St. Patrick was born around 385 and died on March 17, 461. A Celt from Britannia by race, and a Roman citizen by nationality, he was captured by Gaels in a coastal raid and taken from his father’s estate on the west coast of England to Ireland, where he served as a shepherd slave for six years. At age 22, he escaped to France only to be driven back to England by the Vandals. From his own words, we know that he traveled to Gaul, Italy, eventually studying with St. Germanus to learn the Scriptures and Apostolic doctrine. He was passionate about his former captors in Ireland and desired to teach the Gospel to Gaels there. In 432, the Church consecrated Patrick as bishop and, for nearly thirty years, labored for Christ and the Gospel. He baptized thousands, organized clergy, and established churches and religious orders.
Contrary to popular legends, Patrick encountered much resistance and many vicious attempts to stop the Spirit’s work through him. These attacks came from Druidic “priest” sorcerers and some local kings. He is remembered for not flinching in the face of many threats, dangers, defamations, and hardships. In his own words, he fought these opponents of Jesus and His doctrine with the powerful weapons of prayer, repentance, patience, and zeal for the Gospel. When he died, the Church was firmly rooted in the Irish nation. But as with any inspiring, great saint, his memory is embellished with fiction and legend unnecessary when the Holy Spirit worked conversion for Ireland through His preaching, teaching, baptizing, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and laboring for the church.
Perhaps this day you’ll observe traditionally by attending Divine Service, watching a parade in his honor, and celebrating with a festive meal, dancing, concerts, or a play. Perhaps you’ll wear green and adorn your hat, dress, or home with shamrocks. Or maybe you’ll follow a modern “tradition” of drinking a green milkshake or a wee bit too much Irish whiskey. But I’d like to suggest you add a fitting tradition to this day. Read or sing St. Patrick’s Breastplate (Lorica). Our hymnal has a paraphrased version, “I Bind unto Myself Today.” According to The Book of Armagh (9th century), this morning prayer is ascribed to Patrick. What better way to begin your day than remembering your baptism into Jesus, the promises God gives in the Sacrament and the Word that withstands all the assaults of the devil, the world, and the flesh?
5. I bind to myself today, The Power of God to guide me, The Might of God to uphold me, The Wisdom of God to teach me, The Eye of God to watch over me, The Ear of God to hear me, The Word of God to give me speech, The Hand of God to protect me, The Way of God to prevent me, The Shield of God to shelter me, The Host of God to defend me, Against the snares of demons, Against the temptations of vices, Against the lusts of nature, Against every man who meditates injury to me, Whether far or near, With few or with many.
6. I have set around me all these powers, Against every hostile savage power Directed against my body and my soul, Against the incantations of false prophets, Against the black laws of heathenism, Against the false laws of heresy, Against the deceits of idolatry, Against the spells of smiths and druids, Against all knowledge that binds the soul of man.
7. Christ, protect me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wound, That I may receive abundant reward.
8. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ where I lie down, Christ where I sit, Christ where I stand.
This originally appeared in The Sounder on March 16, 2023.