Believe it or not, I’ve been seeing some Protestants claiming that Saint Patrick was not actually a Catholic, but really a (proto) Protestant! In response to this, I decided to look at what Patrick actually said. It turns out there are 3 short writings that are accepted as authentically by Patrick: The Breastplate Hymn, the Confession, and the Epistle to Coroticus. They can be found HERE with good footnotes by the editors.
Not surprisingly, nothing in those short writings sounded anything like Protestantism. No mention of faith alone, no mention of sola scriptura, etc, etc. Quite the opposite, in fact.
In the 1 page long Breastplate Hymn: Patrick calls upon Cherubim, Angels, Archangels, Confessors and holy Virgins. He calls upon “the light of the sun, the brightness of the moon, the splendor of fire, the speed of lightning, the swiftness of the wind, and depth of the sea,” all of which sounds more like one of the Psalms, and not like any Protestant prayer I’ve ever heard of.
In the 10 page long Confession: Patrick directly quotes from the Catholic books of Scripture which Protestants reject! Patrick directly quotes from Tobit 12:7 (paragraph 2); directly from Wisdom 1:11 (para 3); directly from Sirach 4:29 (para 4); and Sirach 7:15-16 (par 5).
In the Confession: Patrick speaks a lot about being judged by God at the end of our life according to how we lived, good or evil, and that even the smallest of sins will be taken into account (paragraphs 2-3). This is hardly possible with Faith Alone and Once Saved Always Saved.
In the Confession: Patrick speaks of how he was connected to the Catholic Church and wasn’t going around on his own the way Protestants set about on their own to start their own churches or how the Reformers took it upon themselves to Reform. Rather, Patrick received visions from Jesus and the Holy Spirit to evangelize Ireland, whereas the Protestant Reformers never claimed to have visions/instructions from God. Patrick set sail for France to get seminary education and ordination to be a bishop, and he had to defend his reputation from his past sins in order to be a worthy candidate. But the Protestant Reformers didn’t get ordained to bishops, and never had to answer for their lifestyles. (Paragraphs 4-10)
In the Confession: Patrick says by going to Ireland the Gospel had finally reached the ends of the earth, which would be impossible if he wasn’t connected to the Catholic Church, which was the only visible and universal Christian body at the time.
In the Confession: Patrick says he baptized thousands and ordained clergy in Ireland (para 22), which if he were Protestant he wouldn’t have had to, and I know of no Protestants who have done such a thing. Patrick also says many Irish became monks and nuns (consecrated virgins). Paragraphs 18,22.
In the 5 page long Epistle to Coroticus: Patrick speaks of neophites (new Christians) anointed with oil (Confirmation) and put on ceremonial white robes (paragraph 2), just like how Catholics do it at Easter Vigil. Patrick says that Christians who fall into grave sin should “rigorously do repentance with tears” in order to “make satisfaction to God” (4). Patrick directly quotes Sirach 34:23-24 and speaks of what sounds like mortal sin (4). He says there are numerous monks and virgins from the converts in Ireland (6). He speaks of the “custom of Roman and Gallic Christians to send holy and suitable men to the Franks and other nations” (7), which indicates a Catholic Church, and a venerable Roman and Gaellic churches. And he spends most of the letter warning those who have sinned and gone apostate to repent or be damned. This is hardly the sound of a proto-Protestant.
So don’t be fooled into thinking Patrick was in any way a Protestant. He was a Catholic, and that’s why we celebrate him today!