Brigit, Celtic Saint
March 17th is St Patrick’s Day. Brigit (451-525 AD) is a Celtic saint who exemplified the wonderful gift of hospitality that Celtic Christians believed was not only meant to be a custom in their homes, it was a key into the Kingdom of God. To offer hospitality was seen as receiving Christ into their midst and fulfilling the law of love.
Brigit, who presided over the monastery at Kildare, was particularly known for her generous hospitality. As a child she often gave away her parents possessions. At Kildare, Brigid often made butter for visitors. Tradition has it that when churning the butter she would make thirteen portions – twelve in honour of the apostles and an extra one in honour of Christ which was reserved for guests and the poor. The hospitality of Saint Brigit is reflected in the beautiful prayer, Brigit’s Feast:
I should like a great lake of finest ale
for the King of Kings
I should like a table of the choicest food,
for the family of heaven
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith
and the food be forgiving love.
I should welcome the poor to my feast,
for they are God’s children
I should welcome the sick to my feast,
for they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus
at the highest place
at the sick dance with the angels.
God bless the poor, God bless the sick,
and bless our human race.
God bless our food.
God bless our drink,
all homes, O God, embrace.
(ancient Celtic prayer attributed to St Brigit)
Brigit reminds us that the hospitality of God is a welcoming of Christ into our midst. Reflect on the times that you have offered hospitality to friends and strangers. Where have you been aware of Christ in your midst at those times?
Celtic Christians, like Brigit, often saw themselves as guests of the world, living lightly on this earth and not becoming attached to possessions or place. Every encounter of life revealed to them the God who they believed was both host and guest. Life was seen as a pilgrimage of revelation, each step drawing us closer to God.
Take a moment to pause and look around you. What do you notice that speaks of the generosity and hospitality of God? At home your attention may be caught by the dining room table, around which family and guests gather to eat and celebrate. Or photos and the gifts of friends and strangers to whom you have offered hospitality. Of maybe you are in the garden where even the wild brambles, and thistles – all the weeds you so diligently work to get rid of – are gifts from God and can produce the most delicious and nutritious food we can eat.
Sit in silent prayer to remind ourselves of the incredible hospitality of God who invites us, together with all creation, into the divine presence and into the eternal family.
Now watch the video below. What else is God saying to you about your need to be hospitable to those around you?
(Source: Christine Sine, Godspace)
This prayer is known widely as “Morning Prayer,” “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” or “The Lorica.” It’s not known whether St. Patrick is actually the author or whether someone else wrote it years later and it was attributed to St. Patrick. But it is widely associated with him and his ministry.
“As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
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,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone 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.
A prayer adapted from St Patrick’s Breastplate
We bind unto ourselves today
the strong name of the trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in three.
We bind this day to us forever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River; his death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom; We bind unto ourselves today.
We cast off the works of darkness today,
And put on the armour of light,
Light before us and behind,
Light within and light without,
Light to guide and to lead us,
Let us clothe ourselves with Christ.
Christ behind us, Christ before us,
Christ beside us, Christ to win us,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath us, Christ above us,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love us,
Christ in mouth of friend & stranger
Let us wrap ourselves around with the belt of truth,
And strap on the breastplate of righteousness,
Let us clad our feet with the gospel of peace,
place the helmet of salvation on our heads.
And take up the shield of faith.
Let us clothe ourselves with Christ.
We bind unto ourselves today, the power of God to hold and lead,
God’s eye to watch, God’s might to stay, God’s ear to harken to our need,
The wisdom of our God to teach, God’s hand to guide, and shield to ward,
The Word of God to give us speech, God’s heavenly host to be our guard.
In the love of God who shelters us,
In the light of Christ who walks beside us,
In the power of the Spirit who dwells within us,
We place ourselves today.
Let us clothe ourselves with Christ.
