Patrick’s Confession (25)
Perhaps when I baptized so many thousands of people I was hoping for as much as a ha’penny from any of them? Tell me and I will return it to them. Or when the Lord, through my very ordinary person, ordained clergy everywhere and I assigned his ministry to each of them free of charge – if I asked them for so much as the price of my shoe, speak out against me and I will return it to you.
On the contrary, I spent money on your behalf, so that they would receive me. And I journeyed among you, and everywhere, for your sake, often in danger, even to the outermost parts beyond which there is nothing, places where no one had ever arrived to baptize or to ordain clergy or to confirm the people. By the Lord’s grace, I achieved all these results, conscientiously and gladly for your salvation.
Translation Liam De Paor, St. Patrick’s World
Patrick is addressing his remarks at this point to those in Ireland who have been the beneficiaries of his ministry. His detractors in Britain are trying to get him to come home and answer false charges that he has pursued his ministry in Ireland for purely financial reasons. We can hear the outrage in Patrick’s voice as he invites those he has served for so long to bring forth any evidence that he ever sought any financial return from anyone. Patrick reminds them that he had in fact spent his own money to be able to preach the Gospel to the Irish, by which he means he paid local rulers for the right to come and teach within their territory. This, too, his Irish constituents would have known to be the truth.
Patrick is forced to boasting here, and we sense it is not his natural inclination. Many thousands were won to Christ, baptized, and confirmed by Patrick, without his ever requesting their financial support. Men were called, trained, and ordained to pastoral ministry “everywhere”, even though he had no credentials or experience to train them. Nor did he charge them for this labor of love. Patrick succeeded in training men by the strength of his life and example. The next generation after Patrick would continue his work, and the generation they trained opened the flood gates of Irish missions to Scotland and the Continent.
Whatever Patrick did in training these men, he did it well.
And, as he is always quick to remind us, all his achievements were because of the grace of God. The Lord used his “very ordinary person” to train clergy; by “the Lord’s grace” he achieved all the quite amazing results he outlines here, and which all his Irish readers would have known to be so. And the Lord met his every financial need, apparently without his having to mount an ongoing “fund raising” effort to support himself.
The Lord had freely chosen, saved, and called Patrick, and sent him freely to Ireland to do the work of the Gospel. Freely he had received, and freely did he give his life and means for the cause of the Kingdom in that wild, pagan land.
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