Friday 24 March 2023

Saint Patrick's Confessions

Bringing the series of posts in honour of Saint Patrick to a close on the octave of his feast day with another Australian newspaper offering, an 1884 article quoting his Confession, although the writer refers to Confessions in the plural. I have always found it a truly wonderful thing that we are able to hear the voice of our patron saint, 'a unique voice from the dawn of Irish history' as one modern scholar puts it, through his own writings. As Philip Freeman notes in his 2005 book Saint Patrick of Ireland - a Biography:

Patrick's letters were restricted to those who read Latin until the nineteenth century, when the first English translations appeared. In the last hundred years more than a dozen editions of the letters have been published. In spite of this proliferation, the writings of Patrick are poorly known to this day. Everyone has heard of Saint Patrick, of course, but the man most people know is little more than an icon who drove the snakes out of Ireland. This lack of knowledge about the real Patrick is truly regrettable, because he has such an amazing story to tell: a tale of slavery and brutality, pain and self-doubt, sorrow and constant struggle, but ultimately of perseverance, hope and faith. His letters, in the end, remain as a remarkable gift from an extraordinary man.

 Let's hope that in the twenty-first century we too can begin to rediscover and truly appreciate this remarkable gift:


Some years before his death, St. Patrick, the Irish apostle, wrote his confessions. The following extracts from this invaluable document will show the state of the writer's mind, and the spirit in which he left the world :— 

"You know," says he to the Irish people, "and God knows, what kind of behaviour I have had with you from my youth, in the belief of the truth, and in the sincerity of my heart. Moreover, in every province where I have been, I have made known my faith unto the people, and will make it known. God knows that I have defrauded none of them, nor have I stirred up any one against them through all our persecutions, lest on my account the name of the Lord might be blasphemed. When I had baptized so many thousands of the people, I might, perhaps, have expected from some of them a small compensation. Tell me if I have received aught, and I will pay it back. Or when I have ordained ministers, if I have asked from any of them even the price of a pair of shoes, tell me, and I will return to you more than I have received. And now I recommend my soul to God, who faithful, for Whom, in reproach, I have performed this mission. I pray God that He may give unto me perseverance, that I may bear for Him a faithful testimony until my transition to my God. This sun which we now see, by the help of God will rise for us every day; but he will never reign, neither will his splendor be lasting. But we believe in the worship of the true Sun, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who will never pass away; Who made all things by His own will, and shall remain for ever. He reigns with God the Father Omnipotent, and with the Holy Spirit, before the worlds were, now, and will reign through all ages of ages. Amen."

SAINT PATRICK'S CONFESSIONS, South Australian Weekly Chronicle, April 19, 1884.

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