Remembering Saint Patrick | Creation Inspires Awe in the Trinity

Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17th)  commemorates the day Patricius, legendary leader and missionary to Ireland, passed away. Saint Patrick poured out his heart for the Irish people from 438AD onward until the day he died. And Celtic Spirituality (which is highly Creation-oriented) today owes its origins to the Biblical teaching and spirituality of Saint Patrick and the first Irish Christian converts.

Ancient Church in Ireland

Ancient Church in Ireland

Patrick’s Calling to Ireland

Before Patrick sensed his call from God to travel to Ireland as a missionary, he was  a shepherd slave boy who spent most time alone on the hills, bitterly isolated, for six years—on the hills of Ireland. As I read his writings and prayers, it is obvious to me that one of the reasons why Celtic Spirituality draws so much upon observations and lessons from God’s Creation was because of Patrick’s love for the outdoors and his experience living and working in the wilderness terrain during his impressionable years of youth.

Before Patrick surrendered his life to Christ, although he didn’t believe in God, he began to pray to the God of his parents from whom he had been isolated for many years after he had been kidnapped and forced into slave labor as a shepherd.

Hearing God’s Voice in the Wilderness

One day while shepherding in the wilderness, Patrick wrote that he heard a mysterious voice which said:  “Your hungers are rewarded:  you are going home….  Look your ship is ready.” After hearing this he walked 200 miles probably near Wexford, and saw his ship.  God had answered his prayers for his desire to be reunited with his parents. Yet after returning to his parents in England, he could not get the Irish people out of his mind.  So he eventually left his parents to go a monastery offshore from present-day Cannes. He was ordained as a priest and bishop, and since he could not shake his calling to the Irish people, he set sail for Ireland, becoming possibly the very first missionary bishop in history.

The Significance of Patrick’s Mission

To grasp the context and amazing significance of Patrick’s voyage to Ireland as a mission, consider that there had been four centuries (400 years) between the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys and Patrick’s journey to Ireland to establish a church. Historians agree that there were probably no missionaries who had gone out of the known Roman Empire until Patrick.

So Patrick really was the first missionary to the so-called “barbarians” beyond the reach of Roman Law.  ‘The step he took was in its way as bold as Columbus’.’[1] Here is one of my favorite journal reflection from Patrick which showed his uncompromising commitment to the people of Ireland:

Every day I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved—whatever may come my way. But I am not afraid of any of these things, because of the promises of heaven; for I have put myself in the hands of God Almighty.[2]

Celtic Spirituality | Creation Inspires Awe in the Trinity

If you love the outdoors and get a lot out of spending time with God in His Creation, then I think you will appreciate this well-known prayer of Saint Patrick. Since this was an unreached land, as you read this prayer you get a feel for the kinds of spiritual battles that these early Christians faced as they sought to establish a growing church among the Irish people. As you read through this prayer, highlight some of the ways that Patrick draws from creation to inspire prayerful awe in the Trinity.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer

I rise today

In power’s strength, invoking the Trinity,

Believing in threeness,

Confessing the oneness,

Of creation’s Creator

I rise today

In the power of Christ’s birth and baptism

In the power of his crucifixion and burial,

In the power of his rising and ascending,

In the power of his descending and judging.

I rise today

In the power of the love of cherubim,

In the obedience of angels, (Psalm 34:7)

And service of archangels,

In hope of rising to receive the reward,

In 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 the righteous.

I rise today

In heavens might,

In sun’s brightness,

In moon’s radiance,

In fire’s glory,

In lightning’s quickness,

In wind’s swiftness,

In sea’s depth,

In earth’s stability,

In rock’s fixity.

I rise today

With the power of God to pilot me,

God’s strength to sustain me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look ahead for me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to protect me,

God’s way before me,

God’s shield to defend me,

God’s host to deliver me:

From snares of devils,

From evil temptations,

From nature’s failings,

From all who wish to harm me,

Far or near,

Alone and in a crowd.

Around me I gather today all these powers

Against every cruel and merciless force

To attack my body and soul,

Against the charms of false prophets,

The black laws of paganism

The false laws of heretics,

The deceptions of idolatry,

[Against spells cast by women, smiths and druids,]

and all unlawful knowledge that harms the body and soul.

May Christ protect me today

Against poison and burning,

Against drowning and wounding,

So that I may have abundant reward;

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me;

Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me;

Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting,

Christ in my rising;

Christ in the heart of all who think of me.

Christ on the tongue of all who speak to me,

Christ in the eye of all who see me,

Christ in the ear of all who hear me.

I rise today

In power’s strength, invoking the Trinity,

Believing in threenes,

Confessing the oneness,

Of creation’s Creator

For to the Lord belongs salvation,

And to the Lord belongs salvation

And to Christ belongs salvation

May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.

Take Action

  • Read through this prayer and highlight ways that Patrick draws from creation to inspire prayerful awe in the Trinity.
  • St. Augustine (354-430) wrote the following statement:

Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that?

  • Here is a great exercise to do with a group out in the wilderness: In light of Augustine’s Quote, write down 3-5 principles from Patrick’s prayer and come up with some Scripture and analogies from creation that could illustrate these principles in the outdoors.

[1] Thomas Cahill,  How the Irish Saved Civilization, p. 108.

[2] Ibid. p. 108.

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