Saint Patrick, Bishop

Today’s readings

“Look to the LORD in his strength; seek to serve him constantly.” 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 always remembered that God delivered him, and thus he did not give up on God who did not give up on him.

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 favors 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.

Amen.

Whatever the circumstances of our life, we are called to remember that God is our strength and that our happiness comes from serving him faithfully. 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 do what he asks of us, no matter where that may take us.

Saint Patrick, Bishop

Today’s readings

“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.

Amen.

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.

Saint Patrick, Bishop

I used to be upset that Saint Patrick’s Day always happened during Lent.  I’d have to postpone the celebration of my favorite saint until Sunday, especially if it fell on a Friday, because we just didn’t have corned beef on Friday, you know.  But as I’ve grown older, I appreciate that Saint Patrick’s Day is in Lent, because I think Saint Patrick is a compelling Lenten figure.

Lent, of course, is a time of conversion and renewal of faith.  Saint Patrick’s life was one of conversion.  Listen to these words from the beginning of his famous Confession:  “And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance.  And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.”

And so we have here a rather compelling story of conversion.  We who are sinners ourselves might well relate to his reminiscences of a disaffected youth.  He writes, in his famous Confession of an unmentioned sin, dating from before he was ordained, even before he was living a Christian life.  The sin was apparently known to a friend of his – a friend who lobbied for him to become a bishop, and then 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, and for a second chance to live his life the right way, is an example for all of us, a grace that we could all long for especially in these Lenten days.

St. Patrick had to weather so many storms in his life. He was kidnapped and enslaved, he worked in mission territory among people who at times were hostile to the Christian way of life, he was betrayed by a friend and besieged by fellow clergymen who were jealous of the success of his ministry and critical of the way he did it.  But through it all, he was grateful for the power of God at work in him.  The faith that led him to be that way was nourished on a strong friendship with God.

Some say St. Patrick never wrote his famous “Breastplate” or “Lorica” prayer.  Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but I tend to think it’s the kind of thing he would have prayed, every morning, to remind himself of the source of his blessing, to call on God’s protection, and to center himself to look for Christ in every person in every moment.  Maybe that prayer can do the same thing for all of us, too; here are some excerpts from it:

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.

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.

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.

The Word from Father Pat: Saint Patrick’s Day

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.

Saint Patrick, The Lorica (Breastplate) Prayer

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I know it’s the Fifth Sunday of Lent, but I couldn’t resist a wee bit of celebration of the great and holy feast of Saint Patrick!  Certainly I revere Saint Patrick because he’s my patron, but also I revere him because of his steadfast witness to Christ.  Here was a man kidnapped from his native land and brought as a slave to Ireland.  He managed to escape and having done so, thought about nothing else but returning to the land.  He became a priest and returned to Ireland so that he could minister to the people and lead them to Christ.

The role of the saints is to do just that for us: to point the way to Christ.  And Saint Patrick does that well in his Breastplate (or Lorica) prayer, part of which I’ve quoted above.  Some question whether he wrote the prayer himself, but regardless, it was certainly the kind of thing he would write and say, based on his life and his teachings.  I love the recognition of Christ in each person and all around us.  What if we really stopped to think about that on a daily basis?  How would it change the way we speak and act toward our brothers and sisters?

The words of Saint Patrick’s prayer 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.

Saint Patrick imitated Christ by giving up the comfort of his life to do the work of Christ.  In doing that, he points the way to Christ for all of us.  We too are called on to give of ourselves, to give up our own needs and wants and desires, to become people who truly live the Gospel in the way we care for others.  We are called to see Christ in every moment and every place.

I celebrate Saint Patrick’s day maybe a little different than is stereotypical.  Yes, I like my corned beef and cabbage (and Grandma’s Irish Soda Bread), but I observe this day as a renewed call to holiness of life, a renewed call to give of myself more deeply in priestly ministry, a renewed call to repentance and dependence on Christ my Savior.  I pray that we might all find Christ in the celebration of this great and holy day!

