Remembering St. Patrick

I love sharing the story of St. Patrick and his role in the history of Ireland. We celebrate on March 17th as this is the anniversary of his death (and a reminder of his life).

Patrick was born near Dumbarton in Scotland in 387 to a wealthy Roman family but was kidnapped by Irish marauders when he was 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He became a shepherd and tended his master’s flocks for six years.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “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 mountain, 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.”

After the six years, Patrick felt prompted by an angel to escape and traveled 200 miles on foot to join a ship that was returning to his homeland. He quickly rejoined his friends but found that his heart had drawn close to God and his desire was to return to Ireland to preach Christianity and free people from the hold that the Druids had on the culture.

As you might imagine, there are many stories about Patrick’s life. You may have even heard one or two. Some scholars believe that there are actually two Patrick’s (Patrick and Palladius, who was sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine I in 431 to be the first bishop in Ireland) whose stories overlap. I don’t know. What I do know of Patrick is that he was faithful, even in adversity as a slave. He prayed for the people of Ireland and his heart was changed so that he returned to share the good news of Christ.

I especially like a story about Patrick that is set in 433. The Druid King Laoghaire had set forth an edict to celebrate a pagan feast day – there would be fires on the highest hill, called Tara, on the evening before the Christian celebration of Easter. Patrick made the decision to defy the edict and went to the hill of Slane, about 10 miles away, and lit a Paschal fire to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. Slane is at a high elevation and the fire was seen for a great distance. The fire lit by Patrick incensed King Laoghaire but he respected Patrick and allowed him to travel throughout Ireland. One of King Laoghaire’s followers, Erc, left to follow Patrick and was baptized and later consecrated as bishop.

In Christian hymns, Patrick is remembered for a prayer that was translated and set to music in 1889 by Cecil Frances Alexander. It is known as “The Lorica” or breast plate and is found in the Liber Hymnorum (literally “Book of hymns”) – a compilation of hymns in Irish and Latin from the 7th to 12th centuries. It is also known in Irish literary history as “The Deer’s Cry.” Reportedly as Patrick and his friends were traveling to Tara they were concerned for their safety and prayed this continuously as a prayer of protection. It received the name “The Deer’s Cry” because through their prayers, they were visually hidden and those lying in wait for them on the journey were deceived into believing that a herd of deer was passing by, and Patrick and his companions were allowed to travel in safety.

St. Patrick’s breast plate

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession
of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women [any witch] and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Resources :
Greene, David H., editor. “The Deer’s Cry” in An Anthology of Irish Literature. The Modern Library. New York: Random House, 1954, pp.6-7 and Meyer, Kuno, translator. “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” in Colum, Padraic, ed. Anthology of Irish Verse. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922.
The website: www.newadvent.org hosts the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 ed.) and has a lengthy article on Patrick, along with the artwork at the top of the post.
And http://celticchristianity.org/ hosts the image at the end of this post.
Check this resource in our library too:
Wipf & Stock, 2003, 1864.

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This entry was posted in Quotes, Spiritual Formation, This Week in Church History. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Remembering St. Patrick

  1. Joseph Bentz says:

    This is an inspiring story. I love “St. Patrick’s breast plate.” Thanks for this.

  2. ShirlBund - APU'86 says:

    St. Patrick is also considered an Orthodox Christian Saint!

  3. Nellie Johnson says:

    Thank you Liz. I’m always on the hunt for the truth within the holidays that we Americans celebrate!

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