Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mid-Lent Wisdom

I read this on one of my email lists this morning, and it really resonated with me. Being passionate by nature (being Italian helps that along, I think), I need to remember this, so I'm posting it here.

"The objects which the passions look for can’t satisfy them because objects are finite and as such don’t correspond to the unlimited thirst of the passions. Or as St. Maximus puts it, the passionate person finds himself in a continuous preoccupation with nothing; he tries to appease his infinite thirst with the nothingness of his passions, and the objects which it is gobbling up become nothing, by their very nature. In fact, a passion by its very nature searches for objects, and it seeks them only because they can be completely under the control of the ego, and at its mercy. But objects by nature are finite, both as sources of satisfaction and in regard to duration; they pass easily into nonexistence, by consumption. Even then the passion also needs the human person in order to be satisfied, it likewise reduces him or her to an object, or sees and uses only the objective side; the unfathomable depths hidden in the subjective side escape him."

From Dmitru Staniloae’s Orthodox Spirituality

"...However, when the Day of Judgment comes, when the resurrection of the dead comes... when the sinners see the righteous shining like the sun, they will be in dreadful fear, and in anguish they will groan and say, this is the man whom we once held in derision! We thought that His life was madness! We are the fools! We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction, and we journeyed through trackless deserts. What good has our boasted wealth profited us? We were deceived. We were deceived!

"These two chapters of the Wisdom of Solomon present us with a tremendous picture of the psychology of the ungodly—the mind of the worldly man—who will discover his deception on that day. The Apostle Peter also talks about all these things. These are exceedingly important—let’s look at this:

"'Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire!' (II Peter 3:11-12)

"So why are we wasting ourselves dealing only with earthly matters in a world that is about to be pulverized, to dissolve and collapse, a world that is going to be renovated? How should we spend our lives, knowing all this? Shouldn’t we be characterized by holy conduct? And see what he says, …yearning for and hastening… yearning and hastening with a joyous expectation, and racing towards that day of the coming of the Lord..."

Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios
Revelation Homilies, translated by Constantine Zalalas

"As sincere, fervent prayer is connected with abstinence, abstinence and fasting are necessary in order to maintain within ourselves the Christian life -- the ardour of faith, hope, and love. Nothing so soon extinquishes the spirit of faith within us as intemperance, indulgence, excessive search for amusement, and an irregular life.

"Those who reject fasting forget from what the fall into sin of the first men proceeded (intemperance) and what means to counter sin and the tempter were indicated to us by our Lord -- when He Himself was tempted in the desert, He fasted forty days and nights. They do not know -- or do not wish to know -- that a man most frequently falls away from God through intemperance.

"Begin to fulfill the commandments relating to small things, and you will come to fulfill the commandments relating to great things; everywhere small things lead to great things. Begin by fulfilling the commandment of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, or the tenth commandment relating to evil thoughts and desires, and you will eventually learn to fulfill all the commandments. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."

St. John of Kronstadt

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Annunciation, my chosen nameday

Great Feast of the Church - Celebrated on March 25 / April 7

According to Bishop Nikolai Velimirovch in The Prologue from Ohrid:

"When the most holy Virgin had lived and served in the Temple at Jerusalem for eleven years, and was by then fourteen years old when, that is, she was entering on her fifteenth year - the priests informed her that, according to the Law, she could no longer remain in the Temple but must be betrothed and marry. But, to the great surprise of all the priests, the most holy Virgin replied that she had dedicated herself to God and wished to remain a maiden till death and enter into wedlock with no-one. Then, by God's providence and under His inspiration, Zacharias, the high priest and father of the Forerunner, in consultation with the other priests, chose twelve unmarried men from the tribe of David so that they might entrust the Virgin Mary to one of them to preserve her virginity and care for her. She was thus entrusted to Joseph, an old man from Nazareth and a kinsman of hers. In his house, the most holy Virgin continued to live in the same manner as in the Temple of Solomon, passing her time in the reading of the sacred Scriptures, in prayer, in pondering on the works of God, in fasting and in handwork. She scarcely ever left the house, nor took an interest in worldly matters or events. She generally conversed very little with anyone, and never without a particular need. She was intimate only with the two daughters of Joseph. But when the time prophesied by the Prophet Daniel had come and when God was pleased to fulfill the promise made to Adam when He drove him out of Paradise, and to the prophets, the mighty Archangel Gabriel appeared in the chamber of the most holy Virgin, at the precise moment (as some priestly writers have related) that she was holding open on her lap the book of the Prophet Isaiah and pondering on his great prophecy: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son'. Gabriel appeared to her in angelic light and said to her: 'Rejoice, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee!', and so forth, just as is related in the Gospel of the divine Luke. With this angelic greeting and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the salvation of mankind and the renewal of creation were set in motion. The Archangel turned the first page of the story of the New Testament with the word 'Rejoice!', to show by this the joy that the New Testament signifies for mankind and for all things created. And therefore the Annunciation is looked upon as a joyous, as well as a great, feast."

