Patrick’s Confession (5)
So, in the first place I am a rustic person and an exile, plainly ignorant, and I do not know how to provide for the future. But this I know for certain: that before I was abased, I was like a stone that had fallen into a deep mire. And He Who is mighty came and in His mercy picked me up and indeed lifted me high to place me on top of the wall.
Because of this I ought to shout aloud, giving some thanks to the Lord for His blessings, both here and in eternity, which are so great that the human mind cannot comprehend them.
So, therefore, be astonished, all you, both great and little, who fear God. And you, reverend professors, listen and pay close attention. Who was it that lifted me – stupid me – from the middle of those who seemed to be wise and skilled in the law and powerful rhetoric and in all matters? And Who was it that inspired me – me! – above others to be such a person (if only I were!) as could do good faithfully – in fear and reverence without complaint – to that people to whom Christ’s love transported me and gave me; if I should prove worthy in short to be of service to them in humility and truth?
Consequently, I take this to be a measure of my faith in the Trinity that, without regard to danger, I make known God’s gift and the eternal comfort He provides: that I spread God’s name everywhere dutifully and without fear, so that after my death I may leave a legacy to so many thousands of people – my brothers and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord.
Patrick emphasizes the enormity of God’s grace in reaching to him – a nobody – with the saving message of Christ and a commission to preach to the Irish people. Patrick never made any claims for his own worthiness; indeed, we can see here the humility with which he viewed himself, both because of who he was and because of God’s great love and blessings. We remember that those who regarded themselves as Patrick’s superiors in Britain were seeking to recall him, to hear from him an accounting of his ministry in the face of clearly spurious charges about pecuniary advantage. Patrick is writing this Confession in lieu of acceding to their request. He’s too busy serving the Lord to be held accountable by those who tried to block his ministry in the first place.
Patrick shows how we are supposed to respond to the grace of God – with shouts of thanksgiving and works of obedience. It was a “measure of his faith” that he had fearlessly and faithfully obeyed the heavenly vision and been used of God for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom. Only God could do in and through a man like Patrick what had actually been accomplished. He had seen “thousands” come to faith, many trained and ordained for ministry, and the beginnings of an Irish Church taking root as a result of his labors. Everyone knew it was true, and Patrick was not about to leave the field to make a report to some cadre of “reverend professors” who were trying to reel him in and perhaps to take some credit for his work.
Here we see Patrick’s distinct sense of independence from the Roman clergy in Britain. He was not accountable to them, but to God only. God had saved and called him. God had blessed and used him. He would give his accounting to God alone, and that through continued faithfulness in pursuing the work appointed to him. The Irish Church would continue its independent course for another 200 years.
(Translation, Liam Da Paor, Saint Patrick's World)
T. M. Moore