Secundinus’s Hymn of St. Patrick

Teacher of the Irish


Hear all ye who love God, the holy merits
Of the Bishop Patrick, a man blessed in Christ;
How, on account of his good actions, he is likened unto the angels,
And for his perfect life, is counted equal to the Apostles.

2 Cor. xi. 5.

He keepeth the commandments of the blessed Christ in all things,
His works shine brightly before men,
Who follow his holy and admirable example,
Whence also they glorify the Lord his Father which is in heaven.

John xiv. 15; Matt. v. 16.

Steadfast in the fear of the Lord, and immovable in faith;
On whom, as on Peter, the Church is built;
Who received his Apostleship from God.
The gates of hell shall not prevail against him.

1 Cor. xv. 58.; Gal. i. 1; Matt. xvi. 18

The Lord chose him to teach the barbarous nations,
To fish (for men) with the nets of doctrine,
To draw believers from the world unto grace,
That they might follow the Lord to the heavenly seat.

Matt. iv. 19.

He trades with the choice Gospel talents of Christ,
Which he puts out at usury amongst the Hiberbian nations.
Destined hereafter, along with Christ, to possess the joy of the heavenly kingdom,
As a recompense for this labour.

Matt.xxv. 14-30; John xiv. 3

A faithful minister and distinguished messenger of God,
He shows to the good an apostolic example and pattern;
Who preaches to the people of God, as well by deeds as by words,
So that by good works he may provoke those to imitation, whom he does not convert by his words.

1 Tim. iv. 6,12.

He has glory with Christ, and honour in this world,
Being venerated by all as the angel of God;
Whom God sent, even as Paul , to be an Apostle to the Gentiles,
To guide men unto the kingdom of God.

2 Tim i. 11; Gal i. 1.

Humble, through fear of God, both in spirit and behaviour,
Upon whom on account of his good actions rests the Spirit of the Lord:
Who beareth in his righteous flesh the marks of Christ,
In whose cross alone he glories and sustains himself.

Gal vi. 14-17.

He diligently feedeth believers with heavenly food,
Lest those who are seen with Christ should faint by the way:
To whom he distributes the words of the Gospel like the loaves
In whose hands they are multiplied like the manna.

Matt. xv. 32; Exod. xvi 14-18,; John vi.11.

Who, through the love of God, keepeth his flesh pure,
Having prepared it to be a temple for the Holy Spirit,
By whom it is constantly possessed with good motions;
And who offers up his body a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to the Lord.

John iii. 3; 1 Cor vi.19; Rom xii. 1.

He isa great and burning evangelical light of the world,
Set upon a candlestick, shining unto the whole world;
A strong city of the king, set upon a hill,
In which is much store of the riches of the Lord.

John v. 35; Matt. v. 14,15.

He shall be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven
Who fulfils, by good works, what he teaches in his holy discourses.
He goes before with a good example, and a pattern to the faithful;
And in a pure heart has faith towards God.

Matt xviii. 1-3; 1 Tim iii. 9; iv. 12.

He boldly preaches the name of the Lord to the Gentiles,
To whom he gives the eternal grace of the laver of salvation;
For whose offences he daily prays to God;
For whom also he offers up sacrifices worthy of God.

Acts ix. 29, Jas. v. 16; Phil iv. 18; Heb. xiii. 15,16.

He despises all the glory of the world, in comparison with the Divine law,
Counting all things as but chaff, compared with Christ’s table;
Nor is he disturbed by the violence of the thunder of this world;
But rejoices in tribulation when he suffers for Christ.

Phil. iii. 8; Acts v. 41.

A good and faithful shepherd of the Gospel-flock,
Chosen by God, to watch the people of God,
And to feed, with Divine doctrines, the nation;
For which, after the example of Christ, he is giving his life.

John x. 14; xv. 13; xxi. 15.

Whom the Saviour advanced for his merits, to be a Bishop,
That he might exhort the clergy in the heavenly warfare;
To whom he distributes the bread from heaven, along with garments,
Which is fulfilled in his divine and holy discourses.

1 Tim. i. 18; John vi. 11; Matt. xxii. 11.

A messenger of the king, inviting believers to the marriage,
Who is arrayed in the wedding garment;
Who draws the heavenly wine in heavenly vessels,
Pledging the people of God in the spiritual cup.

Matt. xxii. 2.

He finds in the sacred volume a sacred treasure,
Which he purchases with his holy and perfect merits.
He discerns also the Godheadof the Saviour in the flesh.
He is named Israel, beholding God in his spirit.

Matt. xiii. 44; Gen. xxxii.28, 30.