We bind unto ourselves today the strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation, Eternal God, Spirit, Word;
Praise to the God of our salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
(Source: Christine Sine, Godspace)
About St Patrick (source: Patheos)
Born in 387 AD, Patrick was not a particularly devout youth when he was captured at age 16 by Irish marauders. But during his six years of slaving as a shepherd in Ireland, he discovered a deep faith in Christ. He wrote of his conversion in his memoir, Confessio:
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.
Patrick escaped after following instructions from God in a dream to go to the coast where he would find passage on a ship. He returned to his family, but a few years later, he had another vision:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish.” . . . and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
The vision prompted Patrick to study for the priesthood, which led to his ordination as a bishop. But he couldn’t forget Ireland. He sailed back in 433 and preached to – and converted – many all over Ireland for almost forty years. He also served the poor, suffered hardships, and wrote of his love for God in Confessio. Patrick died March 17, 461, in Saul, Ireland, where he had built the first Irish church. Tradition maintains that his grave lies at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.
Legends abound regarding Patrick. Two of the most enduring: He purportedly drove the snakes off the island (likely a metaphor for driving out Druidism, which was symbolized by snakes). And stories tell of how he used the green three-leafed clover, a shamrock, to teach the Trinity. Legend has it that Patrick created the design of the Celtic cross on a day when he was preaching close to a pagan standing stone. Potential converts considered such stones sacred because they already carried carvings of a circle, a symbol of the sun or moon gods. As the legend says, Patrick drew a cross through the circle and then blessed the stone. In thus creating the first Irish Celtic Cross, he displayed his willingness to adapt heathen practices and symbols to Christian beliefs as a way of easing the transition from pagan to Christian.
Deep faith: Visions and dreams played an important part in the spiritual life during Patrick’s time. He obeyed God’s call to return to the island on which he had been enslaved. He first repaid his slave price to his former captor, then confronted druids and royalty in dramatic fashion. God called him to preach and pray, serve and suffer, though he did not always feel worthy or able.
Evangelistic fervor: Patrick’s mission in life was to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. He spent over thirty years preparing and almost forty years evangelizing the lost people of Ireland.
Love for God: Indeed, everything Patrick did – each journey, each task, each sermon, each prayer – sprang from an all-consuming devotion to Jesus. He considered Christ as his savior (spiritually), his rescuer (literally), his redeemer, his leader.
Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth.
Could be developed as prayers for others: St. Patrick was originally kept as a slave and eventually rose to freedom. So let us do all we can to help alleviate the suffering of the forgotten, the impoverished, and put an end to child suffering, abuse, and slavery, and to enable children and their families to access education, training and awareness programs.
Where legend and truth meet in the middle
Interestingly, the last glacial period (some 10,000-100,000 years ago, depending on whom you ask) beat St. Patrick to the snake banishing. But, Christian tradition has given Patrick all the credit. So, if there weren’t snakes around during Patrick’s day, what’s with the legend?
We do know that St. Patrick was a missionary to Ireland. His goal was to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. From all accounts, he was very successful. We know the pagans of Ireland as the Druids. Their symbol was … the snake.
Today, Christians assert that St. Patrick only banished a sacrificial Druid religion, an expulsion symbolically represented by the banishment of snakes. Pagans, on the other hand, claim that St. Patrick forced Christian conversion with the threat of violence, and actually killed many Druid priests who refused to convert.
It sounds to me like one side glorifies St. Patrick as a peaceful man doing the Lord’s peaceful work while demonizing a corrupt Druid culture by accusing it of practicing child sacrifice. The other side glorifies Druid culture as living in innocent harmony with nature while demonizing St. Patrick by accusing him of being a violent missionary.
I’m not interested in glorifying or demonizing either side. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe the best we can learn from the tradition of St. Patrick and the Druids is that we humans have a long tradition of scapegoating one another. We continue to demonize our scapegoats. Republicans and Democrats, Christians and Muslims, rich and poor – we tend to think that we are the good guys and they are the bad guys. All the while neglecting that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
(from an article by Adam Ericksen, Saint Patrick, Druids and the Snakes: The Truth is in the Middle)