Fr Aidan’s book broadens our vision of St Patrick – Archbishop

May 31, 2023

The leader of the Irish Church has paid tribute to the late Fr Aidan Lakin’s research on St Patrick saying it has helped broaden his vision of the saint and helped him to see St Patrick in a new context.

In his address as he formally launched, ‘The Spiritual Journey of St Patrick’ in Dalgan Park, Co Meath, Archbishop Eamon Martin said the book by the late Columban missionary showed that St Patrick is a saint for the whole Church and a saint for our times.

“For me the big contribution of this book is the way [Fr Aidan] relates St Patrick to the whole missionary endeavour of the Church beginning with the great commission – to go out to the whole world.”

Photo: Columban Mission Images

He said the book, which is published by Messenger Publications, gave him a much broader vision of St Patrick than that which he had grown up with.

“In my own studies and reading a lot of the literature about St Patrick narrowed my vision of him – all of those controversies surrounding his life narrowed my focus. Fr Aidan points out aspects of the life and writings of St Patrick that I perhaps missed or neglected in my many readings of the ‘Confession’ and the ‘Letter to Coroticus’.”

“For example, Patrick doesn’t see himself as just a little part of a mission to Ireland. He sees himself as part of the entire mission of the Church. St Patrick connects himself to the scriptures and to his contemporaries – we sometimes forget that the Church Fathers were near contemporaries of St Patrick.”

The book reproduces St Patrick’s ‘Letter to Coroticus and the ‘Confessionin their entirety and Fr Aidan brings out a wealth of patristic resonances in these writings.

Photo: Columban Mission Images

Archbishop Martin reminded those who attended the launch, including members of Fr Aidan’s family and Columbans resident in Dalgan as well as staff from Messenger Publications, that St Patrick was writing within a century of the Council of Nicaea and the Council of Constantinople, and that he was a contemporary of the Council of Chalcedon.

Regretting that Ireland had “caricatured him a little bit too much down through the centuries,” Archbishop Martin said both Fr Aidan Larkin’s and Fr Dan Conneely’s research reaffirmed his understanding of St Patrick as a saint for the whole world and a saint for the whole church – not just for Ireland or the Irish

“But not only is he a saint for the whole church, I think Fr Aidan’s work reminds me that St Patrick is a saint for our times. Most recently we have become hugely conscious of the evil of human trafficking. We see how Patrick empathises with a whole host of people nowadays who are forcibly moved from their country or indeed who are forced from their circumstances and have to leave home as refugees or migrants.”

The book, he said, invites readers to reflect on St Patrick as an inspiration for their own journey of faith.

Describing himself as “overjoyed to be here in Dalgan”, Archbishop Martin said there was “something very fitting” about “launching the book here, not just because of Fr Aidan, Fr Dan and Fr Bastable, but I think you feel the missionary genes around this place.”

Speaking to, the Archbishop of Armagh said he felt what Fr Aidan was trying to do in the book was “deeply significant” and he said the trafficking aspect of St Patrick’s journey was “particularly important” today.

Photo: Columban Mission Images

“We see it twice in St Patrick’s journey. First of all in his own experience as a young teenager who was seized from his home and trafficked to what for him was a foreign country and into forced labour. This experience and this trauma of being trafficked resonates throughout his entire life.”

“The second aspect is in his letter to the soldier Coroticus. Coroticus was identifying as a Christian but St Patrick was incensed that he had literally kidnapped some of Patrick’s new converts and whisked them away.”

Referring to St Patrick’s righteous anger at Coroticus, and his excommunication of Coroticus, he noted that Patrick questioned how Coroticus could associate himself with Christianity and be involved in this [trafficking].

“A lot of the really good work that is going on in Ireland today to prevent trafficking is being done by our religious congregations who are highlighting this awful evil. Pope Francis described it as a scourge on the face of the earth. To think that Christians and people of faith may actually be turning a blind eye to trafficking which is happening in our own streets and in our own cities – that is something that I think St Patrick, if he was here today, would want to waken us up to.”

