Patrick – an ancient voice against slavery

Recent figures estimate that there are about 46 million slaves in the world today. The Global Slavery Index says that slavery exists in 167 countries. India has the highest number of slaves and North Korea the highest percentage of slaves per capita.

One oft overlooked aspect of St Patrick’s legacy is that he was one of the very first voices of the post-biblical Christian world protesting against slavery. (It would be an interesting piece of research to trace the development of Christian opposition to slavery. I’m sure it exists).

slaveryHis Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus can be read at the Irish Academy website. In it, Patrick tells the story of how the soldiers has brutally attacked a group of new baptised Christians, killing many and kidnapping others to sell on to ‘apostate Scots and Picts.’

Patrick had a letter delivered to the soldiers, asking for the return of the prisoners. The soldiers scoffed at his request.

Several things stand out from Patrick’s letter.

First, rather than stand idly by, he gets involved. He does so out a moral obligation to stand up for those with whom he is ministering.

I have a part with those whom God called and destined to preach the gospel, even in persecutions which are no small matter, to the very ends of the earth. This is despite the malice of the Enemy through the tyranny of Coroticus, who respects neither God, nor his priests

He is willing to confront Coroticus and asks for help from others in doing so.

I ask insistently whatever servant of God is courageous enough to be a bearer of these messages, that it in no way be withdrawn or hidden from any person. Quite the opposite – let it be read before all the people, especially in the presence of Coroticus himself.

How might Patrick’s actions be a challenge for us today to get involved for slaves who cannot act for themselves?  Organisations like IJM and Tearfund act on the behalf of slaves. Maybe the best way we can celebrate St Patrick’s day is to give to their work.

Second, as a pastor and a leader he grieves with those impacted by violence and injustice.

That is why I will cry aloud with sadness and grief: O my fairest and most loving brothers and sisters whom I begot without number in Christ, what am I to do for you?… I grieve for you who are so very dear to me.

How does Patrick’s compassion for victims speak to us today?

Third, he begins to articulate a theological critique of slavery. It takes this form:

  • No-one has a right to enslave another human being for whom Christ “died and was crucified.”
  • It matters how wealth is made.

    Riches, says Scripture, which a person gathers unjustly, will be vomited out of that person’s stomach.

  • God will judge those who act unjustly. Violence will reap its reward

So where will Coroticus and his villainous rebels against Christ find themselves – those who divide out defenceless baptised women as prizes, all for the sake of a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment of time. Just as cloud of smoke is blown away by the wind, that is how deceitful sinners will perish from the face of the Lord.

  • In contrast, Christians can have hope even beyond brutal injustice and death.

This unspeakably horrifying crime has been carried out. But, thanks to God, you who are baptised believers have moved on from this world to paradise. I see you clearly: you have begun your journey to where there is no night, nor sorrow, nor death, any more.Rather, you leap for joy, like calves set free from chains, and you tread down the wicked, and they will be like ashes under your feet.

And, remarkably, but in authentic Jesus fashion, he even holds out the offer of forgiveness to Coroticus and his men if they repent and release the captives. It seems as if they were at least nominally Christian. God’s grace is available to all, but it needs a response of faith and a turning to a new life.

However late it may be, may they repent of acting so wrongly, the murder of the brethren of the Lord, and set free the baptised women prisoners whom they previously seized. So may they deserve to live for God, and be made whole here and in eternity.

This is a remarkably rich Christian response to injustice and slavery within a short letter from the 5th Century. Part of this may be because Patrick was, of course, a slave himself. He knew first hand what it was to be torn away from his home and family and trafficked to a foreign land. Indeed, Patrick is the only person we know of in the 5th century who was enslaved and lived to tell the tale.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

 

 

Posts on Patrick

Happy St Patrick’s Day to one and all

I’ve done a few posts on Patrick in the last 4 years of blogging. Here are some links if you’d like to spend some time with the great man on his day.

Patrick, Paul and God’s Unlikely Choices 

Patrick and Paul

20 thoughts on St Patrick and the rare virtue of humility within contemporary evangelicalism

Will the real St Patrick please stand up?

