A Saint By Any Other Name

Happy St. Patty’s Day! Other than forgetting to wear green today (ouch) I do really like Saint Patrick’s Day. Both Brittany and I have an appreciation for the old saints as a whole and while I don’t venerate them as much as some, I do think there is a great deal for us to learn from those who have gone before. Saint Patrick is a challenging one because of the number of myths and false truths that follow his story around. For every thing we know about Patrick there is a pile of stories that have no basis in historical evidence. Patrick, who was the bishop of Ireland and the first to successfully build churches in Ireland and reach the native Irish people with the good news about Jesus Christ, also apparently could shoot rays of light from his fingers while he preached. That’s pretty awesome. There’s the bits with the snakes too.

saint patrickWhat we do know, from his writings that have survived, is that he was the son of a wealthy British clergyman and as a young man he could really care less for his religious upbringing. He was captured by pirates, yes pirates, and sold as a slave to the Irish barbarian tribes where he learned to hear God’s voice in the still night while watching sheep in the fields. He eventually ran away and was able to sneak aboard a ship and get home to Britain, but he his heart had been captured by both God and the Irish people and he trained to become a priest so he could go back and help them come to know Jesus. He established monastic communities that invited people to experience what life with Christ looked like before inviting them to commit their lives to following Jesus. He also encouraged getting to know the local people and what the already believed to find ways to connect the truth about Jesus to where the people already were and better reach out to them in their own language and culture. In the Irish tribes, he saw a love of the beautiful world around and an awareness of the sacred in all things.

Patrick was an interesting guy and one of the things that came out of his time in Ireland is a tradition that embraced poetry and song to express spiritual truth. The prayers of the Celtic people that came out of Patrick’s teaching have been handed down for centuries and some are both inspiring and beautiful. One of the most famous is a prayer called “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate” and it is a prayer attributed to Patrick himself. Take that with a grain of salt, but it is a beautiful invitation for God’s presence in all senses of the day. Today as I celebrate Saint Patrick, I’m walking in the legacy of one who followed Christ well and in the light of the presence of Jesus Christ in all things.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

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’s birth 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 the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The 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 shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an 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 when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone 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.

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