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Old 02-15-2005, 02:34 PM   #1
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St. Patrick, Smooth Operator

St. Patrick, the Smooth Operator

Tue Feb 15

By Matt Falloon

DUBLIN (Reuters) - He may have converted Ireland to Christianity, immortalized the shamrock and inspired some of the world's most raucous street parades, but Saint Patrick was also an astute operator, according to a new book.

The country's patron saint accepted land and jewels against the church's wishes to fuel his 5th century evangelizing mission and paid tributes to pagan chiefs to woo them to Christianity.

One of the world's best-known saints, Patrick, whose feast day is celebrated among Irish communities across the world on March 17, is normally portrayed as a humble servant who died in poverty after establishing Christianity in Ireland.

But he was quite willing to accept largesse along the way and the church authorities were not pleased, historian Rob Vance told Reuters.

"Letters were sent to him rebuking him for accepting gifts in that it was bringing the church into disrepute," Vance said.

Describing his new book, "Secret Sights II: Unknown Medieval Ireland," Vance depicted a religious market-place where tribal leaders gave St. Patrick land, women gave him jewelry and the saint himself had to offer gifts to smooth his way.

"This was quite popular at the time," he said. "People would gladly donate things to the church but it was difficult to keep track of this stuff and who got what."

Many myths cloud the view of Patrick, who was first taken to Ireland as a teen-ager when raiders kidnapped him from his Roman parents' British home and used him as a slave.

He escaped years later but returned to Ireland as a clergyman where legend has him introducing Christianity to the pagan island and banishing snakes. Historians dismiss both.

They say there have never been any snakes in Ireland and that there is evidence other Christians had attempted to convert the island before.

However, Patrick was an astute converter who attracted heathens by incorporating pagan imagery into Christianity, celebrating Easter with bonfires and placing a sun at the center of the cross to produce a Celtic cross.

But taking gifts did not make Patrick corrupt, Vance said: "As an individual he was a man of integrity: he was that rare somebody who genuinely had a Christian vocation."

Instead, Patrick played hard for 40 years to make Christianity work in a druid-dominated Ireland by targeting Irish Gaelic aristocrats, accepting the gifts that came with it, and preaching meekness and patience to the poor.

Vance, who likened the saint's evangelical travels through Ireland to a modern day rock tour, said he hoped his findings would begin a deconstruction of the myth surrounding the man.

"Most of what is supposed to be Patrick is 19th century propaganda. He was quite a rich man ... and running the show must have cost an awful lot of money," he said. "But he was not a hustler."

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Old 02-15-2005, 04:33 PM   #2
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Irish poetry and songs on the Christian faith are some of the best ever written or sung.

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