Feast of Saint Patrick

What always amazes me about our Gospel story is the response of the fishermen to our Lord’s command.  I wonder if they knew him or knew of him before this incident, because it’s amazing that these exhausted fishermen, who were calling it a day, let Jesus get on board their boat, and then proceeded to take him fishing when they had already done that – to no avail – all night long.  Yet they do it, and they catch this amazing amount of fish, which, Jesus tells them, is just a foreshadowing of the number of men and women they will be catching for the kingdom of God.

 

This is a great reading for us as we celebrate Saint Patrick today, because I think it’s kind of an icon of his life.  Here was a man who had been abducted from his home and dragged off to Ireland to work as a slave.  He labored for many years before he was able to escape and return to his home and family.  Yet as exhausted and traumatized as he must have been, he heard our Lord’s call to go back to Ireland and be a fisher of men and women.  It’s almost too much to ask, but one never says “no” to our Lord!

 

Saint Patrick didn’t even harbor any bitterness against his first, indentured stay in Ireland.  He writes:  “Believe me, I didn’t go to Ireland willingly that first time – I almost died here.  But it turned out to be good for me in the end, because God used the time to shape and mold me into something better.  He made me into what I am now – someone very different from what I once way, someone who can care about others and work to help them.  Before I was a slave, I didn’t even care about myself.”

 

I think what is compelling for me – maybe for most of us – in the story of St. Patrick is that it is a story of conversion.  He writes of an unmentioned sin of his youth, dating from before he was ordained, even before he was living a Christian life.  The sin is known to a friend of his – a friend who once lobbied for him to become a bishop, and later betrayed him to his superiors.  Patrick has long since moved on from where he was at the time this sin was committed, he is an older man now, looking back on youthful indiscretions, and not bearing any ill-will toward those who would rub his nose in it, he thanks God for the strength he has since gained: “So I give thanks to the one who cared for me in all my difficulties, because he allowed me to continue in my chosen mission and the work that Christ my master taught me.  More and more I have felt inside myself a great strength because my faith was proven right before God and the whole world.”

 

So many of us can look back on the sins and indiscretions of our youth too.  That Patrick could do it with gratitude in his heart for the strength God had given him is an example for all of us, a grace that we could all long for especially in these Lenten days of repentance.

 

Saint Patrick’s “Lorica” prayer, known often as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, is a wonderful prayer for these Lenten days.  As we pray his words, we can reflect on the wonderful things God has done for us, and on examine our consciences to become the people God has created us to be.  What follows now, is my reflection on this beautiful prayer.

 

Saint Patrick prays:

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.

These words remind us that we are part of a community.  Our sense of community comes directly from the Triune community that is God himself.  In all of our dawning days, we are called to be caught up in the life of God so that we can give life to the world.

 

Saint Patrick prays:

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.

These words remind us that Christ is our life.  We who have died and rose with Christ in baptism are now caught up in the life of Jesus our Savior.  His death and resurrection have paid the price for our sins, and there is nowhere that we can go that we are beyond his reach, beyond his grace.

 

Saint Patrick prays:

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.

These words remind us that we are never alone.  God surrounds us with angels, saints and people of faith that lead us through the storms of life and keep us connected to God himself.  There is no way we would have the strength to navigate life as righteous people without the example of holy men and women and the intercession of the heavenly hosts.  And the good news is, we never have to.  We are not alone on the journey.

 

Saint Patrick prays:

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.

These words remind us that the very earth we inhabit is a gift from God.  The sun gives its light, the moon radiates its force on our world, the winds and the sea tend to our needs, the earth provides its rock solid foundation for our lives and our homes.  All of these hold us in God’s firm and gentle hands.

 

Saint Patrick prays:

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.

These words remind us that there is a battle going on out there.  Just as in Saint Patrick’s day, so too today we have false prophets, heresies, idolatries and corrupt knowledge.  Though we are powerless to fight that battle, God gives us the words to speak, the ears to hear, and the power of his might to deliver us from all who wish us ill.

 

Saint Patrick prays:

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.

These words are the essential Lenten discipline.  God is God and we are not.  We need God in very real ways, not just when we are at the end of our ropes, but primarily in the every-dayness of our lives.  We need Christ because every day there is a battle for our souls, and we can’t save them of our own power.  And so Lent calls us to see Christ as Saint Patrick did: before and behind us; above and beneath us; on our right and on our left; in our resting as in our activity; in every person we encounter and most especially in the depths of our own hearts.  Christ is everywhere, filling our lives, beckoning us to repentance, urging us to follow him.  Christ wants us to be fishers of men and women.

 

Saint Patrick’s prayer ends as it began, with words that catch us up into the Trinitarian community that is our God, so that we can reach out and be community to others:

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.

Amen.

 

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