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The Scriptorium

A Saint with the Best of Them

Sechnall concludes his poem in praise of Patrick.

Sechnall, “Audite Omnes Amantes” (8)

Christ has chosen him as his representative on earth,
who frees captives from a twofold servitude:
very many men has he redeemed from slavery,
countless are they whom he has loosed from the Devil’s dominion.

He sings hymns and the Apocalypse, and the psalms of God,
which he expounds to build up God’s people.
Belief in the Trinity of sacred name is a law to him,
and he teaches one Substance with three Persons.

Girt with the belt of the Lord, by day and night
he prays to the Lord God without ceasing.
He will receive the reward of his vast labour
when he will reign as a saint with the apostles over Israel.

Translation John Carey, King of Mysteries

Sechnall does not intend to be exhaustive in describing Patrick’s ministry. We’ve already learned much about the example of Patrick’s life and the nature of his teaching. Patrick set a powerful example of moral and spiritual wholeness, and he faithfully taught the Word of God, both for evangelizing the lost and discipling the saved. But his ministry included aspects of justice and worship as a representative of Christ to the world.

As Jesus announced that He had come to set the captives free (Lk. 4.18-21), so Patrick did as well. He reports in his Confession that he purchased men from slavery, using the resources available to him in his ministry. Sechnall confirms that claim here, saying that “very many” were the slaves Patrick was able to liberate. He relates this work of justice to Patrick’s ministry of leading lost men to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Justice and witness, it seems, were never far apart from one another in Patrick’s work. In each case captives were being set free, just as Jesus had done during His ministry. Patrick truly represented His Savior, not just in life and teaching, but in works of justice and compassion.

Patrick also was a man who knew joy, and who showed that joy in worship, by singing and teaching the songs he sang to others. Patrick understood the importance of singing “to build up God’s people.” But these must be taught to the people, and not just sung. They must understand the words and have some sense of how the music works, if they are to gain the edification such singing can provide.

Patrick was fully orthodox, as Sechnall signals by indicating his holding to the Trinitarian formula hammered out by Church councils at Nicea (325), Ephesus (381), and Chalcedon (451). Patrick may have been isolated from the Church in Rome by geography, but not by profession. He was as orthodox as the best of the Church Fathers. 

And Patrick was a man of prayer. One gloss on this last stanza quotes Augustine who says that praying without ceasing is accomplished when a man observes set times of prayer during the day. The Church had practiced set times prayer  the “hours of prayer” (Acts 3.1) – from the days of the apostles, and Sechnall may well be indicating that Patrick held to this practice in his day. He was never so busy with ministry that he did not maintain close fellowship with the Lord in prayer. Patrick clothed himself with and lived the “belt of truth” (Eph. 6.14), and this included serious devotion to a life of ongoing prayer as part of his “vast labour” for the Lord.

In Sechnall’s estimation, Patrick was a saint to be reckoned with the best of them. This seems a fitting way to conclude his lengthy poem about Patrick and his ministry. I see no reason to disagree.

T. M. Moore

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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