Other than wearing the color green on March 17, having a parade, and eating corned beef and cabbage, what does “St. Patrick’s Day” mean to you? How much do you actually know about Patrick himself?
Well, much of his life and ministry is legendary at this point. He served in the 5th century, so a lot of what he actually did has been either forgotten or embellished over time.
He was likely born in Scotland, and captured by an Irish raiding party as a teenager. He apparently spent several years as a slave in Ireland before escaping and returning to his native land. However, it seems God called him to return to the land in which he had been a slave, for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Christ there. And so he became a priest, and eventually a bishop, at which time he was sent across the Irish Sea once more.
March 17th, the date we celebrate as St. Patrick’s Day, is the date that it is believe he died, sometime around the year 460.
This Sunday at Campbell UMC, we’ll consider a prayer that is traditionally attributed to St. Patrick. It is known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” or “St. Patrick’s Lorica.” There are several translations, as a quick internet search will show you, and the variations arise from the passage of time. Here's an excerpt from one version:
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,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
The theme of the prayer is constant across the variants: the priority of Christ. Over and above all else, this prayer is a commitment to keep Christ at the very center of one’s life. Life will throw challenges at us, constantly. And yet Christ is the point of salvation, the source of hope, and the promise of life.
So as I’m enjoying my “Shamrock Shake” this year, listening to the Chieftans, and kissing everyone who’s Irish, I’ll also be asking myself if Christ is the priority of my life. Have I allowed Christ to be the very center of all that I am? Is God my “Priority One?”