Yours in Christ and His Blessed Mother, and the glory of Saint Patrick,
Father Pat Mulcahy, Pastor

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.

 

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent: St. Patrick

Today’s readings

St. Patrick knew the virtue of humility. He had every right to complain about his lot and turn away from God. At 16, he 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. Humility 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 humility and 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.”

Whatever the circumstances of our life, we are called to remember that it is not about us; we are not all that important. Instead of exalting ourselves, we must humble ourselves, trusting in God alone to exalt us.

Saint Patrick, bishop

Readings: 1 Peter 4:7b-11; Psalm 96; Luke 5:1-11

I used to be upset that Saint Patrick’s Day always happened during Lent.  I’d have to postpone the celebration of my favorite saint until Sunday because we just didn’t have corned beef on Friday, you know.  But as I’ve grown older, I appreciate that Saint Patrick’s Day is in Lent, because I think Saint Patrick is a compelling Lenten figure.

Lent, of course, is a time of conversion and renewal of faith.  Saint Patrick’s life was one of conversion.  Listen to these words from the beginning of his famous Confession:  “And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.”

Now many saints have undertaken to write a confession of their own lives. But perhaps none of them has done so in the same style as St. Patrick, he using rather rudimentary Latin to write the work, and being much more brutally honest than you’ll see from other saints. What you get from St. Patrick’s Confession is the life story of a man who was completely taken by love of God and dedication to his mission.

And, honestly, that he took up the mission at all is a little bit of a miracle. Having been brought to Ireland originally against his will, and finally having been delivered from it, one would think that he would be content to spend his days nearer to his family – who missed him terribly and feared for his life – but that’s not what he did, of course. He 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 was, someone who can care about others and work to help them. Before I was a slave, I didn’t even care about myself.”

And so we have here a rather compelling story of conversion.  We who are sinners ourselves might well relate to his reminiscences of a disaffected youth. He writes of an unmentioned sin, dating from before he was ordained, even before he was living a Christian life. The sin was apparently known to a friend of his – a friend who lobbied for him to become a bishop, and then 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, and for a second chance to live his life the right way, is an example for all of us, a grace that we could all long for especially in these Lenten days.

Another thing that comes through so clearly in the Confession is, of course, Patrick’s love for the Irish people and dedication to his mission.  He writes, “How wonderful it is that here in Ireland a people who never had any knowledge of God – who until now have worshiped idols and impure things – have recently become a people of the Lord and are now called children of God. You can see that the sons and daughters of Irish kings have become brothers and virgins for Christ.” He is in awe of the work God has done among the people since he has given himself to ministry there.  There was conversion going on in the Irish people in those days, and Saint Patrick is grateful for it.

And the thing is, he could have walked away from Ireland all those years ago and never looked back. Who could have blamed him for distancing himself from the land where he was enslaved, and nearly died? But in the faces of the people of Ireland, he saw the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill and imprisoned, and would not walk away. Instead, as the Gospel today directs us all, he left everything he had behind, turned back to Ireland, back to God, and followed Christ.

St. Patrick had to weather so many storms in his life. He was kidnapped and enslaved, he worked in mission territory among people who at times were hostile to the Christian way of life, he was betrayed by a friend and besieged by fellow clergymen who were jealous of the success of his ministry and critical of the way he did it. But through it all, he was grateful for the power of God at work in him. The faith that led him to be that way was nourished on a strong friendship with God. He’d hear nothing of us showing up here once a year for an Irish Mass. Instead, he’d have us celebrating our Irish heritage through daily communion with our God who longs to bless all our days.

Some say St. Patrick never wrote his famous “Breastplate” or “Lorica” prayer. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but I tend to think it’s the kind of thing he would have prayed, every morning, to remind himself of the source of his blessing, to call on God’s protection, and to center himself to look for Christ in every person in every moment.  Maybe that prayer can do the same thing for all of us, too.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

St. Patrick, Bishop

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:31-45

“And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.”

