Don’t be too small and don’t be too big with the clergy.
Note: Do not be too small with the clergy. They have answered a call from God. They have sacrificed everything to serve God and minister to God’s community. They deserve respect. Do not be too big with the clergy either. Do not expect them to be without sin. After all, members of the clergy are human, and therefore subject to the same foibles that afflict all human beings. In his writings, St. Patrick reveals both his devotion and his shortcomings.
Mise Pádraig, peacach gan oiliúint ag cur fúm in Éirinn, fógraím gur easpag me.Táim lándeimhin de gur ó Dhia a fuaireas a mbaineann liom. Dá bhrí sin is ar son grá Dé atá cónaí orm i measc na nginte barbaracha, i mo choimhthíoch agus i mo dheoraí. Is finné é Dia gur mar sin atá. Ní hé gur mhian liom aon ní a scaoileadh thar mo bheola ar shlí chomh dian ná chomh géar sin, ach tá dúthracht do Dhia do mo thiomáint agus spreag fírinne Chríost mé de bharr grá comharsan agus clainne, ar thréig mé mo thír dhúchais agus mo thuismitheoirí agus mo shaol go bás ar a son. Más fiú mé é, mairim do mo Dhia, d’fhonn na ginte a theagasc cé gur beag é meas roinnt daoine orm. An Litir ag Coinnealbhá Corotícus.
I, Patrick the sinner, unlearned as everybody knows, avow that I have been established as a bishop of Ireland. Most assuredly I believe that I have received from God what I am. And so I dwell in the midst of barbarbous heathens, a stranger and an exile for the love of God. He is witness that this is so. Not that I desired to utter from my mouth anything so harshly and so roughly, but I am compelled, roused as I am by zeal for God and for the truth of Christ; and by love for my nearest friends and sons, for whom I have given up my fatherland and parents, yea and my life to the point of death. I vowed to my God to teach the heathens if I am worthy, though I be despised by some. Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus
Irish was probably Patrick’s third tongue. His first was Latin. Patrick’s father was a decurion, a roman government official in a remote part of Roman Britain. Patrick writes that he had a misspent youth and associated with other wayward youth. Patrick probably spoke a Britannic Celtic language with these youth. It was a language more akin to Welch than Irish. Patrick learned Irish after he was sold into slavery in Ireland in 401 ACE.
Note: It is a precept of the Church that members must contribute to its support. “Íocaigí le Céasar na nithe is le Céasar agus le Dia na nithe is le Dia.” (Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.) Matha (Mark) 22:21. This includes Peter’s Pence, a tithe created for the Pope in eighth century England. One penny was due from anyone with income greater than thirty pennies per year. It was payable on the Feast of St. Peter.
Peter’s Pence was not paid by medevial Ireland, marking the beginning of an epoch of English rule. Henry II, the King of England, invaded Ireland in 1171 with a Papal Bull, “Laudabiliter,” from Adrian IV, the only English Pope. It authorized the invasion to reform the Irish Church and to collect Peter’s Pence. The Archbishops of Tuam and Cashel and the Kings of Waterford and Dublin met at the Synod of Cashel in late 1171. There it was decreed to submit to the tithe and to conform to the customs of the continental Church. It also recognized Henry as the King of Ireland.
Note also: Both the Irish word ‘soiscéal’ and the equivalent English word ‘gospel’ are translated literally from the Greek word ‘eaungelion,’ which means good tidings. ‘Gospel’ evolved from the Middle English ‘godspell’ that comes from the older Anglo Saxon word ‘gödspel’ which meant ‘good news.’ The Irish prefix ‘so-‘ means ‘easy to’ or ‘good’ while ‘scéal’ means ‘news’ or ‘story.’ Hence ‘soiscéal’ literally means ‘good news.’
‘Tis three months from the Feast of St. Michael to Christmas.
