Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Patrick, c. AD 450: the man

Today I praise our God for the testimony of Patrick, missionary to Ireland. In fact, he wasn't much of a missionary in church terms, as his church and bishops refused to 'send' him: rather, they tried to dissuade him from wasting his life among the pagan barbarians in Ireland who had already kept him as a slave for several years as a teenager. So Patrick, in Ireland years later, wrote his defence: his Confessio, to defend his ministry against accusation, and thus protect his people from thinking little of the God he proclaimed. Thus we have a marvellous record of his life and ministry, from c. AD 450:
I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our desserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

And there 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. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
He writes almost Psalm-like of how God has brought him up from the pit and now he shall declare a new song:
I am, then, first of all, country-fied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure. [...]

According, therefore, to the measure of one's faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God's name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.

"Without holding back from danger"? What danger? What would motivate him to that, with no human support from family, friends or church? Patrick, c. AD450: the mission.

2 comments:

Chris said...

you love st patrick! good memories of oirish open house!

étrangère said...

Haha, I gave my Relays a brief account of Patrick's life and mission when we had supervision on Tuesday morning, and M was slightly puzzled how it was vaguely familiar to her, until we realised that she was in OH 2 years ago when I visited!