Confession of Saint Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated on March 17 for fifteen hundred years.  It is the day that Patrick, the missionary bishop who evangelized Ireland, passed from this world to eternity.  This excerpt from his autobiographical work called the Confession makes clear that eternity was what he lived for and what he sought to bring to pagan Ireland — the Kingdom of God as ushered in by Jesus Christ.

I give unceasing thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the day of my testing. Today I can offer him sacrifice with confidence, giving myself as a living victim to Christ, my Lord, who kept me safe through all my trials. I can say now: Who am I, Lord, and what is my calling, that you worked through me with such divine power? You did all this so that today among the Gentiles I might constantly rejoice and glorify your name wherever I may be, both in prosperity and in adversity. You did it so that, whatever happened to me, I might accept good and evil equally, always giving thanks to God. God is never to be doubted. He answered my prayer in such a way that in the last days, ignorant though I am, I might be bold enough to take up so holy and so wonderful a task, and imitate in some degree those whom the Lord had so long ago foretold as heralds of his Gospel, bearing witness to all nations.

How did I get this wisdom, that was not mine before? I did not know the number of my days, or have knowledge of God. How did so great and salutary a gift come to me, the gift of knowing and loving God, though at the cost of homeland and family? I came to the Irish peoples to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.


St-Patrick tommy di paulo 455

If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for his name. I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor. I am deeply in his debt, for he gave me the great grace that through me many peoples should be reborn in God, and then made perfect by confirmation and everywhere among them clergy ordained for a people so recently coming to believe, one people gathered by the Lord from the ends of the earth. As God had prophesied of old through the prophets: The nations shall come to you from the ends of the earth, and say: “How false are the idols made by our fathers: they are useless.” In another prophecy he said: I have set you as a light among the nations, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

It is among that people that I want to wait for the promise made by him, who assuredly never tells a lie. He makes this promise in the Gospel: They shall come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world.

This excerpt from St. Patrick’s Confession is used for the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for March 17, the liturgical memorial of St. Patrick otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Day.  

Patrick of Ireland

St. Patrick, patron of Ireland, was born in Roman Britain sometime around the year AD 400.  He was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, but doesn’t appear to have had a solid life of faith when he was captured by pirates at age 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave.  It was there, during six years captivity, that he gave his life to Christ.  After escaping the island by boat when he was in his twenties, he journeyed to Gaul (modern day France) where he learned more about his Christian faith.  He became a monk and a cleric at the Abbey of Lerins in Southern France and evidently was consecrated bishop.  After a vision wherein he saw Irish people calling him to come back to the Emerald Isle, he did indeed return as a missionary bishop, braving no small amount of hardship as he went about baptizing thousands and ordaining priests to serve the people.  The exact dates of his birth, death and arrival in Ireland cannot be determined with certainty, though the day of his death appears to have been March 17 which still serves as his feast day.  The only two works of his which have survived are his Confessions and his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.