We Orthodox are named after saints in the hope that we will learn holiness from them and have them as fervent intercessors on our behalf. My mother of blessed memory (I miss you so much, Mom!) named me after the Theotokos, the Mother of God, Mary. Marie is my middle name. When I became Orthodox, I didn't want to pick another saint as my patron, since I had already formed an attachment to the Mother of God. Whenever your patron saint has more than one feast day, it is the custom to celebrate your nameday on the feast closest to your birthday. For me, the feast of the Theotokos closest to my birthday is the Nativity of the Theotokos on September 8th, and for the first year or two that I was Orthodox, I sort of half-heartedly thought of her nativity as my nameday. Then I had a compelling reason to choose the Annunciation instead.

Tonight, as DD and I were celebrating my nameday at a local Japanese restaurant, she asked me why I chose the Annunciation when its ALWAYS in LENT and as such precludes much celebration. This is what I told her:

When I got married in 1979, like most people, I wanted the basics out of life: a loving husband, children, a dog and a cat, a little house with a picket fence -- a good life. That's not what happened. God had other plans for me which rubbed me raw. It started with infertility. In 1980, doctors told me that I would never have children. It just was not going to happen. I yearned for children, for family life, but it was not to be. Went to another doctor who said the same thing. I couldn't accept it. I just couldn't come to terms with a life with no children. I just couldn't make my peace with it. I tried, but I just couldn't. I tried to fill my time with all sorts of things: reading and painting and cooking and singing in the choir and my friends. I met a lovely lady, Olga Myellenbeck, who said she'd teach me painting and iconography. I didn't learn much about iconography, but I learned a lot about life and how to be an Orthodox woman. But I still yearned for children. In retrospect, I realize that I was deeply mourning a child that had never even been conceived - children that I never even had. I struggled with God over it and used to beg Him to take this yearning away. Then it was Annunciation, and Fr. John talked about Mary's perfect submission to God's will for her. She questioned it, but still obeyed and submitted her will to His in perfect peace. How that resonated with me! That's what I needed - perfect, peaceful submission to God's will. If I could just have one drop of the confidence that God's way is the best way, like my patroness, I knew that I would have peace. She said "Yes!" and all this time I had been saying "No! No! NO!" So, I picked Annunciation to be my nameday, out of all the feasts of the Theotokos.

That year, 1981, I started a 9 x 12 acrylic icon of the Annunciation as a Lenten spiritual exercise. In my heart, I was still saying NO NO NO, but I prayed that my no would turn to yes as I painted. I worked hard at it, but I didn't get it finished, so I put it away till the next Lent. In 1982, I saw how sloppy my work was, and started parts of it over. And so it went in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989. Still struggling with that yes..... In 1990, I gave birth to DD, a miracle child in so many ways, and I couldn't find the icon to finish it.

Last year, I found it, and saw that it was still an unfinished and raw work. The struggle is clearly seen in the icon. I don't struggle with God about infertility anymore, but I still struggle with Him about so many other things. As one of my goddaughters told me when she was annoyed with me, I always think I have better ideas. Its true, I do. Even better than God sometimes. I struggle and fight with God, and like Jacob who fought with the angel, I am wounded. Perhaps I'll work on it again this year. But, it occurs to me that maybe I'm not meant to finish this particular icon. Maybe its a metaphor for my spiritual life, and when it is done, I will be done too.

