I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the 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 hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
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 in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

The Story of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. St Patrick’s Day is March 17.

St Patrick is traditionally associated with the Shamrock plant, which he used to explain the concept of the Trinity.

St Patrick’s value doesn’t really come from the historical details but from the inspiration of a man who returned to the country where he had been a child slave, in order to bring the message of Christ.

Facts in brief

  • St Patrick really existed
  • Taken to Ireland as a slave at age 16
  • Escaped after 6 years
  • Became a Christian priest, and later a Bishop
  • Returned to Ireland as a missionary
  • Played a major part in converting the Irish to Christianity
  • Some of his writings survive, the Confessio and the Letter to Coroticus

Doubtful extra facts in brief

  • Born in 387 AD in Scotland, in Kilpatrick
    • alternative sources suggest he was born at Banwen in Wales
  • His original name was Maewyn Succat; he became Patrick when he became a bishop
  • Studied in France at the monastery of St Martin’s in Tours
  • Went to Ireland in 432 AD
  • Died either in 461 AD, or 493 AD (unlikely)
  • Taught by Saint Germaine

Patrick’s life

Patrick’s early life

Patrick’s family lived on a small estate near the village of Bannavem Taburniae. (This name cannot be placed on any current map of England or Wales.)

Although his father was a deacon, Patrick was not a believer:

I did not, indeed, know the true God

Saint Patrick, Confessio, translated from Latin

Enslaved by pirates

In his teens, Patrick was captured by a gang of Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland. Patrick came to believe that this was a punishment for his lack of faith.

He was put to work for six years herding sheep and pigs on Slemish mountain in County Antrim. While he was a shepherd, Patrick spent much of his time praying.

I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.

Saint Patrick, Confessio, translated from Latin

Escapes after six years

In an escape bid (while he was a captive in Ireland), Patrick stowed away on a boat bound for Britain, and it landed not far from where his parents lived.

Patrick decided to follow his vocation to become a priest, and after a dream he was inspired to return to Ireland.

I seemed to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.

Saint Patrick, Confessio, translated from Latin

Patrick spent several years studying before he felt ready to take up the life of a missionary.

Patrick’s return to Ireland as a missionary

Patrick eventually returned to Ireland, as the country’s second bishop, and brought the message of Christ to many people who had never heard it.

As a missionary Patrick baptised many thousands of people.

It was not an easy task. Patrick tells how his life was at risk, and how he was sometimes imprisoned by the local pagan chiefs. We know that Patrick sometimes made things easier by giving gifts to the chiefs.

Poignantly, Patrick also writes of his longing to leave Ireland.

How I would have loved to go to my country and my parents, and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord! God knows it! that I much desired it; but I am bound by the Spirit

Saint Patrick, Confessio, translated from Latin

But he knew his duty, and remained in Ireland.

Patrick had problems not only with himself, and the local pagans, but suffered from some backbiting by fellow clergy who accused him of seeking to win personal status.

The claim nearly broke his heart, but anyone who reads his Confessio will soon realise that Patrick was the last person to think that he deserved any glory for himself.

I ought unceasingly to give thanks to God who often pardoned my folly and my carelessness, and on more than one occasion spared His great wrath on me, who was chosen to be His helper and who was slow to do as was shown me and as the Spirit suggested.

Saint Patrick, Confessio, translated from Latin

Patrick’s writings

Patrick’s world

Patrick clearly perceived Ireland and Britain to be far apart, but he also perceived Britain and Gaul to be very close.

Seeing the world like that is as much a matter of theology as geography.

Jerusalem was believed to be the centre of the world and around Jerusalem were countries which were occupied by the Romans. On one particular far-flung corner was the island of Ireland – the last bastion of paganism (as Patrick saw it).

Patrick’s education

Patrick not only knew the language of his British parents but studied and understood Latin. Just how much Latin would have been used in Ireland (so far away from Rome) by that time is uncertain, but in his own writing there is evidence that he was well read in both secular writing and the Scriptures.

And in addition to the language of his British parents, and the Latin he learned as a priest, Patrick would have had to speak Irish to communicate God’s message to the people.

Patrick’s mission

Patrick believed that when “every nation” had heard the gospel, Christ would then return, and it seems he believed that he was the person to bring this message of Christianity to the land that represented this “final hurdle” of God’s plan.

Patrick’s writings

In Ireland, probably towards the end of his life, Bishop Patrick wrote about his life and work in the Confessio.

He begins:

I am the sinner Patrick. I am the most unsophisticated of people, the least of Christians, and for many people I am the most contemptible…

I was taken into captivity in Ireland – at that time I was ignorant of the true God – along with many thousand others.

This was our punishment for departing from God, abandoning his commandments, and ignoring our priests who kept on warning us about our salvation…

St Patrick, Confessio, translated from Latin

Myths about Patrick

Was Saint Patrick Irish?

No he wasn’t; he was British. When he was a child, raiders from Ireland came and took him from Britain.

In Ireland, he was sold as a slave, and spent about six years tending sheep and pigs around Slemish (a mountain formed from the plug of an extinct volcano just outside Ballymena in what is now Co Antrim).

As a stowaway, he returned to his parents, but felt called by God to return to preach to the people of Ireland.

Did St Patrick bring Christianity to Ireland?

Probably not. There’s good evidence that there were believers in Ireland before Patrick arrived.

Pope Celestine had sent Palladius to that part of the world years before.

Anyway, it would be unlikely that a country with such strong trading links with the Roman Empire would have remained untouched by Christianity.

Did St Patrick drive the snakes out of Ireland?

No he didn’t, because it’s unlikely there ever were any snakes in Ireland.

The snake may be a reference to serpent, a symbol of evil, and the driving out a reference to Patrick’s mission to rid Ireland of pagan influence.

Source: BBC/Religions

4 thoughts on “The Prayer of Saint Patrick

  1. I also figured the whole snake thing was a metaphor for evil. Fascinating post Lesley. Huge amount I didn’t know about St. Patrick – such as being a slave. Thank you sharing 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know he’d been a slave either. Terrible to have lived on our islands at that time! It greatly surprised me to discover that there have never been snakes in Ireland, whereas England, Scotland and Wales is home to at least three species of snakes.
      Well done for working out the metaphor. It was all new to me. I like snakes and wish they weren’t associated with evil. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s