St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate: the powerful prayer of a powerful man

March 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Today, being the feast day of my beloved patron saint, Patrick, I post this for everyone’s edification and for the glory of the Triune God.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “The beautiful prayer of St. Patrick, popularly known as ‘St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate,’ is supposed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over paganism. The following is a literal translation from the old Irish text . . .”

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ on the deck,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

And now, here is the “back story” of this famous prayer, quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Patrick learned from Dichu that the chieftains of Erin had been summoned to celebrate a special feast at Tara by Leoghaire, who was the Ard-Righ, that is, the Supreme Monarch of Ireland. This was an opportunity which Patrick would not forego; he would present himself before the assembly, to strike a decisive blow against the Druidism that held the nation captive, and to secure freedom for the glad tidings of Redemption of which he was the herald.

As he journeyed on he rested for some days at the house of a chieftain named Secsnen, who with his household joyfully embraced the Faith. The youthful Benen, or Benignus, son of the chief, was in a special way captivated by the Gospel doctrines and the meekness of Patrick.

Whilst the saint slumbered he would gather sweet-scented flowers and scatter them over his bosom, and when Patrick was setting out, continuing his journey towards Tara, Benen clung to his feet declaring that nothing would sever him from him. “Allow him to have his way”, said St. Patrick to the chieftain, “he shall be heir to my sacred mission.” Thenceforth Benen was the inseparable companion of the saint, and the prophecy was fulfilled, for Benen is named among the “comhards” or successors of St. Patrick in Armagh.

It was on 26 March, Easter Sunday, in 433, that the eventful assembly was to meet at Tara, and the decree went forth that from the preceding day the fires throughout the kingdom should be extinguished until the signal blaze was kindled at the royal mansion. The chiefs and Brehons came in full numbers and the druids too would muster all their strength to bid defiance to the herald of good tidings and to secure the hold of their superstition on the Celtic race, for their demoniac oracles had announced that the messenger of Christ had come to Erin.

St. Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane, at the opposite extremity of the valley from Tara, on Easter Eve, in that year the feast of the Annunciation, and on the summit of the hill kindled the Paschal fire. The druids at once raised their voice. “O King”, (they said) “live for ever; this fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished.”

By order of the king and the agency of the druids, repeated attempts were made to extinguish the blessed fire and to punish with death the intruder who had disobeyed the royal command. But the fire was not extinguished and Patrick shielded by the Divine power came unscathed from their snares and assaults.

On Easter Day the missionary band having at their head the youth Benignus bearing aloft a copy of the Gospels, and followed by St. Patrick who with mitre and crozier was arrayed in full episcopal attire, proceeded in processional order to Tara.

The druids and magicians put forth all their strength and employed all their incantations to maintain their sway over the Irish race, but the prayer and faith of Patrick achieved a glorious triumph. The druids by their incantations overspread the hill and surrounding plain with a cloud of worse than Egyptian darkness.

Patrick defied them to remove that cloud, and when all their efforts were made in vain, at his prayer the sun sent forth its rays and the brightest sunshine lit up the scene. Again by demoniac power the Arch-Druid Lochru, like Simon Magus of old, was lifted up high in the air, but when Patrick knelt in prayer the druid from his flight was dashed to pieces upon a rock.

Thus was the final blow given to paganism in the presence of all the assembled chieftains. It was, indeed, a momentous day for the Irish race.

Twice Patrick pleaded for the Faith before Leoghaire. The king had given orders that no sign of respect was to be extended to the strangers, but at the first meeting the youthful Erc, a royal page, arose to show him reverence; and at the second, when all the chieftains were assembled, the chief-bard Dubhtach showed the same honor to the saint. Both these heroic men became fervent disciples of the Faith and bright ornaments of the Irish Church.

It was on this second solemn occasion that St. Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock from the sward, to explain by its triple leaf and single stem, in some rough way, to the assembled chieftains, the great doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. On that bright Easter Day, the triumph of religion at Tara was complete.

The Ard-Righ granted permission to Patrick to preach the Faith throughout the length and breadth of Erin, and the druidical prophecy like the words of Balaam of old would be fulfilled: the sacred fire now kindled by the saint would never be extinguished.

(Catholic Encyclopedia)

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20 Responses to “St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate: the powerful prayer of a powerful man”
  1. David says:

    Wonderful, thank you Patrick. What an amazing Christian example Saint Patrick is.

