The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




The Great Irish Saint

Shortly after the Roman legions had left Britain, and during one of their first raids over the wall of Severus, the Picts carried off into captivity a boy named Patrick, who was then about sixteen years of age. He was the son of a deacon, and was busy ploughing when the marauders fell upon him.

The Picts, after taking young Patrick back to their mountain homes, conveyed him over the Irish Sea to Ireland, where they sold him into slavery. For six years Patrick was obliged to watch his master's sheep on the hillside, and during that time he often prayed that he might escape.

Finally his prayers were answered, and after hiding for some time among the reeds by the shore, Patrick boarded one of the vessels which came to trade along the coast. From there he probably went to France, then to a monastery near the Mediterranean, and then to Rome.

He studied hard to become a priest; and when he was ordained, he went back to Britain, where his kinsmen were glad to see him. While there, Patrick was troubled by dreams and visions. It seemed to him as if the people in Ireland, or Hibernia, as it was called in the days of the Romans, were stretching out their hands to him, and begging him to come over to them.

At times he fancied that he heard the Irish saying, "We pray thee, holy youth, to come and henceforth walk among us." The result was that Patrick, either by the pope's orders, or of his own free will, finally made his way back to the country whence he *had escaped as a slave.

With a few followers, he landed on the Irish coast. Thence he made his way on foot to Meath, where a pagan Irish king was holding a great festival. It was the custom, at that time, that no fire should be lighted until the king had given the signal by kindling his. But Patrick, not knowing this, and stopping to keep Easter on the hill of Slane, made a bright fire there.

When its light was seen, the Irish king sent a messenger to Patrick, bidding him come and explain how he dared to light his fire before the king. An old writer tells us that Patrick immediately set out with the messenger, but that, as he went along, many prodigies took place. First, darkness fell upon the earth; then the ground shook beneath their feet; and when some of the Irish magicians would fain have stopped Patrick, they were seized by invisible hands and tossed up in the air.

When Patrick appeared before the angry king, he began to preach to him; and such was this missionary's eloquence that he converted not only the ruler, but the whole clan. Journeying about from place to place, Patrick is said to have converted all Ireland, to have baptized more than twenty thousand converts with his own hand, and to have founded more than three hundred churches.

As Patrick lived so long ago, and as no record was kept of his life, many things are told about him which most people do not now believe to be true. Stories are told of his driving all the snakes out of Ireland into the sea, and of his working many other miracles.

The only thing we are sure of is that he converted the Irish and founded churches and monasteries in the island. In the monasteries he established schools, which were visited by students from all parts of the world. These men became missionaries, preached in Scotland, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, and were so enthusiastic and so earnest that they did a great deal of good.

Thus the schools founded by Patrick, the first Bishop of Ireland," were the foremost in Europe for about three centuries. The man who founded them is now called Saint Patrick, and he is considered the patron saint of the island where he was, in turn, slave, priest, and saint. His birthday, celebrated on the 17th of March, is one of the greatest festivals in Ireland.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee