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Who was Patrick?
Image: Slemish Mountain (Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland)

Who was Patrick?

Often one can get to know a person in a totally different way (aside from their public persona) from studying their writings.  St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching (17th March) and much is ‘greened’ and said and sung about him, oft times woven from and into myth and celebrations. Who was Patrick?

I grew up nearby the familiar and often unforgiving terrain of  Slemish Mountain where tradition holds that Patrick was enslaved as a youth, and tended sheep for about six years, from the ages of 16 to 22. It was during this time that Patrick discovered God, and  turned to him in frequent prayer as his only consolation in his loneliness.  In a vision he was encouraged to escape and return home.

Our copies of the writings of Patrick are in “manuscript” – hand-written. There are eight manuscripts in existence. The oldest (807 A.D.) is in the Book of Armagh in Trinity College, Dublin. Nowadays, we usually think of a “confession” as when a person acknowledges some guilt for wrongdoing. An older use has other meanings: Confession of sin. Confession of God’s greatness – Praise. Confession of Faith – as in the Creed, a profession of faith.

The ‘Confession of St Patrick’ is mostly the second usage: the telling of the greatness of God as Patrick has experienced it in his own life, despite all his limitations.

Taking a fresh look at his writings in these days in the lead up to his Feast Day I am sharing this translation of an extract from the Confession of St. Patrick (see full text HERE).

From ‘The Confessions of St. Patrick’ – an extract

“He guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son.

That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.

This is because there is no other God, nor will there ever be, nor was there ever, except God the Father. He is the one who was not begotten, the one without a beginning, the one from whom all beginnings come, the one who holds all things in being – this is our teaching.  And his son, Jesus Christ, whom we testify has always been, since before the beginning of this age, with the father in a spiritual way. He was begotten in an indescribable way before every beginning.

Everything we can see, and everything beyond our sight, was made through him. He became a human being; and, having overcome death, was welcomed to the heavens to the Father. The Father gave him all power over every being, both heavenly and earthly and beneath the earth. Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, in whom we believe and whom we await to come back to us in the near future, is Lord and God. He is judge of the living and of the dead; he rewards every person according to their deeds.

He has generously poured on us the Holy Spirit, the gift and promise of immortality, who makes believers and those who listen to be children of God and co-heirs with Christ. This is the one we acknowledge and adore – one God in a trinity of the sacred name.

[…] Although I am imperfect in many ways, I want my brothers and relations to know what I’m really like, so that they can see what it is that inspires my life”.

The following is an extract from a literal translation from the old Irish text of the beautiful prayer of St. Patrick, popularly known as “St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate”:

St Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.


I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul …


Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.




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