Patrick needs to be read as a call of Christ: We have gone away from God and his commandments. Will the culture hear Christ’s Church if the Church doesn’t heed him? Reading Patrick reminds us to seek first the kingdom of God.
We dismiss Patrick to our detriment if he is only an Irish novelty. He was actually a down-to-earth devotee of Jesus and lover of God. With God gracing and guiding him, Patrick helped change a Christ-less people on the fringe of civilization. The model of a person like Patrick (and other heroic saints) may help inspire the Church to return to its first love who is Christ. If so, perhaps those still outside the kingdom will begin to enter it.
Patrick was a fifth-century missionary to Ireland. Of unknown nativity (perhaps Britain), his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest. As a teenager he was best a nominal believer. By his own admission, he ignored the teaching of the Church and God’s commandments. When he was about 16, his life changed forever: a horde of Irish pillagers swarmed his people, killing men and women servants, and taking him and thousands others captive to Ireland. For six years he tended sheep as a forced laborer. Realizing the error of his ways, he turned to God in humbled soul with frequent prayers and fasting. In response to a voice from God, Patrick escaped his captivity to return to his homeland by dramatic and divine assistance. Some years later — God again impressing upon him — he returned to the Irish people as a voluntary servant of Christ. With a self-evident love for God, he declared to them the good news of transforming life in Christ.
Despite ‘setbacks’ and sacrifices — perhaps, in part, because of them — Patrick discipled thousands of converts, including an uncounted number of celibates. Though Patrick was neither the first nor only missionary to Ireland, his legacy there is unrivaled. The writings he has left indicate a man who was humble, courageous, God-focused, prayerful, and saturated with Scripture. Even so, he was fully aware of his shortcomings and being undeserving of God’s goodness to him and through him. Those who read him should not fail to recognize a God-loving disciple of Jesus — and have a heart stirred to be likewise.
Two writings survive from the hand of Patrick — one of which is his ‘Declaration’ of God’s goodness to him otherwise known as the ‘Confession’ (Latin: Confessio). The earliest manuscript copy of the Confession is in the Book of Armagh, dated early 9th century, and displayed at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
The Confession reads not only as an acknowledgment of sin and allegiance to the Christian faith, but primarily as a rehearsal of God’s merciful and gracious activity to and for him. From his youthful unbelief when he was captured by Irish marauders and then escaped, to divine visions and miraculous provisions, then as bishop who counted many monks and virgins in service to Christ, the Confession is an enlightening and inspiring account.
Translations of Patrick’s Confession is by Pádraig McCarthy, who has generously granted permission for its use. Any footnotes are also McCarthy’s. Since 1967, he has been a priest in the Catholic diocese of Dublin in Ireland; now retired, he continues to serve when and where possible. His name “Pádraig” is equivalent of “Patrick” in the Irish language.
HOW TO USE THIS SEVEN DAY GUIDE
The Guide includes (1) excerpts from the Confession, one of two original writings by Patrick; (2) select passages from the Bible; and (3) sample prayers after reading each excerpt from Patrick’s Confession.
Begin the schedule of readings and prayers on March 11 until its conclusion on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. It is a cycle of readings for each morning, noon, and evening.
Each morning begins with a Bible selection. Read next the passage from Patrick’s Confession, and then read the suggested prayer as a ‘prompt’ for more personalized prayer. At noon (or mid-day), the process is repeated except for a bible reading. Every evening, a bible reading is again included.