The Confessio of Saint Patrick

  1. And many gifts were offered to me with weeping and tears,  and I offended them [the donors], and also went against the wishes of a  good number of my elders; but guided by God, I neither agreed with them  nor deferred to them, not by my own grace but by God who is victorious  in me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people  to preach the Gospel and endure insults from unbelievers; that I might  hear scandal of my travels, and endure man persecutions to the extent of  prison; and so that I might give up my free birthright for the advantage  of others, and if I should be worthy, I am ready [to give] even m life  without. hesitation; and most willingly for His name. And I choose to devote  it to him even unto death, if God grant it to me.
  2. I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace,  that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after confirmed,  and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately  come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as  he once promised through his prophets: ‘To you shall the nations come from  the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited naught  hut lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.’ And again: ‘I  have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation  to the uttermost ends of’ the earth.’
  3. And I wish to wait then for his promise which is never unfulfilled,  just as it is promised in the Gospel: ‘Many shall come from east and west  and shall sit at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Just as we believe  that believers will come from all the world.
  4. So for that reason one should, in fact, fish well and diligently,  just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, ‘Follow me, and I will  make you fishers of men,’ and again through the prophets: ‘Behold, I am  sending forth many fishers and hunters, says the Lord,’ et cetera. So it  behoved us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be  caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who baptized and  exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord says in the Gospel,  admonishing and instructing: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,  baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy  Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo,  I am with you always to the end of time.’ And again he says: ‘Go forth  into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who believes and  is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned.’  And again: ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached throughout the  whole world as a witness to all nations; and then the end of the world  shall come.’ And likewise the Lord foretells through the prophet: ‘And  it shall come to pass in the last days (sayeth the Lord) that I will pour  out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,  and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams;  yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour  out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.’ And in Hosea he says: ‘Those who  are not my people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will call  my beloved, and in the very place where it was said to them, You are not  my people, they will be called ‘Sons of the living God’.
  5. So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge  of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they  are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God;  the sons of. the Irish [Scotti] and the daughters of the chieftains are  to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.
  6. And there was, besides, a most beautiful, blessed, native-born  noble Irish [Scotta] woman of adult age whom I baptized; and a few days  later she had reason to come to us to intimate that she had received a  prophecy from a divine messenger [who] advised her that she should become  a virgin of Christ and she would draw nearer to God. Thanks be to God,  six days from then, opportunely and most eagerly, she took the course that  all virgins of God take, not with their fathers’ consent but enduring the  persecutions and deceitful hindrances of their parents. Notwithstanding  that, their number increases, (we do not know the number of them that are  so reborn) besides the widows, and those who practice self-denial. Those  who are kept in slavery suffer the most. They endure terrors and constant  threats, but the Lord has given grace to many of his handmaidens, for even  though they are forbidden to do so, still they resolutely follow his example.
  7. So it is that even if I should wish to separate from them  in order to go to Britain, and most willingly was I prepared to go to my  homeland and kinsfolk– and not only there, but as far as Gaul to visit  the brethren there, so that I might see the faces of the holy ones of my  Lord, God knows how strongly I desired this– I am bound by the Spirit,  who witnessed to me that if I did so he would mark me out as guilty, and  I fear to waste the labor that I began, and not I, but Christ the Lord,  who commanded me to come to be with them for the rest of my life, if the  Lord shall will it and shield me from every evil, so that I may not sin  before him.
  8. So I hope that I did as I ought, but I do not trust myself  as long as I am in this mortal body, for he is strong who strives daily  to turn me away from the faith and true holiness to which I aspire until  the end of my life for Christ my Lord, but the hostile flesh is always  dragging one down to death, that is, to unlawful attractions. And I know  in part why I did not lead a perfect life like other believers, but I confess  to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am not lying; from  the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love of God and fear  of him increased in me, and right up until now, by God’s favor, I have  kept the faith.
  9. What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes.  I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were  shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, [he] who knew  everything, even before the beginning of time.
  10. Thus, I should give thanks unceasingly to God, who frequently  forgave my folly and my negligence, in more than one instance so as not  to be violently angry with me, who am placed as his helper, and I did not  easily assent to what had been revealed to me, as the Spirit was urging;  and the Lord took pity on me thousands upon thousands of times, because  he saw within me that I was prepared, but that I was ignorant of what to  do in view of my situation; because many were trying to prevent this mission.  They were talking among themselves behind my back, and saying: ‘Why is  this fellow throwing himself into danger among enemies who know not God?’  Not from malice, but having no liking for it; likewise, as I myself can  testify, they perceived my rusticity. And I was not quick to recognize  the grace that was then in me; I now know that I should have done so earlier.
