Catholicism, Catholic, Traditional Catholicism, Catholic Church

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of St. Patrick

St. Patrick (ca. A.D. 385-461) was born -- in Scotland! He was the son of a high-ranking Roman family, but was carried off into slavery by Irish marauders when he was 16 and forced into shepherding. While in captivity in Ireland, though, he learned Celtic and the ways of Druidism, as his master was a Druid High Priest, two bits of knowledge that would help him later in evangelizing Irish pagans. He escaped his master, travelled about a bit -- but desired to return to Ireland to evangelize, a task he was entrusted with by Pope Celestine I, and a task at which he was most successful: legend says that he even drove the snakes from that land with a sermon, but instead of being literal, that could well be analogical or, as is most likely, both: the Druids used serpents to symbolize the powers of the earth, and tattooed their bodies with them.1

On March 26, A.D. 433, the chieftans of Ireland gathered together with the Ard-Righ -- the Supreme Monarch of the land -- to celebrate a Druid feast. All fires were to be extinguished until a fire was lit at the house of the Monarch. St. Patrick siezed the opportunity, and the Catholic Encyclopedia describes the scene. Imagine it!

St. Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane, at the opposite extremity of the valley from Tara, on Easter Eve, in that year the feast of the Annunciation, and on the summit of the hill kindled the Paschal fire. The druids at once raised their voice. "O King", (they said) "live for ever; this fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished." By order of the king and the agency of the druids, repeated attempts were made to extinguish the blessed fire and to punish with death the intruder who had disobeyed the royal command. But the fire was not extinguished and Patrick shielded by the Divine power came unscathed from their snares and assaults. On Easter Day the missionary band having at their head the youth Benignus bearing aloft a copy of the Gospels, and followed by St. Patrick who with mitre and crozier was arrayed in full episcopal attire, proceeded in processional order to Tara. The druids and magicians put forth all their strength and employed all their incantations to maintain their sway over the Irish race, but the prayer and faith of Patrick achieved a glorious triumph. The druids by their incantations overspread the hill and surrounding plain with a cloud of worse than Egyptian darkness. Patrick defied them to remove that cloud, and when all their efforts were made in vain, at his prayer the sun sent forth its rays and the brightest sunshine lit up the scene. Again by demoniac power the Arch-Druid Lochru, like Simon Magus of old, was lifted up high in the air, but when Patrick knelt in prayer the druid from his flight was dashed to pieces upon a rock.

Thus was the final blow given to paganism in the presence of all the assembled chieftains. It was, indeed, a momentous day for the Irish race.

Throughout his evangelising, St. Patrick used the shamrock as a visual aid in trying to explain the Trinity -- its three leaves describing the Three Persons of the Trinity, its being of one stem describing God's Essence. The shamcrock's general shape also describes the Cross. Because of this, a 3-leaf clover is St. Patrick's symbol, and a symbol for the day.

On Station Island in Lough Derg (a lake) in County Donegal, Ireland is a most interesting place that pertains to our Saint: St. Patrick's Purgatory. It's said that Patrick St. came upon a cave on the island and, entering it, experienced a vision of Purgatory. He ordered a church to be built over the site and entrusted its care to the Augustinians. The "cave" was actually two connected underground pits -- one about 9 feet long, the second about 5 feet long, neither tall enough for a tall man to stand in. It became a place of pilgrimage, with people coming from all over Europe to see what Patrick saw, and to do penance. They would fast for fifteen days, go to Confession, receive Communion, and would then be locked in the cave for 24 hours. A number of accounts of pilgrims' experiences there have come down to us through the ages, most famously in Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii, written by a Cistercian monk named H de Saltrey. It tells the tale of a journey made to St. Patrick's Purgatory by an Irish knight named Owein some time between 1135 and 1154. This account was translated into Old French by Marie de France, thereby becoming very popular and influential --  possibly an inspiration to Dante, who wrote of visits to Purgatory, Hell, and Heaven a few centuries later (you can download a brief re-telling of the story of Owein in pdf format here).

