Festivals/Seasons & Holy Days

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Marcus Losack

Rediscovering St. Patrick: A New Theory of Origins

ISBN: 9781 78218 017 3

Columba Press, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, 2013, £14.50

This is not a general book about St. Patrick’s life and achievements. It is about origins: the author believes that we cannot know the saint until his background is understood.

Patrick is usually thought to have been born about 385 of a British Christian family of substance somewhere near the west coast of Britain (many places have been suggested); then as a youth captured and enslaved in Ireland; subsequently escaping, returning to his family and eventually, as a result of a dream-like experience, becoming a missionary in Ireland.

Basically Losack believes that not Britain but Brittany was the place of his youth. His father, a noble Briton, migrated to Brittany, and it was from this north coast that Patrick was captured and to which he returned. Then he was attracted to the new style of monasticism, spent some time at St. Martin’s monastery, was ordained, consecrated and took an ascetic spirituality to Ireland as part of his mission. But the monastic movement was suspect to the official Church of Rome, which explains why Patrick is hardly mentioned in sources for the next 200 years. Then the ‘hagiographers of genius’, Muirchu and Tirechan, essentially falsified his story in the interests of Armagh and turned him into the conforming and accepted ‘Apostle of Ireland’.

In order to develop his theory Marcus Losack follows a trail of clues beginning in Brittany into a mass of material of disputable historical value. He fully accepts this, and states that the aim is to detect small gems of historical fact among much that is not. He introduces many of his investigations with the words ‘if there is any truth in this…’ But he believes that his clues come together into a convincing picture.

This book is a fascinating experience, but not for the fainthearted.

Kate Tristram