These are the words St. Patrick uses to begin his famous Confession, something many saints have done. But perhaps none of them has done so in the same style as St. Patrick, he using rather rudimentary Latin to write the work, and being much more brutally honest than you’ll see from most other works of confession. What you get from St. Patrick’s Confession is the life story of a man who was completely taken by love of God and dedication to his mission.

And, honestly, that he took up the mission at all is a little bit of a miracle. Having been brought to Ireland originally against his will, and finally having been delivered from it, one would think that he would be content to spend his days nearer to his family – who missed him terribly and feared for his life – but that’s not what he did, of course. He 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 was, 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 lobbied for him to become a bishop – who 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.

Another thing that comes through so clearly in the Confession is, of course, Patrick’s love for the Irish people and dedication to his mission: “How wonderful it is that here in Ireland a people who never had any knowledge of God – who until now have worshiped idols and impure things – have recently become a people of the Lord and are now called children of God. You can see that the sons and daughters of Irish kings have become brothers and virgins for Christ.” He is in awe of the work God has done among the people since he has given himself to ministry there.

And the thing is, he could have walked away from Ireland all those years ago and never looked back. Who could have blamed him for distancing himself from the land where he was enslaved, and nearly died? But in the faces of the people of Ireland, he saw the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill and imprisoned, and would not walk away. Instead, as the Gospel today directs us all, he ministered to their needs, as far as we know, until his dying day.

Dedication to the mission is something I always admired in Fr. Mike O’Keefe. He told me often that being a priest was the only thing he ever wanted to do. And he served Christ and his people well in over fifty years of priesthood. I’ll never forget when I wanted to tell him that I was finally going to seminary after many years of his encouragement. I called to make an appointment – which he couldn’t do for three weeks. So, of course, he heard about why I was coming to talk to him in the meantime. When I got there, he said, “I think I know why you’re here, because I had lunch with our vocation director last week. But I’ll let you tell me!”

During that conversation, he talked about his coming here from Ireland to go to seminary. He went to Mundelein Seminary, where I would be going all these years later. “It was a prison!” he said. Despite that rather dubious encouragement, he wrote a letter of recommendation for me that the rector of the seminary told me was the most beautiful of those letters he remembered reading in all his years of evaluating applicants to the priesthood. Fr. Mike’s continued encouragement of me through my seminary studies helped me to continue to long for the day when, well, when I’d be standing here. A few weeks before my ordination to the priesthood, Fr. Mike asked me to be the deacon for his 50th Anniversary Celebration. Then, just a few weeks later, he was present for my ordination and First Mass. I was so honored to celebrate that time with him.

Fr. Mike was a gentle, Irish soul who encouraged so many in the faith during his time as a priest. He tried to get me to come to this Irish Mass in the years that I was ordained, to celebrate with him. I had parish duties that kept me away, unfortunately, but he was able to get me here by a little gentle prodding from heaven, and I’m so honored to be here to celebrate my favorite saint, and to celebrate a man who did so much to encourage my vocation.

St. Patrick had to weather so many storms in his life. He was kidnapped and enslaved, he worked in mission territory among people who at times were hostile to the Christian way of life, he was betrayed by a friend and besieged by fellow clergymen who were jealous of the success of his ministry and critical of the way he did it. But through it all, he was grateful for the power of God at work in him. The faith that led him to be that way was nourished on a strong friendship with God. He’d hear nothing of us showing up here once a year for an Irish Mass. Instead, he’d have us celebrating our Irish heritage through daily communion with our God who longs to bless all our days.

Some say St. Patrick never wrote his famous “Breastplate” or “Lorica” prayer. Maybe not, but I tend to think it’s the kind of thing he would have prayed, every morning, to remind himself of the source of his blessing, to call on God’s protection, and to prime himself to look for Christ in every person:

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Amen.