St Patrick's Day March 17th 2013

                   Just a reminder that Sunday 17th March is St. Patrick's Day (385-461 AD.)

       Yet more reasons to be cheerful.
  • St Patrick's Day Top Ten Facts here.
      Patrick, being a saint, was zealous for the things of God. 

 “St.Patrick” © Hamish Douglas Burgess 2012
Many thanks to Hamish for his permission to use his awesome image.
Prints are available at the artists website here.
This magnificent image of St Patrick has an explanation of the symbolism of it along with extensive material on the life of St Patrick at Hamish's website here. 

The story goes that when Patrick returned from his missions to Ireland in 432 A.D., he went to the hill of Slane to light the Paschal fire and candles on the eve of Easter. Slane Hill is about ten miles from Ta­ra in Coun­ty Meath. 

On this parallel hill of Tara, the pagan High King Logaire's Court was in session. He had decreed that only the King could light the first fire of the Spring Equinox. If anyone else dared to do so, he would be executed. 

As Patrick defied the King's edict and was lighting the Paschal fire, the soldiers came to kill him. Instead, they listened to him. King Logaire was so impressed with Patrick's bravery and devotion, he let him continue his missionary work unhindered.

St Patrick lighting The Paschal Fire 

Patrick was courageous and chose to honour God in spite of the threat of death.

An 8th Century Monk, penned the words to the hymn, Be Thou My Vision, as a tribute to St. Patrick's wholehearted loyalty to God and was translated from Irish to English in 1905 by Mary E. Byrne. In 1912, Eleanor H. Hull arranged the song into the verse most commonly found today. 

The music to accompany the lyrics is an ancient Irish folk tune called Slane. This is a lovely instrumental version of the ancient Irish hymn. 

 I hope it won't be long before I can sit out on the sand dunes or in the fields in short sleeved summer clothes. It has been freezing and wintry this last week here in Cornwall, although today I did see a blue sky with an orange yellow disc !! 


 Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
 Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
 Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
 Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. 
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; 
 I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; 
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; 
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
 Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
 Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight; 
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower: 
 Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, 
 Thou mine Inheritance, now and always: 
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, 
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
 High King of Heaven, my victory won, 
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
 Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
 Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all. Words: 

Words attributed to Dallan Forgail (8th Century) 

 St Patrick by Bro Mickey McGrath O.S.F.S.

More of the Sacred Art of Bro Mickey McGrath here

This essay on St Patrick below by John O'Donohue was originally published as Prologue for the book, The Confession of St. Patrick by John Skinner.
Used by permission of the publisher.
Taken from this website dedicated to John O'Donohue's writing. 

" History is an amazing presence--it is the place where vanished time gathers. While we are in the flow of time, it is difficult to glean its significance, and it is only in looking back that we can recognize the hidden dimensions at work within a particular era or epoch. 

St. Patrick has always been acknowledged as a pivotal figure in early Irish history and spirituality. Yet despite this importance, his significance has often become rather caricatured in legend and in the retrospective intentionality that nostalgia often confers. And yet we need not be limited by what legend has given us, since we are fortunate in having documents from Patrick's own hand.

The Confession of St. Patrick provides a window into a remarkable life. Patrick is a figure who inhabits a crucial threshold in the evolution and definition of Irish spirituality. To serve this threshold demanded a singular commitment that engaged every resource and depth of character he possessed. His story revolves around an initial irony which qualifies his centrality in the Irish tradition.

It was Irish pirates who kidnapped him from his British home and sold him into slavery here. They could never have suspected the spiritual tradition that would be born out of their brutal action.

Indeed, the structure of this initial moment sets the rhythm of Patrick's subsequent life, namely, the praxis of a spirituality of transfiguration. His physical slavery releases him into a life of inner liberation. His captors only controlled his tasks and location but they never got near the eternal spring that was awakening in his young mind.

Patrick understands his slavery as the door into divine recognition and friendship. In this awful experience of alienation and exile, he discovers God as his anam-cara. Anam is the Irish word for soul and cara is the word for friend. The Anam-cara is the Friend of the soul. 

