The work of Patrick
Patrick has left us two documents from his own hand; the Confession and the Letter to Coroticus. Most scholars are confident they are authentic and as Walsh and Bradley point out, “the Latin is so poor, the style so obscure and the content so self-depreciating that no-one would have wished to compose these works and then attribute them to Patrick”
The Confession: Re-read the document or refer to the extracts handout for a summary of the main points covered.
Main Themes of the Confession
1.Admission of Worldly and Sinful Youth: “I did not know the true God…”
Patrick believes his captivity is just punishment for his lack of faith. He refers continually to his youthful failings and in particular to a sin which was revealed to his superiors. “I had not yet overcome my sinful ways…”
2.Conversion; Following his captivity Patrick’s conversion and enthusiasm for the faith he had neglected is dramatic. He claims he was like a “stone lying in deep mud” but that God “pulled me out…lifted me up and placed me at the very top of the wall”
Maire de Paor argues Patrick’s understanding of the need for suffering in true discipleship. Through his suffering he feels “purified by the Lord.”
3.Praise and Thanksgiving: Patrick sees God’s hand in everything he experiences. He is grateful for his conversion and for God’s use of him in his mission, “I am very much in debt to God…” “He rescued me twelve times when I was in danger.” And when betrayed by a friend he feels that God “supported me in everything”
Patrick’s faith is also evident in his numerous references to the Bible particularly in relation to his mission, “Go therefore, and teach all nations.”
4.Defence: Patrick is keenly aware of his own inadequacies but he refuses to see this as an obstacle to his right to preach. His visions convince him of the certainty of his call. He sees the spirit praying within him and his successes, especially among the nobility, are testimony that God calls not only the wise and the good but the “rustic”. He also defends himself against any suggestion of profiteering and is at pains to point out how much he has spent and how often he has refused gifts.
“Look, I call upon you to witness by my life that I am not telling lies, that neither am I writing to you out of flattery or greed for money nor because I look for esteem from any of you.”
5.Final Judgement: Another important theme and one driving his mission forward is Patrick’s sense of the coming of the end of the world. Thomas O’Loughlin suggests that Patrick feels he is on the “edge”.