Excerpts from a lecture given by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira on 18th March, 1966 – adapted for publication without the revision of Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira
Commentary of Dom Prosper Guéranger on the Feast of St. Patrick: “The saint we have to honour today is the apostle of that faithful people, whose martyrdom has lasted three hundred years: it is the great St. Patrick, he that gave Erin the faith. There shone most brightly in this saint that gift of the apostolate, which Christ has left to His Church, and which is to remain with her to the end of time. The ambassadors or missioners, sent by our Lord to preach His Gospel, are of two classes. There are some who have been entrusted with a small tract of the Gentile world; they had to sow the divine seed there, and it yielded fruit more or less according to the dispositions of the people that received it: there are others, again, whose mission is like a rapid conquest, that subdues a whole nation, and brings it into subjection to the Gospel. St. Patrick belongs to this second class; and in him we recognise one of the most successful instruments of God’s mercy to mankind.”
|Dom Prosper Gueranger|
“And then, what solidity there is in this great saint’s work! When is it that Ireland received the faith? In the fifth century, when Britain was almost wholly buried in paganism; when the race of the Franks had not as yet heard the name of the true God; when Germany had no knowledge of Christ’s having come upon the earth; when the countries of northern Europe deeply slumbered in infidelity; yes, it was before these several nations had awakened to the Gospel, that Ireland was converted. The faith, brought to her by her glorious apostle, took deep root and flourished and fructified in this isle, more lovely even by grace than she is by nature. Her saints are scarcely to be numbered, and went about doing good in almost every country of Europe; her children gave, and are still giving, to other countries, the faith that she herself received from her beloved patron. And when the sixteenth century came with its Protestantism; when the apostasy of Germany was imitated by England, Scotland, and the whole north of Europe, Ireland stood firm and staunch; no persecution, however cleverly or however cruelly carried on against her, has been able to detach her from the faith taught her by Saint Patrick.”
These beautiful words set before our eyes one of those great historical figures, a founder and evangeliser of peoples, and Dom Guéranger illustrates how some men really had the role of “the right hand of God.”
There are certain people chosen by God for small and limited forms of apostolate. God gives them graces proportionate to the task. But their apostolate remains small and even unknown in most of the world. During the evangelisation of Europe a large number of saints established Christianity in places that would become dioceses in the future; in some cases they would become the future bishops. And thus they became diocesan patrons; they are still venerated in those same places. Local pilgrimages go there from the surrounding region. This constitutes part of that rich and vibrant tapestry of facts that regional life contributes to the Church and society.
But there are other saints whose role in the life of the Church is on an international scale. And it is in reference to these men that Dom Guéranger uses the term “right hand of God.” Obstacles appear insignificant before them. They do things that no one would imagine that they could have done. Thus they do much to accelerate the march of the history and progress of the Church. St. Patrick was one of these men.
What Dom Guéranger said of St. Patrick could also be said of the Irish people. We praise the Middle Ages very much and, with good reason, emphasise the role that Cluny played in that period. But it is also important to emphasise the role played by the Irish. Ireland was a point of irradiation from which the Catholic religion spread to many countries that would give great glory to God, even though some of them would later become protestant. The Irish played an important part in the evangelisation of the Carolingian empire; they helped to bring the faith to parts of France, to Germany and to the Netherlands. They also evangelised indirectly, because it was a starting point for the evangelisation of northern countries. Ireland had a role similar to that played, centuries later, by the Iberian Peninsula, which became a starting point for the evangelisation of Latin America, and parts of Africa and Asia.
In other words, it was one of those extraordinary points of propulsion. Afterwards the glory of Ireland was
extinguished, just as later happened with the Iberian Peninsula. And just as Spain and Portugal have resisted every attempt to force them into apostasy, Ireland suffered atrocious persecutions, but her fidelity was not entirely extinguished. She received this reward (of fidelity) for having been apostolic and for bringing the faith to other peoples. Ireland remains strong in the faith, to the glory of God.
This grace is great, and we should thank God for it. But it would be a mistake to believe that everything goes well in Ireland. Politics has been infiltrated by socialism and other forms of revolutionary thought. Irish Catholicism has been infiltrated by progressivism. Even the Irish community in the United States, although devoted to St. Patrick, has provided the left with many prominent political figures, as well as contributing to progressivism in the Church. The manoeuvres of the forces of evil have not torn Ireland from the bosom of the Church, but they attempt to corrupt her.
Let us implore of St. Patrick a special protection for Ireland and the Irish, so that the process of decline may be arrested. The more impossible that seems from a purely human perspective the more we should hope that God will intervene soon.