Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Breastplate of St. Patrick: Reviving a Beautiful, Powerful Prayer

As we don our green to celebrate all things Irish today, I’d like to call our attention to the person whom this day honors: St. Patrick.

Ironically enough, St. Patrick, a 5th Century Bishop to the people of Ireland, was not Irish! He belonged to the Celtic people called the Britons, and grew up in a pretty well-to-do family on the British Isles. The story goes that when Patrick was sixteen, a group of Irish pirates invaded the British isles and took him captive. Patrick lived as a slave among the Irish for six years, and during that time, he deepened his faith in God through his days spent in the Irish fields where he worked. He also learned to love and appreciate the Irish people and their culture, whom at that time were considered “pagans” and “barbarians” by the British and the Roman Church. After six years, he escaped his captivity and boarded a ship bound for home on the British Isles.

Some years later, after being ordained a priest, he felt a strong call to return to Ireland to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ there. The Church made him a Bishop, and within several generations of his return to Ireland, the majority of the Irish tribes and clans had become Christians, but in their own unique cultural expressions of being disciples of Jesus. Patrick knew how to share Jesus Christ and his teachings in a way the Irish people could take on within their own culture, thinking, music, art, and sense of community.

To this day, many Christians (including myself) love the Celtic forms of Christian faith, especially their prayers, art, and music, for their beauty and sincerity.

I’d like to share with you a famous prayer attributed to St. Patrick called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”. How much of it that actually comes from Patrick is unknown, and there are various versions of it floating around. But no matter the version, it’s a thoroughly Celtic prayer for being Trinitarian in its focus, earthy, and image-rich. I found his version of “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” on beliefnet.com, and I hope it will be a blessing to you. I invite you to slow down for a few minutes and meditate on this prayer.

The Breastplate of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the 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 Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor 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 save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel 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 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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