A Prayer (and some other stuff) for Saint Patrick’s Day

A blessed Saint Patrick’s Day.

To begin here is a brief bio for Saint Patrick of Ireland from the Common Prayer reading for March 17:

Saint PatrickPatrick of Ireland (389 – 461)

At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped from his home by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland, where he was sold as a slave to a chieftain and forced to herd livestock. After six years of slavery, Patrick escaped to his native Britain. Because he believed that his captivity and deliverance were ordained by God, Patrick devoted his life to ministry. While studying for the priesthood, he experienced recurring dreams in which he heard voices say, “O holy youth, come back to Erin and walk once more amongst us.” He convinced his superiors to let him return to Ireland in 432, not to seek revenge for injustice but to seek reconciliation and to spread his faith. Over the next thirty years, Patrick established churches and monastic communities across Ireland. When he was not engaged in the work of spreading the Christian faith, Patrick spent his time praying in his favorite places of solitude and retreat.

One of my favorite prayers is called The Lorica (or Breastplate) of Saint Patrick. You can find several shorter forms of the prayer around the web, but below is an expanded version:

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

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and 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 service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

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
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes 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 women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

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 every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

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

(Note: Instead of ‘I arise’, some versions say ‘I bind unto myself today, the strong name of the Trinity’ and so forth.)

Here’s a version of Saint Patrick’s prayer set to music (I’ll confess I don’t know who the singer is, but the video is probably worth it if only for the scenic ruins and Celtic crosses):

“The Deer’s Cry”, or St. Patrick’s Breatplate, sung by Angelina

And this is just a humorous video (originally from Veggie Tales) that may or may not take some ‘creative’ license:

St. Patrick, Veggie Tales

Finally, I leave you with the collect from the Book of Common Prayer for Saint Patrick’s Day:

“Almighty God, who in your providence chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of you: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever. Amen.”

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May This Be Our Prayer

Bapto-catholic…that was what the Catholic trauma chaplain at the hospital where I did my residency in Clinical Pastoral Education called me. He was intrigued that I made use of the lectionary, had an interest in and used liturgy, and made use of the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. He told me I wasn’t like other Baptists he had ever met. I think his description of me is accurate and I think I was probably set up for it. Though I grew up in Baptist churches my whole life, until I went out to west Texas for college (at a Baptist university) I lived in a small Catholic community known as Lindsay. Lindsay was down the road from the slightly larger Catholic community known as Muenster (yes, these were German Catholics).

The result of this was that I grew up around Catholics my whole life, but at church I often heard about how Catholics weren’t really Christians. They were just caught up in religiosity in which they were trying to earn their way to heaven. There was no way that their faith was genuine. This may sound harsh (and it was) but this was the sort of thing that I heard from Baptist pastors, deacons, and church members alike. One deacon used to tell me that the phrase ‘vain repetitions’ was invented just for Catholics.

I am thankful for the few (like my mentor Donnie York) that did tell me that many Catholics actually were capable of genuine faith and it was probably about same percentage as Baptists – maybe a little more! As a chaplain/CPE resident I had ample opportunity to speak with Catholics as they faced traumas and many times death. I am grateful to these Christian brothers and sisters for teaching me about their deep faith in Christ during these times of deep grief and lament. Yes, we have theological differences, but this does/did not cancel out the depth of their faith in Jesus. I cringe whenever I hear fellow Baptists or other rather ‘conservative’ evangelicals say that Catholics can’t possibly be Christians.

In the sermon yesterday morning the pastor told a story about when Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto became Pope Pious X in 1903. Sarto apparently did not want to accept the position of pope initially but was encouraged to do so by his friend, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val y de Zulueta (that’s quite the name!), who would become Pious X’s Secretary of State. Merry del Val gifted the new Pope with a prayer that would become known as the Litany of Humility, and one which del Val was said to have prayed every day after the Mass. The full text is below. Read it slowly and meditate on it.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Can I just say that I think that Baptist deacon was wrong? There is nothing ‘vain’ about this prayer. If you can pray this prayer and it falls under the category of ‘vain repetition’ … well, my friend, don’t blame the prayer because that’s not where the problem resides. Church father John Chrysostom said that the lack of humility and the search for ‘popular praise’ was (in a reference to the ancient Hydra slain by Hercules) an ‘invisible and savage monster’ that needed its many heads cut off, or better yet, to have prevented them from growing altogether. Those that are able to slay this monster of popular praise and esteem and the lack of humility will enjoy the ‘quiet heaven of rest’ while those that don’t will suffer ‘manifold struggles, personal confusion, deep dejection, and a host of other passions.’

We Protestants (of all flavors) can learn much from our Eastern Orthodox (represented here by the ancient wisdom of Chrysostom) and Catholic brethren. May we take Chrysostom’s advice and slay the monster of pride and the lack of humility. Oh that the Litany of Humility were prayed more often in ALL expressions of the ekklesia!

May it gradually shape and form us into the humble image of our Liberating King.

‘Deliver us, O Jesus’ … ‘Jesus, grant us the grace’ …  may this be our prayer!