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The Scriptorium

God as His Witness

God was his witness, even he didn’t have a friend in the world.

Patrick’s Confession (14)

On the other hand, while it was not of my own choice that I arrived in Ireland at that time when I was almost a lost soul, it was a good thing for me, because I was reformed by the Lord and He prepared me to be today what was once remote from me; so that, whereas once I did not even consider my own salvation, now the salvation of others is my care and concern.

Therefore, on the day when I was rejected by the people mentioned above, that night I saw in a dream the dishonouring documents in front of me, while at the same time I heard the divine Voice saying to me: “It displeased Us to see Our chosen one in this state: stripped of honour.” Nor did He say, “It displeased Me” – but rather  “It displeased Us” (as if linking Himself with him – just as He had said: “Whoever touches you, it is if he touched the apple of My eye.”)

For that reason, I offer thanks that He gave me strength in all matters, not hindering that departure which I had decided upon, nor also those works which I learned to do from the Lord Christ; rather, I felt all the more His great power within me. And my faith was vindicated before God and men.

Therefore I tell you boldly that my conscience does not reproach me now or for the future. I have God as witness that I do not lie in what I tell you.

But I am all the more sorry for my close friend: how did we deserve to hear such evidence given? He to whom I had entrusted my very soul! And before that case (which I did not initiate, nor was I present in Britain for it), I learned from some of the brethren that it was he who would act on my behalf in my absence. (He is the very one who had told me, with his own mouth: “Look: you should be raised to the rank of bishop” – of which I was not worthy.) But how did he come, shortly afterwards, in public, in the presence of people both good and bad, to bring me into disgrace over something which he had willingly and gladly forgiven – as had the Lord, Who is greater than all?

Translation, Liam De Paor, St. Patrick’s World

Patrick continues this rambling account of his departure for Ireland, interwoven with his explanation of a more recent event – the exposing of some youthful sin – that was troubling him at the time of his writing his Confession.

Patrick was a human being, and he had been hurt by this friend who, for whatever reason, thought that now, near the end of Patrick’s ministry, was a propitious time to bring to light a transgression committed and forgiven many years before. Patrick was no superhero, as he would be the first to admit. He had failings and feelings like the rest of us, and he seems truly to have struggled to process this situation. This man had been his friend. He had spoken up for Patrick and supported his being appointed a bishop. So why had he come to think it necessary to humiliate his friend at just this moment?

Patrick could not answer that question, and he did not intend to dwell on it. He knew himself to be vindicated by God – by a vision he had received and by the work Christ had taught him and enabled him to do. God was his witness, even he didn’t have a friend in the world. And that was enough for Patrick.

It is important to note that Patrick says he arrived in Ireland barely saved, when he was practically “a lost soul.” This should put to rest speculations that Patrick prepared for his ministry at a Roman Catholic monastery in Europe prior to his coming to Ireland. His testimony seems clear to be that what he learned about working for Christ he learned after having come to the land of his former enslavement. The revival of true Christianity which Patrick helped to launch began and spread for more than two centuries without the help of the Roman Church. Indeed, Roman Catholic clergy tried to thwart the work of Columbanus, when he came preaching the Gospel to Gaul at the turn of the 7th century. It would not be until the beginning of the 8th century, following the Synod of Whitby, that Roman Catholicism would begin to exert influence over the Celtic Christian movement.

“Enough of this” Patrick will write at the beginning of his next paragraph. He’s ready to move on from personal slights to recount the work God had accomplished through him.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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