I've been Orthodox a long time now - its in my bones. I still fail miserably. My pride in my own competence trips me up. I am like St. Paul in that I act the way I do not want to act, and find myself doing things I do not want to do. I realize now that I struggle needlessly against the path that God has laid for me. I need a good dose of obedience and submission. I look to my patroness, the Mother of God, as my example, my protectress, my leader in this battle, my intercessor. When the battle is won, I will know peace, too.

The kontakion for the Annunciation, in the old Antiochian translation, is one of my favorites:

ToThee, our Queen, Leader in battle and Defender! I thy City, delivered from all peril, offer hymns of victory and thanksgiving. Since thou possess invincible power, set us free from every calamity, that we may cry to Thee: Hail, O Bride without Bridegroom!

The kontakion of the Akathist is another favorite (another old Antiochian translation that is dear to my heart):

Unto the Mother of God, let us sinners and humble ones now diligently have recourse, and let us bow down in penitence exclaiming from the depths of our souls: O Sovereign Lady! Help us, having compassion on us! Show zeal for perish with the multitude of our sins. Turn not thy servants away empty, for we have Thee as our only hope!

Then there is my favorite Akathist troparion:

Awed by the beauty of Thy virginity, and the exceeding radiance of they purity, Gabriel stood amazed, and cried to Thee, O Giver of Life: What grace can I offer Thee that is worthy of Thy beauty? By what name shall I call Thee? I am lost and bewildered, but I shall greet Thee as I was commanded. Hail! Thou who art full of grace!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Prayer of St. Nicholas of Zhicha

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.
Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earch and
have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an
extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds
safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by
enemies, found the safest sactuary, having ensconced myself beneath
Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as
though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into
the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me
with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully they have
wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil
life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have
stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even
more bitterly against me:

So that my feeing to Thee may have no return;

So that all hope in men may begin to reign in my soul;

So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins:
arrogance and anger;

So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self deception, which
has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a
person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates enemies only when he fails to realize that they are
not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good
and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son
blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.
Therefore, he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Nicholas of Zhicha

St. Nicholas of Zhicha is one of my favorite saints. His writings, particularly Prayers by the Lake, never cease to teach me and move me. Today is his feast day.


Saint Nicholas of Zhicha, "the Serbian Chrysostom," was born in Lelich in western Serbia on January 4, 1881 (December 23, 1880 O.S.). His parents were Dragomir and Katherine Velimirovich, who lived on a farm where they raised a large family. His pious mother was a major influence on his spiritual development, teaching him by word and especially by example. As a small child, Nicholas often walked three miles to the Chelije Monastery with his mother to attend services there.

Sickly as a child, Nicholas was not physically strong as an adult. He failed his physical requirements when he applied to the military academy, but his excellent academic qualifications allowed him to enter the St Sava Seminary in Belgrade, even before he finished preparatory school.

After graduating from the seminary in 1905, he earned doctoral degrees from the University of Berne in 1908, and from King's College, Oxford in 1909. When he returned home, he fell ill with dysentery. Vowing to serve God for the rest of his life if he recovered, he was tonsured at the Rakovica Monastery on December 20, 1909 and was also ordained to the holy priesthood.

In 1910 he went to study in Russia to prepare himself for a teaching position at the seminary in Belgrade. At the Theological Academy in St Petersburg, the Provost asked him why he had come. He replied, "I wanted to be a shepherd. As a child, I tended my father's sheep. Now that I am a man, I wish to tend the rational flock of my heavenly Father. I believe that is the way that has been shown to me." The Provost smiled, pleased by this response, then showed the young man to his quarters.

After completing his studies, he returned to Belgrade and taught philosophy, logic, history, and foreign languages at the seminary. He spoke seven languages, and this ability proved very useful to him throughout his life.

St Nicholas was renowned for his sermons, which never lasted more than twenty minutes, and focused on just three main points. He taught people the theology of the Church in a language they could understand, and inspired them to repentance.

At the start of World War I, Archimandrite Nicholas was sent to England on a diplomatic mission to seek help in the struggle of the Serbs against Austria. His doctorate from Oxford gained him an invitation to speak at Westminster Abbey. He remained in England for three short months, but St Nicholas left a lasting impression on those who heard him. His writings "The Lord's Commandments," and "Meditations on the Lord's Prayer" impressed many in the Church of England.