  11. Now I have put it frankly to my brethren and co-workers, who  have believed me because of what I have foretold and still foretell to  strengthen and reinforce your faith. I wish only that you, too, would make  greater and better efforts. This will be my pride, for ‘a wise son makes  a proud father’.
  12. You know, as God does, how I went about among you from my  youth in the faith of truth and in sincerity of heart. As well as to the  heathen among whom I live, I have shown them trust and always show them  trust. God knows I did not cheat any one of them, nor consider it, for  the sake of God and his Church, lest I arouse them and [bring about] persecution  for them and for all of us, and lest the Lord’s name be blasphemed because  of me, for it is written: ‘Woe to the men through whom the name of the  Lord is blasphemed.’
  13. For even though I am ignorant in all things, nevertheless  I attempted to safeguard some and myself also. And I gave back again to  my Christian brethren and the virgins of Christ and the holy women the  small unasked for gifts that they used to give me or some of their ornaments  which they used to throw on the altar. And they would be offended with  me because I did this. But in the hope of eternity, I safeguarded myself  carefully in all things, so that they might not cheat me of my office of  service on any pretext of dishonesty, and so that I should not in the smallest  way provide any occasion for defamation or disparagement on the part of  unbelievers.
  14. What is more, when I baptized so many thousands of people,  did I hope for even half a jot from any of them? [If so] Tell me, and I  will give it back to you. And when the Lord ordained clergy everywhere  by my humble means, and I freely conferred office on them, if I asked any  of them anywhere even for the price of one shoe, say so to my face and  I will give it back.
  15. More, I spent for you so that they would receive me. And I  went about among you, and everywhere for your sake, in danger, and as far  as the outermost regions beyond which no one lived, and where no one had  ever penetrated before, to baptize or to ordain clergy or to confirm people.  Conscientiously and gladly I did all this work by God’s gift for your salvation.
  16. From time to time I gave rewards to the kings, as well as  making payments to their sons who travel with me; notwithstanding which,  they seized me with my companions, and that day most avidly desired to  kill me. But my time had not yet come. They plundered everything they found  on us anyway, and fettered me in irons; and on the fourteenth day the Lord  freed me from their power, and whatever they had of ours was given back  to us for the sake of God on account of the indispensable friends whom  we had made before.
  17. Also you know from experience how much I was paying to those  who were administering justice in all the regions, which I visited often.  I estimate truly that I distributed to them not less than the price of  fifteen men, in order that you should enjoy my company and I enjoy yours,  always, in God. I do not regret this nor do I regard it as enough. I am  paying out still and I shall pay out more. The Lord has the power to grant  me that I may soon spend my own self, for your souls.
  18. Behold, I call on God as my witness upon my soul that I am  not lying; nor would I write to you for it to be an occasion for flattery  or selfishness, nor hoping for honor from any one of you. Sufficient is  the honor which is not yet seen, but in which the heart has confidence.  He who made the promise is faithful; he never lies.
  19. But I see that even here and now, I have been exalted beyond  measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy that he should grant me this,  while I know most certainly that poverty and failure suit me better than  wealth and delight (but Christ the Lord was poor for our sakes; I certainly  am wretched and unfortunate; even if I wanted wealth I have no resources,  nor is it my own estimation of myself, for daily I expect to be murdered  or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing,  because of the promises of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands  of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere. As the prophet says: ‘Cast your  burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.’
  20. Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and  for whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of persons  and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the least of his  ministers.
  21. For which reason I should make return for all that he returns  me. But what should I say, or what should I promise to my Lord, for I,  alone, can do nothing unless he himself vouchsafe it to me. But let him  search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough for it, even too much,  and I am ready for him to grant me that I drink of his chalice, as he has  granted to others who love him.
  22. Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God  from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that  he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful  witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.
  23. And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake  of my God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood  for his name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left unburied,  or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by dogs or savage  beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the air, I think, most  surely, were this to have happened to me, I had saved both my soul and  my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness  of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children  of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall  reign through him and for him and in him.
  24. For the sun we see rises each day for us at [his] command,  but it will never reign, neither will its splendor last, but all who worship  it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not  die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never die,  no more shall he die who has done Christ’s will, but will abide for ever  just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty  and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and for ever  and ever. Amen.
  25. Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words  of my confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before  God and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel  and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had  previously escaped with difficulty.
  26. But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns  to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned  sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance  any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing  to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of  God. And this is my confession before I die.