Saint Patrick lived in the 5th century and was a Christian missionary. He was instrumental in converting Ireland to Christianity. Known most for his usage of the shamrock to help explain the Trinity, Patrick’s successfully converted the pagans.
Several posts on this feast day focus on “little known facts” or about whether Saint Patrick was actually Irish. I’m going to do something a bit different. Saint Patrick’s Breastplate prayer always provided me with great comfort. This article will examine the various aspects of his prayer.
Here’s the short version of the prayer (for the long version check out the link in the related resources at the end of this article):
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 sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Put on the Armor of God
Immediately, I think of Saint Paul’s description in Ephesians 6:10-18. The Bible acts as a defense against the temptations of the devil and the world. Reading and listening to the Word of God shields one with truth. The Devil enjoys sowing discord and twisting truth to fit his desire― draw people away from God.
Christ is always with us but sometimes it can be easy to forget. Sometimes we push God away or turn our back on Him. Saint Patrick’s breastplate prayer uses directional words to help remind one of the closeness of Jesus. Jesus is beside you. He is with you. On the right and left. Christ’s presence envelops you as a protection like how armor surrounds a soldier in battle.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
In Matthew 22:39 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “The second (greatest commandment) is like it (the first): You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Saint Patrick loved God first, but he followed the second great commandment too. He served the Irish peoples by leading them out of the errors of paganism and towards the truth of the Gospel.
In praying Saint Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, one is reminded to see God in others. It’s easy to get frustrated at strangers who commit a wrong: cutting you off in traffic, providing less than helpful advice at a call center, or even those who annoy you at church. Patrick was a foreigner in Ireland (contrary to popular views he wasn’t Irish!). But he accepted God’s call to spread the message of Jesus Christ as Savior.
Drive Out the Serpent(s)
The above image is a p(f)unny way to describe how Saint Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. Joking aside, it was because of his cooperation with God’s will Patrick had the ability to perform such a miracle (herpetologists might disagree). Christ with me. Those opening words to the Breastplate prayer can give us hope. The battle and journey through life doesn’t have to be done alone. God is with us. He was (and still is in Heaven) with Saint Patrick during his early years when he was captured as a slave. And God was with Patrick as he drove the snakes (and the pagan ideologies) out of Ireland.
Saint Patrick prays for us to put on the armor of God, to love God and fellow men, and to rely on Jesus to help us drive out the spiritual serpents in our lives. Amen.