A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus

Part III

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Could I have come to Ireland without thought of God, merely in my own interest? Who was it made me come? For here “I am a prisoner of the Spirit” so that I may not see any of my family. Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who oncecaptured me when they wrecked my father’s house and carried off his servants? For by descent I was a freeman, born of a decurion father; yet I have sold thisnobility of mine, I am not ashamed, nor do I regret that it might have meant some advantage to others. In short, I am a slave in Christ to this farawaypeople for the indescribable glory of “everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Acts 20.22 Rom. 6.-23

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And if my own do not want to know me, well and good, “a prophet is not honored in his own country.” Indeed, perhaps we are not “from the same sheepfold,” or possibly we do not have “one and the same Father for our God.” As he says, “He who is not with me, is against me” and he who “does notgather with me, scatters.” We are at cross purposes: “One destroys; another builds.” “I do not seek things that are mine.” Not by my grace, but it is God”who has given such care in my heart,” so that I should be among “the hunters or fishers” whom God foretold “in those final days.” Jn. 4:44 Jn. 10:16 Eph. 4:6 Matt. 12:30 Ecclus. 34:23I Cor. 13:5 11 Cor. 8:16

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They are jealous of me. What am I to do, Lord? How bitterly they despise me! just see how your sheep are torn apart and despoiled, and by those gangsters I have named, bound to the last man by the inimical mind of Coroticus. Far away from the love of God is the man who betrays my Christiansinto the hands of the Scotti and Picts. “Ravenous wolves” have gulped down the Lord’s own flock, which was flourishing in Ireland and tended with utmostcare. Now I have lost count how many sons and daughters of the kings of the Scotti have become monks and virgins of Christ. For which reason, “may theseinjuries done to the just not find favor in your sight,” even “to the lowest depths of hell may you not be pleased.”

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Which of the saints would not refuse to feast and decline the company of such men? See how they have filled their houses with the spoils of dead Christians? Why, they devote their lives to plunder! Miserable men, they have no idea how they feed poison, food that surely kills, to their friendsand even to their own children; just as Eve never realized that she was handing out certain death to her own man, her husband. It is always the same withthose who do evil: they labor long only to yield death as their everlasting punishment.

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Roman Christians in Gaul behave quite differently: it is their custom to send holy, capable men to the Franks and other nations with several thousand soldiers so as to redeem Christian prisioners, yet YOU would rather kill or sell them on to a far-off tribe who know nothing of thetrue God. You might as well consign Christ’s own members to a whorehouse. What kind of hope can you have left in God? Can you still trust someone who says heagrees with you? Do you listen still to all those flatterers who surround you? God alone will judge. For it is written, “Not only those who do evil, but alsoall those who agree with them, are to be

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For myself, I do not know “what I shall say,” or how “I may speak anymore” of those who are dead of these children of God-whom the sword has struck down so harshly, beyond all belief. For it Is written, “Weep with those that weep, and again “If one member grieves, then all membersshould grieve together.” Because of this, the whole Church “cries out and for its sons and daughters” who so far have not been killed by the sword. For theyhave been taken far away and abandoned in a land where sin abounds, openly, wickedly, impudently; there freeborn men are sold, Christians are reduced toslavery, and worst of all among the most worthless and vilest apostates, the Picts. Jn. 12:49 Rom. 12:15 1 Cor. 12:26 Matt. 2:18,- Jer. 31:15

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Because of all this, my voice is raised in sorrow and mourning. Oh, my most beautiful, my lovely brethren and my sons “whom I begot in Christ,” I have lost count of your number, what can I do to help you now? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. “We have been overwhelmed bythe wickedness of unjust men,” it is as if “we had been made outsiders.” They find it unacceptable that we are Irish. But it says “Is it not true that youall have but one God? Why then have you, each one of you, abandoned your own neighbor?” I Cor. 4:15 Ps. 65:3 Ps. 69:8 Eph. 4:5, 6 MaL 2:10

Part IV

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And therefore I grieve for you, how I mourn for you, who are so very dear to me, but again I can rejoice within my heart, not for nothing “have I labored,” neither has my exile been “in vain.”

And if this wicked deed, so horrible, so unutterable, had to happen, thanks be to God, as men, believing and baptized, you have left this world behind for paradise. I can see you all clearly: you have set out for where “there will be no more night,” “no more lament, neither death.”

“There your hearts will leap, like calves let free from the tether, and you will trample down the wicked underfoot, and they will be like dust under your feet.” Phil. 2:16 Apoc. 22:5, 21:4 MaL 4:Z 3

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Therefore will you reign with the apostles and the prophets and all the martyrs. You will attain the eternal kingdoms. just as he testifies, exactly as he declares: “They will come from East and the West, and they will rest with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in thekingdom of heaven.” “While outside howl the dogs, the poisoners, the homicides,” and “Their fate, with liars and perjurers, is the lake of everlasting fire.”Where, says the Apostle, not without reason, “The ‘Just man will scarcely be saved, yet the sinner and the flagrant lawbreaker, where shall he stand?” Matt. 8:11 Apoc. 22:15 Apoc. 21:8 I Pet. 4:18

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And so, now you, Coroticus-and your gangsters, rebels all against Christ, now where do you see yourselves? You gave away girls like prizes: not yet women, but baptized. All for some petty temporal gain that will pass in the very next instant. “Like a cloud passes, or smokeblown in the wind,” so will “sinners, who cheat, slip away from the face of the Lord. But the just will feast for sure” with Christ. “They will judge thenations” and unjust kings “they will lord over” for world after world. Amen. Wisd. 5:14 Ps. 68:2, 3; 3:8

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I bear witness before God and his angels that this will come about, just as he has revealed my lack of learning. To repeat: these are not my words, but God’s own words-and the apostle’s and the prophets’, which I have merely chiseled out in Latin: and theyhave never lied. “He who is found to have believed will be saved; but he who did not believe will be condemned, God has spoken.” Mk. 16:15, 16

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My chief request is that anyone who is a servant of God be ready and willing, to carry this letter forward; may it never be hidden or stolen by anyone, but rather, may it be read aloud before the whole people-Yes, even when Coroticus himself is present.

May God inspire these men sometime to come to their senses in regard to God again, so that they may repent, however latter day, of their grave crimes, namely homicide against the brothers of the Lord, and that they free these baptized women whom they have taken, so that then they may deserveto live to God and be made whole once more, here, now and for eternity.Peace to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Translated by John Skinner in his book “The Confession of St. Patrick”.