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Patrick - The Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland

An Analysis of Confessio & Epistola

Author(s): Maire De Paor

ISBN13: 9781853903045

ISBN10: 1853903043

Publisher: Veritas Publications (31 Mar. 1999)

Extent: 313 pages

Binding: Hardback

Size: 15.1 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm

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  • In this original and scholarly presentation of St Patricks Confessio and Epistola, M?íire B. de Paor examines the saints spiritual journey and his complex personality in the light of the most recent research. Her detailed study reveals Patrick as an artist of astounding literary skill and man of great spiritual depth.

    The richness of the two primary sources enables the author to investigate the many insight which make Patrick a contemporary pilgrim. She makes full use of her own wide reading in Christian spirituality and her intimate knowledge of Irish language and literature, and injects a refreshing vigour and passion into her story without ever losing sight of humanity of her subject or respect for the rigorous demands of scholarship.

    Coming at the time when there is greater need than ever for Bible-based reflection mediated through the experience of man who is accepted by all Christian denomination, this extended commentary on Patricks life and work will deepen the readers faith as a lived reality.

  • Maire De Paor

    Máire B. de Paor, a native of Co. Waterford, is a number of the Presentation community at Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow. A former teacher, she has diploma from the Universities of Perugia and Grenoble, and is working on her PhD on Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin.

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    And so, according to the measure of the faith of the Trinity it is my duty,
    without fear of the censure [I may incur]
    to make known the gift of God
    and his eternal consolation;
    without fear
    faithfully to expound everywhere the Name of God,
    so that even after my death I may leave behind a legacy
    to my brethren and children,
    whom I have baptized in the Lord, so many thousands of people (C 14:71-78).


    St Patrick is known to many as Apostle of Ireland; as first Romano-British missionary bishop, beyond the pale of Roman civilisation, he is known to a few; but as a litt?®rateur of stature and genius and a spiritual thinker of great depth and originality, he is relatively little appreciated. In the 1950s Ludwig Bieler published the standard edition of Patricks extant writings, i. his Epistola to the Soldiers of Coroticus (E), and his Confessio (C). That eminent Patrician scholar could say, even at that late date, that those compositions had been almost completely neglected by students of Latin language and literature. Yet, in Patricks writings we have two unique, personal, spiritual documents from the darkest of the Dark Ages, fifth-century Northern Europe. Indeed, they are the only personal documents that can be claimed by either the Church in Britain or the Church in Ireland from that troubled century.
    We had to wait twelve more centuries before Aodh Mac Aingil (1571- 1626), one of Patricks successors in the see of Armagh, produced a kindred personal document. It came in the form of a Christmas poem, An Na?¡ Naomh, The Holy Child, in early modern Gaelic. In this poem the Franciscan poet tenderly contemplates the Word made Flesh and, with touching, male simplicity of heart, shares with us his personal response in twenty-seven syllabic, four-lined stanzas.
    In The Book of Letters of Saint Patrick the Bishop David Howlett has, however, amply rectified the sad neglect of the compositions of our national apostle, to which Bieler referred, by challenging the modern consensus that Patrick was a barely literate rustic struggling with a sense of his inadequacy in a language he could not master. Dr Howletts impressive analysis suggests instead that Patrick was both an artist of astonishing literary skill and a man of great spiritual depth.
    It was fascinating to discover that Ludwig Bieler further claimed that the ideal form of presentation of ancient texts such as Patricks writings would be a division per cola et commata, by clauses and phrases. I am therefore deeply grateful to Dr Howlett for graciously allowing me to adapt his arrangement of the texts in that form so that the units of Patricks thought might be revealed.
    We Irish are, moreover, the only nation who have the great privilege of treasuring the writings of our Father in the faith about his founding of the Christian Church in our country. Conscious of the unique Christian heritage bequeathed to us by our national apostle who has left such an indelible impression on his people, I have attempted a modest literary and spiritual expos?® of his writings to mark the fifteenth centenary of his death.


