As the world celebrates St. Patrick’s day, we pause to remember Ireland’s great patron who has been adopted by the world.
Born in Roman Britain, kidnapped by slave traders from Ireland prowling the Welsh coastline, enslaved for years as a shepherd in Ireland, Patrick had no formal education, but his searing experience created within him a powerful soul. He escaped his enslavement and returned to Britain where he entered the church. Remarkably, he volunteered to return as a missionary to Ireland, to bring the light of Christ to his captors.
I return today to one of the best-loved songs of Patrick. It’s called the Lorica of St. Patrick—a lorica is a prayer of protection, literally, a breastplate that guards the heart. It is also known as The Deer’s Cry, because legend has it that while Patrick and his followers were being pursued by the king’s men early one morning, they sang this prayer of protection and were turned into deer.
Although the Lorica was probably written long after Patrick, no one doubts that the great saint is its inspiration. I love the intense awareness of the ever-present Christ—not the little Jesus figure dear to church folk, but the great cosmic Christ who binds all things in one, who holds together light and darkness, pain and joy, blessing and curse, friend and foe—all the things we keep fiercely separate . . . in the name of God and the church.
P.S. This Lorica is dear to the people of Ireland, and I’ve added a great video of Rita Connolly singing it at the inauguration of Michael Higgins as President of Ireland.
The Lorica of St. Patrick
Or Saint Patrick’s Breastplate or The Deer’s Cry
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
the rays of the sun,
the radiance of the moon,
the splendor of fire,
the speed of lightening,
the swiftness of the wind,
the depth of the sea,
the stability of the earth
the firmness of rock.
I arise today through the power of God:
God’s might to comfort 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 lead me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s Heavenly Host to save me
from the snares of the devil,
from temptations to sin,
from all who wish me ill,
from near and afar,
alone and with others.
May Christ shield me today
against poison and fire,
against drowning and wounding,
so that I may fulfill my mission
and bear fruit in abundance.
Christ behind and before me,
Christ behind and above me,
Christ with me and in me,
Christ around and about me,
Christ on my right and on my left,
Christ when I lie down at night,
Christ when I rise in the morning,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone that speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.