Hymn of St. Secundinus
To return to the main St. Patrick Page
Return to the page of literary references and song
Hear ye all, lovers of God, the | holy merits
Of the man blessed in Christ, Pa - | trick the bishop,
How for his good ways he is likened to the an - | gels,
And because of his perfect life is deemed equal to | the Apostles.
Christ's holy precepts he keeps | in all things,
His works shine | bright among men,
And they follow his holy and wondrous exam - | ple,
And thus magnify God the Father | in the heavens.
Constant in the fear of God and steadfast | in his faith,
Upon whom the Church is built | as on Peter;
And his Apostleship has he received from | God --
The gates of Hell will not pre - | vail against him.
The Lord has chosen him to teach the barbar - | ian tribes,
To fish with the nets | of his teaching,
And to draw from the world unto grace the believ - | ers,
Men who would follow the Lord to His | heavenly seat.
He sells the choice talents of | Christ's Gospel
And collects them among the Irish hea - | thens with usury;
As a reward for the great labor of his voy - | age,
He will come into possession of joy with Christ in the
hea - | venly kingdom.
God's faithful minister and His distinguished am - | bassador,
He gives the good an Apostolic ex - | ample and model,
Preaching as he does to God's people in words as well as in |
So that him whom he converts not with words he inspires |
with good conduct.
Glory has he with Christ, honor | in the world,
He who is venerated by all as an | angel of God.
God has sent him, as He sent Paul, an Apostle to the gen - | tiles,
To offer men guidance to the | kingdom of God.
Humble is he of mind and body because of his | fear of God;
The Lord abides upon him because | of his good deeds;
In his righteous flesh he bears the stigmata of | Christ;
In His Cross alone, his sole comfort, | he glor - ies.
Untiringly he feeds the faithful from the heaven - | ly banquet,
Lest those who are with Christ | faint on the way;
Like bread he gives to them the words of the Gos - | pel,
Which are multiplied like manna | in his hands.
He preserves his body chaste for love | of the Lord;
This body he has prepared as a temple for the | Holy Spirit,
And he keeps it such by purity in all his act - | ions;
He offers it as a living sacrifice, acceptable | to the Lord.
Enflaming light of the world, great one | of the Gospel,
Lifted up on a candlestick, shining un - | to all the age -
The fortified city of the King, founded upon a moun - | tain,
Wherein there is great abundance | of the Lord.
Greatest indeed will be called in the kingdom | of heaven
The man who fulfills with good deeds the holy | words he teaches,
Who by his good example is a leader and model to the faith -| ful,
Who in purity of heart has con - | fidence in God.
Boldly he proclaims the Name of the Lord to | the heathens,
And gives them eternal grace in the bath | of salvation.
He prays to God daily for their | sins,
For them he offers sacrifices, worthy in | the eyes of God.
For the sake of God's law he despises all | worldly glory;
Compared to His table he considers all | else as trifling;
He is not moved by the violence of this | world,
But, suffering for Christ, he rejoices in | adversity.
A good and faithful shepherd of the flock won for | the Gospel,
God has chosen him to watch o - | ver God's people
And to feed with divine teaching His | folk,
For whom, following Christ's example, he | gives forth his soul.
Who for his merits the Savior has raised him to the dignity of a |
In heavenly things he instructs the army | of the clergy,
Providing them with heavenly rations, besides vest - | ments -
The rations of divine | and sacred texts.
He is the King's herald, inviting the faithful | to the wedding.
He is richly clad in a | wedding garment,
He drinks heavenly wine from heavenly | cups
And gives God's people the spiritual | cup to drink.
He finds a holy treasure in the Sa - | cred Volume
And perceives the Savior's divinity | in His flesh.
It is a treasure he purchases with holy and perfect | works.
ISRAEL his soul is called -- | "see - ing God."
A faithful witness of the Lord in the Ca - | tholic Law,
His speech is spiced with divine | revelations,
That human flesh may not decay, eaten by | worms,
But be salted with heavenly savor | for sacrifice.
A true and renowned tiller of the | Gospel field,
His seeds | are Christ's Gospels.
These he sows from his God-inspired mouth into the ears of the |
And cultivates their hearts and minds with the | Holy Spirit.
Christ chose him to be His vi - | car on earth.
He frees captives from a two-fold | ser - vitude:
The great numbers whom he liberates from bondage to | men,
These countless ones he frees from the yoke | of the devil.
Hymns, and the Apocalypse, and the Psalms of | God he sings,
And explains them for the edification | of God's people.
