This book is at its most vivid, maybe, as it traces the utility of the saint in more recent times: for example, in 1915, with the war effort still relatively popular, March 17th saw full military parades in a balmy springtime Dublin; but, by 1916, The Irish Times was reporting disapprovingly that “some thousands of able-bodied Irishmen, who refuse to help their country in the present war, paraded the streets of Dublin and Cork”, flaunting their Patrician nationalism for all it was worth. Patrick has lent himself to any number of causes – and one senses that his day is far from done.
Flechner’s authorial aim is both academic and popular: his biography is certainly filled with densely sourced information about the Roman world, and early and middle medieval Christianity. Yet Patrick does come across as a genuinely interesting personality. He suffered many hardships, he was sincerely holy and he was very know-ledgeable about Scripture. His understanding of the Hebrew Bible was such that one scholarly document has suggested he was Jewish — so maybe those green bagels are justified.