February/March 2014 - Vol. 72.
.My Confession by St. Patrick of Ireland
(387 - 460 AD)
Adapted and abridged for modern readers by Don Schwager
captivity, and conversion
God’s chastisement in the land of captivity helped me to recognize him. He gave me so many graces and favors that I cannot remain silent nor cease to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
For I do confess [as stated in the ancient Christian Creed] that there is no other God, but God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, who always existed with the Father and the Spirit. All things visible and invisible were created by him. Christ became a man and conquered death for us. When he ascended to the Father in heaven he received all power over every name and creature in heaven, on earth, and in hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is both Lord and God (Philippians 2:9-11). Christ will come again as judge of the living and the dead. He has abundantly poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon all who believe in Christ. The Spirit, who is the pledge of our unending life with God, makes us sons of God and co-heirs with Christ. We worship one God who is a Trinity of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
My ignorance and
youthful sins held me back
The Lord had to humble me first through my captivity to get his attention. Then in his mercy he came and raised me up and lifted me to the very top of a wall. And from there I can only shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favors which he showed me without measure.
Whether you be great or small, learned or simple, listen, and consider how God summoned me, a fool and a wretch in this world, to serve him with reverence, faith, and humility. It was the love of Christ that inspired me to give my life in service to this people. So, after many years of hardships and trials during my captivity, the Lord granted me, his unworthy and humble servant, this great favor among the people here in Ireland, something which I neither hoped for nor imagined as a youth.
The Spirit was
burning within me
And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: “You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.” And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: “Behold, your ship is ready.” And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor known any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man whom I had been serving for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship.
And on the same day that I arrived,
the ship was setting out from the place, and I said that I had the
two month journey with barbarians
On the journey he provided us with food and fire and dry weather every day, until on the tenth day we came across some people. As I mentioned above, we had journeyed through an unpopulated country for twenty-eight days, and in fact the night that we came upon people we had no food.
And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the first night I was with my captors, I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: “You shall be with them for two months.” And so it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me from their hands.
Another night – God knows, I do not, whether within me or beside me – I heard many words which I could not understand, except at the end of the speech it was represented thus: “He who gave his life for you, he it is who speaks within you,” and thus I awoke, joyful.
On a second occasion I saw someone praying within me, and I was, as it were, inside my own body, and I heard him above me – that is, above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. As this continued, I was astonished and pondered who it could be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed to me that it was the Holy Spirit. So I awoke and remembered the Apostle's words, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
A living sacrifice
for Christ my Lord
It is tedious to describe in detail
all my labors one by one. I will tell briefly how the most holy God
Whence came to me such great wisdom which was not my own, I who neither knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came to me so great a gift of knowing and loving God, even though I should lose both my homeland and family? It was not grace of my own, but grace from God who gave me strength to preach the Gospel to the people of Ireland, and strength to suffer insult from unbelievers, reproaches from others when I went abroad, and many persecutions, including being put in chains. I am ready to spend my life and energy for the benefit of others, and should I be worthy, to even give up my life without hesitation and most gladly for my Lord. It is here among the people of Ireland that I wish to spend my life until I die, if the Lord grant me this grace.
I am very much God’s debtor, because he gave me such abundant grace that many people were reborn in God through me, and afterwards confirmed, and clergy were ordained for them. The masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: “To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, ‘Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit’” (Jeremiah 16:19). Again, “I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). There I wish to wait for his promise which will surely be fulfilled as the Gospel states, “They shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,” as we believe the faithful will come from all the world.
For that reason one ought to fish well and diligently, just as the Lord has taught, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” and again through the prophets: “Behold, I am sending forth many fishers and hunters, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 16:16). Christ compels us to spread our nets, so that a vast multitude who are hungry and ready might be caught for God, and be baptized and taught by the clergy, just as the Lord says in the Gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time” (Matthew 28:19). Again he says, “Go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). And again, “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to all nations; and then the end of the world shall come” (Matthew 24:14). Likewise the Lord foretells through the prophet, “And it shall come to pass in the last days (says the Lord) that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; yes, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28-29). In Hosea he says: “Those who are not my people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will call my beloved, and in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘Sons of the living God’” (Romans 9:25-26; Hosea 2:23, 1:10).
