St. Patrick is known and admired all over the world. The young slave who became an unlikely hero. The shy boy who was transformed a courageous missionary. He lived in intimate union with Christ who was always before, behind, above, within him. We know that pre-Christian Celts looked for signs of God in the beauty and power of nature. Part of Patrick’s legacy is a distinctive Gaelic spirituality that combined Celtic love of nature and monastic closeness to God.
It is no surprise then that the very powerful and intrinsically beautiful words of the morning prayer known widely as St Patrick’s Breastplate, represent a total transformation of the self with complete trust and faith in the Divine, in God our Creator.
Read in the light of his life journey (Patrick was himself a migrant) it is all the more powerful as today we witness the massive migration of peoples across the world. We know and identify with so many people today who struggle to live and integrate into new cultures, at home and abroad, arising from displacement and poverty.
St. Patrick’s Breastplate
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the 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 hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today
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 in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.
From the onset, St. Patrick tells us that he arises “through the strength of heaven.”
“God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me … God’s word to speak for me … God’s shield to protect me … afar and anear, alone or in a multitude.”
On this St Patrick’s Day (17th March 2019) we give thanks for the life of Patrick that continues to speak to us and to bring us to a strong experience of God in all things.
Note: It’s not known whether St. Patrick is actually the author of this prayer or whether someone else wrote it years later, and it was attributed to St. Patrick. In any case it is widely associated with him and his ministry and speaks to us of him and his relationship with a God among us and around us.
(The introduction to this piece was informed by a reflection written some years ago on St. Patrick by Fr. Martin Coffey, OP).