Archimandrite Nicholas left England and went to America, where he proved to be a good ambassador for his nation and his Church.

The future saint returned to Serbia in 1919, where he was consecrated as Bishop of Zhicha, and was later transferred to Ochrid. The new hierarch assisted those who were suffering from the ravages of war by establishing orphanages and helping the poor.

Bishop Nicholas took over as leader of Bogomljcki Pokret, a popular movement for spiritual revival which encouraged people to pray and read the Bible. Under the bishop's direction, it also contributed to a renewal of monasticism. Monasteries were restored and reopened, and this in turn revitalized the spiritual life of the Serbian people.

In 1921, Bishop Nicholas was invited to visit America again and spent two years as a missionary bishop. He gave more than a hundred talks in less than six months, raising funds for his orphanages. Over the next twenty years, he lectured in various churches and universities.

When Germany invaded Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941, Bishop Nicholas, a fearless critic of the Nazis, was arrested and confined in Ljubostir Vojlovici Monastery. In 1944, he and Patriarch Gavrilo were sent to the death camp at Dachau. There he witnessed many atrocities and was tortured himself. When American troops liberated the prisoners in May 1945, the patriarch returned to Yugoslavia, but Bishop Nicholas went to England.

The Communist leader Tito was just coming to power in Yugoslavia, where he persecuted the Church and crushed those who opposed him. Therefore, Bishop Nicholas believed he could serve the Serbian people more effectively by remaining abroad. He went to America in 1946, following a hectic schedule in spite of his health problems which were exacerbated by his time in Dachau. He taught for three years at St Sava's Seminary in Libertyville, IL before he settled at St Tikhon's Monastery in South Canaan, PA in 1951.

He taught at St Tikhon's and also served as the seminary's Dean and Rector. He was also a guest lecturer at St Vladimir's Seminary in NY, and at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.

On Saturday March 17, 1956 Bishop Nicholas served his last Liturgy. After the service he went to the trapeza and gave a short talk. As he was leaving, he bowed low and said, "Forgive me, brothers." This was something unusual which he had not done before.

On March 18, 1956 St Nicholas fell asleep in the Lord Whom he had served throughout his life. He was found in his room kneeling in an attitude of prayer. Though he was buried at St Sava's Monastery in Libertyville, IL, he had always expressed a desire to be buried in his homeland. In April of 1991 his relics were transferred to the Chetinje Monastery in Lelich. There he was buried next to his friend and disciple Fr Justin Popovich (+ 1979).

English readers are familiar with St Nicholas's PROLOGUE FROM OCHRID, THE LIFE OF ST SAVA, A TREASURY OF SERBIAN SPIRITUALITY, and other writings which are of great benefit for the whole Church. He thought of his writings as silent sermons addressed to people who would never hear him preach. In his life and writings, the grace of the Holy Spirit shone forth for all to see, but in his humility he considered himself the least of men.

Though he was a native of Serbia, St Nicholas has a universal significance for Orthodox Christians in all countries. He was like a candle set upon a candlestick giving light to all (MT 5:15). A spiritual guide and teacher with a magnetic personality, he attracted many people to himself. He also loved them, seeing the image of God in each person he met. He had a special love for children, who hastened to receive his blessing whenever they saw him in the street.

He was a man of compunctionate prayer, and possessed the gift of tears which purify the soul (St John Climacus, LADDER, Step 7). He was a true pastor to his flock protecting them from spiritual wolves, and guiding them on the path to salvation. He has left behind many soul-profiting writings which proclaim the truth of Christ to modern man. In them he exhorts people to love God, and to live a life of virtue and holiness. May we also be found worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven through the prayers of St Nicholas, and by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

In Savannah, there is a large St. Patrick's celebration which borders on the obscene. The hallmarks of this celebration are the descent of revelers from all over the country, with the express intention of drinking until they vomit on the sidewalk . Its not pretty. I thought that perhaps it would be good to remember the man and Saint, Patrick today.

The following Confession can be found here.

The Confession of St. Patrick

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all
the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the
eacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement
[vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I
was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I
did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in
Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for
quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we
obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And
the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us
among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my
smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief,
in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and
turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my
insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over
me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even
distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and
consoled me as a father would his son.

