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The Word on the Week

Patrick’s Wife

She has stayed in the background for a long time but this year Saint Patrick’s wife, Sheelah (or Sile) has decided to turn up! Like a dutiful wife she has deferred to the Saint and not intruded on his Day but accepted the 18th March as her day!

Not that you would notice as the good lady doesn’t even have a parade to advertise her presence. Her husband is feted globally. The green of Ireland bathes many a fine building in floodlight – but only on his day!

You have to go to Australia to find any recognition of her ladyship. There she has had less than illustrious treatment probably arriving with the 18th century exiles. Perhaps the anonymity is better than the endless disputes over which of the two (or were there more?) Patricks was the real Saint Patrick.

We know Rome sent Palladius in 431 AD to minister to the “Irish who believed in Christ”. Who preached Christ to them? There must have been a large body of believers before Rome sent a Bishop. After six years he went to deal with the “apostate Picts” possibly in Whithorn Abbey near Dumfries in the Scottish borders. Has he been confused with Patrick?

The question remains, if Patrick returned to Ireland as a Missionary in 432 AD, who converted the Irish to Christianity? To add to the confusion the word Patrick could refer to a community – particularly the community of Armagh. Then there was the heretic Pelagius who was in Ireland at that time. He said that man was born innocent and, contrary to Scripture, that he did not inherit Adam’s sin (Psalm 51 verse 5 & Romans Chapter 5 verse 12).

Fortunately we have Patrick’s “Confession” along with his letter to Coroticus.
These show the Saint to have converted to Christ while shepherding sheep on the hills of Antrim. “It was in my teenage years, as a captive from my native land. I was sold into slavery in Ireland where God showed me my own sinfulness and I turned wholeheartedly to “the Lord my God”.

Patrick baptised those professing faith in Christ and leaves “a legacy of many thousands of people” who demonstrated their faith in baptism. It must have been like Acts where St Luke records 3,000 were baptised in one day (Acts 2 verse 42). May that day come again.
By the way Sheelah got a mention in today’s parade!