    In his Epistola, the saint writes: peregrinatio mea in vacuum non fuit, my pilgrimage has not been in vain (E 17:172). The aim of this expos?® is to explore Patricks pilgrimage of faith, in particular, in order to gain a deeper insight into the mind and heart of this indomitable sojourner and captive for Christ (cf. C 59:20; E 1:4) as he reveals himself to us in his own writings, but more particularly in his Confessio.
    As we join Patrick on his pilgrimage of faith, therefore, it might be useful to provide ourselves with a very simple outline map of the ground which we hope to cover. Let us begin by briefly examining the literary genre and structure of the Confessio, to enable us to grasp its spiritual content more fully. Only by apprehending the mechanical structure of Patricks thought and prose can we begin to hear the tenor of his explicit statements and the undertones and overtones of his implicit resonances.
    Of the two texts the Confessio is the more personal and important document. Patrick has told us that it is his exagalliae or spiritual legacy (C 14:77) to us, believers (C 62:1), his children in the faith, in every nation which is under every heaven (C 3:10-11). In the event, we shall also find that in structure and content the Epistola has many elements in common with that of the Confessio.
    The historical context of both writings is briefly sketched for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with this particular period in history. Thus, an awareness of the quality of soil in which Patrick so firmly planted the seed of Gods Word will, it is hoped, help all of us to appreciate both the true greatness of this missionary-bishop (E 1:1; C 26:2) and the unprecedented harvest which he reaped in the teeth of enormous difficulties.



    The Confessio is a literary genre, of which two major extant examples in ancient literature are the Confessions of St Augustine, written about AD 400 when he was a comparatively young man, and the Confessio of St Patrick, written during the fifth century, possibly some short time before his death (C 62:12). In ecclesiastical Latin the term confessio has a threefold significance: confessio peccati, confessio laudis and confessio fidei, i. the penitential discipline, the praise of God, and the confession of faith of the martyrs before a tribunal. Confessio in this third context was also termed depositio, or deposition, and the confessors were those who made a deposition or, in other words, subscribed to the faith during the persecution of Christians in the early centuries of the Church. It has been argued cogently by Botte that the word, in the sense of subscribing to the faith, was extended in the fourth and fifth centuries to denote those who defended it against heresy, and that Augustine used it in this sense.
    But, while a refutation of both the Arianism of the fourth century and the Pelagianism of the fifth are implicit in Patricks Confessio, it does not appear to be its overt purpose; nor would Patrick have considered himself qualified for such an undertaking. He was not, after all, a professional theologian, nor did he claim to be a philosopher. As priest and bishop he was pre-eminently a good shepherd, a contemplative in action, and, like his great model, St Paul, whatever he wrote was dictated by the responsibilities of his Episcopal office.
    His Confessio, therefore, defines itself by its own title. It is not an autobiography in the strict sense, because the saint does not tell the story of his life in chronological order and plain narrative, nor is this his sole or main purpose. Neither, as some scholars suggest, is it merely a defence of himself against false accusations, an apologia pro vita sua. While his initial inspiration may well have been the refutation of certain allegations made by his enemies against him and his mission, it evolved into something greater, something more timeless and universal, in the process. This record of the inner spirit wrung from the heart of a man of powerful and deep-seated religious conviction is, like St Augustines, a magnificent, threefold Confessio of repentance, praise and faith as a lived reality. This threefold Confessio evolves out of a retrospective, contemplative reflection on the events of Patricks life. Here the whole of his life , including his failures , is recaptured. What he has experienced is now, in his old age, understood as a single spiritual entity. It all fits together and relates to past and future in, as it were, an eternal present where time and eternity intersect.