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman

And for an excellent site with Patrick’s own writings see here

Patrick, Paul and God’s unlikely choices

A devotional thought on Patrick and Paul on this St Patrick’s Day 2013

Having drawn some parallels between Patrick and Paul, this post is on one major difference.

Paul, on the one hand, was highly educated, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, in regard to the law, a Pharisee and, in terms of righteousness based on the law, faultless. (Phil 3:4-6). In Acts 22:3 Paul tells his listeners that “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors.”

Saul/Paul is an insider: well-connected; a Roman citizen; intelligent; educated; of the right blood; zealous; passionate for the glory of God. A stellar ‘career’ lay ahead for this exceptional man: orator, philosopher, expert in language and law, passionate Jew, zealous for Israel, highly respected and feared by his enemies.

Patrick, on the other hand, uses very different language to describe himself. His Confession opens with this line;

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.

Later he says

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.

He knows all too well the gaps in his education, learning and writing. Taken captive early he says

That is why, today, I blush and am afraid to expose my lack of experience, because I can’t express myself with the brief words I would like in my heart and soul.

His identity is that “I am first of all a simple country person, a refugee, and unlearned.”  This is one reason that others thought his mission to Ireland a waste of time.

There were many who forbade this mission. They even told stories among themselves behind my back, and the said: “Why does he put himself in danger among hostile people who do not know God?” It was not that they were malicious – they just did not understand, as I myself can testify, since I was just an unlearned country person.

Patrick is an outsider: a ‘nobody’, an unlikely candidate to do anything remarkable; he lacks the right qualifications and experience. You get the sense he’d be the scrawny guy with poor coordination, the last to be chosen when picking teams at school sports ….

Yet it seems that God tends often to choose unlikely outsiders to accomplish his purposes. David the runt of the litter wasn’t even considered worthy of an invitation to meet Samuel. Esther was one woman in a powerful man’s world. The disciples wouldn’t have made a ‘Leadership’ ‘C’ Team let alone an ‘A’ Team. The nation of Israel herself is a trivial inconvenience to mighty empires like Assyria, Babylon, and  Rome.

Is it possible that a reason God does things this way is that he works with faith, trust, dependence, prayer, humility, repentance, and worship? 

‘Outsiders’, less full of themselves, their own achievements and status, are more open than ‘insiders’ who tend to be ‘self-made’, self-righteous, self-important and self-sufficient and don’t tend to see the need for those sorts of ‘powerless’ qualities?

Patrick didn’t have a high opinion of himself and is more immediately wide-open to the astonishing grace of God.

But this I know for certain, that before I was brought low, I was like a stone lying deep in the mud. Then he who is powerful came and in his mercy pulled me out, and lifted me up and placed me on the very top of the wall. That is why I must shout aloud in return to the Lord for such great good deeds of his, here and now and forever, which the human mind cannot measure.

And is this why Paul’s pride had to be confronted in dramatic terms? He is overcome, blinded and made powerless on the Damascus Road by the risen and living Christ. His certainty in his own rightness, a conviction that could justify bloodshed, is shattered. It is only then it becomes possible for him to hear, serve and begin to love God. It is only then that deep humility, thankfulness, grace, and compassion take root and grow in Paul’s life and subsequent ministry.

Patrick has some fascinating words to the ‘insiders’ to consider the unlikely ways God works:

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.

Some things Patrick’s words say to me. Feel welcome to add your own responses.

– In theological training, ‘assessing’ someone’s spirituality and readiness for ministry involves far far more than mere marks on an academic paper. Character, character, character …..

– Is this one reason, I wonder, why the church in the West is in decline – we are simply too self-sufficient, too secure, too comfortable in our consumer culture and with ourselves? And conversely, why the church in Asia, Latin America and Africa is exploding?

– The cross remains deeply offensive to human pride. Being a Christian involves death to the self.

– That God is consistently surprising in his unlikely choices should remind his people that he is at the centre not us.

Patrick and Paul

Patrick’s Confession (an open biographical letter) tells the story of his life and call by God. It, along with his letter to Coroticus, are the very oldest surviving texts written in Ireland.

Patrick probably grew up in Wales and when 16 was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave. He says

“At that time I did not know the true God”.

But it was in Ireland that he become a Christian as he became deeply aware of the grace of God.