3. 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. For after chastisement from God, and
recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his
wonders before every nation under heaven.

4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be
hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in
whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught;
and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the
Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father,
indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and
invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was
received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every
name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we
look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the
dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured
out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of
immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of
God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in
the Trinity of holy name.

5. He himself said through the prophet: `Call upon me in the day of'
trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.' And
again: `It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.'

6. 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.

7. I am not ignorant of what is said of my Lord in the Psalm: `You
destroy those who speak a lie.' And again: `A lying mouth deals death
to the soul.' And likewise the Lord says in the Gospel: `On the day
of judgment men shall render account for every idle word they utter.'

8. 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.

9. 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 equally and have never
changed their idiom since their infancy, but instead were always
learning it increasingly, to perfection, while my idiom and language
have been translated into a foreign tongue. So it is easy to prove
from a sample of my writing, my ability in rhetoric and the extent of
my preparation and knowledge, for as it is said, `wisdom shall be
recognized in speech, and in understanding, and in knowledge and in
the learning of truth.'

10. But why make excuses close to the truth, especially when now I am
presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my
youth because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my
own? But who will believe me, even though I should say it again? A
young man, almost a beardless boy, I was taken captive before I knew
what I should desire and what I should shun. So, consequently, today
I feel ashamed and I am mightily afraid to expose my ignorance,
because, [not] eloquent, with a small vocabulary, I am unable to
explain as the spirit is eager to do and as the soul and the mind

11. But had it been given to me as to others, in gratitude I should
not have kept silent, and if it should appear that I put myself
before others, with my ignorance and my slower speech, in truth, it
is written: `The tongue of the stammerers shall speak rapidly and
distinctly.' How much harder must we try to attain it, we of whom it
is said: `You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the
earth . . . written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit
of the living God.' And again, the Spirit witnessed that the rustic
life was created by the Most High.

12. 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

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day
and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of
God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved
so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in
the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests
and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in
the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill
nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning
in me at that time.

17. And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a
voice saying to me: `You do well to fast: soon you will depart for
your home country.' And again, a very short time later, there was a
voice prophesying: `Behold, your ship is ready.' And it was not close
by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never
been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and
fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by
the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid
of nothing), until I reached that ship.

18. And on the same day that I arrived, the ship was setting out from
the place, and I said that I had the wherewithal to sail with them;
and the steersman was displeased and replied in anger, sharply: `By
no means attempt to go with us.' Hearing this I left them to go to
the hut where I was staying, and on the way I began to pray, and
before the prayer was finished I heard one of them shouting loudly
after me: `Come quickly because the men are calling you.' And
immediately I went back to them and they started to say to me: `Come,
because we are admitting you out of good faith; make friendship with
us in any way you wish.' (And so, on that day, I refused to suck the
breasts of these men from fear of God, but nevertheless I had hopes
that they would come to faith in Jesus Christ, because they were
barbarians.) And for this I continued with them, and forthwith we put
to sea.

19. And after three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days
journeyed through uninhabited country, and the food ran out and
hunger overtook them; and one day the steersman began saying: `Why is
it, Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why
can you not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely
indeed that we shall ever see another human being.' In fact, I said
to them, confidently: `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.' And with God's help this came to pass; and
behold, a herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and
they slew many of them, and remained there for two nights, and the
men were full of their meat and well restored, for many of them had
fainted and would otherwise have been left half dead by the wayside.
And after this they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed
in their eyes, and from that day they had food abundantly. They
discovered wild honey, besides, and they offered a share to me, and
one of them said: `It is a sacrifice.' Thanks be to God, I tasted
none of it.

20. The very same night while I was sleeping Satan attacked me
violently, as I will remember as long as I shall be in this body; and
there fell on top of me as it were, a huge rock, and not one of my
members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in
the spirit, to call upon `Helias'? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising
in the sky, and while I was crying out `Helias, Helias' with all my
might, lo, the brilliance of that sun fell upon me and immediately
shook me free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by
Christ my Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me, and I
hope that it will be so in the day of my affliction, just as it says
in the Gospel: `In that hour', the Lord declares, `it is not you who
speaks but the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.'

21. And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the
first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a
divine prophecy, saying to me: `You shall be with them for two
months.' So it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me
from their hands.