This is one of the most beautiful concepts in the Celtic tradition.
 An ancient affinity and belonging awakened between two people in the Anam-cara relationship. This relationship cut across all other connections. In your Anam-cara you discovered the Other in whom your heart could be at home. The depth and shelter of this Anam-cara belonging enables Patrick to endure the most awful conditions. Prayer is conversation with his Anam-cara:

"But after I had come to Ireland, it was then that I was made to shepherd the flocks day after day, so, as I did so, I would pray all the time, right through the day. More and more the love of God and fear of him grew strong within me. 

 And as my faith grew, so the Spirit became more and more active, so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and at night only slightly less. 

 Although I might be staying in a forest or out on a mountainside, it would be the same; even before dawn broke, I would be aroused to pray.  In snow, in frost, in rain, I would hardly notice any discomfort, and I was never slack but always full of energy.  It is clear to me now, that this was due to the fervour of the Spirit within me."
Pascal said that in difficult times you should always keep something beautiful in your heart. Patrick is able to survive these harsh and lonely territories of exile precisely because he keeps the beauty of God alive in his heart. 
The inner beauty of the divine intimacy transfigures outer bleakness.

This inner intimacy brings his soul alive. It opens the world of the divine imagination to this youth. Consequently, he becomes available for his destiny in a new way. His dreams invite him to ever richer thresholds of his future. He is shown in a dream a ship that will take him away from slavery. The lantern of his dream guides him through two hundred miles of hostile territory to a harbor where strange sailors unexpectedly relent and take him aboard ship. Fascinating relics of ancient traditions glisten through this phase of the narrative.

His parents and friends are delighted at his return. He studies and becomes a priest and bishop. Yet his destiny is not to remain among what is familiar or complacent. Again the dream calls him to journey toward the next threshold. It is the dream of a letter from Ireland full of the "Voice of the Irish" calling him to "come back and walk once more among us." Patrick allows himself to be guided by the "vision in his dreams."  He is "pierced to the core" by this request.

It is fascinating that the crucial new direction in his life is not determined by the clear calculations of the daytime but rather originate in the voices of dream in the depth of the night. Often the most original disclosures assemble in the unconscious and are deciphered through imagination and dream.

 Patrick is so attuned to this deeper dimension of soul that his sense of who he is rendered ever more complex by such new inner disclosures.

His sense of soul complexity finds its most fascinating expression in the frame-breaking experience that happens at that tender threshold somewhere between dream, prayer, and vision:
"And on another night, "I do not know, only God knows" whether in me or outside myself, I heard the most wise words which as yet I could not comprehend . . ."
In the moment of deepest divine encounter, the frames of normal perception are radically extended and intensified. Yet in contrast to some Oriental mysticism, the sense of the intimacy and belonging of the Self does not fade into anonymity of Nothingness:

nd once again, I saw him praying within my soul, it was as if I was still inside my body, and then I heard him above, me, that is over my inner man."

Patrick is amazed at this intrusion or more precisely extrusion from his own depths. This new presence is not himself but yet is radically at one with him:
"And as all this was happening, I was stunned and kept marveling and wondering . . . who he might be, who was praying in this wise within me."

But as this prayer was ending, he declared that it was the Spirit.

Patrick discovers that the deepest experience of prayer is not the mere verbal intention of an isolated subject directed at a distant deity. The deepest prayer is beyond subjectivity and objectivity. It is the echo of the inner membrane where the human soul dovetails into the divine. 

This is reminiscent of what Eckhart terms the Birth of God in the soul. This event liberates Patrick from oppression of outer constraint by absolutely confirming the depth, authenticity, and expressiveness of the inner wellspring He tells us: " in such ways I have learned, by my own experience."

For any great spirit who must negotiate the great thresholds and indeed become a threshold the nourishment and sustenance of such inner confirmation is vital. He can travel on any dangerous or hostile outer journey because he knows he is at Home within. This is what sustains him in the lonely times of betrayal, misunderstanding, and scandal. 

