Saint Patrick’s Prayer

Americans love a parade so it’s easy to understand why, no matter what your heritage, on March 17 everyone can be a little bit Irish. If you have kept up with Philadelphia’s various St. Patrick’s celebrations, from parades to pub crawls, the day is actually more than a week of merriment. I think it’s fascinating that we celebrate the fifth-century cleric who took Christianity to Ireland by drinking copious quantities of beer!

Given the tough road that Irish immigrants faced coming to this country to escape starvation during the Great Potato Famine, I am glad the memory of Irish national heritage can bring such joy. The estimated 1.5 million people who left Ireland for America between 1845 and 1855 were escaping the kind of poverty and hunger that are forcing so many migrations across the globe today. So when you pull out your green to wear tomorrow, let’s be prayerfully mindful of the plight of immigrants everywhere. For, if like St. Patrick we embrace the call to live and share the Christian faith with selflessness and sacrifice, his witness to the Gospel should run deeper than green rivers of beer.

The accounts of St. Patrick’s life and mission contain as much fiction as fact. Did he really use the shamrock to teach about the three persons of the Trinity? However, the consensus of church historians is that Patrick was born in Roman-occupied Britain, and sold as a teen into slavery in Ireland from which he escaped six years later. When his education in Britain was complete, he returned to Ireland as a missionary to evangelize the Celts. Only fragments of his writings remain, but a few medieval biographies piece together the memory of his life dedicated to Christ.

The prayer attributed to him, the Breastplate of St. Patrick, was likely written long afterward, but it is cherished throughout the world as an example of Christian devotion. This particular excerpt is reminiscent of Patrick’s kind of faith and mission in these days of remembrance.


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
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 shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near…
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 arise…