St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) has become – in the USA at least – one of those feasts some call “a greeting card holiday.” Shamrocks and other green decorations, store sales, parades and parties abound and last much longer than the actual 24-hour day. It’s quite an interesting phenomenon actually, especially for a country like ours that is such a melting pot of national ancestries. I often wonder what it feels like to folks who have no Irish blood coursing through their veins when they hear the staunchest defenders of this day shout, “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!”
All of that said, and because I am the granddaughter of four Irish immigrants to this country whose love for the land, the history and the faith of the Irish people rests in the very heart of me, I turn today to an ancient prayer of St. Patrick for inspiration. The prayer is reputed to have been written by Patrick, who lived in the 5th century, as a hymn to strengthen himself with God’s protection in his work as a missionary in Ireland. It is long and inclusive of belief in the Trinity, all creatures of heaven and earth and his will to be guided by God in all things. Later translations begin with the words, “I arise today…” but the older, stronger version speaks more clearly to Patrick’s deep desire to be as close as possible to God and to remember God’s presence at all times as he says: “I bind to myself today…” I will not quote the entire prayer but offer the following verses as a witness to the bright side and depth of the heritage that I claim with gratitude and love.
…I bind to myself today the power of Heaven, the light of the sun, the brightness of the moon, the splendor of fire, the flashing of lightning, the swiftness of wind, the depth of the sea, the stability of earth, the compactness of rocks. I bind to myself today God’s power to guide me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to teach me, God’s eye to watch over me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to give me speech, God’s hand to guide me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to shelter me, God’s host to secure me…Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left…Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I bind to myself today the strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity. I believe the Trinity in the Unity, the Creator of the Universe.