The "cave" is now locked up, but pilgrimages are still made to the monastery there to this day.

St. Patrick also went to a mountain known as Cruachán Aigle -- known, too, as "Croagh Patrick" or "the Reek" -- to fast for forty days and forty nights during Lent, in the same spirit that Moses went to Mt. Sinai. There, he was demonically harrassed by black birds, which he banished by ringing his bell. And it's from this mountain that St. Patrick drove the snakes and demons from Ireland. Legend has it that, at the end of Patrick's stay on the mountain, God gave to him the right to judge the Irish people at the general judgment at the end of time. It's a custom for many to make a pilgrimage to this mountain on the last Sunday of July (the Sunday before Lammas), which is known to the Irish as "Reek Sunday." The mountain is climbed barefoot, traditionally after sunset, and, once at the top, pilgrims "pay the rounds" by walking clockwise around the summit fifteen times. There's a little church at the top, too, and there's been one there since the 5th century. The present church building, though, was erected in 1905.

St. Patrick died a natural death when old, and was wrapped in a burial shroud made by and brought to him by St. Brigid and her religious sisters. When he and Brigid met and prayed together, he was granted a vision, which the Catholic Encylcopedia describes:

He saw the whole of Ireland lit up with the brightest rays of Divine Faith. This continued for centuries, and then clouds gathered around the devoted island, and, little by little, the religious glory faded away, until, in the course of centuries, it was only in the remotest valleys that some glimmer of its light remained. St. Patrick prayed that the light would never be extinguished, and, as he prayed, the angel came to him and said: "Fear not: your apostolate shall never cease." As he thus prayed, the glimmering light grew in brightness, and ceased not until once more all the hills and valleys of Ireland were lit up in their pristine splendour, and then the angel announced to St. Patrick: "Such shall be the abiding splendour of Divine truth in Ireland."

He is buried alongside SS. Brigid and Columcille (also known as St. Columba) in the yard of Down Cathedral (now a Church of Ireland cathedral) in County Down, Northern Ireland. A large granite slab marks their graves. St. Columcille lived after Patrick and, under the instructions of an angel, opened Patrick's grave about sixty years after Patrick's death to retrieve three items to use as relics: St. Patrick's goblet, "The Angel's Gospel," and his bell. The bell can be seen in the National Museum of Ireland.


Many Catholics prepare for this feast by beginning the Novena to St. Patrick starting on March 8, and ending on March 16, the eve of his feast. For his feast itself, the Litany of St. Padrig of Eire would be perfect to pray. And it would be good to pray for Ireland in general by praying the Litany of Irish Saints.

Another beautiful prayer for the feast is "St. Patrick's Breast-plate" (Faeth Fiada," or the "Lorica of St. Patrick" -- also known as "The Deer's Cry"). Below is a poetic version of this gorgeous prayer:

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on the Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the Cherubim;
The sweet 'Well done' in judgment hour;
The service of the Seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death-wound and the burning
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

On "St. Paddy's Day," the Irish -- especially Irish Americans -- get generally rowdy. This is the day for listening to Irish music (see this page for the lyrics and melodies of a few standards), and, for Americans, watching the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City and being very proud of "being Irish!" -- a fact you must advertise by the "wearing o' the green," especially in the form of a shamrock (Trifolium dubium or Trifolium repens). Even if you're not Irish, you can be "Irish" for the day by wearing green and getting into the spirit of things -- in fact, you "must" or others who see you not wearing green have a duty to pinch you! The color green is everywhere in the United States on this day, with some cities even dyeing their rivers and the waters of public fountains green.

You might fly St. Patrick's flag, too -- a white flag with a red saltire -- X-shaped cross -- on it (compare to the flags of St. Andrew and St. George, which together with St. Patrick's flag form the Union Jack):

If you plan ahead, for decorating, you might be interested in a type of plant called "Shamrock Plants" --  three-leafed plants in the Oxalis plant family that aren't actually clover, but which resemble it strongly and grow well indoors. Some varieties are commonly known as wood sorrel, and you can buy bulbs online.

