Encouragement From The Word

What St. Patrick was really all about

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, a day when virtually everyone claims a drop or two of Irish blood, if for no other reason than to feel free to quaff a pint of green ale in honour of the day.  But, emerald-coloured beer and shamrocks and driving snakes away all set aside, what was it that Patrick really stood for?

He was an ardent defender of orthodox Christian belief.  He was committed to learning a new culture so that he could speak of Christ in a relevant way to a people not his own.  See, Patrick was born in Scotland, and it was the call of God that sent him to Ireland – a call he obeyed, even after a very bad early experience there.  He learned Celtic language and culture and brought a living faith in Jesus to the people there.

And while his day is mostly celebrated with funny green hats and jigs, what he really stood for is best summarized in what is now known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”.  Read it, and see if you are not moved by its truth and its depth:

I rise and bind to myself today
the strong virtues of the Trinity,
the Three in One and One in Three,
Creator of the universe.

I rise and bind to myself today
The strong virtues of Christ’s birth and baptism
his crucifixion and burial,
his rising and ascending,
his descending to judge at the last day.

I rise and bind to myself today
the strong virtues of the love of cherubim,
the obedience of angels,
service of archangels,
prayers of ancestors,
predictions of prophets,
preaching of apostles,
faith of confessors,
innocence of holy virgins,
and deeds of righteous souls.

I rise and bind to myself today
the power of heaven,
the sun’s brilliance,
the moon’s radiance,
the splendour of fire,
the flashing of lightning,
the speed of wind,
the depths of sea,
the immovable earth,
and solid rock.

I rise and bind to myself today
the power of God to hold me,
his hand to guide, his eye to guard,
his ear to hear me, his word to speak for me,
his shield to shelter me,
his army to deliver me
from the snares of demons,
from the seductions of vices,
from the temptations of nature,
and from all who wish me harm,
far or near, many or few.

These strong virtues I call to my side today,
against every cruel and merciless force
that would attack my body and soul,
against the incantations of false prophets,
the black laws of pagans,
the false laws of heretics,
the deceits of idolaters,
the spells of witches,
and all that corrupts and binds the human soul.

Christ protect me
against poison and burning,
against drowning and wounding,
that I may receive an abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ to my right, Christ to my left,
Christ in my lying, in my sitting, in my rising,
Christ in the heart of all who think of me,
Christ in the mouth of all who speak of me,
Christ in the ear of all who hear me.

I rise and bind to myself today
the strong virtues of the Trinity,
the Three in One and One in Three,
Creator of the universe.

If you want to celebrate St. Patrick, you don’t have to wait until next March 17.  Just do what he did:  follow the Great Commission.  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.19-20, NLT).

4 thoughts on “What St. Patrick was really all about”

  1. Amen. I tried to hear the music of the hymn as I read the whole of St. Patrick’s Breastplate – but of course his testimony in these verses are more than the hymn contains. I will hear it in a new way now.

  2. Nick and Ken – thanks for your comments. That’s a great setting your link goes to, Nick – more singable, I think, than the one that shows up in many hymn books. Ken, my introduction to the commonly sung version was at an Anglican ordination service (of course!). I had my students say it in unison when I taught on Patrick last fall at Tyndale. It proved powerful for us in that context.

    It would have been nice to have St. Patrick’s Day also celebrate the Trinity, but then, it usually falls somewhere in Lent, so I suppose that’s one reason the makers of the liturgical calendar decided to put it after Pentecost.

    Sing along, folks!

  3. Thanks Jeff, a good word as usual. I am not familiar with St. Patrick’s Breastplate, but intend to become familiar with it now. Thanks again, Chuck

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