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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: A Brief Meditation on the Genius of Patrick of Ireland 
17th-Mar-2006 01:18 am
Saints and Spiritual Masters
Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I had to laugh that one of the first things that came up in an image search for "Saint Patrick" (almost all of which is astonishingly awful) was a photograph of Andrea Corr wearing a slinky black belt dress.

Although of the Irish saints I have a deeper connection (even a familial one) to Colum Cille, I find the study of Patrick to always be worthwhile, even with as few sources as we have. The utter genius of Saint Patrick as an evangelist (from what we're able to figure out about him--we have only his surviving Confession and one letter attempting to free slaves) seems to be that he realized that the paganism of Ireland was qualitatively different from the paganism of the Mediterranean. The druid religion, in bulk, didn't have to be destroyed. While human sacrifices and the like had to be eliminated, and the Celtic gods could be retired to other orders of reality or story, he seems to have realized that much of druidism was merely a spiritual reflection on nature, and so that with this attention already established on creation, Jewish/Christian insight on God the Creator had been given a huge cultural preparation. This approach that allowed much of Celtic culture to be expanded by the Christian message proved electrifying and outrageously successful. Ireland had been solidly resistant to Christian missionaries, but with the advent of this roaming missionary Bishop, the culture transformed in the space of a lifetime. The druids still functioned in their traditional forms of spiritual leaders, historians, lawyers, and the like, but now no longer as "druids," per se, but rather as monks, priests and bishops. A distinct Catholic culture arose that inherited and absorbed the pagan, Jewish and Christian resources of the West, and became the sudden land of schools and scholars that would preserve the West's heritage until it fully blossomed and helped re-seed Western Europe in later centuries, after the barbarian German invasions had come to an end. Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization is a well-written, fairly-reliable, popular introduction into the drama of all of this happenstance.

The resurgence of interest in Celtic spirituality has real potential, but only as long as it is not watered-down into the sentimental eco-spirituality that so much of it is cast as today. Separated from the incarnational locus of Christianity, there isn't the ascetic, historical and even political edge needed for a real ecological spirituality that will have any significant impact. The ancient druids recognized the difference made by a God who could be discerned as active in normal, researchable, arguable and verifiable human history. The contemporary so-called druidism sacrifices all that in a typical post-Christian way that "dis-invents the wheel" and thinks it progress, but reduces spirituality once again to the level of personal preference and wish-fulfillment. Ancient druidism instead leapt forward into the concrete reality demanded by Christianity and gave us paths into the best of both worlds of native spiritual insight and the universal conversation of the Catholic world. It is interesting to see people who are authentically exploring this insight again today. The Prayer of Protection (the "Lorica" or "Breastplate") attributed to Patrick is one of the ancient Irish prayers that best preserves some of these modes of spirituality. It has been a favourite of mine for years:
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.
17th-Mar-2006 12:41 pm (UTC)
My favorite version of the Saint Patrick story is a "flannelgraph" in a veggietales video, narrated by a sock puppet called "Lufti". It was part of a "Keep on Keeping on" (perseverence) theme of the video.

I think that my favorite line in the sketch is where Maewyn Succat (as the video says, the name Patrick comes later, Saint even later :) ), anyways, Maewyn Succat has been kidnapped and taken to Ireland. The narrator explains that they speak a different language there, but that "we will pretend they all speak English, just like on Star Trek".

17th-Mar-2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
That skit cracked me up, too. It was great. "Pig boy! Feed the pigs, pig boy!" Although I had to roll my eyes a bit at the Veggie Tales definition of a "bishop."

Is it weird that I have no children and yet I own three Veggie Tales videos? Uh, no, right?
17th-Mar-2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
Of course not! It's obviously because you're so young!
18th-Mar-2006 12:18 am (UTC)
By the way, I love the icon. At first I thought it was Cashel at first, but it looks like the Round Tower is capless and the church with windowpanes: do you know where the shot was taken?
17th-Mar-2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
Excellent! I wonder if Star Trek is at the roots of all Americans believing in the uselessness of foreign language study....
17th-Mar-2006 01:11 pm (UTC)

I like her shoes. God Bless Ireland.
17th-Mar-2006 03:29 pm (UTC)
Uncanny! I used that image as a photo reference for a painting once... though I much prefer this version:

17th-Mar-2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
Huh. I never saw this before. I realize now that I was totally incompetent at navigating through your deviantart gallery and that it is far more huge than I'd ever suspected! I think I'm also getting a sense for how much grad school has disrupted your earlier rhythm of life....
17th-Mar-2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
now i am lusting during lent; thanks :)

i saw the corrs two years ago in Virginia; 5th row seat in front of sharon

haha... may i borrow this photo?
17th-Mar-2006 05:04 pm (UTC)
Only if it won't be used to further your lust. I can't be held responsible for any sins beyond my own, especially during Lent.

/it's not my picture, I just hotlinked it from a GIS
17th-Mar-2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
You like her shoes. Is that entirely as Doug, or as you and Claire merging into one reality?
17th-Mar-2006 03:21 pm (UTC)
I love your meditations. So I think I'll just tag this entery and not write anything myself.

I especially love that part about Celtic spirituality and how it is becoming a trendy thing, but such a watered down, tree-hugging version of what it really was. Maybe it's because modern Celtic spirituality, like most modern spirituality is devoid of true commitment. Patrick was primarily a missionary who left his birth land to return to land to which he'd been taken as a kidnap victim because he heard the call of God. Celtic Christianity included a deep love of nature (or maybe a Psalm 19-ish awe of God's handiwork), but also like the breastplate speaks of an awe of the power of God, a recognition of the need of Christ's presence in our life and a real merging of Christianity into all aspects of life.

Here's towards a true Celtic spirituality in each of us. Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig agat!
17th-Mar-2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I think you're right in pegging a lot of the problem to the word "commitment." There is a certain sense of social responsibility beyond one's self in an ecological spirituality, of course, but as it is expressed it does have a great deal of that post-modern, post-Christian sense of "spirituality as an additional avenue of feeling good about one's self." Compared to the anti-Gnostic realism of either ancient Judaism (the Psalm 19 reference is dead-on), of ancient Christianity and its focus on the historical act of God in Christ, and of Christianity's Eucharistic, sacrament vision of all of reality, that modern, secularized, "self-oriented" sense of spirituality that is separated from the rest of life is pretty thin beer indeed.
17th-Mar-2006 05:08 pm (UTC)
i have the icon of St Patrick that you have posted here; thanks for posting the breast plate

where was Patrick born? I heard England the other day
17th-Mar-2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
His reference to his home is very vague in the Confession. Scholars tend to suspect that it means a Celtic-Roman population on the coast, so perhaps Cornwall in England, where the Britons had been, or perhaps even Brittany on the French coast where the Britons had crossed over the Channel.
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