To have some fun with your wee ones, you can tell them about leprechauns -- the 3-feet tall, solitary, mischief-making, cobbling tricksters who dress in red, wear three-cornered hats and buckled shoes, and live in the caves and trunks of fairy trees in the Irish countryside. They're said to store their pots of gold at the ends of rainbows -- but they're very wily and not easily fooled. You can keep kids busy looking for signs of a leprechaun's presence, and even hide gold-wrapped chocolate coins about the yard for them to find. Or you could put the chocolate coins in one place and arrange for a hunt that takes them from clue to clue until they find the "pot o' gold."

In America, outside of abstinence days, it is custom to eat Corned Beef and Cabbage, served with Irish Soda Bread (called such because baking soda is its only leaven) and green-dyed beer -- and if you want a Gaelic toast to go with your green beer, just say: Sláinte is táinte! (pronounced SLAWN-chuh iss TAWN-chuh), which means "Health and wealth!" :

Corned Beef and Cabbage (serves 6)

5 lbs. corned beef brisket of beef
12 peppercorns or packaged pickling spices which come on corned beef
5 carrots, peeled and quartered
3 large onions, peeled and quartered
2 lbs. baby new potatoes
1 medium cabbage, cut unto 6 wedges

Parsley Sauce:
8 TBSP butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 cups chopped fresh parsley

In a large stockpot, place corned beef in water to cover by 2 inches with peppercorns or pickling spices. Cover; bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4 hours or until tender, skimming occasionally.

One half hour before serving, place carrots, onions and potatoes in pot. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add cabbage to pot and cook an additional 15 minutes.

While vegetables are cooking, heat butter in small saucepan. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Slowly whisk in milk, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat until sauce thickens. Add parsley, taste for seasoning.

When ready to serve, place meat on platter and slice thin across the grain. Place vegetables around platter and top with parsley sauce. Serve meat with coarse grain mustard and horseradish, if desired. Serves 6.

Irish Soda Bread (1 loaf; serves 6)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 TBSP sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold butter
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (substitute 4 teaspoons vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 1/4 cups. Let stand 10 minutes.)
Optional: 1/2 cup currants or raisins

Heat oven to 375°F. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened (optional: add 1/2 cup currants or raisins now).

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead gently 10 times. Shape into ball. Place onto greased baking sheet. Pat into 6-inch circle. Cut 1/2-inch deep Cross in top of dough with sharp knife.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

If you're not partial to beer, let alone green beer, you could try Irish Coffee instead. A recipe:

Irish Coffee

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 jigger Irish whiskey (1 1/2 ounces or 3 tablespoons)
Heavy cream, slightly whipped

Fill a warmed-up mug with hot coffee until it is about 3/4 full. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Irish whiskey. Top with the whipped heavy cream by pouring gently over back of spoon. Serve hot.

When the party is ending, the custom is to "drown the shamrock" by placing the shamrock one is wearing into one's final glass of Irish whiskey, making a toast to St. Patrick, drinking the whiskey, then tossing the shamrock from the bottom of the glass over one's left shoulder. Then, when it's finally time to say goodbye, what better way to say it than with this classic Irish blessing?:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

To read more about St. Patrick, see The Life of St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland (pdf) from this site's Catholic Library.


The Confession of St. Patrick
By St. Patrick

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, most rustic, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.

I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people--and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.

2. And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.

3. Hence I cannot be silent--nor, indeed, is it expedient--about the great benefits and the great grace which the lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven.

4. The Irish Creed of the Trinity

"Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He has given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, an whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name."

5. For He Himself has said through the Prophet: Call upon me in the day or they trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. And again He says: It is honorable to reveal and confess the works of God.

6. Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire.

7. I know well the testimony of my Lord, who in the Psalm declares: Thou wilt destroy them that speak a lie. And again He says: The mouth that betrays kills the soul. And the same Lord ways in the Gospel: Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment.

8. And so I should dread exceedingly, with fear and trembling, this sentence on that day when no one will be able to escape or hide, but we all, without exception, shall have to give an account even of our smallest sins before the judgment of the Lord Christ.