Photo: Columban Mission Images

The regional director of the Columbans in Ireland, Fr Raymond Husband, welcomed Archbishop Martin and members of the Larkin family, including Colum Larkin and Fr Sean Larkin.

“This evening we celebrate the fruit of Fr Aidan’s labour as we see his dream come true with the publication and launch of his book: ‘The Spiritual Journey of St Patrick’.”

Photo: Columban Mission Images

“Building on the work of Fr Dan Conneely and Fr Patrick Bastable, Aidan created a refreshing and informative study on the spiritual journey of St Patrick.”

Fr Raymond paid tribute to the “tremendous work” done by Colum Larkin and Columban missionary Fr Maurice Hogan in bringing the work to completion.

He noted Fr Aidan’s words in the Introduction to the book in which he stated: “My purpose in writing this book is not to resolve every problem Patrick’s writing poses. Instead, my aim is pastoral. I wish to evangelise. I wish to put myself at the service of God and of Patrick, who in Heaven prays continuously for his people here on earth.”

Fr Raymond concluded, “This evening as this wonderful piece of writing is launched, we can have confidence that Fr Aidan’s prayers continue for each of us as we draw strength and inspiration from his work.”

In his address, Fr Maurice Hogan said the gathering was “privileged to have the successor of St Patrick to launch Fr Aidan Larkin’s book.”

Fr Maurice provided the background to the ‘The Spiritual Journey of St Patrick’ and explained how Fr Aidan’s book was intended to “popularise the new approach of Columban Father Daniel Connelly’s work on St Patrick’s correspondence”.

Photo: Columban Mission Images

Fr Dan Conneely’s research on St Patrick’s letters began when he was editor of the Far East magazine in the Patrician anniversary year of 1961 and it continued from then until his death in 1986.

He explained how from the middle of the 20th century, scholars were paying particular attention to Patrick’s correspondence, searching for dates and places as well as biographical and historical material to discover something about 5th century Ireland, while dismissing the poor quality of Patrick’s letters.

“This scholarly focus led them to neglect the rich spiritual and theological content of Patrick’s correspondence.” St Patrick used colloquial Latin rather than classical Latin and looked for models in biblical and patristic writings to articulate his message.

Photo: Columban Mission Images

“Dan Conneely realised that such scholarly work was incomplete until Patrick’s letters were studied in the context of their connection with sacred scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers. Only then would we be able to discern the full theological and ecclesial and spiritual meaning of the texts.”

Fr Dan’s research covered 73 notebooks and added a new dimension to Patrician studies, Fr Maurice said.

After his death in 1986, Columban Fr Paddy Bastable and Dr Teresa Iglesias from UCD helped arrange the material into manuscript form.

“Unfortunately, Paddy died in 1992 and did not live to see the fruit of his dedicated effort. But thanks to Teresa and staff members at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, the completed work entitled, ‘The Letters of St Patrick’ by Daniel Conneely was published by An Sagart in 1993 and served as a resource for Fr Aidan’s work.”

Photo: Columban Mission Images

Fr Dan believed that St Patrick was not only a great missionary but a man of great intellectual standing and he provided evidence of Patrick’s familiarity not only with the Old and New Testaments but linked him with up to 20 patristic writers.”Dan’s wish was to communicate his research not only to scholars but to ordinary people so that they would be able to see for themselves that Patrick was a churchman and a missionary of outstanding competence.”

Photo: Columban Mission Images

“A person of intellectual stature and above all an apostle of faith life that revealed a deep connection between his theological knowledge and the holiness of his life.”

This was the task assigned to Fr Aidan Larkin and ‘The Spiritual Journey of St Patrick’ was the culmination of that effort.


‘The Spiritual Journey of St Patrick’ by Fr Aidan Larkin SSC
can be purchased from Messenger Publications here:

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