Thoughts on St. Patrick’s “Confessio”

There are eight surviving manuscripts of St. Patrick’s Confessio, or Patrick’s alleged autobiography. The oldest manuscript dates to AD 807 and today it rests at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

In the text, Patrick describes himself as a humble sinner, a “simple country person,” and the son of a deacon. Patrick was captured at age 16 and taken to Ireland with thousands of others. In section six, Patrick outlines his purpose in writing the Confessio:

“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.”

After his capture and enslavement in Ireland, Patrick describes a life of tending sheep, and devoid of laziness as he rises each morning to pray in the woods and on mountains. The narrative goes on as he escapes from enslavement after six years only to return to Ireland to convert the native tribes. It is a fascinating but brief ancient autobiography that was instrumental in grounding Christianity on the Emerald Isle.

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