9. For this reason I had in mind to write, but hesitated until now; I was afraid of exposing myself to the talk of men, because I have not studied like the others, who thoroughly imbibed law and Sacred Scripture, and never had to change from the language of their childhood days, but were able to make it still more perfect. In our case, what I had to say had to be translated into a tongue foreign to me, as can be easily proved from the savor of my writing, which betrays how little instruction and training I have had in the art of words; for, so says Scripture, by the tongue will be discovered the wise man, and understanding, and knowledge, and the teaching of truth.

10. But of what help is an excuse, however true, especially if combined with presumption, since now, in my old age, I strive for something that I did not acquire in youth? It was my sins that prevented me from fixing in my mind what before I had barely read through. But who believes me, though I should repeat what I started out with?

As a youth, nay, almost as a boy not able to speak, I was taken captive, before I knew what to pursue and what to avoid. Hence today I blush and fear exceedingly to reveal my lack of education; for I am unable to tell my story to those versed in the art of concise writing--in such a way, I mean, as my spirit and mind long to do, and so that the sense of my words expresses what I feel.

11. But if indeed it had been given to me as it was given to others, then I would not be silent because of my desire of thanksgiving; and if perhaps some people think me arrogant for doing so in spite of my lack of knowledge and my slow tongue, it is, after all, written: The stammering tongues shall quickly learn to speak peace.

How much more should we earnestly strive to do this, we, who are, so Scripture says, a letter of Christ for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth, and, though not an eloquent one, yet... written in your hearts, not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God! And again the Spirit witnesses that even rusticity was created by the Highest.

12. Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity--benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.

13. Wherefore, then, be astonished, you great and little that fear God, and you men of letters on your estates, listen and pore over this. Who was it that roused up me, the fool that I am, from the midst of those who in the eyes of men are wise, and expert in law, and powerful in word and in everything? And He inspired me--me, the outcast of this world--before others, to be the man (if only I could!) who, with fear and reverence and without blame, should faithfully serve the people to whom the love of Christ conveyed and gave me for the duration of my life, if I should be worthy; yes indeed, to serve them humbly and sincerely.

14. In the light, therefore, of our faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of danger I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord--so many thousands of people.

15. And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant this to His servant; that after my misfortunes and so great difficulties, after my captivity, after the lapse of so many years, He should give me so great a grace in behalf of that nation--a thing which once, in my youth, I never expected nor thought of.

16. But after I came to Ireland--every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed--the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me--as I now see, because the spirit within me was then fervent.

17. And there one night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: `It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country.' And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: `See, your ship is ready.' And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles, and I had never been there, nor did I know a living soul there; and then I took to flight, and I left the man with whom I had stayed for six years. And I went in the strength of God who directed my way to my good, and I feared nothing until I came to that ship.

18. And the day that I arrived the ship was set afloat, and I said that I was able to pay for my passage with them. But the captain was not pleased, and with indignation he answered harshly: `It is of no use for you to ask us to go along with us.' And when I heard this, I left them in order to return to the hut where I was staying. And as I went, I began to pray; and before I had ended my prayer, I heard one of them shouting behind me, `Come, hurry, we shall take you on in good faith; make friends with us in whatever way you like.' And so on that day I refused to suck their breasts for fear of God, but rather hoped they would come to the faith of Jesus Christ, because they were pagans. And thus I had my way with them, and we set sail at once.

19. And after three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days we traveled through deserted country. And they lacked food, and hunger overcame them; and the next day the captain said to me: `Tell me, Christian: you say that your God is great and all-powerful; why, then, do you not pray for us? As you can see, we are suffering from hunger; it is unlikely indeed that we shall ever see a human being again.'

I said to them full of confidence: `Be truly converted with all your heart to the Lord my God, because nothing is impossible for Him, that this day He may send you food on your way until you be satisfied; for He has abundance everywhere.' And, with the help of God, so it came to pass: suddenly a herd of pigs appeared on the road before our eyes, and they killed many of them; and there they stopped for two nights and fully recovered their strength, and their hounds received their fill for many of them had grown weak and were half-dead along the way. And from that day they had plenty of food. They also found wild honey, and offered some of it to me, and one of them said: `This we offer in sacrifice.' Thanks be to God, I tasted none of it.

