The Confessio of Saint Patrick

  1. And after three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days journeyed through uninhabited country, and the food ran out and hunger overtook them; and one day the steersman began saying: ‘Why is it, Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why can you not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely indeed that we shall ever see another human being.’ In fact, I said to them, confidently: ‘Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he abounds.’ And with God’s help this came to pass; and behold, a herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them, and remained there for two nights, and the were full of their meat and well restored, for many of them had fainted and would otherwise have been left half dead by the wayside. And after this they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that day they had food abundantly. They discovered wild honey, besides, and they offered a share to me, and one of them said: ‘It is a sacrifice.’ Thanks be to God, I tasted none of it.
  2. The very same night while I was sleeping Satan attacked me violently, as I will remember as long as I shall be in this body; and there fell on top of me as it were, a huge rock, and not one of my members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in the spirit, to call upon ‘Helias’? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising in the sky, and while I was crying out ‘Helias, Helias’ with all my might, lo, the brilliance of that sun fell upon me and immediately shook me free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by Christ my Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me, and I hope that it will be so in the day of my affliction, just as it says in the Gospel: ‘In that hour’, the Lord declares, ‘it is not you who speaks but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.’
  3. And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: ‘You shall be with them for two months. So it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me from their hands.
  4. On the journey he provided us with food and fire and dry weather every day, until on the tenth day we came upon people. As I mentioned above, we had journeyed through an unpopulated country for twenty-eight days, and in fact the night that we came upon people we had no food.
  5. And after a few ‘ears I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and the welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go an where else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter:  ’The Voice of the Irish’, and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and the were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’ And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many  ears the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.
  6. And another night– God knows, I do not, whether within me or beside me– … most words + … + which I heard and could not understand, except at the end of the speech it was represented thus: ‘He who gave his life for you, he it is who speaks within you.’ And thus I awoke, joyful.
  7. And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and  I was as it were, inside my own body , and I heard Him above me– that  is, above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the  course of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could  be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed  to me that it was the Spirit. And so I awoke and remembered the Apostle’s  words: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we know not how  to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs  too deep for utterance.’ And again: ‘The Lord our advocate intercedes for  us.’
  8. And then I was attacked by a goodly number of my elders, who  [brought up] my sins against my arduous episcopate. That day in particular  I was mightily upset, and might have fallen here and for ever; but the  Lord generously spared me, a convert, and an alien, for his name’s sake,  and he came powerfully to my assistance in that state of being trampled  down. I pray God that it shall not be held against them as a sin that I  fell truly into disgrace and scandal.
  9. They brought up against me after thirty years an occurrence  I had confessed before becoming a deacon. On account of the anxiety in  my sorrowful mind, I laid before my close friend what I had perpetrated  on a day– nay, rather in one hour– in my boyhood because I was not yet  proof against sin. God knows– I do not– whether I was fifteen years old  at the time, and I did not then believe in the living God, nor had I believed,  since my infancy; but I remained in death and unbelief until I was severely  rebuked, and in truth I was humbled every day by hunger and nakedness.
  10. On the other hand, I did not proceed to Ireland of my own  accord until I was almost giving up, but through this I was corrected by  the Lord, and he prepared me so that today I should be what was once far  from me, in order that I should have the care of– or rather, I should  be concerned for– the salvation of others, when at that time, still, I  was only concerned for myself.
  11. Therefore, on that day when I was rebuked, as I have just  mentioned, I saw in a vision of the night a document before my face, without honor, and meanwhile I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: ‘We have  seen with displeasure the face of the chosen one divested of [his good]  name.’ And he did not say ‘You have seen with displeasure’, but ‘We have  seen with displeasure’ (as if He included Himself) . He said then: ‘He  who touches you, touches the apple of my eye.’
  12. For that reason, I give thanks to him who strengthened me  in all things, so that I should not be hindered in my setting out and also  in my work which I was taught by Christ my Lord; but more, from that state  of affairs I felt, within me, no little courage, and vindicated my faith  before God and man.
  13. Hence, therefore, I say boldly that my conscience is clear  now and hereafter. God is my witness that I have not lied in these words  to you.
  14. But rather, I am grieved for my very close friend, that because  of him we deserved to hear such a prophecy. The one to whom I entrusted  my soul! And I found out from a goodly number of brethren, before the case  was made in my defense (in which I did not take part, nor was I in Britain,  nor was it pleaded by me), that in my absence he would fight in my behalf.  Besides, he told me himself: ‘See, the rank of bishop goes to you’– of  which I was not worthy. But how did it come to him, shortly afterwards,  to disgrace me publicly, in the presence of all, good and bad, because  previously, gladly and of his own free will, he pardoned me, as did the  Lord, who is greater than all?
  15. I have said enough. But all the same, I ought not to conceal  God’s gift which he lavished on us in the land of my captivity, for then  I sought him resolutely, and I found him there, and he preserved me from  all evils (as I believe) through the in-dwelling of his Spirit, which works  in me to this day. Again, boldly, but God knows, if this had been made  known to me by man, I might, perhaps, have kept silent for the love of  Christ.
  16. Thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in  the day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently over my soul  as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord; who am I, Lord? or, rather, what  is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so  that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify your  name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune, but even  in affliction? So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad, I should  accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed to me that  I might trust in him, implicitly and forever, and who will encourage me  so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to undertake so devout  and so wonderful a work; so that I might imitate one of those whom, once,  long ago, the Lord already pre-ordained to be heralds of his Gospel to  witness to all peoples to the ends of the earth. So are we seeing, and  so it is fulfilled; behold, we are witnesses because the Gospel has been  preached as far as the places beyond which no man lives.
  17. But it is tedious to describe in detail all my labors one  by one. I will tell briefly how most holy God frequently delivered me,  from slavery, and from the twelve trials with which my soul was threatened,  from man traps as well, and from things I am not able to put into words.  I would not cause offence to readers, but I have God as witness who knew  all things even before they happened, that, though I was a poor ignorant  waif, still he gave me abundant warnings through divine prophecy.
  18. Whence came to me this wisdom which was not my own, I who  neither knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came the  so great and so healthful gift of knowing or rather loving God, though  I should lose homeland and family.