Why He Wrote Is Why I Write: Patrick’s Confession

Ireland, Patrick's Confession, Cliffs of Moher

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m not sure if Patrick’s heart swelled like mine did at the sight of Cliffs of Moher, but I do know a few things that made both our hearts beat fast.

If you’ve followed JoyPro across the March 17th’s, you know that I’m quite taken with the “rustic” Saint. First, a quick recap then two more reasons why.

Making Patrick’s Confession Mine

Last year, I wove Covid-19 into the Patrick post. As I wrote, my acquaintance was Covid was five-days old. It feels strange looking back.

Then, a couple years back, I told you about his grateful side. Before that, I shared my own confession about a selfish choice to climb Croagh Patrick alone. Along came 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My Homeboy, and one more sun-loving reason Patrick is a kindred soul.

This year I connected with two more of Patrick’s Confessions. For the uninitiated, Patrick lived in the 400’s AD and has two surviving writings, the Letter to Coroticus and and his Confession. (Read the Confession here, in English—or Gaelic—for free!)

On St. Patrick’s Eve I’ve made it my practice to read the Confession. Each time, I find more to make mine.

Confession 6

First, is Patrick’s Confession 6. It’s the reason Patrick wrote and the reason I write.

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.

That’s why. I want to be real and vulnerable enough in the blog that you get a sense of what I’m really like, not because I’m worthy of your time, but so that you can “see what it is that inspires my life.” In other words, I want to make God look big.

I want you to know me, my struggles and failures, my disappointments and temptations enough so that when see my press on with some measure of joy, you know who alone is behind that.

Which brings us to that other connection I have with Patrick.

Confession 30

It’s all about strength. Confession 30 is another way to say what Confession 6 said. Because what “inspires me” is what empowers me and makes me strong.

For that reason, I give thanks to the one who strengthened me in all things so that he would not impede me in the course I had undertaken and from the works also which I had learned from Christ my Lord. Rather, I sensed in myself no little strength from him, and my faith passed the test before God and people.

Patrick knew God’s strength when he risked his life over and over to preach the Gospel in Ireland—the very land where he’d once been enslaved. He felt it when he dealt with the hurt of his “very dear friend” sharing decades old dirt (See Confession 32). Patrick wrote his Confession so that his readers would know the source of that strength.

That’s also why I write. I write because I sense “no little strength” from Christ. Any act of forgiveness or repentance, any evidence endurance or love is through “no little strength” from Christ. I want you, kind reader, to feel it in your life too.

Let’s celebrate today. Because Patrick knew what Paul knew and what you know and I know. He knew what all of us saints know.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

-Paul, in Philippians 4:13

St. Patrick, Me, and COVID-19

Man dressed for St. Patrick's day with hat over face.

My family celebrated St. Patrick today, but capped at 10 only. Dad read from the Confessions and we sang St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I wore my green Irish sweater and made mashed potatoes. It’s St. Patrick’s day.

But it’s also the day that all the schools in my town locked up and the library shut down- while the librarians wore plastic gloves. Culver’s is takeout only and the Wellness Center is closed.

It’s a new day, this St. Patrick’s Day.

COVID-19 Tests Our Hearts

Pressures squeeze out what’s inside of us. Surprise trials test our hearts. Coronavirus burst on the scene and with its coming, temptations abound.

Some of us are tempted to anxiety, some to pride. Many are tempted to find security in hoarding supplies and as many are tempted to arrogance because we don’t.

Some of us grow harsh trying control to our little kingdomsVirtual school starts at 8:45 sharp. Go wash your hands again- sing Happy Birthday two times. Go outside! You need 30 minutes of exercise.- in a world that feels out of order.

Some of us are so overwhelmed that we’re letting go of any semblance of self-control- Sure, wear your PJ’s all day. I’ve lost two hours scrolling the news feed.- and tempted to dulling sloth.

Coping Skills Or Just Rats?

We might try to excuse it by saying, We didn’t see this coming, and We’ve never lived through anything like this before. But don’t take it. What we might call our coping methods C.S. Lewis just calls rats.

…Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? 

If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. 

Coronavirus hit us fast and hard. The rats had no time to take cover.

I’ve had my heart laid bare and humbled. My desire for order turned surfaced and turned into bossing the boys. I didn’t buy extra toilet paper, but I did hit the grocery store three days in a row.

The last few days, I acquired lots of peanut butter. And, I pray, more humility toward those who don’t see things just like me.

Impending Chaos

Which brings me back to St. Patrick.

Last year, I told how St. Patrick and I love the sun. Two years ago, about his gratitude. Before that, I shared my own bittersweet confession about a selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone. There were 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My Homeboy and one more reason that rustic Patrick is a kindred soul.

But today is a new day, and time for a new confession from one of my favorite saints. (You can read all 62 confessions here.) Confession #34 (C 34) is a confession about acceptance- acceptance of good or bad– and gratitude.

Here’s where I connect Patrick, me and COVID-19. In big ways Patrick’s day wasn’t so different from our COVID-19 day. Patrick lived on the ragged edges of the Roman empire where “there was a sense of impending chaos, if not a very real experience of it.”*

Rather like our day.

The Time of Our Temptation

In the face of that wild world, living at the edge of western civilization, with high anxiety (C. 27), almost perishing (C. 28), very real threats to his life (C. 35, and actually running out of food (C. 22), here’s what Patrick said,

I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation… He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end...

God is able to keep us faithful in the time of our temptation. For many of us, this is the time. Whether it’s pride or anxiety, control or sloth, the rats that live in our hearts come out.

