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Amazingly, two works written by Patrick have come down to us from antiquity. The first is his Confessio, which was written about AD 450 under obscure circumstances. Following is an excerpt from this document, where Patrick tells the story of his ancestry, his capture by pirates, and his captivity in Ireland:
"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. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae. His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time. At that time, I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others. We deserved this, because we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. We would not listen to our priests, who advised us about how we could be saved. The Lord brought his strong anger upon us, and scattered us among many nations even to the ends of the earth. It was among foreigners that it was seen how little I was..."Patrick later escapes from slavery in Ireland and after a harrowing journey, manages to return to Britain. But God is not finished with him. Later in the same document, Patrick writes about how he was called by God to be an evangelist in Ireland:
"After a few years I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if 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 they 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 years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry."The Confessio reveals Patrick to be be a man of tremendous faith, courage and humility. Too often, these characteristics are obscured by the legends and pantomime that accompany the celebration of his feast day around the world. But listen to Patrick's own exhortation, reminiscent of Saint Paul boasting of his own weakness, as he encourages the high and mighty of this world to humble themselves before God:
"So be amazed, all you people great and small who fear God! You well-educated people in authority, listen and examine this carefully. Who was it who called one as foolish as I am from the middle of those who are seen to be wise and experienced in law and powerful in speech and in everything? If I am most looked down upon, yet He inspired me, before others, so that I would faithfully serve the nations with awe and reverence and without blame: the nations to whom the love of Christ brought me. His gift was that I would spend my life, if I were worthy of it, to serving them in truth and with humility to the end..."Click here to read the whole of the Confessio.
For an excellent short biography of this great saint, check out Saint Patrick from the Christian Encounters series. My positive review of this book may be found here.
In a similar vein, I absolutely do not recommend the popular book How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. My reasons for this negative opinion may be found here.