    True to its genre, Patricks Confessio has its tap-root in Sacred Scripture. It evokes the great Old Testament Psalms of repentance, praise and thanksgiving. Indeed, Bieler has established that Patrick quotes from the Psalms more than from any other book of the Old Testament. It is also reminiscent of the great biblical Canticles such as The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Jews, so dear to the C?®ile D?® reform-movement of the eighth century, as well as the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and St Pauls many Blessings.
    Written some time before Patricks death, it is also in the tradition of the great biblical Farewell Speeches, those of Jacob (Gn 49) and Moses (Dt 32- 33), to name two of the seven from the Old Testament; Christs Farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper (Jn 13-17) and Pauls to his friends at Miletus (Ac 20:7-36) in the New. It is no coincidence that Patrick quotes Pauls unrivalled pastoral testament at Miletus six times in his writings, three in the Epistola (E 5, 10, 12), and three in the Confessio (C 43, 48, 55). And finally, its content, but not its form, might be compared with the impressive Eucharistikon of Paulinus of Pella, written in 459 in his eighty-third year, as a thanksgiving to God for ordering and directing his life.


    Such a Confessio presupposes the experience of conversion which, for some people, is a profound, soul-shaking encounter with Christ, like Pauls on the road to Damascus (Ac 9, 22, 26). Patricks experience was not, perhaps, quite as dramatic and sudden as Pauls, but it was no less dynamic and transfigurative in its lasting effects. The depth of Patricks consciousness of the vast abyss between himself and the total Otherness of the All-Holy God, after his experience of conversion, is one of the twin pillars on which his Confessio hinges. He expresses it in the prologue in two simple words: humilitas mea, my lowliness (C 2:23). The second pillar is complete dependence on, and total surrender to this All- Merciful God. This humble trust finds laconic expression in donum Dei, the gift of God (Jn 4:10; Ac 8:20), in the epilogue (C 62:10).
    Patricks primary purpose as a writer is to make a retributio or repayment (C 3, 11, 12, 57) for all that God has done for him, and through him, and in him. The exultant expression of his gratitude and praise, which is rooted in a faith that is almost vision, is the joyful leitmotif which pervades the Confessio from beginning to end. It is what gives his work of art its unity and cohesion. In it is captured something of the freshness, the optimism, and the hope of the early spring of Christianity in fifth-century Ireland. And if Patrick were to choose a theme-song for his pilgrimage of faith it might be Gloria in Excelsis Deo. This joyful, eucharistic, Trinitarian canticle captures the true spirit of his Confessio because the joy of the Holy Spirit is one of the biblical signs of the Messianic era. And that heavenly joy was always welling up in Patricks great heart and soul (C 34:6-14).
    As a work of Christian faith, then, the Confessio is best read by believers who share or, at least, desire to share that faith. As a pastoral testimony, it demands that Patricks disciple be one whose constant aim is fraternal and apostolic Christian charity in imitation of Christ himself.


    Looked at as a pilgrims progress from youth to old age, Patricks Confessio can be shown to be structured in the manner of a classical drama. It begins with a prologue and ends with an epilogue; it is divided into the classical five parts , exposition, development, nouement, crux and denouement , with the crux at the centre. There is, moreover, a perfect caesura between the crux and the denouement (C 33:1).
    Its fivefold division would also suggest the fivefold arrangement of the Pentateuch and the Book of Psalms of the Old Testament, and Matthews Gospel in the New. The literary format of these biblical books may well have been the definitive influence on Patricks literary construction of his Confessio.
    Considered, however, as a retrospective, contemplative reflection on the events of his whole life, David Howlett has discovered once more that the Confessio and the Epistola are in fact highly-worked, symmetrical compositions, in which parallel and concentric or chiastic patterns can be traced. These literary patterns enable us to enter ever more deeply into the subtle and profound depths of meaning hidden in Patricks writings. Readers who are not yet familiar with them will find that even an elementary grasp of them will be of help as we begin our pilgrimage of faith in the company of our great national apostle. Let us begin with parallelisms.


