Monday, February 11, 2013


St Patrick was a Celto-Briton. The Gospel began to reach the British Isles and Ireland by AD 35, (allegedly the Apostle James to Ireland and Joseph of Arimathea to Britain.)  Though the exact date and place of his birth are disputed it is generally held that Patrick was born in Cumbria or perhaps further north near Dumbarton circa 387. He was taken from Britain to Ireland when he was sixteen by Irish raiders, where he spent six years as a slave before returning to Britain. As per the Scriptures (and as it is for every true believer in the Gospel) Patrick became a saint the moment he first believed, and, as such, returned to Ireland around 432. Though Patrick is often credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland it is more accurate to say that he converted many of the Irish (including Druids) to Christianity and also codified their laws.

Before returning to Ireland to found a church Patrick, like his married grandfather before him, had become a Presbyter, i.e., he was ordained an Elder or Bishop (synonymous terms). His father was a Deacon. Of the founding of a church in Ireland the Church Historian, Francis Nigel Lee, says, ‘The Church founded by St. Patrick was identical in doctrine with the Churches of Britain and Gaul and other branches of the Western Church.’[1] A couple of centuries intervened before Romanism began making inroads into Britain and Ireland, until, at the Synod of Whitby (664), the Celtic Church (to which Patrick had belonged) capitulated to the Roman Church.

Patrick the Celt’s home language was Britonnic… He wrote in rather poor Latin. He did this also, if not chiefly, in order that he might gain the widest possible readership.’[2] Patrick wrote of his own conversion, ‘I, Patrick, a sinner… did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people… And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And He watched over me before I knew Him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and He protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.’[3]

Once converted Patrick, believing the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, reputedly made use of the Irish shamrock to explain His triune nature, saying, ‘Is it one leaf or three? As with God, it is both.’ There are many translations of Patrick’s prayer (originally in Irish), a hymn known as ‘The Shield (or Breastplate) of St Patrick,’ and also, ‘The Lorica’ or ‘The Deer’s Cry.’ It contains sound and emotively edifying theology! The following is a sample: ‘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.’

(Article excerpted from my ebook "Beauty & Other Contemplations" -

(The following is an English version of  "The Deer's Cry" beautifully sung by Rita Connolly):

[2] Ibid.
[3] St Patrick’s Confession.                                                                      

1 comment:

  1. Neil,
    a flavour of the original for your readers:   

    Crīst lim, Crīst reum Crīst im degaid
    Crīst indium, Crīst íssum Crīst úasum
    Crīst dessum, Crīst tūathum
    Crīst illius Crīst isius Crīst inerus
    Crīst i cridiu cech duini rodomscrútadar
    Crīst i ngin cech óin rodomlabrathar
    Crīst hi cech rusc nomdercædar
    Crīst hi cech clūais rodomchloathar.
    Atomriug indiu
    niurt trén togairm tríndóit
    cretim treodatad
    foísitin óendatad
    in dúleman dail.

    for those interested, the following link gives the original Gaelic for the hymn "Be Thou My Vision" (along with a closer contemporary English translation):