The Confession of St. Patrick
The only missionary to be honored with a world-wide holiday, Patrick, Ireland’s greatest missionary, is one of the most misrepresented figures in church history.
Patrick was born to Christian parents around the year 389 (although some scholars suggest a date as early as 373) in the Roman province of Britain. His father was a deacon, his grandfather a priest. When he was about 16 years old, Irish invaders torched his home and carried most of the young townspeople away into slavery, including Patrick. He was sold to a farmer where, for the next six years, he herded swine. During that difficult period, Patrick began to reflect upon his spiritual condition. The Lord opened the understanding of his unbelief, he later recalled, and granted him repentance. From that period onward, he was devoted to intense and persistent prayer.
It was this divine communication which led him to a ship where he was able to make a successful escape and return home. Then, one night in a dream, a voice pleaded with Patrick to evangelize Ireland. “Their cry pierced to my very heart,” he remembered, “so I awoke.” Patrick awoke and, following the call to ministry, trained at a church in Gaul. Things did not go well for him at first. His superiors found Patrick unsuitable for mission work and sent another, Palladius, in his stead to Ireland. Palladius died within a year of arriving in Ireland, which opened the door for Patrick. This time, he was permitted to go.
When Patrick arrived on the shores in 432, he found the region desolate and bare, almost as if he reached the ends of the earth. There he found the people mired in druid paganism, worshipping nature and offering sacrifices to a number of gods and spirits. The druids resisted his message initially, with some even seeking his death. But Patrick’s preaching was persistent and powerful, and he became one of the most successful evangelists of all time. By the end of his ministry, he had planted more than 200 churches and baptized more than 100,000 converts—but most importantly, his work endured throughout the ages.
Here, then, is St. Patrick’s fascinating story, an account of his trials and tribulations written by his own hand. A must-read for all people who want to understand better the history of the church and what many sacrificed to spread the gospel of peace with God.