My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.
And so begins the Confession of St. Patrick, a vivid, honest, and faithful account of what God had done in his life. It makes for great reading.
About two years ago I led a group of people through Ireland. I was blown away by the beauty of the panoramas and coastlines, the lush greenery, and its charm. And every day, as we motored from point to point, I read the Confession of Patrick for our morning meditations. It was riveting day by day and many told me they could not wait for the next day’s installment.
Patrick was born in 380 AD in Scotland (probably). As a teenager, he was kidnapped by wild Irish traders and brought to Northern Ireland as a slave. It was this hardship that brought him to consider his own sins and his need for a Savior. He writes in his Confession,
“the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance.”
Patrick and Paul
There are portions of his transparent journal that will remind any reader of the great Apostle Paul. Patrick writes, for example:
Although I am imperfect in many ways, I want my brothers and relations to know what I’m really like, so that they can see what it is that inspires my life.
Paul says much the same thing here:
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
Paul’s conversion at noon is well known. The account is told on three different occasions in the Book of Acts. But here is Patrick’s account from his Confessions:
While these things were happening, I saw the sun rise in the sky (and) the splendor of the sun fell on me; and immediately, all that weight was lifted from me. I believe that I was helped by Christ the Lord, and that his spirit cried out for me. I trust that it will be like this whenever I am under stress, as the gospel says: “In that day, the Lord testifies, it will not be you will speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
Of course, that is only the beginning of their kinship in mission. Paul pushes the Gospel into Europe through a Macedonian Call. Patrick has a vision too. A man came to him in a night vision with a stack of letters from the people on the island. He began to read one and then heard the multitudes calling him to come.
We beg you, holy boy, to come and walk again among us.” This touched my heart deeply, and I could not read any further; I woke up then. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord granted them what they were calling for.
Note to self: If I ever hear the words spoken, “Holy Boy…come”, I’m packing my bags.
The Imperfect Patrick
Patrick was trained and ordained and even consecrated a bishop. But he could not shake off one sin that he had committed in his early life. It seems that the superiors in the church would not let him forget it.
“One time I was put to the test by some superiors of mine. They came and put my sins against my hard work as a bishop. “
He was betrayed by a church official, a friend, who happened to mention an earlier grievous sin of Patrick’s.
“They brought up against me after thirty years something I had already confessed before I was a deacon. What happened was that, one day when I was feeling anxious and low, with a very dear friend of mine I referred to some things I had done one day — rather, in one hour — when I was young, before I overcame my weakness. I don’t know — God knows — whether I was then fifteen years old at the time, and I did not then believe in the living God, not even when I was a child. In fact, I remained in death and unbelief until I was reproved strongly, and actually brought low by hunger and nakedness daily. “
What was it? We do not know, but the church never forgets.
The Sinner’s Perfect Prayer
His famous prayer, known as the Lorica, or the Breastplate of St. Patrick, shows us what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus. If you are reading this article stop for a moment. Slow down your thinking to concentrate on the words of his beautiful petition. In my view, there is not a better way of praying through the implications of having a personal relationship with Jesus.
Read this out loud…to yourself…as a prayer.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.
To me, Patrick is the perfect imperfect saint. He loved the culture he was trying to reach. He felt a call and conviction to reach the heathen. But he never seems to have lost the early zeal for the Lord, even when his superiors were trying to rub his nose in his past.
Propose This Toast!
Perhaps you will be out and about for St. Paddy’s Day. Don’t miss the opportunity to offer a toast to this most common of all saints. Imagine. You are in a bar. The beer is green. The game is on. The people are gathered. And you take your glass and tap the side of the glass to lower the din of noise and focus people’s attention on a toast.
You say, “In the joy of the Lord and of Holy Spirit who converted and called Patrick to be the great missionary bishop to Ireland…” And wait just a minute as people gather around and raise their glass. Then boldly proclaim a toast to the famous saint in his own remarkable words.
May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
Against the snares of the evil one.
Learn More about Patrick Here
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.