    A parallelism in literature is a balanced construction of a verse or sentence, where one part repeats the form or meaning of the other. A clear example of this antiphonal statement and restatement is in Luke 21:23-24, which is as follows:
    A Woe to those who are pregnant
    A and to those who are nursing infants in those days!
    B For there will be great distress on the earth
    B and wrath against this people;
    C they will fall by the edge of the sword
    C and be taken away as captives among all nations.
    Patrick makes judicious use of this form of biblical style in his writings, particularly in chapters twenty-three, twenty-four and thirty-four of his Confessio.


    Concentric structure in literature consist in disposing the elements in the pattern A B C N C B A with thematic and verbal correspondences, the central element , N , being stressed. A chiasmus or contrast by parallelism in reverse order, on the other hand, properly refers to only two lines where the themes are reversed in the second, such as Mark 2:27:
    A B
    The sabbath was made for man,
    B A
    not man for the sabbath.
    If lines were drawn connecting the As and Bs, the lines would form an X, which is the Greek letter chi, hence chiasmus. Concentric structure or inverted parallelism is therefore used in this work in preference to chiastic structure as being more appropriate to indicate the use of inversion as the overall pattern of Patricks Confessio and Epistola, the pattern of their component parts, as well as certain segments of those parts. In A Virgin Called Woman13 M. Philip Scott OCSO demonstrates the overall concentric structure of St Marks Gospel thus:

    (1:2) A An angel witnesses to his coming
    (1:11) B You are my Son
    (2:7) C Who can forgive sins but God alone? (ei me eis ho Theos)
    (3:29) D The guilt of the scribes
    (3:33) E Who is my mother...?
    (3:35) F The primacy of doing Gods will
    (4:40) G Who is this that the winds ... obey him?
    (6:3) H Jesus is called the Son of Mary
    (8:27) L Who do you say that I am?
    (8:31) M Prophecy of rejection, passion, resurrection
    (9:7) N This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to Him
    (9:30) M Prophecy of betrayal, passion, resurrection
    (10:18)L Why call me good? No one is good but God alone
    (ei me eis ho Theos)
    (10:47)H Jesus is called Son of David
    (11:28)G By what authority do you do these things?
    (12:30)F The primacy of Gods commandment of love
    (12:37)E How is Christ Davids Son?
    (12:40)D A judgment on the scribes
    (14:61)C Are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed God?
    (15:39)B Truly, this man was the Son of God
    (16:6) A An angel witnesses to his going

    Here Mark presents us with contrasting stories which he has arranged antiphonally with thematic and verbal correspondences (italicised). The writer expects us to begin with what we term antiphon A from the first story and then pair it off with antiphon A from the last story; similarly, antiphon B is followed by antiphon B and so on, until the crux or central element is reached at N, which has no corresponding antiphon. It is noteworthy that the biblical crux is at the centre, as in classical drama and in many Gaelic poems, and not at the end, as in modern literature.
    When the pairs of related antiphons are placed side by side the thematic and verbal correspondences become clearer. Thus:

    (1:2) A An angel witnesses to his coming
    (16:6) A An angel witnesses to his going.
    (1:11) B You are my Son
    (15:39) B Truly, this man was the Son of God.
    (2:7) C Who can forgive sins but God alone? (ei me eis ho Theos)
    (14:61) C Are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed God?
    (3:29) D The guilt of the scribes
    (12:40) D A judgment on the scribes
    (3:33) E Who is my mother...?
    (12:37) E How is Christ Davids Son?
    (3:35) F The primacy of doing Gods will
    (12:30) F The primacy of Gods commandment of love
    (4:40) G Who is this that the winds ... obey him?
    (11:28) G By what authority do you do these things?
    (6:3) H Jesus is called the Son of Mary
    (10:47) H Jesus is called Son of David
    (8:27) L Who do you say that I am?
    (10:18) L Why call me good? No one is good but God alone (ei me eis ho Theos)
    (8:31) M Prophecy of rejection, passion, resurrection
    (9:30) M Prophecy of betrayal, passion, resurrection
    (9:7) N This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to Him.

