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Mar 17 – St Patrick (390-461)

17 March, 2012

Summary: St Patrick, Bishop, Missionary. Born in Britain probably in the early years of the fifth century, taken captive at the age of 16 and brought to Ireland, where he worked as a slave. His captivity led him to a renewal of his spiritual life. After he escaped back home at the age of 22, it was clear to him that God was calling him to return to convert the Irish. After studies in Europe he returned to Ireland, where he made a very large number of converts. His spiritual journey is recounted in his Confessio.

Here Patrick Duffy outlines his life.

PatrickThe irony about St Patrick is that, though for long he has been touted as a symbol of Irish nationalism and opposition to Britain, he probably was himself a Brit, possibly from the Carlisle district of north-west England.

Patrick's MssPatrick’s writings
Two of St Patrick’s own writings have come down to us. Patrick’s Confession and his Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus. (c/f below) They are a completely different literary genre from the various lives of Irish saints that were written in subsequent centuries. Stung by criticisms of him and his mission to preach the gospel in Ireland, Patrick wrote his Confession (or religious life story)

Early life
robably originating from a clerical family in the Carlisle district of north-west England, Patrick’s father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest. Captured by Irish invaders, he became a slave, herding sheep on Slemish mountain in Co Antrim. This changed his personality and through the power of prayer (“100 times a day and 100 times at night”) he became totally devoted to God and trusting in his providence.

Escape and mission
fter seven years Patrick escaped on a ship probably to Britain and back to his family. But he felt called to go back on a mission to Ireland. He trained as a monk and a priest, probably first in Britain and then in Gaul. It may have been a British monk-bishop who sent him as a missionary. He possibly sold his patrimony to finance his mission and gain access to Irish chiefs.

Patrick 2Success and influence
Patrick probably wandered from place to place in a rural setting especially in the northern half of the country and was highly successful in encouraging young converts to follow him as monks and nuns.

Letter to Coroticus
When some of his converts were kidnapped by Coroticus’s soldiers, fearing that they would be raped, he excommunicated those responsible, which he may not have been entitled to do and there may have been an investigation. This the context of the second document that survives, his Letter to Coroticus.

Probably not the first missionary
atrick probably  wasn’t the first misssionary to Ireland. Others who possibly had contact with Christianity in the South of Wales were Kieran of Seir, Ailbe of Emly, Declan of the Déise in Waterford and Ibar or Iberius in Wexford. Places of pilgrimage like Lough Derg in Co Donegal and Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo are traditionally associated with him, as is the Celtic prayer, The Breastplate of St Patrick.

The prayer known as “Faeth Fiada” or the “Lorica of St. Patrick(St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate) was first edited by Petrie in his “History of Tara.”

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.

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 of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today,
through t
he strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today,
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 shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and 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 an 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.