Note: From the Middle Ages to the ninteenth century, the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, September 29, was a great holiday. Mayors across Ireland would take office on that day. A messenger from Drogheda would walk to Dublin to tell the Dublin Mayor’s office that the Drogheda mayor had been sworn in. Apparently, it was a custom for the Dublin mayor to be sworn in after the Drogheda mayor.
It was literally a day for a great feast. It was called Fomhar na nGé, the goose harvest, because geese hatched in the spring were now deemed ready for market. So a sumptious goose dinner was the bill of fare for many familes. Others had lamb in deference to an old legend about St. Patrick.
St. Patrick prayed to St. Michael to save the life of Lewey, son of Leary — King of all Ireland, who had taken deathly ill. When Lewey recovered, his grateful mother vowed to sacrifice one sheep from each of her flocks for the poor on behalf of St. Michael. It was called cuid Mhichíl, St. Micheal’s share. Hence, St. Michaels Feast day is a day to feed the poor.
St. Michael’s Feast Day, or Michelmas as the Anglo-Normans called it, was also a day to settle rents for the quarter, an ráithe. If the harvest was good this would not be a problem. On the other hand, if the harvest was bad, and Michelmas passed without paying the rent, eviction would often follow. Michelmas also marked the beginning of the hunting season. If the hunting was good, tenants would be able to pay rent for the next quarter, due around Christmas. Otherwise, it often meant eviction.
Consequently, there is a bright and a dark side to this week’s proverb. On the bright side, it marks two great feast days in the Irish calendar. On the dark side it marks two days when the rent is due. It could either mark feast or frost, i.e., being thrown out into the cold.
D’áiteodh sé muc ar shagart (is banbh ar chléireach).
He could sell a priest a pig (and the parish clerk a piglet).
Note: This is said of someone with great powers of persuasion. He could sell ice to Eskimos. He could sell sand to Arabs. He could could even convince the most learned person in the parish, the priest, to buy a pig. A priest needs a pig like an Eskimo needs ice, like an Arab needs sand.
Note also: The Irish word ‘ar’ is a simple preposition. A preposition combines with a noun or pronoun to form a phrase, e.g., ‘ar shagart’ (literally: on a priest). A prepositional phrase can modify the meaning of a noun, e.g., ‘muc ar shagart’ (literally: a pig on a priest).
A preposition can also modify the meaning of a verb. In this case, the verb ‘áitigh’ means ‘occupy, settle down to,’ or ‘argue.’ However, the preposition ‘ar’ modifies the verb ‘áitigh’ to mean persuade or convince.
This week’s proverb literally means, “he could argue a pig on a priest.” That is, he could get the priest to take the argument on him, i.e., he could ‘sell’ the priest. This is ‘sell’ in the sense of persuade. ‘Sell’ in the sense of transact’ is ‘díol.’ Dhíolfadh mé muc leis, má tá aon airgead aige. (I would sell him a pig, if he has any money.) ‘Díol’ also means ‘sell out = betray’ or ‘pay.’
Bia is deoch i gcomhair na Nollaig; éadach nua i gcomhair na Cásca.
Food and drink for Christmas; new clothes for Easter.
Note: This proverb posits the cyclicality of life as a duality on the liturgical calendar. Food and drink mark the celebration of Christmas, the beginning of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the food and drink earned from the recent harvest. In contrast to the beginning of life inherent in the Nativity, harvest occurs at the end of life, at the death of plants. Something must die that we may live. In contrast, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Christ. At the same time, new clothes are possble because of the spring shearing of sheep. Spring sheering is a sign of the beginning of life.
On a more practical level, feasting is one of the hallmarks of Christmas while a good suit or a fine dress is a hallmark of Easter. Recall an earlier proverb, “Seacht seachtaine ramhra ó Shamhain go Nollaig.” That tradition is evidenced by the fact that for candy companies the two greatest sales days in the year are Samhain and Christmas. There is a variation of this week’s proverb that says, “Bia is deoch na Nollaig, édach glan na Cásca.” The adjective ‘glan’ usually means ‘clean’ but it also means ‘well-made’ or ‘distinct’. In either case, fine clothes are associated with Easter.