He believes the law in the Trinity of the holy | Name,
And he teaches one Substance | in Three Persons.
Girt with the Lord's girdle | day and night,
He prays unceasingly | to God the Lord.
He will receive the reward for his immense la - | bor -
With the Apostles will he reign, holy, over | Is - rael.
May Bishop Patrick pray for | all of us,
That the sins which we have committed be blotted out | immediately,
May we ever sing Patrick's prais - | es,
That we may ever | live with him.
This, perhaps, may be regarded as, in some respects, the
most ancient Life of St. Patrick. There can be no reasonable
doubt of its authenticity, for the evidence, both intrinsic
and extrinsic, is very strong. It is given in the Liber
Hymnorum, under the title of the ' Hymn of St. Patrick,
Bishop of the Scots1'—that is,of course, the Irish —meaning,
however, not a hymn written by the Saint, but one written
in his praise. The copy in the Trinity College Libe1
Hymnorum has a glossary, but no preface ; however, the
folio containing the preface may have been torn from the
MS. In the Franciscan codex of the Book of Hymns2
there is a preface or introduction which sets forth, in the
usual style, the time, place, author, and object of the compo
sition. This preface is in Irish, and has been given in Latin
by Colgan, who first published St. Sechnall's Hymn. The
Lebar Brecc also contains a copy of the Hymn, with a
fuller, but probably a less authentic, preface. It was also
published by Sir James Ware from a copy that he found
in the Library of Usher. It is said to be the Donegal
copy; but that is rather doubtful, for it differs from Colgan's
version, and it is not easy to see how it could go to Rome
from Usher's collection. It was also published by Muratori
and Villaneuva, and lastly, after careful collation, the Franciscan
copy has been printed by Stokes in his Tripartite
Life. Reference is also made in the Book of Armagh to the '
recitation' of this Hymn as one of Four Honours8 due
to St. Patrick, so there can be no doubt that its authenticity
was recognised by the earliest, as well as by the latest, of
our Irish historians and scholars. The internal evidence is no less
striking and conclusive.
The writer of the Hymn describes at length the virtues
and labours of St. Patrick, but throughout he speaks of
the Saint as one living at the time, not yet called to his
reward, but who hereafter will possess the joys of the
heavenly kingdom. A mere forger of a later date would
3 It originally belonged to the Monastery of Donegal; then went to St.
in Rome ; afterwards to the Burgundian Library, Brussels, from which
it has been transferred to the Library of the Franciscan Convent, Dublin.
'Incipit Hymnus Sancti Patritii Episcopi Scotorum. 8The Third Honour was,
Hymnum ejus per totum tempus (ejus festi)
cantare. The Fourth Honour was, Canticum ejus Scotticum (Irish) semper
canere. Rolls Tripartite, p. 333.
hardly be so much on his guard in his tenses when speaking
of the Saint. The Latin style, too, is characteristic of the
period, for the language is, as we might expect, rather like
that of St. Patrick himself—by no means elegant, and not
always even grammatically correct.
The Shorter Preface given by Stokes in Irish, and by
Colgan in Latin, tells us the history of the Hymn. It was
Sechnall, son of Restitutus, of the Lombards of Letha.and
of Darerca, Patrick's sister, who composed it. Secundinus
was his Roman name, but the Irish called him Sechnall.
Domnach Sechnaill (now Dunshaughlin) was the place;
and the time of its composition was the reign of Laeghaire,1
son of Niall. Its purpose was to praise Patrick, and also,
it would seem, to appease him. For Patrick had heard
how Secundinus had remarked that " he (Patrick) is a good
man, were it not for one thing, that he preached charity so
little;" and hearing it, Patrick was angered. " It is for
charity's sake I do not preach it, for the saints after me
will need men's gifts and service, and therefore I do not
ask them," said Patrick. The Hymn attained its object,
for Patrick ' made peace with his nephew' when he heard
it. ' This was the first Hymn made in Ireland.' ' It was
composed in the order of the alphabet'—that is, the first
letter of each stanza in succession followed the order of ^he
alphabet. There are twenty-three stanzas, with four lines
in each stanza, and fifteen syllables in each line. There
are, the writer adds, three words in it ' without meaning,'
that is, introduced merely for the sake of the rhyme.
