St Patrick’s Experience of the Holy Spirit

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St Patrick attributed his spiritual “stamina” to the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The language in Confession suggests a charismatic spirituality which has formed a strong thread of the faith-experience of people in the Republic of Ireland to this day.

Towards the end of his life he wrote in his Confession: ‘He who wants can laugh and jeer, but I shall not keep silent nor keep hidden the signs and wonders [signa et mirabilia] which have been shown to me by the Lord before they took place as He who knows all things before the world began’.

Patrick is quite clear that these miraculous occurrences were accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. He reminds his readers at the beginning of his Confession that Jesus ‘poured out on us abundantly His Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey to be sons of God and heirs along with Christ’.

Patrick recalled how when he first reached Ireland as a captive, he was able to pray before dawn in all weathers, snow, frost and rain ‘because the Spirit was fervent within me.’

On occasion Patrick was profoundly conscious of the Holy Spirit praying from deep within his own spirit. His description of this experience is not dissimilar from that recounted by people who pray in tongues or who enter a state of constant intercession by praying the Jesus Prayer. Patrick related: ‘I saw Him praying within me and I was, as it were, inside my own body and Iheard His voice above me, that is to say above my inner self, and He was praying there powerfully and groaning; and meanwhile I was dumbfounded and astonished and wondered who it could be that was praying with me, but at the end of the prayer He spoke and said that He was the Spirit … The Spirit helps the weaknesses of our prayer; for we do not know what to pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspeakable groans which cannot be expressed in words. (Romans 8.26) and again: ‘The Lord our advocate intercedes for us.’ (cf 1 John 2 v 1)’

When he later reflected on his time in Ireland as a captive exile, Patrick wrote that God protected him from all evils ‘because of His Spirit dwelling in me’.

Drawn from: Nigel Scotland, Charismatic Christianity and the appeal of Celtic Pneumatology182 ANVIL Volume 23 No 3 2006

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