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March 17, 2007

Magonus Sucatus Patricius

"I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Portitus, a priest of the village Bannavem Taburnia; he had a country seat near by, and there I was taken captive."

Thus begins one of the only two documents that can be traced authentically to the authorship of the man we know as Saint Patrick, apostle to the Irish, who lived between 385 AD and 461 AD. At the age of fourteen he was seized by raiders at his father's estates somewhere near the mouth of the Severn, and taken to be sold as a slave in Ireland. There he remained as a slave for six years before he ran away, escaping on a ship to Gaul and then placing himself in a monastery.

His return to Ireland is a convoluted story and not without some irony as he was not the first, nor even the second choice for the task. Nor was his mission the first to attempt to bring Christianity to the Irish - yet his dogged acceptance and his steadfast faith seems to have been what the Irish found so irresistable. The slave returned to conquer the slavers, with love and faith instead of the sword and destruction. Patrick brought the fire of faith to Ireland, it was the fire of his love for God that sustained him throughout what he regarded as a God imposed exile. He missed his family and yearned for the comforts of their home and presence, but felt driven to fulfil what he considered was the task God had set him in penance for a 'sin' he had committed in his youth. We do not know what that 'sin' was, we may guess, but we cannot know. What we do know is that it haunted him throughout his period as a slave and throughout his ministry.

Typical of the man he chose to have the monks and clergy of the Irish or Celtic Church wear a tonsure which should have been the badge of shame to him - the tonsure forced upon all slaves in Ireland at that time.

Would he recognise the beanos held in his name all over the world with green beer, green clothes and all manner of supposedly ultra-Irishness? I think he'd be appalled, precisely because he loved God before all things and sought to serve God in the only way he knew - as a slave of God.

I shall be marking his feast with meditation and prayer - as he would have marked any festival. And just after Easter I will be visiting his grave in Downpatrick. He was steadfast in faith and steadfast in duty. A true man of God. Below is an English poetic version of a poem ascribed to him in the Gaelic version.

St Patrick's Lorica - translated from the Gaelic by C F Alexander, set to music by C V Stanford

I bind unto myself today The strong Name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Posted by The Gray Monk at March 17, 2007 08:19 AM

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