Sechnall, “Audite Omnes Amantes” (2)
Constant in the fear of God, and immovable in faith,
upon whom, as upon Peter, the church is built:
whose apostleship has come from God,
against whom the gates of hell do not prevail.
Translation: John Carey, King of Mysteries
Sechnall was a contemporary of Patrick and his hymn, the first composed in Ireland, intends to call all those who love God (“omnes amantes”) to hear (“audite”) and celebrate the grace of God through the bishop to the Irish.
Sechnall continues his introduction to Patrick by a further word about the character of the man, from which he begins to transition into Patrick’s calling and work. Patrick was a man “constant in the fear of God”. This echoes Patrick’s own words concerning his calling to the work of ministry among the Irish. Grateful for the salvation of God and fearful of not being obedient to Him, Patrick departed for Ireland to do whatever the Lord would have him do. He continued in the fear and love of God throughout the course of his ministry – in which he spread abroad not a little of that fear himself.
He was also a man “immovable in faith”; he would have to have been. He believed God could use even an unschooled rustic such as himself to win the people of Ireland for the Kingdom of God, and he never wavered from that hope. Because of his faith he is like Peter, who also expressed the kind of faith on which the Lord builds His Church in every age (Matt. 16.16-18). Note the direct line to Peter and Paul in this stanza. He is like Peter in that he had faith in Jesus, and he is like Paul in that his apostleship came directly from the Lord, and not through the mediation of men (cf. Gal. 1.15-17; Col. 1.1; etc.). Here we might have expected Sechnall to try to establish Patrick’s authority from the Roman bishop, if, indeed such an appointment had been the case (as later hagiographers allege). But Patrick was not commissioned to the Irish by the bishop of Rome, like his predecessor in Ireland, Palladius, had been. Indeed, his own (British) church authorities opposed his going to Ireland, so he used his inheritance to get there and begin his ministry.
Patrick had the fear of God – based on the Word of God and visions granted him at various times – together with the faith of Peter and a calling like Paul’s. How could he not take up the work God had been preparing him for in Ireland?
The Irish Church thus has its roots apart from Roman Catholicism in a strictly indigenous and orthodox form of Christianity that derives from the Lord and His Word and links to the apostles, but not to Rome. This helps to explain why, a century and a half after Sechnall, Columbanus, an Irish missionary in Gaul, could write so boldly to the Pope in Rome, complaining about the local priests and bishops and asserting his own views on various matters, but without any sense of being under the jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff. The evidence of God’s blessing on Patrick was that the counsels, schemes, machinations, and contrivances of the devil and hell (“the gates of hell”) could not prevail to keep Patrick from fulfilling his calling from the Lord.
Sechnall begins his work telling us something about the man God chooses for so important and difficult a work as Patrick undertook. He must be a man of faith and obedience, with a close relationship to the Lord and a worshipful way of life, a man who radiates the glory and goodness of the Lord in every way. Patrick was such a man, and, for generations, these requirements would also be inculcated, nurtured, required, and celebrated in those who followed in Patrick’s legacy into the work of ministry in the Irish Church. In our day ordaining pastors is primarily a matter of determining whether they know the Bible and understand sound doctrine. Personal testimony and a sense of calling to the ministry are also considered, but not with the same intensity or depth. The character of their lives and the nature of their relationship to God is not examined with nearly the kind of “fine tooth combining” as to their doctrinal views and Biblical understanding.
But, as Sechnall seems at pains to emphasize, God works through men of great character to do great works for His Kingdom. When we train men as truly spiritual followers of Christ, and not just good thinkers and preachers, we may see more of the kind of results Patrick did from his labors.
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.