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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

July 6

St. Palladius, Bishop and Confessor, Apostle of the Scots

        From St. Prosper and other historians, quoted by Usher, Antiq. Brit. Eccles. c. 16, p. 416, 424; Keith, Cat. Episc. Scot. p. 233; and the Bollandists, 6 Jul. t. 2, Jul. p. 286.

About the Year 450. 1

THE NAME of Palladius shows this saint to have been a Roman, and most authors agree that he was deacon of the church of Rome. At least St. Prosper in his chronicle informs us, that when Agricola, a noted Pelagian, had corrupted the churches of Britain with the insinuation of that pestilential heresy, Pope Celestine, at the instance of Palladius the deacon, in 429, sent thither St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, in quality of his legate, who having ejected the heretics, brought back the Britons to the Catholic faith. The concern of Palladius for these islands stopped not here; for it seems not to be doubted, but it was the same person of whom St. Prosper again speaks, when he afterwards says, that in 431 Pope Celestine sent Palladius, the first bishop to the Scots then believing in Christ. From the lives of SS. Albeus, Declan, Ibar, and Kiaran Saigir, Usher shows 2 that these four saints preached separately in different parts of Ireland, which was their native country, before the mission of St. Patrick. St. Iber had been converted to the faith in Britain; the other three had been instructed at Rome, and were directed thence back into their own country, and according to the histories of their lives, were all honoured with the episcopal character. St. Kiaran Saigir (who is commemorated on the 5th of March) preceded St. Patrick in preaching the gospel to the Ossorians, and was seventy-five years of age on St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland. Hence it is easy to understand what is said of St. Palladius, that he was sent bishop to the Scots believing in Christ: though the number of Christians among them must have been then very small. St. Prosper, in his book against the Author of the Conferences, 3 having commended Pope Celestine for his care in delivering Britain from the Pelagian heresy, adds, that “he also ordained a bishop for the Scots, and thus whilst he endeavoured to preserve the Roman island Catholic, he likewise made a barbarous island Christian.” Usher observes that this can be understood only of Ireland; for though part of North Britain was never subject to the Romans, and the greater part of it was then inhabited by the Picts, yet it never could be called a distinct island. It is also clear from Tertullian, Eusebius, St. Chrysostom, and others, that the light of the gospel had penetrated among the Picts beyond the Roman territories in Britain, near the times of the apostles. These people, therefore, who had lately begun to receive some tincture of the faith when our saint undertook his mission, were, doubtless, the Scots who were settled in Ireland.
  The Irish writers of the lives of St. Patrick say, that St. Palladius had preached in Ireland a little before St. Patrick, but that he was soon banished by the king of Leinster, and returned to North Britain, where they tell us he had first opened his mission. It seems not to be doubted but he was sent to the whole nation of the Scots, several colonies of whom had passed from Ireland to North Britain, and possessed themselves of part of the country, since called Scotland. 4 After St. Palladius had left Ireland, he arrived among the Scots in North Britain, according to St. Prosper, in the consulate of Bassus and Antiochus, in the year of Christ 431. 5 He preached there with great zeal, and formed a considerable church. The Scottish historians tell us, that the faith was planted in North Britain about the year 200, in the time of King Donald, when Victor was pope of Rome; but they all acknowledge that Palladius was the first bishop in that country, and style him their first apostle. 6 The saint died at Fordun, the capital town of the little county of Mernis, fifteen miles from Aberdeen to the south, about the year 450. His relics were preserved with religious respect in the monastery of Fordun, as Hector Boetius 7 and Camden testify. In the year 1409, William Scenes, archbishop of St. Andrew’s and primate of Scotland, enclosed them in a new shrine enriched with gold and precious stones. His festival is marked on the 6th of July in the Breviary of Aberdeen and the Scottish Calendars; but in some of the English on the 15th of December. Scottish writers, and calendars of the middle ages, mention St. Servanus, and St. Ternan as disciples of St. Palladius, and by him made bishops, the former of Orkney, the latter of the Picts. But from Usher’s chronology it appears that they both lived later.  2
