For Stories Like This On St. Patrick’s Day

This is a strange St. Patrick’s Day for me. That’s because my children are on Spring break, and as such, they are out of school. I don’t ever remember being not “in school” on St. Patrick’s Day.

My mother’s father was born in Ireland (and he was a Catholic too)so there is definitely Irish blood coursing through my veins. But he died when I was very young, and I never got to hear him tell stories of his home country.

I wasn’t raised Catholic, so instead of learning about the actual bishop named Patrick, I learned about leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, and the luck of the Irish. As a result, much of St. Patrick’s story has been lost to me.

Remember my list of resources I shared on Catholic Media Promotion Day? Running by New Advent, I saw they had posted the Catholic Encyclopedia citation for St. Patrick. And that is where I found the following charming story.

St. Patrick Converts Ethne and Fedelm, Daughters of the King of Connaught

On the occasion of his first visit to Rathcrogan, the royal seat of the kings of Connaught, situated near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon, a remarkable incident occurred, recorded in many of the authentic narratives of the saint’s life. Close by the clear fountain of Clebach, not far from the royal abode, Patrick and his venerable companions had pitched their tents and at early dawn were chanting the praises of the Most High, when the two daughters of the Irish monarch — Ethne, the fair, and Fedelm, the ruddy — came thither, as was their wont, to bathe. Astonished at the vision that presented itself to them, the royal maidens cried out:

“Who are ye, and whence do ye come? Are ye phantoms, or fairies, or friendly mortals?”

St. Patrick said to them: “It were better you would adore and worship the one true God, whom we announce to you, than that you would satisfy your curiosity by such vain questions.”

And then Ethne broke forth into the questions:

“Who is God?”
“And where is God?”
“Where is His dwelling?”
“Has He sons and daughters?”
“Is He rich in silver and gold?”
“Is He everlasting? is He beautiful?”
“Are His daughters dear and lovely to the men of this world?”
“Is He on the heavens or on earth?”
“In the sea, in rivers, in mountains, in valleys?”
“Make Him known to us. How is He to be seen?”
“How is He to be loved? How is He to be found?”
“Is it in youth or is it in old age that He may be found?”

But St. Patrick, filled with the Holy Ghost, made answer:

“God, whom we announce to you, is the Ruler of all things.”
“The God of heaven and earth, of the sea and the rivers.”
“The God of the sun, and the moon, and all the stars.”
“The God of the high mountains and of the low-lying valleys.”
“The God who is above heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven.”
“His dwelling is in heaven and earth, and the sea, and all therein.”
“He gives breath to all.”
“He gives life to all.”
“He is over all.”
“He upholds all.”
“He gives light to the sun.”
“He imparts splendour to the moon.”
“He has made wells in the dry land, and islands in the ocean.”
“He has appointed the stars to serve the greater lights.”
“His Son is co-eternal and co-equal with Himself.”
“The Son is not younger than the Father.”
“And the Father is not older than the Son.”
“And the Holy Ghost proceeds from them.”
“The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are undivided.”
“But I desire by Faith to unite you to the Heavenly King, as you are daughters of an earthly king.”

The maidens, as if with one voice and one heart, said: “Teach us most carefully how we may believe in the Heavenly King; show us how we may behold Him face to face, and we will do whatsoever you shall say to us.”

And when he had instructed them he said to them: “Do you believe that by baptism you put off the sin inherited from the first parents.”

They answered: “We believe.”

“Do you believe in penance after sin?”

“We believe.”

“Do you believe in life after death?” Do you believe in resurrection on the Day of Judgement?”

“We believe.”

“Do you believe in the unity of the Church?”

“We believe.”

Then they were baptized, and were clothed in white garments. And they besought that they might behold the face of Christ. And the saint said to them: “You cannot see the face of Christ unless you taste death, and unless you receive the Sacrifice.” They answered: “Give us the Sacrifice, so that we may be able to behold our Spouse.” And the ancient narrative adds: “when they received the Eucharist of God, they slept in death, and they were placed upon a couch, arrayed in their white baptismal robes.”

Read more about the actual St. Patrick. Visit the cathedral’s website too. Come on, there is a virtual tour, at no additional charge.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Armagh, Ulster