Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patrick (389-460 AD) : Letter to Croticus

In Patrick's Letter to Coroticus he speaks out against Croticus a British slave trader whose soliders were raiding along the Irish coast slaughtering men and taking women and children back to England to be sold as slaves.

Though Patrick wasn't the first missionary to Ireland, (Palladius, preceded him) he was the first who met with success. This made the celtic mission the first outside the Roman Empire.
The Roman Christians, largely gentiles looked down on Patrick's non-Roman Christians as second class. St. Patrick's defense of the Irish Christians is similar to St. Paul's defense of gentiles in the early Church as being fully worthy of the Kingdom of God by grace.

The Letter is an especially important document because it shows St. Patrick as the first to speak out against slavery and in defense of women. As one who had been enslaved himself, Patrick proclaims his authority as a Bishop and speaks out against the kidnapping and murder perpetrated by his Roman countrymen.

Below are excerpts from Patrick's letter to Coroticus:
With my own hand I have written and composed these words, to be given, delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus; I do not say, to my fellow citizens, or to fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons, because of their evil works. Like our enemies, they live in death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the number for God and confirmed in Christ!

The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) - the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people - I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them.

Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily ensnared. ..

I do not know why I should say or speak further about the departed ones of the sons of God, whom the sword has touched all too harshly. For Scripture says: "Weep with them that weep;" and again: "If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it." Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold, Christians made slaves...

Therefore I shall raise my voice in sadness and grief- O you fair and beloved brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, countless of number, what can I do you for? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. The wickedness of the wicked hath prevailed over us. We have been made, as it were, strangers. Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one and the same baptism, or have one and the same God as Father. For them it is a disgrace that we are Irish. Have ye not, as is written, one God? Have ye, every one of you, forsaken his neighbor?...

Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes — for a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever. Amen.

graphic: a page from Patrick's Confessio

compiled from several sources

check out Living Water thumb nail of Patrick

living water William Wilberforce bio 


Kelly said...

Very cool.

Jason Barr said...


This is an awesome letter. I had read it before, but it's been long enough that the impact had faded somewhat.

This message is still highly important today for a number of reasons - institutionalized disrespect of women and others is still widespread throughout the world, and even slavery still exists, both in the form of debt slavery and enslavement of people for the purpose of forced labor. Everything Patrick said many centuries ago still needs to be spoken to many people of our time, even to Christians.