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give you a proper idea, Sir, of this matter, I must observe, that according to the ancient as well as the modern ecclesiastical liturgy, fire was to be struck and lighted up, with solemm prayers and ceremonies, on Easter eve, which fire was to be kept burning in the church lamps till the eve of Good Friday in the ensuing year. Now it might easily happen, that for some such charitable or pious motive as the nuns of Kildare afterwards pleaded †, St. Bridget might have urged an excuse, or obtained a dispensation for keeping up the fire in her convent on the aforesaid eve. This custom being once established, from mere respect to the holy foundress, would unquestionably be retained by her successors. At length, however, to prevent any superstitious attachment to a singular practice, and to destroy the resemblance between this fire at Kildare, and that which had formerly been kept up in pagan Rome in honour of Vesta, the Archbishop of Dublin, Henry de Londres, in the year 1220, caused it to be put out'; after which the nuns were left at liberty to light it up again, and to keep it unextinguished, as they did till three centuries later, when it was finally quenched by the rapacious tyrant who turned them out of their habitation.
* That this discipline prevailed in Ireland at the period in quèstion, we learn from the life of St. Kiaran, Bishop of Saigar, who was cotemporary with St. Bridget.
†The nuns urged that they kept up this fire for the relief and comfort of the poor. See Harris's Ware.
Auctor Anonym. apud Jac. Ware. Disquis. p. 97.
These modern hunters after paganism in Ire land, think they have discovered another instance of it (though they derive this neither from the Celtic Druidesses nor the Roman Ves tals, but from the Carthaginians or Phoenicians) in the fires lighted up in different parts of the country on the eve of St. John the Baptist, or Midsummer day. This they represent as the idolatrous worship of Baal, the Philistine god of fire, and as intended by his pretended catholic votaries to obtain of him fertility for the earth. The fact is, these fires on the eve of the 24th of June were heretofore as common in England and all over the continent, as they are now in Ireland, and have as little relation with the worship of Baal, as the bonfires have which blaze on the preceding 4th of June, being the King's birthday they are both intended to be demonstrations of joy. That, however, in honour of Christ's precursor is particularly appropriate, as alluding to his character of bearing witness to the light, John i. 7. and of his being himself a bright and shining light, John v. 35*,
I remain, &c.
Durandus Rationale Divin. Offic.
* Antiq. p. 59.
Thurles, July 17, 1807.
IT would be an injustice to Dr. Ledwich, still more than to St. Patrick and to Ireland, were I to omit noticing the effulgence of "erudition and criticism" which burst upon the learned world "in the hour" when he wrote the sixth chapter of his Antiquities*: an effulgence, however, which is acknowledged to have escaped the optics of a Camden and an Usher, when particularly directed to itt, and of every other historian and critic down to our present antiquary.
Dr. Ledwich, upon whose foundation Gordon, Carr, and Musgrave build, tells us that there were Christians, and even bishops in Ireland, previous to the æra fixed on for the arrival of St. Patrick; unfortunately, however, for the
Dr. L. frequently repeats that the Irish had a regular hierarchy before the age of St. Patrick. His argument is truly singular : Archbishop Laurence says that the religion of the Irish was the same with that of the Britons (namely, at the beginning of the 5th century.) Now the Britons had then a hierarchy, therefore the Irish had a hierarchy at the beginning of the 5th century!
cause of incredulity, these bishops, if there were more than one, received their orders and their mission from Rome, no less than St. Patrick and his companions did now it is to get rid of this 'Roman origin that Dr. Ledwich plunges into the gulph of scepticism and inconsistency. It is admitted, then, that there were many Christians in Ireland before the arrival of St. Patrick in the fifth century. It is admitted that St. Palladius, a bishop, was in Ireland a little before St. Patrick, having been sent thither by the same Pope Celestine, who sent St. Patrick *, as likewise St. Kiaran, St. Ibar, St. Declan, and St. Albeus; but they likewise derived their episcopacy and mission either immediately from Rome, or through the medium of St. Patrick's consecration †. The question, however, is not, who was the first bishop in Ireland, but by whom the Irish nation was generally converted to Christianity.
Our critic next attempts to invalidate the credit of all the ancient calendars and martyrologies, that is to say, of the public registers of all the ancient churches in Christendom, being the most authentic and certain monuments of the facts they contain which are to be found. He objects that certain errors have been detected in some of the calendars. But by whom have they been detected? By the catholic hagio
Prosper, a cotemporary writer; also Bede, Eccl. Hist. 1. i.
+ See Butler's Lives of the Saints, March 5, Sept. 12. Usher, Ware, &c.
graphers themselves, by Bollandus, and Baillet, Butler, Latoni, and Fleury, in consequence of which detections they have been generally corrected in the calendars and liturgical books, as that in particular was which confounded St. Dennis of Paris, with St. Dennis the Areopagite in those of the Gallican Church. In the next place, if it were reasonable to reject all ancient histories and records in which an error had been detected, we might throw the whole collection of them into the fire. For which of them is entirely faultless ? After all, the errors which are now in question are not, generally speaking, those of the hagiographers, but of the present critic. He pretends, indeed, that "those eminent catholic"writers, Bollandus, Papebroch, Launoi, and "Tillemont, rejected and spoke contemptibly of "the deified phantoms," as he calls, the saints in general. But what person of learning is not indignant at this deception; it being notorious that these truly profound scholars spent their lives in recording the histories and illustrating the virtues of these very saints? In writing their works, the martyrologies were avowedly their authority; next to which, were the most genuine acts of the saints they could procure. But what more particularly regards the present purpose is, we know that these profoundly learned scholars and enlightened crities have one and all acknowledged the existence of Ireland's apostle St. Patrick in general, and the authenticity in particular of
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