Br. Michael, ofm
The parish church I grew up in has a statue of St. Patrick. I was fascinated by this statue. A bishop standing with his staff looking right at you (his eyes seem to follow you), with a snake squirming at his feet. I was fascinated by his green garment, golden shoes and mitre (headgear for bishops). This statue portrayed St. Patrick as strong and heroic and yet approachable. It is because of this statue that I have had a life long fascination with St. Patrick, his feast day and Ireland (and whenever I’m home I do check in on the statue). St. Patrick is a good saint for our Lenten journey for he reminds us about bravery, trust and binding ourselves to Christ.
St. Patrick’s story is quite the adventure from a kidnapping, to slavery, from prayer, to ordination, from becoming bishop and returning to Ireland. There is so much to go into but I want to focus on the three qualities mentioned above that can encourage us in our Lenten days ahead. They seem to be the base of his prayer known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate. If you are familiar with the song “This Day God Gives Me” you are familiar with the premise of his beautiful prayer.
“I arise today through a mighty strength,” St. Patrick prays. He is saying remember it is the Triune God who is at work in you. It is God who is with you in the valleys low and mountains high. It takes a mighty strength to enter into each day as a witness of God’s love, bearing the presence of Christ and being a vessel of the Holy Spirit. This is the bravery required to face the chaos of the world, to arise knowing that the mighty strength is not our own but God with us. This is being brave enough to know that “once you were in darkness, “but now in the Lord you are light” (Ephesians 5.8).
St. Patrick knows all about what it is to return and with that to trust. He returned to Ireland, to the place where he had been held captive because he trusted God was calling him back. God was calling him to be a witness of the gospel and to light the fire of God’s love in the people. I believe he returned to truths that he knew were beyond the trappings of the world and even the church to deep truths of how God desires nothing more than to be our Anam Cara (Celtic for “soul friend”). St. Patrick placed his trust in God the Creator of all, in Jesus the Beloved and in the life-giving Spirit to guide him. He asks us to do the same on our Lenten journey and life journey. He asks to be trust that God is indeed our Anam Cara.
St. Patrick’s Prayer has some of the most beautiful lines of prayer ever penned. He prays, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me” and so on. St. Patrick asks us to recall that our Savior who was born, lived, died and rose from the dead is with us now. Christ dwells here and now and not just in some village in Judea thousands of years ago. The lines of this prayer have been assurance for countless people. I know for myself as I have navigated moments of fear and worry, I have asked Christ to be present. In moments of gratitude and rejoicing, I have acknowledged Christ present. This is binding myself to Christ. I fasten myself to Christ, because as Psalm 23 says, “the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I would also like to think that in the journey of life when I feel alone or uncertain or unaware that Christ binds himself to me. Not in the same way that I bind myself to him, rather in the fulfilment of his promise to be with us until the end of the ages (Matthew 28).
As we journey in this Fourth Week of Lent, let us ask St. Patrick to be our companion. A true companion, not just a fascinating statue like the one from my childhood, rather a guide who awakens us to the closeness of our Triune God. A companion who also awakens us to how creation shows forth the beauty of our God (the shamrock comes to mind). St. Patrick says to us be brave in your daily living, trust that God is with you and bind yourself to the One who is life eternal.
Blessings on the Lenten journey.
St. Patrick walk with us and pray for us.
Icon: St. Patrick
by C. Ziprick – Soul Sibling Studios ©