“It was there that the Lord opened up my awareness of my lack of faith. Even though it came about late, I recognised my failings. So I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God.”

After 6 years he escaped and returned home. But later, in a dream, he experienced the ‘call of the Irish’ – to return to the land of his enslavement to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to pagan Ireland.

As I read his Confession, I see some strong parallels to Paul. What do you think? See any other parallels? Are there lessons here for Christian ministry and the challenge of mission in today’s world?

1. He is called by God to go to pagans who have never heard of Jesus.

“Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God.”

It could be said that Patrick stands in direct continuity with Paul in the sense that he is completing Paul’s mission to bring the gospel to the known Gentile world. Paul never got to Spain as he hoped he would, but Christianity spread there and to Britain under the embrace of Roman civilisation. But pagan Ireland lay ‘outside the pale’ of Roman influence.

2. He faces many physical dangers and much opposition but does so joyfully and thankfully.

“they took me and my companions prisoner, and very much wanted to kill me, but the time had not yet come. They stole everything they found in our possession, and they bound me in iron. On the fourteenth day, the Lord set me free from their power”

Paul tells of his experience this way in 2 Cor 4:7-11

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

3. He does not fear death but has a deep hope in the resurrection.

“every day there is the chance that I will be killed, or surrounded, or be taken into slavery, or some other such happening. But I fear none of these things, because of the promises of heaven.”

Paul says in 2 Cor 4:17-18

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal

4. His missionary call flows out of obedience to Jesus and is part of God’s mission to the whole world

Patrick quotes extensively from the gospels (eg Matt 28:19-20, from Joel 2, from Hosea 1:10 and 2:23-24) to show that mission to all nations is part of the divine plan.

It is right that we should fish well and diligently, as the Lord directs and teaches when he says: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”

Paul of course is directly commissioned by Jesus himself on the Damascus Road. He interprets his mission as a fulfilment of God’s divine plan that all people would be invited into the new covenant through faith in Christ (Gal 3:28)

5. He knows he is not worthy but God has granted him grace to be used in his service.

“I am greatly in debt to God. He gave me such great grace, that through me, many people should be born again in God and brought to full life.”

Paul says in 1 Cor 15:9 that

9″I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

6. He loves God and would do anything for him – suffering is a privilege

If I have ever imitated anything good for the sake of my God whom I love, I ask that he grant me to be able to shed my blood with these converts and captives – even were I to lack a grave for burial, or my dead body were to be miserably torn apart limb from limb by dogs or wild beasts, or were the birds of heaven to devour it.

Paul puts it this way in Colossians 1:24 (similarly in many other places)

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

7. He loves the people he is called to share the gospel with

“It is right to spread abroad the name of God faithfully and without fear, so that even after my death I may leave something of value to the many thousands of my brothers and sisters – the children whom I baptised in the Lord.”

Paul regularly gives thanks for the privilege of ministry and for many new relationships formed with new believers, toward whom he feels like a father. One example is 1 Thes 2:11-12:

11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

8. He faces opposition and criticism from within the church

The Confession is probably written to his spiritual superiors to respond to unspecified charges. A sin committed back before his conversion seems to have been used against him. But Patrick defends himself and his conscience is clear

I make bold to say that my conscience does not blame me, now and in the future. I have God for witness that I have not told lies in the account I have given you ….

And many were the gifts offered to me, along with sorrow and tears. There were those whom I offended, even against the wishes of some of my superiors; but, with God guiding me, I did not consent nor acquiesce to them. It was not by my own grace, but God who overcame it in me, and resisted them all so that I could come to the peoples of Ireland to preach the gospel.

Paul similarly faced all sorts of opposition and accusations. His gospel is not Jewish enough (works of the law, circumcision), he is not impressive enough a speaker, he works with his own hands and so on. See 1 Cor 4:1-4 for one example

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

Comments, as ever, welcome

The Gospel according to Patrick

In his wonderful 5th century Confession, Patrick summarises here the good news that he is compelled by God to share with the Irish, whatever the cost,