20. That same night, when I was asleep, Satan assailed me violently, a thing I shall remember as long as I shall be in this body. And he fell upon me like a huge rock, and I could not stir a limb. But whence came it into my mind, ignorant as I am, to call upon Helias? And meanwhile I saw the sun rise in the sky, and while I was shouting `Helias! Helias' with all my might, suddenly the splendor of that sun fell on me and immediately freed me of all misery. And I believe that I was sustained by Christ my Lord, and that His Spirit was even then crying out in my behalf, and I hope it will be so on the day of my tribulation, as is written in the Gospel: On that day, the Lord declares, it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaks in you.

21. And once again, after many years, I fell into captivity. On that first night I stayed with them, I heard a divine message saying to me: `Two months will you be with them.' And so it came to pass: on the sixtieth night thereafter the Lord delivered me out of their hands.

22. Also on our way God gave us food and fire and dry weather every day, until, on the tenth day, we met people. As I said above, we traveled twenty-eight days through deserted country, and the night that we met people we had no food left.

23. And again after a few years I was in Britain with my people. who received me as their son, and sincerely besought me that now at last, having suffered so many hardships, I should not leave them and go elsewhere.

And there I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was Victoricus, coming as it were from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter, which were, `The voice of the Irish'; and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard their voice--they were those beside the Wood of Foclut, which is near the Western Sea--and thus did they cry out as with one mouth: `We ask you, boy, come and walk among us once more.'

And I was quite broken in heart, and could read no further, and so I woke up. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord gave to them according to their cry.

24.And another night--whether within me, or beside me, I know not, God knoweth--they called me most unmistakably with words which I heard but could not understand, except that at the end of the prayer He spoke thus: `He that has laid down His life for you, it is He that speaks in you'; and so I awoke full of joy.

25. And again I saw Him praying in me, and I was as it were within my body, and I heard Him above me, that is, over the inward man, and there He prayed mightily with groanings. And all the time I was astonished, and wondered, and thought with myself who it could be that prayed in me. But at the end of the prayer He spoke, saying that He was the Spirit; and so I woke up, and remembered the Apostle saying: The Spirit helps the infirmities of our prayer. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself asks for us with unspeakable groanings, which cannot be expressed in words; and again: The Lord our advocate asks for us.

26. And when I was attacked by a number of my seniors who came forth and brought up my sins against my laborious episcopate, on that day indeed was I struck so that I might have fallen now and for eternity; but the Lord graciously spared the stranger and sojourner for His name and came mightily to my help in this affliction Verily, not slight was the shame and blame that fell upon me! I ask God that it may not be reckoned to them as sin.

27. As cause for proceeding against me they found--after thirty years!--a confession I had made before I was a deacon. In the anxiety of my troubled mind I confided to my dearest friend what I had done in my boyhood one day, nay, in one hour, because I was not yet strong. I know not, God knoweth--whether I was then fifteen years old: and I did not believe in the living God, nor did I so from my childhood, but lived in death and unbelief until I was severely chastised and really humiliated, by hunger and nakedness, and that daily.

28. On the other hand, I did not go to Ireland of my own accord. not until I had nearly perished; but this was rather for my good, for thus was I purged by the Lord; and He made me fit so that I might be now what was once far from me that I should care and labor for the salvation of others, whereas then I did not even care about myself.

29. On that day, then, when I was rejected by those referred to and mentioned above, in that night I saw a vision of the night. There was a writing without honor against my face, and at the same time I heard God's voice saying to me: `We have seen with displeasure the face of Deisignatus' (thus revealing his name). He did not say, `Thou have seen.' but `We have seen.' as if He included Himself, as He says: He who touches you touches as it were the apple of my eye.

30. Therefore I give Him thanks who has strengthened me in everything, as He did not frustrate the journey upon which I had decided, and the work which I had learned from Christ my Lord; but I rather felt after this no little strength, and my trust was proved right before God and men.

