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With reference to Patrick’s confession, outline your knowledge and understanding of the main themes of his book.
Unlike his first composition, the Epistola, where the main themes are very obvious, it is much more difficult to be certain of the theme’s within Patrick’s confession. However, there does appear to be at least three continual themes that run through the confession.
The first theme that we can see quite clearly is an admission of Patrick’s worldly and indeed sinful youth. We can see this from the very beginnings of his writings, the opening sentence in fact where he says “I am Patrick, the most rustic and least of all the faithful, the most contemptible in the eyes of a great many people” By this statement, we can see Patrick was a humble man, and made no effort to try and hide his previous sins, but rather instead openly admitted that he was a sinner.
Patrick makes it very obvious to us in his writings that he is aware of his sinful youth. Whenever Patrick was younger, he was most definitely sinful. He did not know the true God, and although he was brought up in a very Christian family, he was tempted by polytheistic way of life, and pagan practices. Patrick tells us of how at the age of sixteen, he was taken captive by the Irish and made to become a slave. He believed this was Gods rightful way of punishing him, saying “We deserved this fate, because we had turned away from our God.”
He also tells us in the letter of the times he encountered as a young man in his mission; a specific example that links in with the ongoing theme is a problem he experienced in his mission.
He refers to a clerical gathering in Britain, one that he could not attend. His had applied to be a bishop, but it would appear that either he was rejected for the bishopric, or his work among the heathens was discredited. This was due to the betrayal of Patrick’s “dearest friend”, who disclosed a sin that Patrick had told him about thirty years before. He said “I confided in my dearest friend what I had done in my boyhood, in one hour indeed, because I had not overcome my sinful ways.” We are told of how ashamed of this incident Patrick was, and how he was very ashamed not only of committing the sin in the first place, but embarrassed and disgraced that his friend betrayed him.
The second obvious theme in the Confessio is Conversion. This theme arises from the awareness of youthful sinfulness and unworthiness. Within this theme, Patrick talks about the time in which he was converted from not believing in God, to being God’s faithful and devoted servant. He talks about this theme in many different ways, the first being “we deserved it”. This shows us that Patrick feels so passionately about faith, that he believes that God had the right to punish him for not believing. This also highlights how powerful Patrick believed God to be. He believed he could control everything, and in a way that he could tell what Patrick thought of him.
Some people argue that Patrick’s awareness of his sinful youth as a boy, grew because of his later religious fervour, whilst others such as Conneely, urge us to believe Patrick when he talks of his sinful youth, “For an entire argument is built on it.”
Whenever Patrick looks back on his time as a slave, and the time of his suffering, Patrick is pleased that it happened, as it allowed him to have the good relationship with God he has. He can see how much good has come of it. Nowhere in Patrick’s Confessio does he try and pretend he has not made mistakes. If anything, rather he tries to highlight these mistakes.
This gives us great respect for Patrick, as we can see that rather than try and make himself out to be a perfect person, he accepts that he has made faults, and thanks God for making him realise his faults. He said “I was like a stone lying in the deep mud, when he who is mighty came and in his mercy not only pulled me out, but lifted me up and placed me at the very top of the wall” This shows not only how Patrick had not always been devoted to the Lord, but also how the Lord had helped him find his way, which Patrick is very grateful for.
This leads on to the next visible theme in Patrick’s Confession, which is Praise and Thanksgiving. This is the theme that runs most strongly throughout the Confessio. Patrick believes that he has much to be thankful for. God is in every aspect of his life, and he believes that anything good that happens in his life is because of the grace of God. He is thankful for all of the horrors and trouble he has occurred in his life, because they made him closer to God, saying “I cannot be silent then, nor indeed should I about the great benefits and grace which the Lord saw fit to bestow on me in the land of my captivity” We can see here, that Patrick feels it is his duty to praise God, and thank him of how much he has helped him.
Patrick spends a great deal of time during the Confessio praising and thanking God, saying “I am very much in debt to God, who gave me so much grace that through me so many people should be born again in God.” We can see that Patrick is eternally grateful that God has intervened and helped him whenever he was being held captive, and how God not only helped save him, but also helped him by letting him become a Bishop, which Patrick thinks is an extremely big privilege.