How did it come to pass in Ireland that those who never had a knowledge of God, but until now always worshiped idols and impure things, have now been made sons of God and a people of the Lord, and that even sons and daughters of Irish chieftans are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ?
Among others, a blessed Irishwoman of noble birth, beautiful and full-grown, whom I had baptized, came to us and told us that she had received a prophecy from a divine messenger, who advised her to be a virgin of Christ and draw near to God. Thanks be to God, on the sixth day after this she most laudably and eagerly chose what all virgins of Christ do. Not that their fathers agree with them: no, they often suffer persecution and undeserved reproaches from their parents; and yet their number is ever increasing. How many have been reborn there so as to be of our kind, I do not know, not to mention widows and those who practice continence. But those women who live in slavery suffer the most, due to threats and harassment. But the Lord gave his grace to many of his handmaidens; for, though they are forbidden to do so, they follow him bravely.
A life-long mission
I do believe I have chosen the right course. But I do not trust myself as long as I am in this mortal body, because the strong one, the devil, daily strives to turn me away from the faith and the purity of true religion to which I have devoted myself to the end of my life, to Christ my Lord. The flesh which is hostile to God also seeks to drag us into sinful desires that lead to spiritual death. I know that in part I did not lead a perfect life as did the other faithful; but I confess to my Lord, and do not blush in his sight, because I do not lie. From the time I came to know him in my youth, the love of God and the fear of him have grown in me, and up to now, thanks to the grace of God, I have kept the faith.
Some may laugh and scorn at this, but I shall not be silent, nor will I hide the signs and wonders which the Lord has shown me many years before they came to pass, as he knows everything even before the beginning of time.
I refused gifts
and payments for my service
You know, as God does, how I lived among you from my youth with sincerity and faith. And even among the heathens I have been honest and trustworthy. Whenever any of you gave me gifts, including gifts left at the altar from holy celibate women, I returned them if at all possible, even though this caused you some offense.
When I baptized thousands of people, I did not receive any favors or payment. In fact it cost me dearly and exposed me to many dangers for your sake. I ordained clergy without payment as well. I did all this by the grace of God, with love and joy for your salvation.
When I met with kings I gave them presents, as customary, and I financially supported those who traveled with me in my ministry. On one occasion, when my traveling band and I were robbed and put in chains, the Lord delivered us on the fourteenth day, and restored what we had lost.
I do not seek honor from others because the Lord himself is enough for me. Although I am most unworthy, the Lord has exalted me beyond measure. I prefer poverty and failure rather than a life of wealth and pleasure. After all, Christ the Lord himself was poor for our sakes. I fear nothing, not even betrayal, slavery, or murder, because of the promises of heaven. I am in the Lord’s hands, as Scripture says: “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.”
of the least of his servants
May I never be separated from this people whom God has redeemed in this remote land, and may God give me perseverance to remain a faithful witness to him to the end of my days.
If I have done any good for the sake of my God whom I love, I pray that he may allow me the opportunity to shed my blood for his name’s sake, even if my body should be torn limb from limb by dogs or savage beasts, devoured by birds, or left unburied. On the last day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as sons of the living God and co-heirs with Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him, with him, and for him.
Each day we see the sun rise at God’s command, but its splendor will not last for ever. Those who worship the sun will perish. We who believe in Christ and worship him, the true sun, will never die. For those who do the will of Christ will be with him forever, who reigns with the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit both now and forever. Amen.
I testify in truthfulness and joy before God and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and its promises, to ever return to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty.
I pray that those who believe in
God and who read this confession, which I, Patrick, an unlearned sinner
have written in Ireland, may recognize that whatever I achieved or taught
that was pleasing to God, was done so by the gift of God. This is my confession
before I die.
See also > Song of Patrick by Ed Conlin
Don Schwager is a member of The Servants of the Word and author of the Daily Scripture Reading and Meditation website.
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom