St Patrick is the most well-known saint in the world. Mention his name, and many people think of St Patrick’s Day parades, parties, and green beer, or leprechauns and four-leaf clovers decorating office cubicles and classroom walls, with everyone wearing green for good luck. But when you get past all the revelry, you’re left with the question: Who was St Patrick, the man? Magnus Sucatus Patricius was born to a wealthy family of minor Romano-British nobility. Captured by the Scotti (the Irish) when he was sixteen, he endured six years of slavery before making his way to home and freedom. He eventually returned to minister to the people who had enslaved him. This young man of nobility and property foreswore everything—life, birthright, comfort, and home—to serve God. There were several attempts on his life and on his person, but he survived them all. Thanks to his writing, his is the one authentic voice we have from fifth-century Britain. Open the pages of Magnus Patricius: The Remarkable Life of St Patrick, the Man, and walk in his humble footsteps through slavery, freedom, marriage and fatherhood, and a ministry built on the practical expression of Christian faith and love.
Starting off I was a little confused because it opens with something titled “St. Patrick’s Hymn” but the lyrics that are listed are actually for a song called “Be Thou My Vision” which is a traditional hymn from Ireland. The lyrics the author chose to print here are from the 1919 version and the original was attributed to the 6th century poet Saint Dallan; some scholars actually think it’s closer to the 8th century. Regardless the title is wrong and it has nothing to do with Saint Patrick except for the fact that the lyrics were set to a tune called SLANE published by Patrick W. Joyce and the tune is named for the hill near Tara where St. Patrick challenged Druid Priests.
If Patrick Cox was going to print anything there he should’ve done St. Patrick’s Breastplate which is the most widely known and quoted of his writings not to mention the Confessio.
My concerns continued with the author implying that Patrick killed a slave girl in a fit of temper which is not something ever attributed to him nor has there been something in any of the scholarly journals or other reputable resources that ever accused Patrick of being a murderer. I get wanting to take historical figures or events then put a literary spin on them even add details in order to create a novelization of facts but adding something that goes completely against the character, even to the point of impugning it, seems a bit rough.
Furthering the massacre of Patrick’s character was when the author created a scene claiming Patrick sucked the nipple of his slave master. From what has been proven, a similar incident did occur but it was AFTER Patrick ran away from slavery. He asked a ship captain for passage and the captain agreed provided Patrick suck his nipple which apparently was an ancient act to show loyalty and faith. Patrick refused to do this because he knew it as a pagan custom and by this point had become a believer in God. It’s a little heartbreaking that Cox would choose to take a historical event from Patrick’s own Confessio and twist it to make his story more ‘dramatic’.
Another example of taking extreme liberties with Patricks’ life was claiming him to be married and a father despite no evidence of this.
Cox has shown an adept hand at creating conversationalist dialogue, the ability to tell a story and make history come alive. It’s just heartbreaking he felt the need to denigrate his talent by either poor research or a need to fabricate information to sell a story. I’m from an Irish family and we are taught about Saint Patrick from the moment we’re born whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Agnostic or Atheist. Movies, books and documentaries have been created about him for as long as the written word and visual media has been around. There is so much information out there fabricating stories or outright lying isn’t needed.
I don’t understand why authors choose to take historical events and people then make literary lies out of them. This isn’t the first novelization I’ve read, even in the last week, where extreme liberties had been taken so the author could build a fictional story around the truth but somehow the truth got lost in the author’s need for drama. Our histories and truths are passed down to us through written and oral stories; if we keep passing on lies then what does that say about our humanity?
*synopsis and pic from amazon.com