  2. I heard you tonight on KBVM, Portland, OR streaming EWTN about 8:30ish pm
    Thanks ever so much for the full prayer and the “back story” I’m going to print both to share with the family. 3 of our 4 adult children not practicing, living the faith we tried to pass on to them and now our grandchildren also. So we pray…

  3. Maria says:

    This is a very powerfull prayer. Thank you so much, blessing to you.

  4. Judy Allen says:

    I thoughtI read St Patrick composed this prayer, I Arise Today,during a spiritual battle with the pagan people of Ireland when God’s powere was very evident in his protection. I am trying to find that story. Can you help me? Thanks. Judy

  5. Patricia says:

    Thanks for sharing this awesome prayer. I posted on my Facebook. It is the best version, an easy read. I came home from Holy Mass as fast as I could to read this prayer again tonight. My spirit was in conflict because I did not stay for the healing service that took place after Mass. But it wasn’t what I or many others were expecting. The priest was praying over people and they were falling like dominos. It has been many years since I attended a Charismatic prayer group, so I haven’t seen this for a long time. Now I feel some remorse, or guilt, I’m not sure. Any thoughts, Patrick. (I just had to ask somebody whose opinion I trust) Thanks

  6. Mary says:

    This is a wonderful and powerful prayer. I was driving to the Catholic store to get a gift for my new nephew born today, and yes I suggested he be named Patrick, and I heard this on the radio. I tried to find something on it at the store but they didn’t know what I was talking about. Thank you to the customer who was trying to help.

  7. Christie says:

    Question: Why does he speak of virtues that way? The virtue of the Incarnation, the virtue of the love of the seraphim? I’ve never heard it that way. I headed over to the Catholic Encyclopedia and got this:

    “Taken in its widest sense virtue means the excellence of perfection of a thing, just as vice, its contrary, denotes a defect or absence of perfection due to a thing. In its strictest meaning, however, as used by moral philosophers and theologians, it signifies a habit… ”

    Should I assume that St. Patrick means the first – the perfection of a thing? I’m very confused otherwise.

  8. Vicki says:

    A copy of this prayer is currently posted on our refrigerator awaiting tonight when, as a family, we will read aloud it before dinner. Although I expect the stew and soda bread to be delicious, the part in the prayer asking for for protection from poisons helps everyone eat dinner with confidence…. ; )

  9. Mary says:

    I love this prayer, I have it hung up in my room! St. Patrick, pray for us!

  10. Judy says:

    I love that prayer! It should be in my prayer book, so it can be offerred every day. Thank you, Patrick!

  11. Dear Mr. Madrid! There is reason to believe that St.Patrick will return, during this apocalyptic time which began with Fatima and before the arrival of Enoch and Elias, in order that he will bring a ‘Necessary Peace’ to our beloved Country! It is written in “An Leabhar Breach”: “no one knows, where rest his bones!”
    “Soon, soon an Angel will descend upon Ireland! All Ireland! The two Irelands! Ireland will convert, to the Authentic Faith!”

  12. Brad says:

    I love his dig at gnosticism! Because faith in knowledge really does bind up man’s soul. It puffs him up and makes him a fool. Grace saves. All else, i.e. man’s proud attempt at finding the secret back door to heaven, is just the tower of babel.

  13. Michael jones says:

    The group L’Angelus has a great musical version on there Sacred Hymns Collection CD.

  14. The Laughing Peasant says:

    In school we used to sing, 'May St. Patrick and St. Briget bless and guard our native shore'. (They dont sing it nowadays.) I always felt a little bit safer knowing the big man was on the job. Patrick was truely an heroic man, physically and morally. Guard us now, Patrick. Guard poor Ireland.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank-you very much for posting this Mr. Madrid.

  16. Dan Hughes says:

    My patron saint and his feast day. Erin Go Bragh!

  17. salvemaria says:

    "Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man."

    Given this follows 'merciless power, false prophets, black laws, heresy, idolatry, spells, smiths, and druids', I'm getting a sense of what 'knowledge' Adam and Eve were not to have known – every error and boast of Satan and his like.

    As we are seeing these same Gnostic crafts becoming ever more broadcast in movies, novels, TV shows and the like, perhaps St. Patrick is to be a particular intercessor for our times?

    Glorious St.Patrick, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

  18. John a Disciple says:

    Patrick, Happy Feast Day!
    This Prayer is a sure protection, a shield against all darkness and dread and premature death!
    A Treasure!
    Thank you.

  19. Sheila Deeth says:

    Thanks. Lovely to see it and share it all written out.

  20. Matt says:

    This is awesome! Thank you so much for this Mr. Madrid!

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