The Scriptorium

A Question of Value

Patrick's priorities were clear and uncompromised.

Patrick’s Confession (26)

At times I gave presents to chiefs, apart from the stipend I paid their sons who travelled with me. Nevertheless, once, they seized me with my companions, and on that occasion they were most eager to kill me. But the time had not come. They stole everything they found in our possession, and they put me in chains. On the fourteenth day the Lord freed me from their power, and our belongings were returned to us, through the intervention of God and of firm friends whom we had had the foresight to acquire. However, you have seen for yourselves how much I have paid to the administrators of justice in all the districts I was in the habit of visiting regularly. I reckon to have contributed to them no less than the price of fifteen men, so that you could continue to enjoy me, and I you, in God. I have no regret, nor have I done with it: I still spend, and will spend more. The Lord has power to grant to me that I may continue in the future to spend my very self for the sake of your souls.

Translation Liam De Paor, St. Patrick’s World

Patrick valued the work of the Gospel and the souls of God’s people more than material possessions. These fees he reports to have paid strike me as being more on the order of tolls than of bribes. One doesn’t normally brag about having bribed some public official. But the way of things in those days required that, if Patrick wanted to move freely about the lands of some local patriarch or chief, he had to show good faith, that is, that he intended only good for the people to whom he wished to preach. A fee or toll to the ruler would have helped to indicate his good intentions. It’s not clear where Patrick acquired the money to do this, but just because, as he reports, he did not seek gifts of money from those he served does not mean people did not rally to his aid from time to time.

But this did not mean that Patrick was loved by all. As he reports, he was taken advantage of and plotted against, at least once, and doubtless more than that. Patrick testifies to God’s use of “secondary means” (Westminster Confession of Faith) in delivering him. Friends he had previously made, perhaps within the very district and among the followers of the very chief who plundered and enslaved him, came to stand for his deliverance and restoration. Patrick saw the hand of God in this, so that the work could continue. “The Lord has power” to rule in the affairs of men, providing all the needs of His people and directing the affairs of rulers and nations in such a way as to allow His work to continue going forward.

Patrick’s priorities were clear and uncompromised. He was a servant of God to the Irish people, precisely in obedience to the vision that had brought him there in the first place. Men in Britain could raise questions about his motives all they wanted, but those he served knew the truth. Rather than acquire wealth for himself, Patrick spent himself tirelessly and selflessly for the sake of the souls of the Irish.

Want to learn more about Patrick and the impact of his ministry? Order T. M.’s book, The Legacy of Patrick, from our online store.

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 Essex Junction, VT.