A faithful witness of God in the Catholic doctrine.
Whose words are seasoned with the Divine oracles..
So that they are not corrupted, like human flesh, and eaten of worms;
But are salted with a heavenly savour for the sacrifices.

Mark ix 48-50; Col. iv. 6.

A true and excellent cultivator of the Gospel field,
Whose seeds are seen to be the Gospels of Christ,
Which he sows from his divine mouth in the ears of the wise,
And tills their hearts and minds with the Holy Spirit.

Matt. xiii. 1-9; Mark iv. 14.

Christ chose him to be his vicar on the earth,
Who liberates captives from a two-fold bondage;
And of the many whom he has redeemed from the bondage of men,
Releases numberless persons from the dominion of the devil.

Isai. lxi. 1; John viii. 31.

He sings Hymns, with the Apocalypse, and the Psalms of God,
On which he discourses, for the edification of the people of God;
Which Scripture he believes, in the Trinity of the sacred Name,
And teaches the One substance in Three Persons.

Rom. xv. 4.

Girt with the girdle of the Lord, by day and night,
He prays without ceasing to the Lord God,
Receiving the reward of which great labour,
He shall reign with the Holy Apostles over Israel.

Isaiah xi. 5; Eph. vi. 14; 1 Thes. v. 17; Matt. xix. 28.
Translated by Dr. Graves, Lord Bishop of Limerick, 1853. As published in “The Epistles & Hymn of Saint Patrick”, by Thomas Olden, Dublin, 1876.


Secundinus, in Irish known as Sechnall, was according to the “Leabhar Breac” (9th century) the son of Patrick’s sister Liamania. He assisted Patrick in his missionary labours, and resided in Dunshauglin, which derives its name from him (Domhnach-Sechnaill, the Church of Sechnall)

The translation is by Dr. Graves, Lord Bishop of Limerick, Ireland, 1853. He was the first to translate this Hymn in english. The translation and the notes are taken from “The Epistles & Hymn of Saint Patrick” by Thomas Olden, Dublin 1876. Note that the abbreviation (G) indicates a note by the original translater, Dr. Graves, no abbeviation indicates a note by the editor, Thomas Olden.


Patricii. “Patrick, i.e. nomen graidh le Romanu, i.e. the name of an order among the Romans,” (G); meaning the Patrician Order.


Beati Christi … mandata. The Book of Hymns reads beata – i.e., the blessed commandments of Christ.


Super quem aedificatur ut Petrum ecclesia. The reading in the Book of Hyms is Petrus, and the meaning then would be “on whom the Church, like Peter, is built.” The commentary is as follows :- “When it is said, Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, It is interpreted, Peter acknowledging [Christ.] Matt. xvi. 16; whosoever therefore desires to enter into the kingdom of heaven must acknowledge God by faith like Peter” (G) According to this note, Peter is addressed, not in his personal, but in his representative capacity, as a “confessor of Christ,” and thus others, share his privilege. The Church, in fact, is “built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone,” (Eph. ii. 20,) and St. Patrick, according to the author, as another Apostle, takes his place with St. Peter and the rest. In a certain sense, as the note seems to intimate, all Christians partake of the honour as “living stones,” 1 Peter ii. 5.

Cujusque apostolatum a Deo sortitus est, or “the Apostleship of which (i.e. the Church) he received from God.” “Cujusque, i.e. Ecclesiae,” Todd, Book of Hymns; but this seems doubtful. Here as in the Confessio, he ascribes his coming to Ireland to a divine call.


Barbaras, “i.e. foreign, because foreign to the Roman language.” (G) Ireland never having formed part of the Roman Empire, and not speaking the Latin language.


The talents of Christ mentioned in the Gospel.

Cum Christo. As the Lord says in the Gospel, “Where the carcas is there will the eagles be gathered together;” as if he said distinctly, “Where Christ in the flesh shall be, there shall the just be also, and thus shall they be always in heaven with Him.” (G)

Navati hujus laboris. The reading in the B. of H. is navigii, that is “the voyage of the Church;” here “the sea is the present world; the ship is the Church; the pilot is the preacher (forectlaid) who brings her to the port of life; the port that is perpetual. (G)


Ut Paulum. “As Paul was sent to the Gentiles, so Patrick was sent to the nations of the Scoti (Irish)” (G) Here there is evident reference toSt. Paul’s description of himself as “an Apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father,” Gal. i. 1.


Dapibus – “of his preaching.” (G) There is in this verse a double reference; to the manna in the wilderness, and to our Lord’s miracles. On the accuracy of this description there can be no doubt, as the writer, from his intimate association with St. Patrick, must have been familiar with this preaching.