22. On the journey he provided us with food and fire and dry weather
every day, until on the tenth day we came upon people. As I mentioned
above, we had journeyed through an unpopulated country for twenty-
eight days, and in fact the night that we came upon people we had no

23. And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents
[kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith,
that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go
anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of
the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from
Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I
read the beginning of the letter: `The Voice of the Irish'; and as I
was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to
hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is
near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: `We
beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among
us.' And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no
more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many years
the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.

24. And another night—God knows, I do not, whether within me or
beside me— . . . most words + . . . + which I heard and could not
understand, except at the end of the speech it was represented
thus: `He who gave his life for you, he it is who speaks within you.'
And thus I awoke, joyful.

25. And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and I was
as it were, inside my own body , and I heard Him above me—that is,
above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the
course of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it
could be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it
was revealed to me that it was the Spirit. 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.'

26. And then I was attacked by a goodly number of my elders, who
[brought up] my sins against my arduous episcopate. That day in
particular I was mightily upset, and might have fallen here and for
ever; but the Lord generously spared me, a convert, and an alien, for
his name's sake, and he came powerfully to my assistance in that
state of being trampled down. I pray God that it shall not be held
against them as a sin that I fell truly into disgrace and scandal.

27. They brought up against me after thirty years an occurrence I had
confessed before becoming a deacon. On account of the anxiety in my
sorrowful mind, I laid before my close friend what I had perpetrated
on a day—nay, rather in one hour—in my boyhood because I was not yet
proof against sin. God knows—I do not—whether I was fifteen years old
at the time, and I did not then believe in the living God, nor had I
believed, since my infancy; but I remained in death and unbelief
until I was severely rebuked, and in truth I was humbled every day by
hunger and nakedness.

28. On the other hand, I did not proceed to Ireland of my own accord
until I was almost giving up, but through this I was corrected by the
Lord, and he prepared me so that today I should be what was once far
from me, in order that I should have the care of—or rather, I should
be concerned for—the salvation of others, when at that time, still, I
was only concerned for myself.

29. Therefore, on that day when I was rebuked, as I have just
mentioned, I saw in a vision of the night a document before my face,
without honour, and meanwhile I heard a divine prophecy, saying to
me: `We have seen with displeasure the face of the chosen one
divested of [his good] name.' And he did not say `You have seen with
displeasure', but `We have seen with displeasure' (as if He included
Himself) . He said then: `He who touches you, touches the apple of my

30. For that reason, I give thanks to him who strengthened me in all
things, so that I should not be hindered in my setting out and also
in my work which I was taught by Christ my Lord; but more, from that
state of affairs I felt, within me, no little courage, and vindicated
my faith before God and man.

31. Hence, therefore, I say boldly that my conscience is clear now
and hereafter. God is my witness that I have not lied in these words
to you.

32. But rather, I am grieved for my very close friend, that because
of him we deserved to hear such a prophecy. The one to whom I
entrusted my soul! And I found out from a goodly number of brethren,
before the case was made in my defence (in which I did not take part,
nor was I in Britain, nor was it pleaded by me), that in my absence
he would fight in my behalf. Besides, he told me himself: `See, the
rank of bishop goes to you'—of which I was not worthy. But how did it
come to him, shortly afterwards, to disgrace me publicly, in the
presence of all, good and bad, because previously, gladly and of is
own free will, he pardoned me, as did the Lord, who is greater than

33. I have said enough. But all the same, I ought not to conceal
God's gift which he lavished on us in the land of my captivity, for
then I sought him resolutely, and I found him there, and he preserved
me from all evils (as I believe) through the in-dwelling of his
Spirit, which works in me to this day. Again, boldly, but God knows,
if this had been made known to me by man, I might, perhaps, have kept
silent for the love of Christ.

34. Thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the
day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently offer my soul
as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord; who am I, Lord? or, rather,
what is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine
quality, so that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt
and magnify your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in
good fortune, but even in affliction? 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; so
that I might imitate one of those whom, once, long ago, the Lord
already pre-ordained to be heralds of his Gospel to witness to all
peoples to the ends of the earth. So are we seeing, and so it is
fulfilled; behold, we are witnesses because the Gospel has been
preached as far as the places beyond which no man lives.