    The central element is usually reinforced by relating it specifically to the flanks of the structure, A and A. The theophony at the centre of Marks Gospel, for example, is heralded by angelophanies at the flanks:

    (1:2) A An angel witnesses to his coming
    (9:7) N This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him.
    (16:6) A An angel witnesses to his going.

    There is also a point of turning just past the centre of the structure: the phrase et statim, and suddenly (Mk 9:8), in this instance. This point of turning introduces a crucial new element in the lower half of the overall pattern that resolves or completes the first half, thus in Mark:

    Et statim // circumspicientes neminem amplius viderunt nisi Iesum tantum secum (v 8)
    And suddenly // when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus

    The crucial new element here is the affirmation of the divinity of Jesus, the Son of Man, his prediction of his betrayal, passion and resurrection and his call for generous service, with the motivation emphatically expressed (Mk 9:8-9, 30-37; 10:43-44).
    When the inversion principle is used with conscious precision, as in Patricks writings, most, if not all, of these elements appear and are practical rules of thumb for a proper interpretation of his Confessio and Epistola. In our analysis of his writings, therefore, the pairs of corresponding antiphons in each concentric passage are placed side by side, with the thematic and verbal linkages italicised to facilitate the reader.
    The Confessio of Patrick, taken in its totality, may be considered as one grand concentric unit:

    Part I A Prologue. Authors identification. Trust in God
    Part II B Testimony of Patricks sacred calling
    Part III C Rejection and betrayal
    Part IV B Testimony of Patricks mission
    Part V A Epilogue. Authors identification. Trust in God

    The elements that make up the Confessio and the Epistola have, moreover, their own internal concentric structure. Parts I and V of the Confessio, for instance, form a concentric pattern, where the inversion principle is again used with precision, and whose central element is the Apologia:

    (1-2) A Prologue. Authors identification
    (3) B Statement of reasons for writing, echoing Psalm 88(89):6
    (4) C Creed, quoting Romans 8:16-17
    (5) D Trust in God, quoting Psalm (50)49:15
    (6) E Confession of unworthiness
    (7-8) F On truthfulness
    (9-15) X Apologia
    V.(54) F On truthfulness
    (55) E Confession of unworthiness
    (55-56)D Trust in God, quoting Psalm 55 (54):23
    (57-60)C Doxology, quoting Romans 8:16-17
    (61) B Restatement of reasons for writing, quoting Psalm 119(118):111
    (62) A Epilogue. Authors identification

    The beginning of Part I of the Confessio (C 1-8) contains ninety-six lines of text, while Part V (C 54-62), which ends the Confessio, also contains ninetysix lines of text. This is one indication of the perfect symmetry of the Confessio, and of the tight control Patrick keeps on his composition. The concentric and parallel patterns of Patricks writings, in sum, fit together like the wheels of a clock.
    These literary patterns are common to both classical and biblical literature. I have also discovered many examples of them in early, medieval and modern Gaelic poetry. All the sacred songs composed by the poet, mystic and catechist, Tadhg Gaelach O Sóilleabh?íin (1715-95), demonstrate clearly that the concentric pattern was understood and used in Penal Days in Ireland and possibly down to the Great Hunger of the mid-nineteenth century, which culminated in a second cultural disaster for the Gaelic order. However, an initial flexibility coupled with a slight effort is called for, in practice, in order to adapt ourselves to these patterns, because they are different from those to which we are accustomed.