When Sechnall had composed his Hymn he went to read
it for Patrick, merely saying that he had made a eulogy
for a certain Son of Life, which he wished him to hear. "
The praise of God's household is welcome to me," said
Patrick. Then Sechnall began with the second stanza—
omitting the first, in which Patrick's name is mentioned—
and proceeded to read through the Hymn. Stopping him,
however, at the lines: Maximus namque in regno coelorum vocabitur
Qui quod verbis docet sacris factis adimplet bonis,
and walking further on, Patrick said to Sechnall, " How
can you call him 'Maximus in regno ccelorum?' How can
a mere creature be the ' greatest?'"—for he well knew the
Gospel only calls him " great." 1 The Irish of Stokes has, ' Tempus Acda,'
Son of Ncill,
or of Laeghaire."Oh, the superlative," replied Sechnall, "is there put
for the positive, and only means ' very great.'"l It was.
however, the rhythm and not the meaning that needed a
word of three syllables. Then when the Hymn was
finished, Sechnall claimed from Patrick the Bard's usual
reward, thereby giving him to understand—what the Hymn
itself showed—that Patrick himself was the ' Son of Life'
who was eulogised. "Thou shalt have it," said Patrick; "as many sinners
shall go to heaven because of (reading) this Hymn as
there are hairs on thy cowl." " I will not be content with that," said
Then whoever will recite it lying down and rising up
will go to heaven." " I will not be content with that," said Sechnall, "
the Hymn is long, and it will be hard to remember it." "
Then its efficacy or grace shall be on the three last
stanzas." " Deo gratias," said Sechnall. " I am now content." -
The Preface in the Lebar Brecc, besides giving a sketch
of St. Patrick's history, adds very much to the plain tale
given before, and seems to contain unauthentic and later
additions. Patrick is represented as going to Sechnall in
great wrath when he heard of the latter's observation about
his not preaching charity as he might. Sechnall, hearing
of his coming, or seeing him approach, left the oblation at
the altar just before Communion, ' to kneel to Patrick'
by way of apology; but Patrick, still in wrath, went to
drive his chariot over Sechnall, when God raised the
ground around him on either side, so that Sechnall was not
hurt! Then followed the explanation of his not preaching
charity given above, and a mutual reconciliation.8
1 The Longer Preface suggests that it means that Patrick was the
greatest of his o\rn race,' that is, the greatest uf the 13ritons or of
in heaven.—Tripartitc. 8The Tripartite says that Patrick said:—"Whoever
of the men of
Ireland shall recite tl1L- three last stanzas, or the three last lines,
or the three
last words, and shall come at death with a pure intention, his soul
ready "—to go to heaven, we pre-une.
8 The picturesque narrative in the Tripartite shows it
was a very friendly meeting that took place for the recitation of the
Hymn. Sechnall and Pat1irk met at the Pass of Midluachair, near Forkhill,
north of Dundalk. Each of them
blessed the other, and they sat down to read the Hymn. Patrick, rising
at the words, ' Maximns in n'qno coelorum,' asked an explanation as they
walked together to ' Klda,' where it was f1nished, and so the
was given, as stated above., It is evident the Scholiast here indulges
his fancy in a
very curious fashion, whilst borrowing the substance of
the tale from other incidents recorded in the Life of
St. Patrick, to which we have referred elsewhere. We
have discussed in another place the question of the
parentage of Sechnall, especially the strange statement of
the Scholiast, that his father Restitutus was of the Lombards
of Letha. Letha is commonly taken to mean Italy, or, in a more
restricted sense, Latium ; and this statement would seem
to imply that the Lombards, or some of them, had settled
there before the end of the fourth century, whereas it is
certain that they did not obtain a settlement in Italy before
the middle of the sixth century—the exact year commonly
given being A.D. 568. But does Letha mean Latium or Italy ? Todd
discussed the question at some length without coming
to any definite conclusion. Our own view is that Letha
means not Italia, but Gallia or Gaul, especially Celtic
Gaul,1 which, as we know from Caesar, extended from the
Garonne to the Seine, and from the ocean on the west to
the Cevennes range, which separated Celtic Gaul from what
was then known as the ' Provincia '—a name still retained
in the modern Provence. The Lombards certainly crossed
the Rhine and settled in parts of Gaul long before they
were established in Italy, and a family or colony of them
might have established themselves in Tours or Armorica,
and have there met with relatives of St. Patrick's family.
This would explain how it came to pass that a sister of
Patrick, staying with her own family or relations in Celtic
Gaul, might have met and married there a Lombard of
Letha—that is, a Lombard settled in Gaul.