  It is easy to conceive how painful and laborious the mission of this saint must have been; but where there is ardent love, labour seems a pleasure, and either is not felt or is a delight. It is a mark of sloth and impatience for a man to count his labours, or so much as to think of pains or sufferings in so glorious an undertaking. St. Palladius surmounted every obstacle which a fierce nation had opposed to the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Ought not our hearts to be impressed with the most lively sentiments of love and gratitude to our merciful God, for having raised up such great and zealous men, by whose ministry the light of true faith has been conveyed to us.  3
Note 1. The Abbé Mac Geoghegan, in his History of Ireland, published in Paris in 1758, asserts that the Scots were originally Scythians, or properly Celto-Scythians, of Spanish original. Foreign writers of repute bear witness to this extraction; the native historians of Ireland have at all times been unanimous in recording it, and have adduced testimonies in support of it, which cannot be easily overthrown, as some moderns, who made the attempt, have experienced. The ancient Fileas of Ireland have indeed (like the old poets of all other European nations) shrouded real facts in a veil of pompous fables. Thus they pretended the leaders of this Spanish colony were the descendants of a celebrated Breogan, and that a grandson of this Breogan was married to an Egyptian heroine named Scota, from whom the Irish took the name of Kinea-Scuit or Scots, as they took the appellation of Clan-Breogan or Brigantes, from the former. But such inventions, acceptable to the credulity and flattering to the pride of nations, cannot discredit any fact otherwise well attested. The British Brigantes were probably descendants of the Irish Brigantes, as the Scots of Britain were certainly descended from those of Ireland. Tacitus, in the first age of the Christian era, has thought from the difference of complexion and frame of body observable among the British tribes of his time, that some were of Spanish original; and an earlier writer, Seneca, in his satire on the Emperor Claudius, makes mention of the Scuta-Brigantes, which Scaliger, by a needless correction, makes Scoto-Brigantes, as the Irish wrote Scuit and Scoit indifferently. This testimony of Seneca is a proof that the name Scots or Scuits, was known to some Roman writers so early as the first century; and the Irish appellations of Kinea-Scuit and Clan-Breogan plainly point out the proper country of those Scuta-Brigantes in the time of the Emperor Nero.
  Mac Geoghegan looks upon the Irish to be a mother tongue; and it may justly be so denominated, notwithstanding the adoption of some foreign terms, and some variations of construction introduced by time in all languages, before they arrive at their classical standard. Some writings of the fifth century show that this language was at its full perfection before the introduction of the gospel by Roman missionaries in the fourth and fifth centuries. The notion that this language is a dialect of the modern Biscayan is undoubtedly groundless. The latter tongue owes its original to some nation of those barbarians, who settled in Guipuscoa and other parts of the Pyrenean regions, on the decline of the Roman empire, nor are the few words common in the Basque and Irish tongues any proof that the one is descended from the other. This observation will hold good relatively to the Welch and Irish languages. They differ entirely in Syntax, and show that the two nations speaking those tongues have different Celtic originals.
  Bollandus says that St. Patrick taught the first alphabet to the Irish: he means the Roman alphabet, and should not forget that it was taught very near an age before, by earlier missionaries in the parts of Ireland which they converted to the faith. In the antecedent times the Fileas or ancient Irish writers, inscribed their ideas on tablets of wood, by the means of seventeen cyphers, of which their ancestors learned the use before their arrival in Ireland; nor is this fact obscured, but is rather enlightened by a fable of the Fileas, setting forth that some of those ancestors were instructed in letters by a celebrated Phenius, famous for literary knowledge in the East. Through this poetical veil we plainly discern the Phenicians, who first instructed the Europeans (the Greeks, Lybians, Italians, and Spaniards particularly) in the use of letters and other arts. Spain, according to Strabo, had the use of letters at a very early period; and that a colony from that country should import into, and cultivate also, those elements of knowledge in Ireland, is not improbable: the perfection of the Irish language before the introduction of Christianity, is an incontrovertible proof of the fact.