31. And so I say boldly, my conscience does not blame me now or in the future: God is my witness that I have not lied in the account which I have given you.

32. But the more am I sorry for my dearest friend that we had to hear what he said. To him I had confided my very soul! And I was told by some of the brethren before that defence--at which I was not present, nor was I in Britain, nor was it suggested by me--that he would stand up for me in my absence. He had even said to me in person: `Look, you should be raised to the rank of bishop!'--of which I was not worthy. But whence did it come to him afterwards that he let me down before all, good and evil, and publicly, in a matter in which he had favored me before spontaneously and gladly--and not he alone, but the Lord, who is greater than all?

33. Enough of this. I must not, however, hide God's gift which He bestowed upon me in the land of my captivity; because then I earnestly sought Him, and there I found Him, and He saved me from all evil because--so I believe--of His Spirit that dwells in me. Again, boldly said. But God knows it, had this been said to me by a man, I had perhaps remained silent for the love of Christ.

34. Hence, then, I give unwearied thanks to God, who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I can confidently offer Him my soul as a living sacrifice--to Christ my Lord, who saved me out of all my troubles. Thus I can say: `Who am I, O Lord, and to what have Thou called me, Thou who did assist me with such divine power that to-day I constantly exalt and magnify Thy name among the heathens wherever I may be, and not only in good days but also in tribulations?' So indeed I must accept with equanimity whatever befalls me, be it good or evil, and always give thanks to God, who taught me to trust in Him always without hesitation, and who must have heard my prayer so that I, however ignorant I was, in the last days dared to undertake such a holy and wonderful work--thus imitating somehow those who, as the Lord once foretold, would preach His Gospel for a testimony to all nations before the end of the world. So we have seen it, and so it has been fulfilled: indeed, we are witnesses that the Gospel has been preached unto those parts beyond which there lives nobody.

35. Now, it would be tedious to give a detailed account of all my labors or even a part of them. Let me tell you briefly how the merciful God often freed me from slavery and from twelve dangers in which my life was at stake--not to mention numerous plots, which I cannot express in words; for I do not want to bore my readers. But God is my witness, who knows all things even before they come to pass, as He used to forewarn even me, poor wretch that I am, of many things by a divine message.

36. How came I by this wisdom, which was not in me, who neither knew the number of my days nor knew what God was? Whence was given to me afterwards the gift so great, so salutary--to know God and to love Him, although at the price of leaving my country and my parents?

37. And many gifts were offered to me in sorrow and tears, and I offended the donors, much against the wishes of some of my seniors; but, guided by God, in no way did I agree with them or acquiesce. It was not grace of my own, but God, who is strong in me and resists them all--as He had done when I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, hearing the reproach of my going abroad, and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others; and, should I be worthy, I am prepared to give even my life without hesitation and most gladly for His name, and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord would grant it to me.

38. For I am very much God's debtor, who gave me such grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clerics were ordained for them everywhere, for a people just coming to the faith, whom the Lord took from the utmost parts of the earth, as He once had promised through His prophets: To Thee the gentiles shall come from the ends of the earth and shall say: `How false are the idols that our fathers got for themselves, and there is no profit in them'; and again: `I have set Thee as a light among the gentiles, that Thou may be for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth.'

39. And there I wish to wait for His promise who surely never deceives, as He promises in the Gospel: They shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob--as we believe the faithful will come from all the world.

40. For that reason, therefore, we ought to fish well and diligently, as the Lord exhorts in advance and teaches, saying: Come you after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. And again He says through the prophets: Behold, I send many fishers and hunters, says God, and so on. Hence it was most necessary to spread our nets so that a great multitude and throng might be caught for God, and that there be clerics everywhere to baptize and exhort a people in need and want, as the Lord in the Gospel states, exhorts and teaches, saying: Going therefore now, teach you all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world. And again He says: Go you therefore into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned. And again: This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall come the end. And so too the Lord announces through the prophet, and says: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, says the Lord, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And in Hosea, He says: `I will call that which was not my people, my people; ...and her that had not obtained mercy, one that has obtained mercy. And it shall be in the place where it was said: ``You are not my people,'' there they shall be called the sons of the living God.'