35. But it is tedious to describe in detail all my labours one by
one. I will tell briefly how most holy God frequently delivered me,
from slavery, and from the twelve trials with which my soul was
threatened, from man traps as well, and from things I am not able to
put into words. I would not cause offence to readers, but I have God
as witness who knew all things even before they happened, that,
though I was a poor, ignorant waif, still he gave me abundant
warnings through divine prophecy.

36. Whence came to me this wisdom which was not my own, I who neither
knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came the so
great and so healthful gift of knowing or rather loving God, though I
should lose homeland and family?

37. 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 endure insults from
unbelievers; that I might hear scandal of my travels, and endure many
persecutions to the extent of prison; and so that I might give up my
free birthright for the advantage of others, and if I should be
worthy, I am ready [to give] even my life without hesitation; and
most willingly for His name. And I choose to devote it to him even
unto death, if God grant it to me.

38. I am greatly God's debtor, because he granted me so much grace,
that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after
confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the
masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the
earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: `To you shall
the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, "Our
fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which
there is no profit."' And again: `I have set you to be a light for
the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of
the earth.'

39. And I wish to wait then for his promise which is never
unfulfilled, just as it is promised in the Gospel: `Many shall come
from east and west and shall sit at table with Abraham and Isaac and
Jacob.' Just as we believe that believers will come from all the

40. So for that reason one should, in fact, fish well and diligently,
just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, `Follow me, and I
will make you fishers of men,' and, again, through the
prophets: `"Behold, I am sending forth many fishers and hunters,"
says the Lord,' et cetera. So it behoved us to spread our nets, that
a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God, and so there
might be clergy everywhere who baptized and exhorted a needy and
desirous people. Just as the Lord says in the Gospel, admonishing and
instructing: `Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always to the end of time.' And again he
says: `Go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.
He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not
believe shall be condemned.' And again: `This Gospel of the Kingdom
shall be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to all
nations; and then the end of the world shall come.' And likewise the
Lord foretells through the prophet: `And it shall come to pass in the
last days (sayeth the Lord) that I will pour out my spirit upon all
flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men
shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my
menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my
Spirit and they shall prophesy.' And in Hosea he says: `Those who are
not my people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will
call my beloved, and in the very place where it was said to
them, "You are not my people," they will be called 'Sons of the
living God."'

41. So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge
of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things,
they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children
of God; the sons of the Irish [Scotti] and the daughters of the
chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.

42. And there was, besides, a most beautiful, blessed, native-born
noble Irish [Scotta] woman of adult age whom I baptized; and a few
days later she had reason to come to us to intimate that she had
received a prophecy from a divine messenger [who] advised her that
she should become a virgin of Christ and she would draw nearer to
God. Thanks be to God, six days from then, opportunely and most
eagerly, she took the course that all virgins of God take, not with
their fathers' consent but enduring the persecutions and deceitful
hindrances of their parents. Notwithstanding that, their number
increases, (we do not know the number of them that are so reborn)
besides the widows, and those who practise self-denial. Those who are
kept in slavery suffer the most. They endure terrors and constant
threats, but the Lord has given grace to many of his handmaidens, for
even though they are forbidden to do so, still they resolutely follow
his example.

43. So it is that even if I should wish to separate from them in
order to go to Britain, and most willingly was I prepared to go to my
homeland and kinsfolk—and not only there, but as far as Gaul to visit
the brethren there, so that I might see the faces of the holy ones of
my Lord, God knows how strongly I desired this—I am bound by the
Spirit, who witnessed to me that if I did so he would mark me out as
guilty, and I fear to waste the labour that I began, and not I, but
Christ the Lord, who commanded me to come to be with them for the
rest of my life, if the Lord shall will it and shield me from every
evil, so that I may not sin before him.

44. 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, but the hostile flesh is
always dragging one down to death, that is, to unlawful attractions.
And I know in part why I did not lead a perfect life like other
believers, but I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight,
because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my
youth, the love of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up
until now, by God's favour, I have kept the faith.

45. What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am
not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were
shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, [he] who
knew everything, even before the beginning of time.