Lumen. “Lux is the element itself – lumen what issues from the lux; that is, the brightness.” (G) The meaning of this note, probably, is that St. Patrick shone with a light derived from Christ, and thus was only in a secondary sense a light of the worls.

Civitas. St. Patrick, not the Church, is here compared to a fortified city of a king, set on a hill, which, with all its treasure, is the king’s property. “The fruitful hill is Christ. (G)


In the legendary account of the origin of this hymn, it is said that St. Patrick, when he heard the hymn recited, not knowing at the time to whom it referred, the first verse having been omitted, objected to this word; but an explanation was offered that greatest was put for great. The gloss explains it by peroptimus, the very greaest.


Hostias; “that is, spiritual sacrifices.” (G) “Sacerdotium sanctum offerre spirituales hostias.” – 1 Pet. ii. 5. Vulgate.


Mensam. This line in the Book of Hymns is, “Que cuncta ad cujus mensam estimat cisciliam. The Irish note interprets mensam “mensuram,” i.e., measure; and then the passage will run, “He despises all the glory of the world in comparison with the Divine law, measured by which he also estimates all things as chaff.”

Patitur. “He suffers for Christ, who denies himself and takes up his cross daily.” (G)


“He is a good shepherd who is like Christ, who says, I am the Good Shepherd, and lay down my life for my sheep.” (G) Confess. chap iv., secs. 16, 24

“As the Apostles says, “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” – Rom. ix. 3. (G)


The allusion would seem to be to the marriage feast, Mat. xxii.; but the gloss quotes Luke xii. 36, “Be ye like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh they may unto him immediately.”

“The wine of the doctrine of the Gospel.” (G)


This refers to an interpretation mentioned by St. Jerome, in which Israel was said to mean, vir aut mens videns Deum, “the person or mind seeing God;” but the true meaning is, “a Prince with God.”


“Catholic means universal.” (G) We have here the primitive meaning of the word Catholic, as explained by Vincentius of Lerins, (Introduction, p. 33, note,) and as used by the Church of Ireland at the present day. Thus in the Prayer for all Conditions of Men, the words are – “We pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church, that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth.” In the Litany, “That it may please thee to rule and govern thy Holy Church Universal in the right way,” and again in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” The Church of Rome wishes to be called the Catholic Church, but this is equivalent to saying that a particular Church is universal, which is a contradiction. It is sufficient to say that the claim is been rejected by the great Eastern Church, and all Reformed Churches, in other words, by the greatest and most civilized nations of the world. Here was the place for some mention of Rome; but there is none, either in text or commentary.

Vermibus; “that is, of knowledge.” (G) The meaning appears to be, that his words will be found so perfectly in accord with Holy Scripture, that no learning will detect any error.

Ad victimam. In order that they may prove an acceptable offering.


Vicarium means a “steward, or taxgatherer, or successor, (comorba) for this is what Jerome says in his Epistle concerning the ranks of Romans, that the vicar is the man who is instead of the count (comes) over the city, until the count or comes returns from the king,” (G.) Thus here the king is God, the comes is Christ, the vicar is Patrick; but there is no such passage as that quoted, in the genuine works of Jerome. The reader will note that in Irish estimations St. Patrick was a vicar of Christ.

See Epistle to Coroticus.


Tractat. This is explained “imluadid, i.e., he puts in motion, announces, publishes.” (G) This line appears also in the Hymn of Fiace. “Hymns and the Apocalypse, the Three-fifties (Psalms) he used to sing them;” and in the note here, the Hymns are explained to mean the Te Deum, or, this of Secundinus. The exact meaning of tractat is, ‘he handles or treats of.’

Credit. “It is a great thing that he believes the law of th sacred name, which is the Trinity,” (G) It has been remarked as strange that there is no mention of the Arian Controversy in St. Patrick’s works, but the manner in which the Divinity of Christ is dwelt on, and the sequent mention of the Trinity, appears to refer to it indirectly


“Augustinus says, If every day one observes fixed times if practising [prayer,] he prays without ceasing.” (G)

Sanctis. Another reading is sanctus, i.e., “He shall reign with the Apostles, a saint over Israel,” “that is, over those souls who see God,” (G) The meaning appears to be that St. Patrick holds a ranck equal to that of our Lord’s twelve Apostles, and shall hereafter enjoy the same priviledges. We have already seen that he is assigned the same position by the author as St. Peter and St. Paul. A later tradition of the Irish was that he should “judge the Scoti [Irish] at the day of judgment, as the Apostles were to judge Israel.” This is founded on a legend given by Probus in his Life of St. Patrick, and is only referred to here as illustrating the strong Nationality of the Irish Chruch, which indeed is everywhere apparent throughout its early history.