    These chiastic or concentric patterns show balance not only in the statement and restatement of ideas, but in the numbers of words and syllables and letters. These are arranged usually in one of two forms, either perfect symmetry or division by extreme and mean ratio, the golden section.
    There are, in Dr Howletts analysis, twenty-six chapters and 4,570 words in the original Latin version of the Confessio. The central sentence of the entire text is Ecce, dandus es | tu | ad gradum episcopatus, Look, you are to be given over to the order of the episcopate.From the first word to the pivotal tu, inclusive, there are 2,285 words; from the last word to the same pivotal tu, inclusive, there are 2,285 words. The seven-worded central element could thus be written on a horizontal line through the point at the centre of the overall structure.
    In producing mathematical compositions of literary texts, it is said that writers imitate in their compositions what they believe God to have done in the creation of the world. In Wisdom 11:21, for example, Solomon addressing the Creator says: but You have disposed all things by measure and number and weight. And in the New Testament Jesus states in Matthew 10:30: but even the hairs of your head are all numbered. This belief that literary creation was a reflection of Gods creative action was common to both biblical and classical writers. There is explicit discussion in the Talmud of the counting of verses, words and letters of the text of the Hebrew Bible; Plato, in a famous dialogue, makes Timaeus discuss in minute particulars the mathematical creation of the world.
    The account of the perfection of the Sabbath-rest after the Creation in Genesis 2:1-4 contains forty-six Hebrew words. The numerical value of the Greek letters in the name A AM is 1+4+1+40=46. As human work should reflect Gods work, it took forty-six years to build the Temple in Jerusalem (Jn 2:20). So in the Greek text of John 1:3, the account of Creation by Christ, there are forty-six letters. There are also forty-six letters in the Latin text of that same passage.
    Patrick, in addition, makes skilful use of the less important, biblical, literary technique of significant biblical numbers such as seven, eight, twelve and forty21 at various points in his Confessio, but in particular in Part II, the testimony of his sacred calling (C 16-25).
    The Epistola, like the Confessio, is concentric in structure. It is composed of four concentric paragraphs with a prologue and an epilogue, while it introduces many of the themes to be developed later in the Confessio. Practically every line of text in both compositions exhibits one of the commonly accepted cursus rhythms, and the possibility that excerpts from the Confessio could be sung or chanted, as the bardic poetry was sung and chanted in the great houses of the old Irish, Scottish and Welsh nobility, to a contrapuntal accompaniment on the harp, is currently being explored.


    In the Apologia (C 9-15), which is almost a miniature of the whole Confessio, Patrick writes:

    Sicut facile potest probari ex saliva scripturae meae,
    qualiter sum ego in sermonibus instructus atque eruditus,
    As it can easily be proved from the flavour of my writing
    how I have been taught and educated in styles of speech (C 9:10-11).

    David Howlett, in Ex Saliva Scripturae Meae (1989), sets out to demonstrate how Patrick draws on Sacred Scripture, not only for copious quotations, but also for the structure of his thought, and the manner of implying more than he seems to say. To show the truth of this claim, Mark 1:1-15 is selected as a model, in preference to many others, for clarity of language and terseness of method and style. Howlett then systematically examines this concentric passage for balance of words and phrases. Of its many striking features, he singles out two as being particularly noteworthy: one is the density of allusion to Old Testament antetypes, for which Mark is here providing the fulfilling types; the other is the extent to which Mark relies for effect not just upon words cited from the Old Testament, but upon their context, which he uses almost as a commentary to expand his meaning. At no point does he explicitly tell the reader what he is doing; he merely implies and expects us to infer.
    Marks arrangement of words by symmetry is then highlighted. A case in point is that in the original Greek version of this passage, the word Holy, in the sentence He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit at the crux of this passage, is the 121st word from the beginning and the 121st word from the end. In addition, three of the main themes , the Way, the Kingdom, Baptism , in this excerpt are repeated in the parallel reading, Mark 10:35-11:11. The arrangement of words by extreme and mean ratio is also repeated so that the number in the short part relates to the number in the longer part as the number in the longer part relates to the number in the whole. Howlett proves this by showing where the Golden Section falls.
    As we do not now possess the actual version of the Old Latin Bible which Patrick probably used, the Latin text of Mark 1:1-15, in Jeromes Vulgate, is the next best thing.
    With Marks model in mind, Howlett now proceeds to apply the same principles to Patricks Apologia, and finds that Patrick has reproduced every feature exhibited in the original text of Mark! In The Book of Letters of St Patrick the Bishop, Howlett has demonstrated that what is true for the Apologia is true for the whole of the Confessio.
    If we wish to sound the real depths of this great spiritual masterpiece, then, it is not enough to read it; we are advised to come to know, not only the sources, but also the context of its biblical quotations and significant biblical allusions, of which Patrick makes highly effective use in his Confessio.
    If we accept that Patrick adopted such a biblical method, then he had an obvious precedent among the New Testament literary artists with their evident penchant for references to the Old in order to shape essential typological messages.At almost every point the evangelists, often by means of subtle hints and allusions, convey their belief that what God has accomplished in Christ was analogous to his great acts recorded in the Scriptures.
    This close study will be further enriched by focusing also on how Patricks writings were influenced by the Fathers of the Church, and by the official pronouncements of the Church in contemporary controversies. We are greatly indebted to Daniel Conneelly for his painstaking research over many years in this area, and to his editors, for enabling us to do so in The Letters of Saint Patrick, A Study of their Theological Dimension (1993).
    Finally, if we endorse the view that literature is a half-way house between the reader and the writer, it should be possible to explore in this book, even if in elementary fashion, some of the key instances of Patricks sensitive artistic use, not only of scriptural quotation but of scriptural allusion, and his manner of implying more than he seems to say, in true biblical tradition. For those who wish to study the artistry of Patricks writings and their close biblical affinity in great detail, Howletts masterly exposition in The Book of Letters of Saint Patrick the Bishop is essential reading.