It is unfortunate that Sechnall, in this poetic eulogy of
St. Patrick, gives us no definite facts regarding the life of
his holy uncle, confining himself to a general description
of his labours and his virtues. From this point of view
the Hymn is valuable, but otherwise it contains nothing
noteworthy. After describing in a general way the holiness of
Patrick's life, and his divine mission to preach the Gospel
1 In the Tripartite we f1nd ' Burgidala Letha' (p. 239) and '
Letha,' showing that Bordeaux and Brittany were both in Letha, which
conclusive proof that Letha = Gallia, to which in sound it is nearer
Italia.to the barbarous clans of Ireland, Sechnall describes his
most striking and characteristic virtues—his humility, which
glories only in the Cross; his zeal in preaching the Gospel,
and feeding the flock intrusted to his care; his chastity,
which keeps his flesh a holy temple of the Spirit of God ;
his preaching, which holds up the lamp of the Gospel to
the whole world; his saintly life, which fulfils in act what
he teaches by word ; his utter contempt of worldly fame
and perishable goods, which he esteems mere chaff; his
love of Sacred Scripture, of constant prayer, of the daily
Sacrifice, of the Divine Office, with all the other characteristic
virtues of a saintly bishop and evangelist.
It has been noticed by Stokes that there is no reference
to the Roman Mission in this Hymn. Why, indeed,
should there be? It was a poetic eulogy of a living man,
praising his virtues, but not recording a single fact of his
life, as they were all known to his audience. No reference
to his birthplace, to his captivity, to his parents, to his
teaching, to Germanus, or to Gaul, or to any other extrinsic
facts. Why, then, should the writer go out of his way to
say that Patrick was sent by the Pope to preach in Ireland ?
Everyone knew it; no one denied it. Who, even now, in
preaching the eulogy of a Catholic bishop, living or dead,
says that he was appointed by the Pope? It would be
altogether superfluous ; everyone knows it. He says that
Patrick had a divine mission; that God sent him to preach
in Ireland, just as we now say of any other prelate that it
was God who placed him over his flock; but in the case of
Patrick it was well to emphasise the fact, because his
mission was extraordinary; that is, it was the outcome of
a special divine command, questioned by some, but
emphatically asserted by Patrick himself.
Neither does this Hymn record any miracles of St.
Patrick. It is unusual, certainly, to recount any saint's
miracles during his life, and least of all to his face; but the
Scholiast in the Lebar Brecc has some of his own to tell in
connection with the Hymn. Notcontentwiththepromi.se
that its recital, morning and evening, would secure the
salvation of Patrick's pious clients, he adds that Patrick also
said that" wherein this Hymn shall be sung before dinner,
scarcity of food shall not be there," and also that "the
new house in which it shall be sung first of all, a watching
or vigil of Ireland's saints will be round it," as was revealed
to Colman Elo and Coemghen (Kevin) and other holy men
during the recital of this Hymn, for Patrick and his disciples appeared
to them as they recited it. Having promises of such efficacy annexed to
its recital it is no
wonder the Hymn became a popular devotion, and one of
the ' Four Honours of St. Patrick'—Hymnum ejus per
totum tempus in solemnitate dormitionis ejus cantare—that
is, it was constantly sung on the i6th, I7th, and i8th of
March, for the solemnity was celebrated for three days—
the vigil, the feast, and the day after.-From: The Life and Writings of
St. Patrick., John Healy, 1905.
HYMN OF S. SECHNALL (SECUNDINUS) IN PRAISE
OF S. PATRICK.
INCIPIT YMNUS SANCTI PATRICII, EPISCOPI SCOTORUM.
Andite, omnes amantes Deum, sancta merita
Uiri in Christo beati Patricii Episcopi:
Quomodo bonum ob actum simulatur angelis,
Perfectamque propter uitam aequatur Apostolis.
Beata Christi custodit mandata in omnibus;
Cuius opera refulgent clara inter homines,
Sanctumque cuius sequuntur exemplum mirificum ;
Unde et in cells Patrem magnificant Dominum.
Constans in Dei timore et fide immobilis,
Super quem edificatur ut Petrus Ecclesia;
Cuiusque Apostolatum a Deo sortitus est;
In cuius porta aduersus inferni non preualent.
Dominus ilium elegit, ut doceret barbaras
Nationes ; ut piscaret per doctrinae retia;
Ut de seculo credentes traheret ad gratiam,
Dominumque sequerentur sedem ad aetheriam.