But If Not, He’s Still Good

We all fear the unknown. Some days, we fret. Honestly, some of our worst fears may come true. I might wish I had bought more toilet paper and peanut butter or not gone out at all. I don’t know. But I do know this: God will provide all that we need for our souls to prosper.

Not a single one of us- the CDC or otherwise- knows what the future holds. But we know who holds the future. And he is good.

St. Patrick trusted that all things come from God’s fatherly hand and gave thanks. Don’t you want to do the same?

For I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!”

But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands…

Psalm 31:13a, 14, 15a

*The Wisdom of St. Patrick, Greg Tobin, p. 164

One More Reason Patrick’s My Homeboy: Confession #60

The fire still burns. Not the Easter fire he defiantly set at Tara. I mean the one that burns in my belly for you to meet the real Patrick.

Last year, I introduced a grateful saint. The year before that, I shared my own bittersweet confession about a selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone. Next there were the 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My  Homeboy. Then one more reason Patrick is a kindred soul

This year I found one more. One more reason to love Patrick.

I might have worshiped the sun.

That’s right. Because I might have been a sun-worshipper. The kind that really bows down and sacrifices lifeblood. I get why the ancients worshiped that created thing. I’m sympathetic.

I think Patrick must have loved the sun, too. He was a self-described “rustic” and we can guess he loved those green hills and gorgeous sunscapes.

So, because I’m a beauty junkie and often stalk the sun, I latched on to these words in Patrick’s third to last Confession.

Hear how he describes the sun. The true sun.

Patrick’s Confession #60

The sun, which we see rising for us every day, rises at his command; but it will never rule over the universe, nor will its splendour continue forever. And all those who worship it will come to a bad, miserable penalty. But not we, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ. He shall never perish. And neither will anyone who does His will- instead he will live forever just as Christ will live forever, who reigns with God the Father almighty and with the Holy Spirit since before the ages began, and now, and for all the ages of ages. Amen.

That’s it. That’s Patrician connection this year. A tribute to one saint, for all the saints. We feebly stumble, they in glory shine.

Arise in the brilliance of the sun.

Patrick was a man of one book, living for one King. So when he was pricked, and pricked he was aplenty by his critics, he bled bibline. He knew 1 John 2:17, that, The world is and its desires are passing away, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

And so Patrick wrote about the day that we shall surely arise in the brilliance of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs with Christ, to be formed in His image, since through Him, with Him, and in Him we shall reign.

Be Thou My Vision

There’s something about Irish saints who write about High Kings and heaven and sun. A couple of centuries after Patrick wrote his Confessions, another Irish saint- maybe a saint who’d lost his sight– wrote a poem called Be Thou My Vision.

Do you know this last verse?

High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

And so- whether Irish saint or not- I wish a brilliant and blessed Saint Patrick’s Day to you.

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

Malachi 4:2

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Daniel 12:3

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:9

A Grateful Saint, Patrick

I just can’t do it. Ever since that blessed week in June of ’14, I can’t pass March 17th without a Saint Patrick post. 

Two years ago, it was a bittersweet personal confession about a selfish choice to climb Patrick’s holy mountain alone.  The year before it was 5 Reasons Why Saint Patrick Is My  Homeboy. Then, last year, I added another reason Patrick is a kindred soul.

This one’ll be short and sweet, straight from Patrick’s Confessions. The theme is Patrick’s gratitude.

Now Patrick, in his own words.

Why I Cannot Be Silent

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. Patrick, who turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance.

That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God. Why we praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven. (Confession 3)

I’ll Never Stop Giving Thanks To My God

I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. I can today with confidence offer my soul to Christ my Lord as a living victim. He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among the nations all the time, wherever I am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too.

Whatever comes about for me, good or bad, I ought to accept them equally and give thanks to God. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end. However ignorant I am, he has heard me, so that in these late days I can dare to undertake such a holy and wonderful work. In this way I can imitate somewhat those whom the Lord foretold would announce his gospel in witness to all nations before the end of the world. This is what we see has been fulfilled. Look at us: we are witnesses that the gospel has been preached right out to where there is nobody else there!  (Confession 34)

I Want To Give Thanks To God Without Ceasing

So I want to give thanks to God without ceasing. He frequently forgave my lack of wisdom and my negligence. More than once did not be come very angry with me, the one who was meant to be his helper. I was not quick to accept what he showed me, and so the Spirit prompted me. The Lord was merciful to me a thousand thousand times, because he saw in me that I was ready, but that I did not know what I should do about the state of my life…Indeed, I was not quick to recognise the grace that was in me; I know now what I should have done then. (Confession 46)

Nothing I Have That Is Not His Gift To Me

So I shall make a return to him for all that he has given to me. But what can I say, or what can I promise to my Lord? There is nothing I have that is not his gift to me. But he knows the depths of my heart, my very gut feelings! He knows that it is enough that I desire very much, and am ready for this, that he would grant me to drink of his chalice, just as he was pleased to do for others who loved him. (Confession 57)

Patrick was faithful to God’s call on his life. In the end, the Lord didn’t demand that Patrick drink the cup of the martyr’s death. He supposedly died in 463 AD, at the ripe old age of 120. Which happens to be the age that another of God’s great servants died.

But it’s not how many years Patrick lived that matters most. It’s that Patrick was a grateful saint.

As all God’s saints should be.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? 
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.  
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. 
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. 
Psalm 116:12-17 (ESV)