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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The man of the hour: Pádraig of Ireland

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day this year but don't know much about Pádraig himself? With all of the fun this weekend for St. Patrick's Day, I found myself wondering just how many people actual know anything about the details of the life of St. Patrick, who passed away back in the 5th century.

Did you know that some of his writings have survived to the present day? I've recently enjoyed reading The Confession of St. Patrick translated by John Skinner. It is, as Irish poet John O'Donohue puts it in his foreward to the book, "a window into a remarkable life". Patrick, who you may remember was actually born in Britain, first experienced Ireland as a captured slave boy. His call to return to Ireland many years after his escape is described in his narrative, which can also be found online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library website.

Here is his story of being "Recalled to Ireland by a Dream":

And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents [kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: ‘The Voice of the Irish’; and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment 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.’ And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.

The famous words of the prayer known as the "Breastplate of St. Patrick" or the "Lorica" also provide an insight into Patrick's faith and are a well-known creed for Catholics and Christians of many other denominations. Here is an excerpt:

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

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.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ.
May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

I have found it inspiring to learn more about the life of this holy man so revered in Ireland and throughout the world.

As we celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year, may the patron saint of Ireland smile down from Heaven and ask God's blessing on all of us as we participate in all this fun and frolic in his name!

For more on St. Patrick see the Irish Culture & Customs website's article entitled "I, Patrick, the sinner..."

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