Sunday, March 17, 2019

Enslaved but Rejoicing! Be Inspired by St. Patrick's Life His Words and His Prayers

I wrote this last year in the midst of celebrations. 

Now, in this time of social distancing and quarantines (as we are living with a pandemic virus of sickness, panic and fear...) the celebrations aren't present this year, and perhaps that is a good thing. We have so much more time for quiet and prayer to get in touch with the real St. Patrick, who can teach us so much. 

Please take the time to read about this truly amazing saint and to pray his incredible prayers of protection and strength that he wrote in the midst of severe devastation, deprivation and sickness. 
If you do, I know they will warm your soul and strengthen you in faith and hope:

Each year on this feast of St. Patrick, I can't help but think that while it's wonderful to see joyful parades and celebrations, where millions of people like myself rejoice in being Irish, and millions more honor the feast by the "wearing of the green", it saddens me to see how his feast day has turned into such a pagan holiday that extols sin and excess, without any clear connection or understanding of this amazing man of faith.

To combat this, I'd like to share some of his own prayers and writings that speak about what he endured, as well as the great Love of God that transformed him. 

St. Patrick's birth name was Maewyn Succat. As a young man he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland where he was enslaved for six years. 
He was forced to live without shelter as a shepherd, and was often alone and starving and perhaps beaten and tortured. 
What is so inspiring about St. Patrick is that it was right in the midst of such great deprivation, he became aware of God and His Mercy and the continual blessings that flowed from Him.
He writes in his “Confessio” of his captivity:
"There the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and then turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my low estate, and took pity 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.
Hence I cannot be silent – and indeed, I ought not to be – about the many blessings and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity;…the love of God and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me.”
Among the hundreds of prayers Patrick prayed when he was a slave in Ireland are two prayers that never fail to stir my heart. 

I can't be sure he prayed these prayers during his captivity
perhaps he prayed them during his escape
or throughout his study of the priesthood 
or when he was raised up as a Bishop of the Church
or when he chose to go back to Ireland 
to the same people who captured and enslaved him for 6 years
as he tirelessly worked for their conversion
or perhaps he prayed them throughout all of these seasons of his life...

Every time I pray or sing this prayer, I imagine Patrick singing and praying these words of praise to His Creator, Who was His Constant Companion while alone and enslaved...
cold and hungry ...

These prayers are prayers of union with God and remind me to see all things in and through God and through the eyes of faith:

The Lorica of St. Patrick 
also know as The Deer's Cry or 
The Bulwark or Breastplate of St. Patrick

This day God gives me
strength of high heaven
Sun and moon shining,
flame in my hearth.
Flashing of lightning,
wind in its swiftness,
Deeps of the Ocean,
firmness of earth.

This day God sends me,
strength as my guardian,
Might to uphold me,
Wisdom as guide.
Your eyes are watchful, 
your ears are listening,
Your lips are speaking,
Friend at my side.

God's way is my way,
God's shield is round me,
God's host defends me,
Saving from ill.
Angels of heaven, 
drive from me always,
All that would harm me,
Stand by me still.

Rising I thank You, mighty and Strong One,
King of creation, Giver of rest,
Firmly confessing Oneness of Godhead 
Threeness of Persons, Trinity blest. 
The second prayer is really a section of the same prayer listed above:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ within 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 in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I pray that we take time to truly ponder St. Patrick on his feast day today
as well as the profound and deeply moving words of his prayers...
imagining how his awareness of Christ's closeness changed everything for the young St. Patrick - 
as snow and ice and rain fell upon him
as he struggled with great hunger
as he must have struggled, 
and at first, raged against his enslavement
he was able to see that all he endured was  
as nothing compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! Phil. 3:8

May it be the same for us! 
Imagine how this same awareness can change our souls!!!

Aware of the imperfect circumstances many of us are experiencing, 
I write this praying that each of us become so aware of God's great love and care for us that we can't help but be filled with joy and gratitude for all He has done,
even while:

Some are enduring great sickness and loss
Some have lost jobs and homes 
and their means of livelihood
Some are living with great rejection and turmoil
Or even abuse 
While some struggle with faith 
And are constantly filled with fear and anxiety

Some are alone, with family members who were missing through death or other circumstances -- and their hearts are broken at their absence. 

Many families are 'broken', divorced and separated - 
some in outward ways, and some in very hidden ways. 
Many are living in strife.
Some have been abandoned or abused.
Some are caught in the web of sin and addictions.
Some are hungry and living in poverty,
In sickness or close to death.

When our circumstances don't match up to the perfect, beautiful images of life we imagine or once experienced, deep sadness, or even depression can come upon us.  
If we look for happiness in earthly terms, we will have unrealistic expectations that were never promised to us by God.  

God never promised us a life free from trouble,
rather He said, 

In this world you will have trouble and suffering, but take courage and cheer up! 
I have conquered the world!  John 16:33

God never promised us perfection.  
Nor did He promise that our lives would be free from pain or hurt, rejection or betrayal. 

What he did promise was that He would be with us always!

And if we are living in union with Him, 
we will know that that is enough, 
more than enough in fact...
and we can see that regardless of our current situations, 
we still are blessed beyond measure in ways that go far beyond the outward circumstances in which we are living.

This is the secret to happiness -- to be mindful of the gifts God has given us and to offer Him thanks and praise for these amazing things that we often take for granted! To keep our eyes on Jesus instead of ourselves and our own pain.

Through St. Patrick's intercession and by his life and prayers, may we be helped to truly see God's nearness and the abundance of His gifts, and thus obtain the joy and peace that surpasses understanding that God gives to all who draw near to Him. 
We pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen!
P.S. I shared the shortened versions of St. Patrick's full Lorica prayer above: the song that it inspired and the beautiful part of the prayer that I pray when I'm feeling most alone and need to remind myself of God's presence. 

But, the full Lorica prayer is worth reading and praying with. When you have time, after you've pondered what has been written above:

Please pray the full prayer, as well as more reflections on how the prayer and Scripture can be used as a shield of faith during these dark times. You can find them here. 

© Janet Moore. 2020.  All Rights Reserved.

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