Confessio (Declaration)

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Confessio (Declaration)

c. 450

St. Patrick

This is one of the two fifth-century historical documents which seem to prove the existence of an historical St. Patrick. Written in the form of a self-defense of his missionary career, the Confessio sets forth his conviction that his mission has been inspired by God and hence is not subject to failure due to his personal foibles. This work also served as a basis for the subsequent lives of the saint, such as Muirchú's.

SEE ALSO Religion: The Coming of Christianity; Saint Patrick, Problem of

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, quite uncultivated and the least of all the faithful and utterly despicable to many, had as my father the deacon Calpornius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, who belonged to the town of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small estate nearby, and it was there that I was taken captive. I was then about sixteen years old. I did not know the true God and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with so many thousands; and we deserved it, because we drew away from God and did not keep His commandments and did not obey our priests who kept reminding us of our salvation; and the Lord brought on us the fury of His anger and scattered us among many peoples even to the ends of the earth, where now I in my insignificance find myself among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened up my awareness of my unbelief, so that I might, however late, remember my faults and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my lowly estate and took pity on my youth and ignorance and watched over me before I knew Him and before I learned sense or could distinguish between good and evil and who protected me and comforted me as a father might his son. . . .

16. But after I reached Ireland, well, I pastured the flocks every day and I used to pray many times a day; more and more did my love of God and my fear of Him increase, and my faith grew and my spirit was stirred, and as a result I would say up to a hundred prayers in one day, and almost as many at night; I would even stay in the forests and on the mountain and would wake to pray before dawn in all weathers, snow, frost, rain; and I felt no harm and there was no listlessness in me—as I now realise, it was because the Spirit was fervent within me.

17. And it was in fact there one night while asleep I heard a voice saying to me: "You do well to fast, since you will soon be going to your home country": and again, very shortly after, I heard this prophecy: "See, your ship is ready." And it was not near at hand but was perhaps two hundred miles away, and I had never been there and did not know a living soul there. And then I soon ran away and abandoned the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came in God's strength, for He granted me a successful journey and I had nothing to fear, till I reached that ship. . . .

23. And again a few years later I was in Britain with my kinsfolk, and they welcomed me as a son and asked me earnestly not to go off anywhere and leave them this time, after the great tribulations which I had been through. And it was there that I saw one night in a vision a man coming as it were from Ireland (his name was Victoricus), with countless letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the heading of the letter, "The Voice of the Irish." and as I read these opening words aloud, I imagined at that very instant that I heard the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea; and thus they cried, as though with one voice: "We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us"; and I was stung with remorse in my heart and could not read on, and so I awoke. Thanks be to God, that after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry. . . .

41. And how has it lately come about in Ireland that those who never had any knowledge of God but up till now always worshipped idols and abominations are now called the people of the Lord and the sons of God, and sons and daughters of Irish underkings are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ? . . .

58. And so may God never allow me to be separated from His people which He has won in the ends of the earth. I pray to God to give me perserverance and to deign to grant that I prove a faithful witness to Him until I pass on, for my God's sake. . . .

62. But I beg those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to look at or receive this document which the unlearned sinner Patrick drew up in Ireland, that no-one should ever say that if I have achieved anything, however trivial, or may have shown the way according to God's good pleasure, it was my ignorance at work, but consider and accept as the undeniable truth that it would have been God's gift. And this is my declaration before I die.

St. Patrick: His Writings and Muirchu's Life, edited and translated by A. B. E. Hood (1978), pp. 41, 44, 45-46, 50, 53, 54. © Text and translation: A. B. E. Hood, 1978.

Reproduced by permission.

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Confessio (Declaration)

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