  The Scots are represented as a rude and barbarous people in the fourth and fifth ages, even by some eminent ecclesiastical writers. But these as well as other foreign historians have not, if at all, been resident long enough in Ireland to pronounce the natives barbarous, if those writers took that epithet in the worst sense it can bear. St. Jerom avers that when an adolescentulus, he saw a Scot in Gaul feeding upon human flesh, but the child in this case might impose upon the man; or if otherwise, a nation is not to be characterised from the barbarity of an individual, or even of a single tribe in an extensive country. That some barbarous customs prevailed in Ireland during the ages mentioned, cannot be denied; and that some prevail at this day in most of the modern states of Europe, called enlightened, is a matter of fatal experience. In the documents still preserved in the native language of the ancient Irish, we learn that after the reform made of the Order of Fileas in the first century, houses and ample landed endowments were set apart for those philosophers, who, in the midst of the most furious civil wars, were by common consent to be left undisturbed; that they were to be exempt from every employment but that of improving themselves in abstract knowledge, and cultivating the principal youths of the nation in their several colleges; that in the course of their researches they discovered and exposed the corrupt doctrines of the Druids; and that an enlightened monarch called Cormac O’Quin took the lead among the Fileas in the attack upon that order of priests, and declared publicly for the unity of the Godhead against Polytheism, and for the adoration of one supreme, omnipotent, and merciful Creator of heaven and earth. The example of that monarch, and the disquisitions of the Fileas relating to religion and morality, paved the way for the reception of the gospel; and as the doctrines of our Saviour made the quickest progress among civilized nations, the conversion of Ireland in a shorter compass of time than we read of in the conversion of any other European country, brings a proof that the natives were not the rude barbarians some ancient authors have represented them to be. [back]
Note 2. Antiq. Brit. Eccl. c. 16, pp. 408, 412. [back]
Note 3. Prosp. Contra Collat. c. 44. [back]
Note 4. See the note on the life of St. Patrick in this work, vol. 3, p. 179; also Ware’s Antiq. by Harris, with his remarks on Dempster, c. 1, p. 4. [back]
Note 5. Usher, p. 418. [back]
Note 6. Certain ancient principal Scottish saints are commemorated in an ancient Scottish calendar published by Mr. Robert Keith, as follow:
  Jan. 8. St. Nethalan, B. C. An. 452. 21. St. Vimin, B. An. 715. 29. St. Macwoloc, B. An. 720. 30. St. Macglastian, B. An. 814.
  Feb. 7. St. Ronan, B. C. An. 603.
  March 1. St. Minan, archdeacon, C. An. 879. Also St. Marnan, B. An. 655. 4. St. Adrian, B. of St. Andrew’s, M. He was slain by the Danes in 874, and buried in the Isle of Man. 6. St. Fredoline, C. An. 500. 11. St. Constantine, king of Scotland, a monk and M. An. 556. 17. St. Kyrinus or Kyrstinus, surnamed Boniface, B. of Ross, An. 660.
  April 1. St. Gilbert, B. of Caithness, An. 1140. 12. St. Ternan, archbishop of the Picts, ordained by St. Palladius, about the year 450. 16. St. Manus or Mans, M. in Orkney, An. 1104. 19. Translation of St. Margaret’s body to Dunfermline.
  July 6. St. Palladius, apostle of Scotland.
  August 10. St. Blanc, B. C. 27. St. Malrube, hermit, martyred by the Danes, in Scotland, in 1040.
  September 16. St. Minian, B. C. in 450, or according to some, a whole century later. 22. St. Lolan, B. of Whithern or Galloway.
  October 25. St. Marnoc, B. C. died at Kilmarnock in the fourth or fifth century.
  November 2. St. Maure, from whom Kilmrures is named, An. 899. 12. St. Macar, B. of Murray, M. 887.
  St. Germanus, B. C. said to have been appointed bishop of the isles by St. Patrick. Under his invocation the cathedral of the Isle of Man is dedicated. St. Macull or Mauchold, in Latin Macallius, bishop in the same place from 494 to 518. In his honour many churches are dedicated in Scotland, and one in the Isle of Man. He is honoured on the 25th of April. St. Brendan, from whom a church in the Isle of Man is called Kirk-Bradan, was bishop of the isles in the ninth century.
  N. B. The Isle of Man has had its own bishop from the time it came into the hands of the English in the days of Edward I. of England, and David II. of Scotland. It was anciently subject to the bishop of the isles, who always resided at Hy-columbkill till the extinction of episcopacy in Scotland, in 1688. The bishops both of the isles and of Man took the title of Episcopus Sodorensis; which Mr. Keith (p. 175,) derives, (not from any town,) but from the Greek word Soter or Saviour, because the cathedral of Hy-columbkill is dedicated to our Saviour. See Mr. Robert Keith, in his new Catalogue of bishops in Scotland, printed at Edinburgh, in 4to. An. 1755.
  Le Neve supposes with Spotiswood that the Isle of Man had its bishops after Amphibalus, who lived in the fourth age; that they were called bishops of Soder from a village of that name in the island, and that the title was transferred to the island of Hy-columbkill in the eighth age, when the two sees were united into one. But the succession of bishops in the Isle of Man is not sufficiently clear.
  Matthew Paris says that Wycomb was first bishop of Man, in the twelfth age, and that he was consecrated by the Archbishop of York. See Le Neve, Fasti Anglic. [back]
Note 7. Hect. Boet. l. 7, fol. 128. [back]