… there is no other God, nor will there ever be, nor was there ever, except God the Father. He is the one who was not begotten, the one without a beginning, the one from whom all beginnings come, the one who holds all things in being – this is our teaching. And his son, Jesus Christ, whom we testify has always been, since before the beginning of this age, with the father in a spiritual way. He was begotten in an indescribable way before every beginning. Everything we can see, and everything beyond our sight, was made through him. He became a human being; and, having overcome death, was welcomed to the heavens to the Father. The Father gave him all power over every being, both heavenly and earthly and beneath the earth. Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, in whom we believe and whom we await to come back to us in the near future, is Lord and God. He is judge of the living and of the dead; he rewards every person according to their deeds. He has generously poured on us the Holy Spirit, the gift and promise of immortality, who makes believers and those who listen to be children of God and co-heirs with Christ. This is the one we acknowledge and adore – one God in a trinity of the sacred name.

Rather like in the Gospels and Acts, there is no worked out theology of the atonement in his Confession. The good news is strongly Christological but always also trinitarian. The gospel is the incarnation, death, ascension of Jesus the Messiah, the reigning Lord.

This good news calls for a response of faith and wholehearted commitment until he returns. The Christian life is lived in the power of the Spirit who adopts believers into the family of God.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

 

20 thoughts on St Patrick and the rare virtue of humility within contemporary evangelicalism

On this 17th March, some thoughts on Patrick and the rare virtue of  Christian humility within quite a bit of contemporary evangelicalism.

In days of celebrity pastors, relentless slick marketing, an embedded ‘culture of success’  and much competitive point scoring between various factions within much evangelical church culture, Patrick’s Confession stands out as first and foremost an honest story of a humble man.

Consider his own words:

1. He knows he is a sinner. He has no pretensions of learning. He is honest in admitting his failings

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many

2.He is thankful to God for his saving graciousness. He knows he has much to learn and is inexperienced and unqualified to lead

God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance

… I am, then, first of all, countryfied, 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.

3. His mission flowed out of simple gratitude and love not other agendas.

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.

4. His self-awareness of his own limitations did not however paralyse him into inaction – this would have been self-absorption. But rather it  propelled him to share the gospel with others. In other words, he put others before himself.

I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.

5. He feared God.

So it is that I should mightily fear, with terror and trembling,this judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or hide, but each and all shall render account for even our smallest sins before the judgment seat of Christ the Lord.

6. In days when celebrity pastors tweet opinions promiscuously and publishers rush to print their latest controversial theories, Patrick was a reluctant author, aware of the special responsibility that comes with doing theology via the written word [note to self – this applies to bloggers!]

And therefore for some time I have thought of writing, but I have hesitated until now, for truly, I feared to expose myself to the criticism of men, because I have not studied like others, who have assimilated both Law and the Holy Scriptures.

7. He is well aware of the upside down nature of God’s kingdom, what Paul calls the ‘foolishness of God’ – in choosing the weak things of the world to shame the wise, the powerful and the eloquent. And he is well aware that any ‘success’ he had in ministry is due to God’s ‘foolishness’.

Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me,truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be– if I would– such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.

8. He became a man of deep and fervent prayer – and prayer is among other things, a true sign of dependent humility and faith in the living God and not ourselves.

But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day

9. He was persistent and determined and in ministry for the long haul, through disappointments, suffering and persecution. He was not confidently setting ministry targets and arrogantly assuming they would be reached through effective human action alone. He knew what it was to depend on God.

And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant his humble servant this, that after hardships and such great trials, after captivity, after many years, he should give me so much favour in these people, a thing which in the time of my youth I neither hoped for nor imagined.

10. He trusted God to answer prayer (back to the link between prayer and humility)

‘Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he abounds.’

11. He did not only know about God, he knew God through the Spirit and how it is the Spirit’s power and strength that is essential for living the Christian life – not our own wisdom, cleverness or resourcefulness.

And so I awoke and remembered the Apostle’s words: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for utterance.’ And again: ‘The Lord our advocate intercedes for us.’

12. He had no sense of a ‘right’ to be listened to or to be respected or to be in control. So often the tone I hear within wealthy, powerful and Western evangelicalism is one of presumption and authority and of power. One of the great challenges for the West is to to listen and learn from Christians in the Global South in contexts of minority status, powerlessness, persecution, famine, poverty and insecurity. It is in these places that God appears to be most powerfully demonstrating his ‘foolishness’.

