Monday, October 10, 2011
I picked this little book up a few years ago when my family was visiting Ireland. There is no particular reason why it took me 24+ months to get around to reading it, but it was definitely worth the wait.
As short as the book is – a number of beautiful color pictures of Irish locales push the book to almost 100 pages – it is an intriguing read. There is extremely little actually known about historical Patrick the man, and only two of his writings are extant.
The first two-thirds of The Real Saint Patrick cover what of his biography we actually know. This is not hagiography, and the less reliable of the legends are dismissed. Holmes is able to take what academic knowledge there is about Patrick and turn it into readable prose. We know that he was taken as a slave from his native Britain to Ireland. There he was converted, and after a dream or revelation, he escaped back to his native land. From there he was called back to be a missionary to the Irish, the people who had enslaved him.
After this biographical section the book includes his 2 surviving works. His memoir (called a “Confession” in the manner of Augustine) recounts his life, and serves as a primary source for his biography. This serves as a fascinating, first-person look into the thinking of a 5th-century Christian. Really interesting stuff.
The second work is a brief letter to Coroticus, a tribe leader whose soldiers had slaughtered a group of recently baptized believers. This work again shows the workings of the ancient mind, in terms of dealing with tragedy and evil. This work is at times angry, at times pleading, and at times evangelical.
As I mentioned, there are some stunning photographs in the book, and the book itself is printed on high-quality paper. I am generally not a keeper/collector of books; most of what I read I get from the library. But the production quality of this slim volume makes it one I will display on the shelves.
Posted by Alan at 5:05 PM