When I was young, Saint Patrick’s Day was about wearing green so you would not get pinched and cutting four leaf clovers from green construction paper. Then I found out about Patrick and everything changed. Now it does not matter whether I wear green and I have no desire to cut four leaf clovers from construction paper. It does matter whether Patrick’s life has any impact.
This year, I chose to remember Patrick by thinking through Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. While it is likely that he did not write this poem-prayer, it well captures the integration of theology and life that he personifies. I think that if I were to begin my day reading and believing Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, my soul and the souls in my community would be healthier.
The Breastplate understands daily life as founded in and empowered by God, the Three-in-One, and as existing in Jesus. Each morning, the soul awakes in the strength of the Trinity.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
Each morning, the soul awakes in the strength of Christ and his mission.
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.
The Breastplate sees the individual person as fully involved in and responsible for standing against evil in the world. Each day, the soul asks protection from and stands against evil.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my 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.
The Breastplate declares relational dependence on Christ as foundational for daily life. Christ is the context for and content of life.
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.
So, I shall run a spiritual experiment: each morning, March 17 through April 17, I shall begin my day with the Breastplate. I shall report back on April 19.
I commend the entire Breastplate to your reading.
Note for the record: I have never had green beer, though this may be due to timing.
Quotes are from the text of Saint Patrick’s Day on Wikipedia.