Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland
March 17 is the Commemoration of Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland.
“Our father among the saints Patrick of Ireland, Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland, was born a Briton. Captured and brought to Ireland as a slave, he escaped and returned home. Later, he returned to Ireland, bringing Christianity to its people. His feast day is March 17.
Saint Patrick was born around 390 (likely in 387), at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton, in Scotland. His name is from the Latin “Patricius”, meaning “high-born”. His parents were part of the Christian minority of Britain; his father, Calpurnius, was a deacon, “the son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ.”
At the age of 16, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. During that time, he prayed frequently and came for the first time to have a true faith in God. At age 22, he had a vision in which God told him to be prepared to leave Ireland. Soon, he escaped, walking 200 miles to a ship and returning to England. In a dream, he saw the people of Ireland calling him, “We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.”
St Patrick sought clerical training. He was ordained by St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre. Around 430 he was ordained a bishop, after which he returned to Ireland. There, he preached the Gospel, reaching tribal chieftains, gaining their permission to teach their subjects also. During his episcopate, he was attacked for a sin he confessed to a close friend, a sin he committed “in a single hour” when only 15, but he did not suffer as a result. He established an episcopal administration and led a monastic lifestyle, establishing Christianity in Ireland. St. Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, on March 17, 461.”
“Holy Bishop Patrick,
Faithful shepherd of Christ’s royal flock,
You filled Ireland with the radiance of the Gospel:
The mighty strength of the Trinity!
Now that you stand before the Savior,
Pray that He may preserve us in faith and love!”
“From slavery you escaped to freedom in Christ’s service:
He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil’s bondage.
You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts.
In your journeys and hardships you rivaled the Apostle Paul!
Having received the reward for your labors in heaven,
Never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth,
Holy bishop Patrick!”
“The Lorica (Latin: “breastplate”) of Saint Patrick” is a prayer said to have been used by Patrick and his followers to protect themselves from the people who wanted to kill them as they travelled across Ireland. It is also called the “Deer’s Cry” (“Fáed Fíada”) because their enemies saw, not men, but deer. It may not have been written by Patrick, but is considered to reflect his theological focus on the Trinity.
“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 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 obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.”
A beautiful, and traditionally Celtic, version sung by Rita Connolly, with the Curtlestown Choir directed by Evelyn Deasy, accompanied by Shaun Davey on pedal harmonium, is on-line at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkLzIeztC3c
An Anglican version as a hymn by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) sung by the Choir of Keble College is on-line at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5Hin4swdKg
The composer Tim Keyes wrote a magnificent Oratorio on St Patrick’s Breastplate. Its world premiere at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, NJ on St. Patrick’s Day 2006 can be seen on-line at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9_g9jQtJIY