The Breastplate of St. Patrick
“I arise today through the mighty strength of the Trinity....
Christ to shield me today.” from The Breastplate of St. Patrick, attributed to St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland (390-469 C.E.)
Patrick is not only my patron saint; he is also a model for the ministry God has given me. He traveled all over Ireland preaching the Gospel; I travel all over this country (and, occasionally, beyond) doing the same. My preaching is usually in the context of a retreat, parish mission, or day of prayer. And, like Patrick, I too rely upon (as The Breastplate says):
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s shield to protect me....
For his fifth-century audience, Patrick’s message was both novel and challenging: a call to leave their pagan ways and be converted to the Gospel. For my twenty-first-century audience, the message is usually not new; but is every bit as challenging, especially when we recognize that conversion is not a once-and-for-all event. Rather, conversion is a life-long journey, calling us to keep our minds and hearts open to the full import of Jesus’ message – which is always beyond what we have yet grasped.
Today’s Gospel (Lk. 6:36-38) points out, uncomfortably so, how much further I have yet to go on that journey. It contains some of the very few absolutes Jesus ever gave those who would follow him: Be merciful. Stop judging. Stop condemning. Forgive.
Has there been a day on which I have not failed in those very ways? That is one reason why a prayer I offer every morning are the first words of The Breastplate (in this two-fold translation, so that I might better remember the message):
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity. I bind unto myself the strong presence of Father, Son and Spirit.
Perhaps that prayer may help me be a bit more converted today – and perhaps it might do the same for you.