41. Hence, how did it come to pass in Ireland that those who never had a knowledge of God, but until now always worshipped idols and things impure, have now been made a people of the Lord, and are called sons of God, that the sons and daughters of the kings of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ?

42. Among others, a blessed Irishwoman of noble birth, beautiful, full-grown, whom I had baptized, came to us after some days for a particular reason: she told us that she had received a message from a messenger of God, and he admonished her to be a virgin of Christ and draw near to God. Thanks be to God, on the sixth day after this she most laudably and eagerly chose what all virgins of Christ do. Not that their fathers agree with them: no--they often ever suffer persecution and undeserved reproaches from their parents; and yet their number is ever increasing. How many have been reborn there so as to be of our kind, I do not know--not to mention widows and those who practice continence.

But greatest is the suffering of those women who live in slavery. All the time they have to endure terror and threats. But the Lord gave His grace to many of His maidens; for, though they are forbidden to do so, they follow Him bravely.

43. Wherefore, then, even if I wished to leave them and go to Britain--and how I: would have loved to go to my country and my parents, and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord! God knows it! that I much desired it; but I am bound by the Spirit, who gives evidence against me if I do this, telling me that I shall be guilty; and I am afraid of losing the labor which I have begun--nay, not I, but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life, if the Lord will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before Him.

44. This, I presume, I ought to do, but I do not trust myself as long as I am in this body of death, for strong is he who daily strives to turn me away from the faith and the purity of true religion to which I have devoted myself to the end of my I life to Christ my Lord. But the hostile flesh is ever dragging us unto death, that I is, towards the forbidden satisfaction of one's desires; and I know that in part I did not lead a perfect life as did the other faithful; but I acknowledge it to my! Lord, and do not blush before Him, because I lie not: from the time I came to know Him in my youth, the love of God and the fear of Him have grown in me, and up to now, thanks to the grace of God, I have kept the faith.

45. And let those who will, laugh and scorn--I shall not be silent; nor shall I hide the signs and wonders which the Lord has shown me many years before they came to pass, as He knows everything even before the times of the world.

46. Hence I ought unceasingly to give thanks to God who often pardoned my folly and my carelessness, and on more than one occasion spared His great wrath on me, who was chosen to be His helper and who was slow to do as was shown me and as the Spirit suggested. And the Lord had mercy on me thousands and thousands of times because He saw that I was ready, but that I did not know what to do in the circumstances. For many tried to prevent this my mission; they would even talk to each other behind my back and say: `Why does this fellow throw himself into danger among enemies who have no knowledge of God?' It was not malice, but it did not appeal to them because--and to this I own myself--of my rusticity. And I did not realize at once the grace that was then in me; now I understand that I should have done so before.

47. Now I have given a simple account to my brethren and fellow servants who have believed me because of what I said and still say in order to strengthen and confirm your faith. Would that you, too, would strive for greater things and do better! This will be my glory, for a wise son is the glory of his father.

48. You know, and so does God, how I have lived among you from my youth in the true faith and in sincerity of heart. Likewise, as regards the heathen among whom I live, I have been faithful to them, and so I shall be. God knows it, I have overreached none of them, nor would I think of doing so, for the sake of God and His Church, for fear of raising persecution against them and all of us, and for fear that through me the name of the Lord be blasphemed; for it is written: Woe to the man through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.

49. For although I be rude in all things, nevertheless I have tried somehow to keep myself safe, and that, too, for my Christian brethren, and the virgins of Christ, and the pious women who of their own accord made me gifts and laid on the altar some of their ornaments and I gave them back to them, and they were offended that I did so. But I did it for the hope of lasting success--in order to preserve myself cautiously in everything so that they might not seize upon me or the ministry of my service, under the pretext of dishonesty, and that I would not even in the smallest matter give the infidels an opportunity to defame or defile.

