Saint Patrick’s Breast-Plate

In July of 2008, a few days before we moved to Israel, I was driving towards the mountains to pick up my oldest daughter who had been camping there for a month as it was time to bring her home.  The green woodlands carpeting the rolling foothills as I approached the mountains presented a majestic and spectacular vista.  I was lost in the wonder of God’s creation and I felt my heart rise to the Lord in love and awe and contemplation.

For some reason I thought of Saint Patrick. Or was he touching my spirit just then?  The delightful view of the lush green hills could make one think of Ireland.  I thought about the remarkable life of St Patrick, how at age sixteen he was carried away from his native Britain into captivity by Irish marauders  and sold as a slave to a barbarian pagan chieftain of that green island. With its high, rugged and sharp cliffs surrounded by treacherous waters, escape for those captured as slaves and brought to Ireland was virtually impossible.  Capture by the slave traders would be a sentence of a life-time of exile or death.

As one Biography of St Patrick relates, “Until he was 16, Patrick considered himself pagan. Some Irish marauders raided his village at that age in the British mainland, and he was sold into slavery to Ireland. During his captivity He became aware of God’s presence, and became a Christian.”   Like so many youth, he did not appreciate the sublime gift of the Catholic Faith and despised the precious blessings of the holy sacraments which Christ left to His Church. As so many youths of that time and today he preferred the “world” to the “Truth which is in Jesus.”

So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance; because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess. That is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. ( Ephesians: 4 17-24)

As St Patrick relates in his autobiography, “Confessio,” during  the extreme trial of his captivity and in his profound distress,  for six years as he tended his master’s flocks he turned to prayer, lifting his mind and heart many times a day to the Lord. Before, in the comfort of his prior life in Britain, as so many other youths, he had not appreciated, nor given the Lord Jesus Christ, his Savior any attention, love or homage.   St Patrick writes, “And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and then turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my low estate, and took pity on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son. Hence I cannot be silent – and indeed, I ought not to be – about the many blessings and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity;…the love of God and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me.”

The biography on the life of St Patrick continues, “In the ways of a benign Providence the six years of Patrick’s captivity became a remote preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption, returning to the country years later after his escape to evangelize all of Ireland for Christ.  Admonished by an angel, St Patrick after six years in captivity fled from his cruel master (a Druid high Priest) and travelled about 200 miles to the west of Ireland where as he relates in his “Confessio”  there he found a ship ready to set sail and after some rebuffs was allowed on board. In a few days he was among his friends once more in Britain, but now his heart was set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred ministry…

As I was driving through the green mountains meditating on the admirable life of St Patrick I recalled the beautiful words of the famous prayer which is attributed to him. St Patrick wore the prayer sewn into his clothing placed over his heart as a shield of faith and trust in the God who saves and delivers, and thus it is called, “St Patrick’s Breast-Plate.”  I made St Patrick’s sublime prayer my own as these intimate and trusting words which St Patrick had composed to the God he had come to know and love and have faith in during his time of isolation in captivity rose as a song in my own heart to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I told my Jesus that He was deserving of the most exquisite music to accompany the words of this wonderful prayer, but that I did not have the skills of a great musician to make such a beautiful melody to praise and worship Him as he deserved. I wondered then if any fine musician had even tried to put the great prayer of St Patrick’s Breast-Plate to music to give glory to Our Lord. Surely this prayer should be a sung hymn! But I was not aware of one to sing to Him. Just then, I turned on the car radio to a random station as I was out of the area in which I live. I began to listen to a song that was playing on that particular station. After a few seconds I was utterly astonished as I recognized the lyrics of the lovely song which was being sung as those of St Patrick’s Breast-Plate!

St Patrick’s Breast-plate Prayer

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through the 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 the 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 devils,

From temptations of vices,

From everyone who shall wish me ill,

Afar and a near,

Alone and in a 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.

It is now 2011, and we have just returned to America from our three years living in the Holy Land. My daughter continued attending the same summer camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania during the past three summers.  As my husband was away on a business trip it fell upon me to drive up to collect her from the camp after her month stay.  I was driving past the spot at the foothills of the mountains  where three years before I had contemplated the life of St Patrick and sung in my heart to my Lord and Mighty Defender the great prayer which St Patrick  wore over his own heart as he preached fearlessly in the Power of the Holy Spirit the Gospel of Love and Salvation of Jesus Christ to the heathen and barbarians of Ireland.  I recalled with wonder the amazing timing of the beautiful hymn set to the words of his prayer that had come on the radio at that precise moment! And I praised the Lord for His marvelous deeds and unfathomable marvels and His special blessings to me!

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor?”

“Or who has given Him anything that He may be repaid?”

For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

(Romans 11:33-36)

On this drive up in 2011 I had been listening for the first time to a new CD that I had recently purchased recorded by Mark Mallet, the Canadian Catholic song-writer, entitled, “Deliver me from me”. I was not familiar with any of Mark’s songs.   I did not even know the titles of the songs on this particular CD as I had blindly purchased it  because  I like Mark’s writings on his blog and have been blessed by reading his books and I wanted to support his important ministry by buying a couple of his music CD’s. And right there, just at the place where it had occurred in 2008, the Lord revealed His mighty Presence again!  The next track of Mark’s CD began to play and stunned and in utter astonishment  I heard  the familiar and beautiful words of St Patrick’s Breast-plate being sung by Mark in his own adaptation of the wonderful prayer:

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left

Christ before

Christ behind

Christ beneath

Christ above

Christ within me

Christ, my all

Chorus:

Christ You’re all around me

Christ, You are my all

Christ in my hands,

Christ in my feet

Christ in my eye

Christ in my ear

Christ on my lips

Christ on my mind

Christ within me

Christ, my all

Words from Isaiah welled up in my heart as I contemplated the great kindness and love of our God who blesses us with so many blessings and Who is so ever Present with me and with you in every moment and every detail of our lives!

As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Yes, in joy you shall depart, in peace you shall be brought back; Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you, and all the trees of the countryside shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:8-13)

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Posted on August 9, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Just Beautiful! I never really knew the breast-plate prayer of St. Patrick. And I really didn’t know much about his life. Thank you for this wonderful read! I love the thought, Christ in my eyes, Christ behind me, Christ in front of me, Christ when I sit, Christ when I stand….etc. Yes, Christ is always with us and with us in every way.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful account of the prayers writen by such a special man that this child in slavery became. I have several versions of the “Breastplate” but none this lovely.

  3. Thank you for posting this wonderful piece about St Patrick’s Breastplate and his life. I only learnt about the Breastplate prayer last Thursday 11/02/16 after an evening prayer with the Bishop of my Diocese. My best friend and prayer partner showed it to me and we both read it and shared some of the verses that have been written as hymn: Christ before me, Christ behind me etc….on the train on our way. I will certainly print it and have it in my handbag to recite. God bless you all.
    Christel

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