    Nora Chadwick is careful to point out that even an elementary, fleeting examination of the literary form of Patricks writings reveals allusions and conventions of style which were current in the Gaulish compositions of the fifth century. In his use of an open-letter form, both for his Confessio and his Epistola excommunicating Coroticus, Patrick chose the literary form most favoured by the literati of Gaul in his time. Indeed The Works of Fastidius suggest that this literary form may also have been in vogue in Britain in his day. This correspondence was largely written with an eye to publication.
    The influence of Augustines Confessions on Patricks Confessio has already been dealt with admirably by Peter Dronke and Thomas Finan.
    The tendency to refer to himself as peccator, a sinner, is considered by some scholars to be no more than a literary convention of the day , a mark of literary good breeding. Even though the signatures of the letters signed jointly by Paulinus of Nola and his wife Therasia: Paulinus et Therasia,peccatores, Paulinus and Therasia, sinners, are advanced in support of this theory, it is not entirely convincing. In Patricks case, his Confessio reveals that humility, in the sense of concern for the truth before God, was one of his cardinal virtues. His extraordinary sense of his lowliness, coupled with the depth of his constant prayer, made him profoundly aware of the true relationship between himself and his Creator. When, therefore, he saw himself in the light of the All-Holy One and confessed himself to be a sinner, he meant it; it was for him a reality, not a mere clich?®.
    The literary clich?®s found in Patricks writings, rusticissimus, very rustic (C 1:1), and indoctus, untaught (C 62:5), must also be evaluated within the literary climate of his era. We meet this literary formula, which professes ignorance and rusticity, from the pen of Gallus, the scholasticus, or orator, from St Martins monastery at Tours. In the Dialogues of Sulpicius Severus he professes himself blushing and diffident about speaking in the presence of cultured Aquitanians. Such expressions are, in reality, the mark of polish and literary good taste, an oratorical clich?®, as Posthumianus makes a point of noting: As you are an orator (scholasticus) you carefully, after the fashion of orators, begin by begging us to excuse your unskilfulness because you really excel in eloquence.
    It is, of course, almost universally accepted in classical circles, that modesty and eloquence were the hallmarks of the learned Gaulish Celts. Modesty was, indeed, part of the literary polish of the panegyrists for which Gaul was justly famous. It was, however, no less a convention than the
    spiritual self-abasement of the medieval religious with which Patrick would have been conversant from their writings as well as from his much-debated sojourn in Gaul.
    Given Patricks manifest gift for oratory, it is likely that the rich and colourful British and Irish idioms found unique expression in his Latin, and that some of his phrases, which
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Patrick - The Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland

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