So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad, I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever,and who will encourage me so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to undertake so devout and so wonderful a work;

13. He did not blow his own trumpet. How refreshing in these days of endless ‘How to’ books that unlock the latest secret for church growth (or whatever).

But it is tedious to describe in detail all my labours one by one.

14. He resisted the lure of popularity and money – authentic humility is freedom from pleasing others and being distracted from God’s calling.

And many gifts were offered to me with weeping and tears, and I offended them [the donors], and also went against the wishes of a good number of my elders; but guided by God, I neither agreed with them nor deferred to them, not by my own grace but by God who is victorious in me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people to preach the Gospel

… And I gave back again to my Christian brethren and the virgins of Christ and the holy women the small unasked for gifts that they used to give me or some of their ornaments which they used to throw on the altar.

15. He was obedient to God, wherever that led him – even if it meant death. He knew his life was not his own and felt honoured to be called to be a missionary to the Irish.

Christ the Lord … commanded me to come to be with them for the rest of my life.

16. Even with an extraordinary ministry that is celebrated to this day, Patrick continued to have a humble and realistic opinion of himself – he knew fallen human nature too well.

So I hope that I did as I ought, but I do not trust myself as long as I am in this mortal body, for he is strong who strives daily to turn me away from the faith and true holiness to which I aspire until the end of my life for Christ my Lord

17. He writes not to increase his own kudos, but out of a desire to encourage and build up others.

Now I have put it frankly to my brethren and co-workers, who have believed me because of what I have foretold and still foretell to strengthen and reinforce your faith.

… Behold, I call on God as my witness upon my soul that I am not lying; nor would I write to y ou for it to be an occasion for flattery or selfishness, nor hoping for honour from any one of you. Sufficient is the honour which is not yet seen, but in which the heart has confidence. He who made the promise is faithful; he never lies.

18. He was courageous and brave – but not in a macho, heroic way. He considered it an honour to suffer for his God and for the people he loved.

And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood for his name with proselytes and captives

19. His humility is rooted in eschatological hope. In other words, he is not desperately acting as if everything in God’s purposes depended on him. He has his identity, mission and purpose in right perspective.

We, on the other hand, shall not die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never die, no more shall he die who has done Christ’s will, but will abide for ever just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and for ever and ever.

20. He consistently seeks to turn attention away from himself, his gifts, his success, his impact in Ireland and to the grace, power, love and mercy of the one true God.

But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.

And so I’d guess that he’s be the first to comment here that I shouldn’t be holding him up as an example … but it’s  my blog 🙂 Honoured to be named after him.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

Will the real St Patrick please stand up?

This morning our family will be starting the day with breakfast organised by the St Patrick’s Foundation, the brainchild of my friend and minister of MCC Keith McCrory. A great way to begin St Patrick’s Day.

Check out their website and read about the vision of turning St Patrick’s Day into something constructive and life-transforming.

And without more words from me, here are some from another, much greater, Patrick!

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.

And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant his humble servant this, that after hardships and such great trials, after captivity, after many years, he should give me so much favour with these people, a thing which in the time of my youth I neither hoped for nor imagined.

[Extract from St Patrick’s Confession]

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman

Today St Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world in a great frenzy of fantastically tasteless paddywackery [a tiny proportion pictured]

The real Patrick is met in his moving and dramatic Confession. If you haven’t read it, the very best way you can possibly spend today is to enjoy reading to the story of one of the true greats from church history.

I say ‘great’ deliberately.

Jesus said “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” [Mt 18:4].

Humility is the sort of thing that you know when you see it. And you see it in Patrick. A man used by God in extraordinary ways and at the same time devoid of self-importance or ego and deeply aware of the depth and riches of God’s grace poured out into his life. His Confession begins ‘I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman …’  and continues with a deep sense at the wonder that God chose him to bring the gospel to the Irish.

Some quotes:

I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland

.. And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God …

I cannot be silent … I never had any reason except the Gospel … why I should ever return to the people from whom once before I barely escaped

Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, or whatever it may be; but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven.

I am imperfect in many things … I was not worthy that the Lord should give me so great a grace on behalf of Ireland.

A question: – how does Patrick’s humility and simplicity ‘fit’ what we think of as ‘greatness’ in contemporary church leadership?