“The Lord of hosts is with us, our stronghold is the God of Jacob.” These words of the Psalmist are ones that guided Saint Patrick throughout his life and ministry. He was subject to so much misfortune, that it would have been easy for him to throw up his hands and not give God a second thought. But he trusted in God, his stronghold.
At 16, Saint Patrick and a large number of his father’s slaves and vassals were captured by Irish raiders and sold as slaves in Ireland. Forced to work as a shepherd, he suffered greatly from hunger and cold. Life was not easy for him. But after escaping to France, he studied to be a priest. In a dream, it seemed to him that “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He returned to Ireland and led a concerted effort that drenched the pagan culture there in Christianity and won many souls for Christ. His trust in God did not allow him to forget the people of Ireland even after having suffered among them.
In his wonderful work, the Confessio, Patrick tells us the source of his peace: “Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.” His wonderful “Breastplate” prayer has so much to say about his faith in God’s power to save him. These are some excerpts:
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.
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.
Whatever the circumstances of our life, we are called to remember that it is not about us; we cannot be the ones to save ourselves. We must trust in God to be our stronghold who will never forsake or abandon us. And then we must do everything we can to let God be that stronghold in our lives, even as we reach to new heights to do his work.