Electa Christi talenta uendit euangelica,
Quae Hibernas inter gontes cum usuris exigit;
Nauigii huius laboris, tum operae, pretium,
Cum Christo regni celestis possessurus gaudium.
Fidelis Dei minister, insignisque nuntius,
Apostolicum exemplum formamque praebet bonis ;
Qui tam uerbis quam et factis plebi praedicat Dei,
Ut quem dictis non conuertit, actu prouocet bono.
Gloriam habet cum Christo, honorem in seculo ;
eui ab omnibus ut Dei ueneratur angelus ; uem Deus misit ut Paulum ad
Ut hominibus ducatum praeberet regno Dei.
Uumilis Dei ob metum spiritu et corpora,
Super quem bonum ob actum requiescit Do1ninus ;
Cuiusque iusta in carne Christi portat stigmata ;
In Cu1us sola sustentans gloriatur in cruce.
Impiger credentes pascit dapibus celestilms,
Ne qui uidentur cum Christo in uia dcliciant;
Quibus erogat, ut panes, uerba euangelica ;
In cuius multiplicantur, ut manna, in man i bus :
Kastam qui custodit carnem ob amorem Domini,
Quam carnem templum parauit Sanctoque Spiritui :
A Quo constanter cum mundis possidetur actibus,
Quam ut hostiam placentem uiuam offert Domino :
Lumenque mundi accensum ingens euangelicum,
In candelabro leuatum, toti fulgens seculo,
Ciuitas regis munita supra montem posita,
Copia !n qua est multa quan1 Doininus possidet.
Maximus nanque in regno celorum uocabitur.
Qui quod uerbis docet sacris, factis adimpkt bonis ;
Bono precedit exemplo formamque fidelium,
Mundoque in corde habet ad Deum nduc1ani.
Nomen Domini audenter annunciat gentibus,
Quibus lauacri salutis aeternam dat gratiam;
Pro quorum orat delictis ad Deum quotidie;
Pro quibus ut Deo dignas immolatque hostias.
Omnem pro Diuina lege mundi spernit gloriam,
Qui cuncta ad cuius mensam estimat ciscil:a;
Nee ingnienti mouetur mundi hui\is fulmine.
Sed in aduersis laetatur, cum pro Christo patitur.
Pastor bonus ac fidelis gregis euangelici;
Quem Deus Dei elegit custodire populum,
Suamque pascere plebem Diuinis dogmatibus;
Pro qua ad Christi exemplum suam tradidit aum1a1n.
Quem pro meritis Saluator prouexit pontificem,
Ut in celesti moneret clericos militia;
Celestem quibus annonam erogat cum uestibus,
Quod in Diuinis impletur sacrisque affatibus.
Regis nuntius inuitans credentes ad nuptias;
Qui ornatur uestimento nuptiale indutus ;
Qui celeste haurit uinum in uasis celestibus,
Propinansque Dei plebem spiritual! poculo.
Sacrum inucnit tesaurum sacro in uolumine.
Saluatorisque in carne Dietatem pveuidit;
Ouem tesaurum emit sanctis perfectisque meritis;
fsrael uocatur huius anima uidens Deum.
Testis Domini fidelis in lege catholica,
Cuius uerba sunt Diuinis condita oraculis;
Sed celeste salliuntur sapore ad uictimam. Ne humane putrent carnes
essacque a uermibus,
Uerus cultor et insignis agri euangelici,
Cuius semina uidentur Christi euangelia;
Quae Diuino serit ore in aures prudentium,
Quorumque corda ac mentes Sancto arat Spiritu.
Xps: ilium sibi legit in terris uicarium,
Qui de gemino captiuos liberat seruitio ;
Plerosque de seruitute quos rede-mit hominum,
Innumeros de Zabuli obsoluet dominio.
Ymnns cum Apocalipsi Psalmosque cantat Dei,
Quosque ad edificandum Dei tractat populum;
Quam legem in Trinitate sacri credit Nominis,
Tribusque Personis Unam docetque Substantiam.
7ona Domini precinctus diebus et noctibus,
Sine intermissione Deum orat Dominum;
Cuius ingentis laboris percepturus premium,
Cum Apostolis regnabit sanctus super Israel.
fin memoria eterna erit iustus ;
Ab auditione mala non timebit.
Patricii laudes semper dicamus.
Ut nos cum illo defendat Deus.
Hibernenses omnes clamant ad te pueri,
Ueni, sancte Patricii, saluos nos facere.]
To return to the main St. Patrick Page
Return to the page of literary references and song