46. Thus, I should give thanks unceasingly to God, who frequently
forgave my folly and my negligence, in more than one instance so as
not to be violently angry with me, who am placed as his helper, and I
did not easily assent to what had been revealed to me, as the Spirit
was urging; and the Lord took pity on me thousands upon thousands of
times, because he saw within me that I was prepared, but that I was
ignorant of what to do in view of my situation; because many were
trying to prevent this mission. They were talking among themselves
behind my back, and saying: `Why is this fellow throwing himself into
danger among enemies who know not God?' Not from malice, but having
no liking for it; likewise, as I myself can testify, they perceived
my rusticity. And I was not quick to recognize the grace that was
then in me; I now know that I should have done so earlier.

47. 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. I wish only that you, too, would
make greater and better efforts. This will be my pride, for `a wise
son makes a proud father'.

48. You know, as God does, how I went about among you from my youth
in the faith of truth and in sincerity of heart. As well as to the
heathen among whom I live, I have shown them trust and always show
them trust. God knows I did not cheat any one of them, nor consider
it, for the sake of God and his Church, lest I arouse them and [bring
about] persecution for them and for all of us, and lest the Lord's
name be blasphemed because of me, for it is written: `Woe to the men
through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.'

49. For even though I am ignorant in all things, nevertheless I
attempted to safeguard some and myself also. 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. And they would
be offended with me because I did this. But in the hope of eternity,
I safeguarded myself carefully in all things, so that they might not
cheat me of my office of service on any pretext of dishonesty, and so
that I should not in the smallest way provide any occasion for
defamation or disparagement on the part of unbelievers.

50. What is more, when I baptized so many thousands of people, did I
hope for even half a jot from any of them? [If so] Tell me, and I
will give it back to you. And when the Lord ordained clergy
everywhere by my humble means, and I freely conferred office on them,
if I asked any of them anywhere even for the price of one shoe, say
so to my face and I will give it back.

51. More, I spent for you so that they would receive me. And I went
about among you, and everywhere for your sake, in danger, and as far
as the outermost regions beyond which no one lived, and where no one
had ever penetrated before, to baptize or to ordain clergy or to
confirm people. Conscientiously and gladly I did all this work by
God's gift for your salvation.

52. From time to time I gave rewards to the kings, as well as making
payments to their sons who travel with me; notwithstanding which,
they seized me with my companions, and that day most avidly desired
to kill me. But my time had not yet come. They plundered everything
they found on us anyway, and fettered me in irons; and on the
fourteenth day the Lord freed me from their power, and whatever they
had of ours was given back to us for the sake of God on account of
the indispensable friends whom we had made before.

53. Also you know from experience how much I was paying to those who
were administering justice in all the regions, which I visited often.
I estimate truly that I distributed to them not less than the price
of fifteen men, in order that you should enjoy my company and I enjoy
yours, always, in God. I do not regret this nor do I regard it as
enough. I am paying out still and I shall pay out more. The Lord has
the power to grant me that I may soon spend my own self, for your

54. Behold, I call on God as my witness upon my soul that I am not
lying; nor would I write to you 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.

55. But I see that even here and now, I have been exalted beyond
measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy that he should grant me
this, while I know most certainly that poverty and failure suit me
better than wealth and delight (but Christ the Lord was poor for our
sakes; I certainly am wretched and unfortunate; even if I wanted
wealth I have no resources, nor is it my own estimation of myself,
for daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery
if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises
of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who
reigns everywhere. As the prophet says: `Cast your burden on the Lord
and he will sustain you.'

56. Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and for
whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of
persons and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the
least of his ministers.

57. For which reason I should make return for all that he returns me.
But what should I say, or what should I promise to my Lord, for I,
alone, can do nothing unless he himself vouchsafe it to me. But let
him search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough for it, even
too much, and I am ready for him to grant me that I drink of his
chalice, as he has granted to others who love him.

58. Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from
his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that
he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a
faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.

59. 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, even should I be left
unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by
dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the
air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had
saved both my soul and my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we
shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory
of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-
heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him
and for him and in him.

60. For the sun we see rises each day for us at [his] command, but it
will never reign, neither will its splendour last, but all who
worship it will come wretchedly to punishment. 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. Amen.

61. Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of
my confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before
God and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the
Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from
which I had previously escaped with difficulty.

62. 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.