Patrick is a strikingly modern figure in being ambivalent externally, however internally he inhabits the unity of innocence and authenticity. 
His singular independence is grounded in the sense of his own autonomy.

 It is reminiscent of Kierkegaard's statement: "Purity of heart is to will
one thing."

Patrick's intimacy with the divine makes him painfully aware of his faults and unworthiness. Yet this recognition never becomes self-obsessive. He acknowledges that the tender mercy of God is deeper and more ultimate than mere human failing. 

His faults, therefore, do not become a barrier to either his destiny or growth. His difficulties with Eros make Patrick real and interesting. 
They signal the charisma and passion of his personality and presence.

Patrick's presence is full of uaisleacht. The Irish word for nobility is uaisleacht; it also carries echoes of honour, dignity, and poise. 

 Patrick exercised uaisleacht in relation to the people he shepherded. 

He served, defended, and cared for them, yet he refused any gifts or attempts to
claim him. He also exercised uaisleacht in relation to his own destiny.  

He constructed no kingdom of the ego. He opened himself to the ultimate calling and challenge of Otherness in its social, territorial, and spiritual forms: 

"For I know full well that poverty and adversity suit me better than riches and delights."

The range and intensity of his inner and outer exposure is both admirable and fascinating. Only a great soul could engage such otherness and still remain gentle and free.

A threshold is a place where different territories meet. Patrick is a great threshold. In him the pre-Christian and Christian dimensions of the Irish sensibility find an acute and balanced tension. 

Frequently in the Confessions we sense this meeting. Near the end he aligns the
pre-Christian Celtic sense of the divinity of the sun with Christ: "the true sun . . . who will never die." 

 In the Lorica attributed to Patrick, even though it comes three centuries later, we find a lovely balance of the pre-Christian and the Christian.

The Lorica derives its particular nuance from the absolute recognition of the omnipresence of God. The new day is understood as a gift of the divine. The very energy of awakening and arising is made possible by the love and care of God. 

Whatever the day holds is welcome because the ultimate origin and destination of the day is divinity. It explicitly recognizes the day in the light of the Trinitarian embrace. 
A day is no mere segment of anonymous and contingent time. 
A day is full of latent divinity:
 I arise today
in a mighty strength
calling upon the Trinity,
believing in the Three Persons
saying they are One
thanking my creator.

This lyrical and direct evocation of the Trinity is then followed by a recognition of the Christological depth of our experience. Next the forces of the invisible world that secretly contribute to our destiny and experience are named and invoked. Then he names the elements and acknowledges how their latent divinity calls the individual forth out of the night into the energy and celebration of life:

I arise today
through strength in the sky:
light of the sun
moon's reflection
dazzle of fire
speed of lightning
wild wind
deep sea
firm earth
hard rock

The secret faithfulness of landscape is recognized here. 

It provides the where without which no life or object could exist.

Patrick draws constant attention to his rustic and unlearned sensibility. The depth and probe of his writings belie this. Yet it is true that the exploration and refinement of theological connections and nuance is neither his objective nor gift. Yet in his writings the pre-Christian and the Christian are always adjacent. Close enough to allow us to explore their embrace and recognize here a latent/nascent theology of Creation. A Celtic theology of Creation understands such continuity and interflow as vital, rich, and liberating."

John O'Donohue
Connemara, Ireland

The Prayer of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation. 

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and 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 service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor 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
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes 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 women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul. 

Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

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 every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me. 


I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

The video below is a musical version of "The Deer's Cry", attributed to St Patrick, which is also known as "The Breastplate of St Patrick" and "Lorica."
It is a beautiful prayer celebrating a God who lives with us, guiding us, sheltering and strengthening us. This is a God who is always with us and in us through His Creation. Irish composer Shaun Davey put a section of the Breastplate to some wonderful music in his CD "The Pilgrim". 

                       The video is the spoken word of St Patrick's Breastplate Prayer
The first part is read by Dom Mark Patrick Hederman, Benedictine Abbot of Glenstal Monastery, County Limerick and then repeated in Gaelic..


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