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St. Patrick's Breastplate

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St. PatrickSt. Patrick's Breastplate is contained in the ancient Book of Armagh, from the early ninth century, along with Patrick's authentic "Confession." St. Patrick is said to have written this prayer to strengthen himself with God's protection as he prepared to confront and convert Loegaire, high king of Ireland. I see in it some similarities to Paul's exhortation to "put on the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18), except that it is much more detailed. I recommend St. Patrick's prayer to you as a wonderful prayer of spiritual preparedness.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgment Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

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 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,
   Against the snares of demons,
   Against the seductions of vices,
   Against the lusts of nature,
   Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
      Whether far or near,
      Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

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 fort, [i.e., at home]
Christ in the chariot seat, [i.e., travelling by land]
Christ in the stern. [i.e., travelling by water]

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.

This rather literal version is from Patrick Francis Cardinal Moran, "St. Patrick," Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), Volume XI (Robert Appleton Company, 1911), Online Edition (2003), by K. Knight (www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm). A quite similar is found in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 4, 14, critical note on St. Patrick. Schaff, notes that this Irish hymn is found in the Book of Armagh, and is "called S. Patricii Canticum Scotticum, which Patrick is said to have written when he was about to convert the chief monarch of the island (Laoghaire or Loegaire). The hymn is a prayer for the special aid of Almighty God for so important a work; it contains the principal doctrines of orthodox Christianity ... but without an invocation of Mary and the saints, such as we might expect from the Patrick of tradition and in a composition intended as a breast-plate or corselet against spiritual foes."

Cecil F. Alexander (1818-1895)Other translations are also available. In 1889, Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895),  penned the following version at the request of H. H. Dickinson, Dean of the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle. He recalls, "I wrote to her suggesting that she should fill a gap in our Irish Church Hymnal by giving us a metrical version of St. Patrick's "Lorica" and I sent her a carefully collated copy of the best prose translations of it. Within a week she sent me that exquisitely beautiful as well as faithful version which appears in the appendix to our Church Hymnal." The traditional (but not very memorable) tune, was written by Charles V. Stanford (1902). (Information obtained from CyberHymnal.org where a MIDI of the music is available.)

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 spiced 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.

More on St. Patrick's Life, Prayers, and Legacy

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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