Patrick’s Confession (22)
I hope, however, that I did what I should have done; but I have no trust in this self of mine so long as I am in the body. For he is powerful who endeavours every day to turn me from the faith and from the pure teachings of the religion which I hold even to the end of my life for the Lord Christ. But through the flesh the Enemy is always dragging me towards death, that is, towards what is enticing but unlawful; and I know, in part, why I have not led a perfect life like other believers. But I admit it to my Lord, and am not ashamed before Him, because I do not lie. Indeed, since I learned to know Him in my youth, the love and fear of God have grown in me, and up to now, with the Lord’s help, I have kept the faith.
Translation Liam De Paor, St. Patrick’s World
The life of faith is one of continuously seeking the Lord in order to remain on the path He has chosen for His people. We run our race daily; we fight the good fight every waking moment. If we do not, we become vulnerable to the temptations which daily beset us, that we might fall through them into sin, rather than grow through them to greater maturity in the Lord.
As Patrick knew, the devil is wily; he seeks only our destruction, and he can appear as an angel of light – or even a British bishop! But Patrick was used to dealing with the devil’s daily attempts to turn him from faith and true religion. He held fast to the teachings of Christ at all times, by which we must understand both the doctrines of faith and the specific instructions those doctrines required for Patrick’s walk with the Lord. For Patrick, there was no discontinuity between what he believed and how he lived.
The path of the devil leads away from the Law of God and the call of Christ into the way of spiritual death. Patrick was grateful to have lived a sinful past. Having been accustomed to following the devil before his conversion, he was now able to recognize his wiles and to resist him in the faith. He is not proud of this; indeed, as we have seen, his former life was a source of great shame and sorrow to him. But he was able to understand why the Lord had allowed him to stray for a season.
How Patrick must have delighted to write that line about not having “led a perfect life like other believers”! This strikes me as a clear jab at those who were seeking to recall him and who had gone fishing for some pretense to require an accounting from him. Patrick is not ashamed of his past, and he won’t let anyone haul him back under the guilt from which the Lord has delivered him. Since coming to know the Lord, fear and love of God had grown steadily. He was not about to allow jealous clerics to undo that. He had kept faith in the Lord from the day of his conversion, and he would continue to do so now, though the devil himself may summon him to Britain!
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