AD SENSE

St. Patrick - March 17

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Most people think of this day as a time for wearing green and that’s about it (unless you’re Irish!). St. Patrick gets relatively little attention on his day, so I thought I might offer a few thoughts in his honor, including a prayer that is attributed to him.
Patrick’s story reads like an Indiana Jones-type adventure. Raised in Britain (yes, not Ireland), Patrick was captured by pirates in A.D. 405 when he was only sixteen years old. The kidnappers whisked him away to Ireland and sold Patrick into slavery. He spent eight years as a captive in this pagan land.

During his captivity, Patrick embraced the Christian faith of his upbringing, something that had mattered little to him beforehand. In his own words, Patrick explained: “And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son” (from The Confession of St. Patrick).

Inspired by a dream, Patrick finally escaped from Ireland and made his way back to his home in Britain. But, in time, he sensed God’s call to return to Ireland, of all places, in order to share the good news of Christ with the pagans there. Even though he feared he wasn’t sufficiently learned to be a missionary, Patrick returned to Ireland, where he found unprecedented success in his evangelistic endeavors. His experience of Irish language and culture during his years as a slave enabled Patrick to communicate the Christian gospel with unusual effectiveness.

Though we can’t be sure when Patrick died, tradition holds that he lived into his seventies and died on March 17 in the latter half of the fifth-century A.D. In twenty-five or thirty years of evangelistic work, he led thousands of Irish pagans to Christ and was responsible for Ireland’s becoming one of the most Christian nations in Europe. For this reason he is called “the apostle of the Irish.”

The story of Patrick reminds me, in a way, of Joseph’s experience in Egypt. In both cases, what kidnappers and slave masters intended for evil, God intended for good (Gen. 50:20). Today I want to celebrate, not only Patrick’s example of faithfulness, but also the mystery and majesty of God’s redemptive sovereignty. It’s not unusual for people who have experienced some particular trauma in life to end up ministering to others who suffer that same trauma. A friend of mine, for example, who was sexually abused by her pastor when she was a teenager, now has a tenderhearted ministry for women who have experienced similar abuse. Thus, St. Patrick serves as an example of how God can work all things together for good, even things which are quite evil.

Our closing prayer today is attributed to St. Patrick, sometimes called his “Breastplate.” There are many different versions of this prayer, and we can’t be sure it originated with Patrick. Nevertheless, it faithfully represents his powerful faith in the triune God. The first line “I arise today” is sometimes translated as “I bind unto myself today.”

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Were you aware of the real St. Patrick? How has God used difficult and even evil things in your life for good?

PRAYER: 
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

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.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation. Amen.
****

St. Patrick’s Disastrous Baptism of King Aengus at the Rock of Cashel

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher brings to life the story of St. Patrick’s disastrous baptism of King Aengus at the Rock of Cashel.
Many are the legends surrounding the life of St. Patrick. Are they all true? Most probably not. Some, like his supposed banishment of snakes from the island, are clearly fiction. Ireland never had any snakes. But others, like the story I am about to tell, could well have come to pass in one form or another. It occurred at the ancient Celtic center called the Rock of Cashel
Let us now go back to AD 450 and look in on a baptismal ceremony told through the eyes of a certain Finnean mac Eoran, cleric in training to the great evangelist Patrick from Roman Britain…

Patrick at the Rock of Cashel

How grand and jubilant did the day begin! What honor and glory this ceremony would bring to our Lord! And how little did I know what a surprise events would bring!

Rock of Cashel Today
For two months, I had been with Patrick at Cashel in southern Munster. King Aengus himself had requested my master come and preach to him. Aengus had heard of Patrick’s miracles of healing and how he’d smitten the idol of Crom Cruach in the north, breaking it to pieces with his crozier. So he wanted to hear about Jesu and the God of Light from the lips of the great man, himself.
Patrick’s teaching to the king was plain and straight-forward. The king pondered Patrick’s story of the Son of God, and, after some questions and discussion, agreed to the ceremony.
Thus did we stand in the courtyard of the king’s rath under cloudy skies, surrounded by a colorful retinue. From miles around came the RĂ­ Tuatha, these kings of clans with their sons and subordinates. Everyone wore their best. Striped leggings of finest wool. Bright plaid tunics. Artfully crafted brass brooches. And more silver and gold torcs hanging from necks than I’d ever seen.
Before the ceremony, the king himself gave a short speech, enjoining the company to follow him. And as I glanced over the assembled, I saw many eager nodding heads. I had no idea of the disaster that would soon change their minds.
A Royal Baptism
Then came the event itself. The king had insisted he be baptized inside his rath on Cashel Rock, not down in a forest stream where we usually performed such rites. “Let history know,” he’d said, “that it was in this place I sought my Savior.” To accommodate his wishes, we’d ordered a hole dug in the square, whose sides and bottom servants lined with flat rocks, then filled with water. It was a baptismal fount fit for a king.
Dressed in loose flowing tunics, Patrick and the king stood before the fount. Patrick bore his favorite crozier and gripped its hooked handle, embedded with jade and emeralds. Its pointed spike dug into the earth beside him.
“Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?” boomed Patrick’s voice of authority.
“I believe,” said the king.
“Christ Jesu was born of a virgin called Mary. He was murdered by Pontius Pilate, the ruler of distant Palestine. He died, was buried, and on the third day rose again, alive from the dead. Then he ascended into heaven where even now he sits at the right hand of God the Father. Do you believe this, Aengus, King of Cashel, Ruler of Munster?”
“I believe.”
“And do you believe Christ Jesu is the Son of God?”
“I believe,” responded the king.

The Clonmacnoise Crozier

Then Disaster Struck

And so it went. It was proceeding well—until disaster struck. Patrick had reached the end, and as he prayed, he closed his eyes. Then he did something that even today, as I write these words, I shake my head with disbelief and horror, while at the same time, I struggle to suppress my laughter. What did Patrick do? In the middle of his prayer, he lifted his crozier high and brought it down. Hard. Sending the spike through the center of King Aengus’s foot.
The king stifled a cry of pain. Patrick kept on praying. I heard the crunch, opened my eyes, and looked with drooping jaw at the king’s foot as it bled profusely. But Aengus, stoic that he was, kept silent.
Patrick finished his prayer, passed the crozier to me, and stepped into the water up to his chest. Only then did he notice the king’s wound. What did Patrick do next? For some moments, he stared at the damage. Then, as if nothing had happened, he lifted his eyes to Aengus and beckoned him enter the water. The king doffed his tunic. Naked, Aengus limped into the water where Patrick baptized him.
To this day, Patrick never said a word about the event. The king thought it was all part of the ceremony—this stabbing of the foot—and merely went along with the procedure. Unfortunately, we received no further requests for baptisms that day. All those previously eager souls were nowhere to be found. It wasn’t until weeks later that I and my fellow clerics, after much quiet convincing, brought half the king’s court down to a forest stream, where Patrick dunked them—with their feet intact.
And that ends my tale of the baptism of King Aengus at the Rock of Cashel.