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The Confession of St. Patrick

Today, many people are decked out in green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day (and some in honor of the Boston Celtics).  We all know of the little green men and their legendary pots of gold, but do you know the true treasure of St. Patrick?  St. Patrick, known in Irish as Naomh Pádraig, was born in Britain around the year A.D. 387 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius.  At the age of 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and made a slave.  For six years he lived as a slave to the Irish until at last he was able to escape and return to his family in Britain.  Later as an adult  he was ordained as a bishop in the Church.  He then returned to Ireland; not as a slave captured by men, but as a slave freely given to God.  There he shared the Gospel of Christ with the Celtic people of Ireland.  At that time the Druids still governed the religious nature of the Celts, and did so powerfully.  To speak openly of Christ was to invite abuse, torture, and even martyrdom.  Yet, God so blessed St. Patrick and his ministry that the Gospel spread throughout the country even to the point of great Celtic Chieftains turning to Christ.  St. Patrick’s ministry had such an incredible impact that he is known to this day as the patron saint of Ireland.

St. Patrick

St. Patrick


The little we know about his life and ministry come to us through his writings, all in Latin.  My students enjoy reading St. Patrick’s Confession each March as the three leaf clovers begin to bloom.  This reading is included in the LA Reader titled Latin Alive Reader: Latin Literature from Cicero to Newton.

The University College Cork has an online Latin text of the Confession of St. Patrick as well as some other wonderful celtic resources to contribute to a St. Patrick themed lesson.

Confession of St. Patrick:

CELT, Corpus of Electronic Texts (University College Cork):




AP Latin Tip:

I also enjoy pairing this reading with Book VI of de Bello Gallico for my AP Latin Students.  The excerpts for Book VI give a vivid portrayal of ancient Celtic culture.  St. Patrick’s Confession provides a nice bit of “sight reading” amidst the AP syllabus for Caesar.   While Caesar’s account was written in the first century B.C. and St. Patrick’s about 400 years later, it is still intriguing to think of the two readings as having some connection in culture and geography.



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