50. When I baptized so many thousands of people, did I perhaps expect from any of them as much as half a scruple? Tell me, and I will restore it to you. Or when the Lord ordained clerics everywhere through my unworthy person and I conferred the ministry upon them free, if I asked any of them as much as the price of my shoes, speak against me and I will return it to you.

51. On the contrary, I spent money for you that they might receive me; and I went to you and everywhere for your sake in many dangers, even to the farthest districts, beyond which there lived nobody and where nobody had ever come to baptize, or to ordain clergy, or to confirm the people. With the grace of the Lord, I did everything lovingly and gladly for your salvation.

52. All the while I used to give presents to the kings, besides the fees I paid to their sons who travel with me. Even so they laid hands on me and my companions, and on that day they eagerly wished to kill me; but my time had not yet come. And everything they found with us they took away, and me they put in irons; and on the fourteenth day the Lord delivered me from their power, and our belongings were returned to us because of God and our dear friends whom we had seen before.

53. You know how much I paid to those who administered justice in all those districts to which I came frequently. I think I distributed among them not less than the price of fifteen men, so that you might enjoy me, and I might always enjoy you in God. I am not sorry for it--indeed it is not enough for me; I still spend and shall spend more. God has power to grant me afterwards that I myself may be spent for your souls.

54. Indeed, I call God to witness upon my soul that I lie not; neither, I hope, am I writing to you in order to make this an occasion of flattery or covetousness, nor because I look for honor from any of you. Sufficient is the honor that is not yet seen but is anticipated in the heart. Faithful is He that promised; He never lies.

55. But I see myself exalted even in the present world beyond measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy nor such that He should grant me this. I know perfectly well, though not by my own judgment, that poverty and misfortune becomes me better than riches and pleasures. For Christ the Lord, too, was poor for our sakes; and I, unhappy wretch that I am, have no wealth even if I wished for it. Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, or whatever it may be; but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, who rules everywhere, as the prophet says: Cast your thought upon God, and He shall sustain you.

56. So, now I commend my soul to my faithful God, for whom I am an ambassador in all my wretchedness; but God accepts no person, and chose me for this office--to be, although among His least, one of His ministers.

57. Hence let me render unto Him for all He has done to me. But what can I say or what can I promise to my Lord, as I can do nothing that He has not given me? May He search the hearts and deepest feelings; for greatly and exceedingly do I wish, and ready I was, that He should give me His chalice to drink, as He gave it also to the others who loved Him.

58. Wherefore may God never permit it to happen to me that I should lose His people which He purchased in the utmost parts of the world. I pray to God to give me perseverance and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him to the end of my life for my God.

59. And if ever I have done any good for my God whom I love, I beg Him to grant me that I may shed my blood with those exiles and captives for His name, even though I should be denied a grave, or my body be woefully torn to pieces limb by limb by hounds or wild beasts, or the fowls of the air devour it. I am firmly convinced that if this should happen to me, I would have gained my soul together with my body, because on that day without doubt we shall rise in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as sons of the living God and joint heirs with Christ, to be made conformable to His image; for of Him, and by Him, and in Him we shall reign.

60. For this sun which we see rises daily for us because He commands so, but it will never reign, nor will its splendor last; what is more, those wretches who adore it will be miserably punished. Not so we, who believe in, and worship, the true sun--Christ--who will never perish, nor will he who does His will; but he will abide for ever as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and the Holy Spirit before time, and now, and in all eternity. Amen.

61. Behold, again and again would I set forth the words of my confession. I testify in truth and in joy of heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any reason except the Gospel and its promises why I should ever return to the people from whom once before I barely escaped.

62. I pray those who believe and fear God, whosoever deigns to look at or receive this writing which Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, has composed in Ireland, that no one should ever say that it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God's good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought, that--as is the perfect truth--it was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die.


1 St. Patrick drove "the snakes" out of Ireland, but they returned just as Ireland legalized abortion in 2018. "The snakes" have returned to the Emerald Isle, both literally and figuratively.

Back to Customs of the Liturgical Year
Back to Being Catholic