St. Patrick’s Day

Today is St. Patrick’s day, a day when everyone likes to dress in green and celebrate their ‘Irishness.’ It doesn’t matter whether you have even a hint of Irish in you, you can be Irish for a day. And it is more than green beer and potatoes. (The joke is that the Irish celebrate a 7 course meal on St. Paddy’s day, a six-pack of Guinness and a potato). There are many famous stories about St. Patrick, the one most noted is that he drove all the snakes our of Ireland. These stories are rich in the lore of the Irish people.

Patrick was actually born in Great Britain to parents of Roman descent, who was captured by Irish raiders and when he was sixteen years old and carried off to Ireland and made a slave. He tended the sheep of his master, a chieftain and Druid priest, for six years. He relates in his “Confessio” that during his captivity while tending the flocks he prayed many times in the day: “the love of God”, he added,

‘and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountains, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me.’

In the ways of a benign Providence the six years of Patrick’s captivity became a remote preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption, and, as his master Milchu was a druidical high priest, he became familiar with all the details of Druidism from whose bondage he was destined to liberate the Irish race.

He escaped his master, walked 200 miles to the sea and boarded a ship there where he determined that he was being called by God to sacred ministry. After much study and growth in the knowledge of Holy Scripture and fully devoted to God, he had a vision of young children of Ireland, who cried to him: “O holy youth, come back to Erin, and walk once more amongst us.” Patrick returned to Ireland and with much opposition by the Druid priests, putting his life in harm’s way, yet resolute to fulfill the call of God, he prevailed in bringing the ‘love of God’ to the Irish. It is said that when he returned to Ireland there was not one Christian and when he died there was not one Druid priest.

In his struggle against paganism and his fight to evangelize the Irish, Patrick composed his most famous prayer, known as “The Breastplate of St. Patrick.” It is:

I arise today with a mighty power
Calling on the name of the Holy Trinity
Affirming His Threeness
Confessing His Oneness
Thanking my Creator
Loving His Creation.

I arise today
Made strong by Christ’s coming
Made strong by His baptism
Made strong by His crucifixion and resurrection and ascension
Made strong by His coming to meet me at the day of doom.

I arise today
Strengthened by the power of seraphim
Strengthened by the obedience of angels
Strengthened by the presence of archangels
Strengthened by the communion of saints
Strengthened by the prayers of the fathers
Strengthened by the predictions of prophets
Strengthened by the preaching of apostles
Strengthened by the innocence of holy virgins
Strengthened by the deeds of holy and steadfast men.

I arise today
Under the strength of sky
The light of the sun
The beauty of the moon
The glory of fire
The swiftness of lightning
The wildness of wind
The depth of the ocean
The firmness of earth
And the hardness of rock.

I arise today
With God’s strength to pilot me
With God’s might to uphold me
With God’s wisdom to guide me
With God’s eye to look out for me
With God’s ear to hear me
With God’s word to speak for me
With God’s hand to defend me
With God’s way to lie before me
With God’s shield to protect me
With God’s legions to safeguard me from the snare of demons
From evil enticements, from the failings of Nature

And from all who wish me ill, near and far
Whether alone or in crowds.

I summon all these to protect me
Body and soul
Against every wicked power that stands against me
Against the wild words of false prophets
Against the dark ways of the heathen
Against the false ways of the heretic
Against the false gods all around me
Against the magic and idolatry
Against the spells of smiths, witches and warlocks
Against every false lore that snares body and soul.

Be Christ this day, my strong protector!
Against poison and burning
Against drowning and wounding
So I may come to enjoy Your rich reward.

Christ beside me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ within me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right side, Christ on my left
Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today with a mighty power!
With my shield – the Holy Trinity
Affirming His Threeness
Confessing His Oneness
Thanking my Creator
Loving His Creation

Salvation comes from the Lord
Salvation comes from the Lord
Salvation comes from Jesus Christ!

Let Your Salvation, Oh Lord, be with us always!

Why don’t you find time to say this prayer today as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.