While I was at my first assignment I was blessed to come across a great little book that contained two documents written by St Patrick himself (which was fitting since one of the parishes was named for him!). I really enjoyed this glimpse into the saint’s own mind and personality. The two works are his Confession (the word is used here in a similar sense to St Augustine’s book, as a basic account of his life), and his Letter to Coroticus. Here are three things to share from them-
1. His humility.
St Patrick writes about himself in a very simple and humble way. This can be seen in the first line of each work: “I Patrick, am a sinner, the most uncultured and smallest among all the faithful…” and “I, Patrick, an unlearned sinner who dwells in Ireland…” He was well aware that the work he was doing was not a result of his personal strength but came from the grace of God.
2. His encounter with the Lord’s mercy.
This is the counter-point to his above humility. As much as he was aware of his own weakness, he was aware of the power of God. He writes, “But I know… that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in the deep mud. But the Strong One came and in His mercy He took me out and He lifted me on high and placed me on the top of His wall. Therefore, I must cry aloud in thanksgiving to the Lord for so many good things which He has given me both now and for eternity… He thus prepared me to be the kind of person I am today so that I can care and work for the salvation of others; me who never cared for my own salvation.” My favorite line is his description that, “[God] watched over me before I knew Him and before I could tell right from wrong: He had compassion for me just as a father has for his son.”
3. The love that he had for the people of Ireland.
It sometimes surprises people to learn that St Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was British and originally came to Ireland as a captive. Patrick escaped his slavery back to Britain, but then felt the call to return to Ireland as a missionary. He talks about hearing the voice of the Irish in his dreams and prayers, and his heart being rent within him. He writes to Coroticus, “I am also urged by the love I have for my neighbors and children, for whom I have renounced my fatherland and family and handed over my very life even unto death.” Patrick describes coming to Ireland as if he had adopted the whole people to himself, and from history we know that the love of his dedication to the people of the island has been well felt!
These are just a few small samples, I highly encourage taking the time to read his works if you get the chance. God bless!