebrated Palace of Emania having stood formerly in the neighbourhood of the eminence upon which Ardmacha, or Armagh, afterwards rose. The time of the foundation of this See by St. Patrick has been variously stated, but the opinion of those who place it late in his
career, besides being equally borne out by evidence, seems by far the most consonant with reason; as it is not probable that he would have set about establishing a metropolitical See for all Ireland, until he had visited the various provinces, ascertained the progress of the Gospel in each, and regulated accordingly their ecclesiastical concerns. The See of Armagh being established, and the great bulk of the nation won over to the faith, St. Patrick, resting in the midst of the spiritual creation he had called up around him, passed the remainder of his days between Armagh and his favourite retreat at Sabhul, in the Barony of Lisali -that spot which had witnessed the first dawn of his apostolical career, and now shared in the calm glories which surrounded its setting.”
DEATH OF ST. PATRICK,
“The impression that his death was not far distant, appears to have been strong on the saint's mind when he wrote his confession, the chief object of which was, to inform his relatives, and others in foreign nations, of the redeeming changes which God, through his ministry, had worked in the minds of the Irish. With this view it was that he wrote his parting communication in Latin, though fully aware, as he himself acknowledges, how rude and imperfect was his mode of expressing himself in that tongue, from the constant habit he had been in for so many years, of speaking no language but Irish. In his retreat at Sabhul, the venerable saint was seized with his last illness. Perceiving that death was near at hand, and wishing that Armagh, as the seat of his own peculiarı see, should be the resting-place of his remains, he set out to reach that spot, but feeling on his way some inward warnings, which the fancy of tradition has converted into the voice of an angel, commanding him to return to Sabhul, as the place appointed for his last hour, he went back to that retreat, and there about a week after died, on the 17th March, A.D. 465, having then reached, according to the most consistent hypothesis on the subject, his seventy-eighth year. No sooner had the news spread throughout Ireland that the great apostle was no more, than the clergy flocked from all quarters to Sabhul, to assist in solemnizing his obsequies ; and as every bishop, or priest, according as he arrived, felt naturally anxious to join in honouring the dead by the celebration of the holy mysteries, the rites were continued without interruption through day and night. To psalmody and the chanting of hymns the hours of the night were all devoted; and so great was the pomp, and the profusion of torches kept constantly burning, that, as those who describe the scene express it,