The Lorica of St. Patrick: "Faeth Fiada"


“Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14).”

As this Holy Feast Day of Saint Patrick occurs during the Liturgical Season of Lent- a time set aside for robust prayer- it is fitting to post the beloved and powerful Lorica, or St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer. The original text of this prayer dates to the 5th century and is attributed to St. Patrick. According to tradition, St. Patrick wrote it in 433 A.D. in supplication for Divine protection before his successful conversion of the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity.

Throughout Sacred Scripture the image of the breastplate of armor is used to not only to convey the might and power of God, but also to call to men to emulate that same righteous strength within their humanity by wrapping themselves in the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. The Lorica of St. Patrick magnificently inter-weaves both the praise of the Divine might and a human supplication for the requisite strength to replicate it in battle.

The inspiration for the Breastplate of St. Patrick can thus be found in Sacred Scripture:

In Isaiah 59:17, the Omnipotence of God is depicted: “He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.”

Again in Wisdom (5: 17-19) we read: “The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies; he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet; he will take holiness as an invincible shield.”

Likewise, man is exhorted to “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness,” in Ephesians 6: 14. Again in Thessalonians (5: 8), we are called to clothe ourselves in the Theological Virtues, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation, “ that we might belong to Christ.

My favorite version of this prayer was penned by Cecil Francis Alexander in the year 1889 at the request of H.H. Dickenson, the Dean of the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle. This current version has been set to music and is cherished by the faithful of many Christian denominations. May the beautiful words of this prayer touch your heart as deeply as they do mine, when I pray this each and every day.

Lorica of St. Patrick: Faeth Fiada

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me 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 spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;

I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

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.

Blessed St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours,

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,


As Christians, We Are Called to Journey

“Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for your people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering (Wisdom 18:3).”

Vatican Hall of Maps ceiling 3a

This past calendar year has been one of travel for my family and I. I can honestly say that I have put on more frequent flyer miles, stayed in more hotels, stuffed more suitcases, and experienced more of the world as a sojourner than in all my previous years combined. Now that much of the hustle and bustle is through- at least for the time being- it has been on my heart to “unpack” it all and examine the gift of this precious time in light of Lent.

As Christians, we are all called to journey. In a very real sense the life of every Baptized Christian is itself a journey; for by our Sacramental call, we are not merely aimless wanders in this life. Rather, we have a destination and a mission. We are called to love, honor and serve God in this life so that we might enjoy eternal bliss with Him for all eternity in Paradise. During the season of Lent, we focus more directly on just what it means to love, honor and serve God by seeing Him and loving Him concretely in our neighbor. It is thus, that during Lent we engage more fully in prayer, fasting and almsgiving so that we can have eyes that genuinely seek Him, ears that truly hear Him, hands that willingly serve Him, and a heart that overflows with love for Him.

Rome f from the bus

By definition, a journey implies movement and transition; there is both a definite beginning and a finite end-point. As Christians, we recognize that Jesus Christ is our Alpha and Omega- He alone is our beginning and end. If our journey is not focused on Christ, that is, on gratefully recognizing the Providential love of God in our past, engaging Him fully at each moment of our present, and desiring to above all rest in His embrace in the finality of our earthly end, then our journey runs the risk of merely being self-directed wandering. For it is only with the Lord as our guide that our destination is secure: “Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire as a guide for your people’s unknown journey, and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering (Wisdom 18:3).” God neither forces His love, nor His plan upon us. If we choose to wander around like lost sheep in the desert, rather than remain close to the shepherd and the rest of the flock, the Good Lord will let us. However, it is only in journeying with Him that our hearts will find the object of their desire and the happiness that accompanies it.

The Obelisk - 1b

While all journeys involve travel, not all travel is a journey. Real journeys involve true sacrifice of precious commodities like time, money, sleep, comfort and personal security. Recently my family and I were privileged to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage with the Milwaukee Mercy Choir to sing for the Holy Father, at both the recent November Consistory and the Papal Mass closing the Year of Mercy (I intend to blog more regarding this pilgrimage in coming weeks). We traveled with one hundred seven individuals, fifty three of whom – like my daughters and I – were vocalists in the 300 member International Mercy Choir.

For nearly eight months before the first plane ascended into the evening sky toward the Eternal City of Rome, there were endless hours of planning and preparation. The sacrifice for the journey was tangible – from the financial cost of travel, the hours of choir practice, to the temporary separation from loved ones who were unable to travel with us. Even before the morning we all boarded buses for the airport, there was a real sense of sacrifice. Travel itself is not comfortable. While the most carefree among us might have found snaking through airport lines and security with 107 fellow pilgrims to be an adventure, for most travelers, stepping through the airport security scanners is enough to leave one feeling uncomfortably vulnerable at the acute loss of privacy. Vulnerability, moments of discomfort and uncertainty all seem to be among the hallmarks of an authentic journey.

The plane!

On a journey like this, the traveler quickly learns that time is relative. There must be an unwritten rule that the length of queues, such as the line to have one’s passport stamped at the Immigration Kiosk in Spain, is invariably inverse proportionally related to the time remaining before the flight is scheduled to leave. International travel with a group of this size could be characterized as intense moments of urgency and panic separated by hours of tediousness- both waiting for flights, and during the 8-10 hours crossing the Atlantic. Intense prayer is another of the hallmarks of a journey. Through it all, I had a rosary in one pocket and a chotki in the other, and prayed constantly –especially when it looked like we were going to miss our flight back from Spain to the U.S., and during those gut-wrenching moments of in-flight turbulence. Yet as much as I prayed, I knew that others were praying as well- both those on the pilgrimage and those who were supporting us with their prayers. We in turn prayed not only for ourselves, but carried with us the intentions of hundreds of people who had trusted their precious concerns in our intercession. The honor of praying for others, and in turn being prayed for by them, is one of the indescribable joys of a pilgrimage, and this particular journey.

Yet, so it is with Lent. We and our fellow pilgrims sacrifice – both individually and collectively- to journey toward a real goal. We pray for each other and are in turn supported in a real way both physically and spiritually by the fruit of that prayer. We sacrifice our time and comfort, giving alms, fasting, and praying intently. While this time period is measured in real moments- hours and days – it also transcends time, and bears significance in eternity. Travel shakes us of the constraints of our routines. The comforts of home – food, a comfortable bed, cleanliness, our favorite clothes, our sense of security- are all left behind for a duration. Don’t even get me started on time zones and jet lag…. Journeys involve sacrifice. Yet, because of that sacrifice, we are privileged to behold vistas that were previously unimaginable.

May the sacrifice of the Lenten Journey bear spiritual fruit for each and every one of us in both time and eternity.

-M.A.  JMJ

Journeying Through Untrodden Places

DSC_0004 - Copy

From the time I was a child, I remember Lent being referred to as a journey. Year after year, there has always been a familiar rhythm, a comforting pattern to this penitential season that has absolutely resonated within me. Several of my adult and nearly adult children have expressed to me that Lent is their favorite liturgical season, and cognizant of my own love of this precious season of grace, I can fully appreciate their view. The liturgical readings, seasonal hymns, and homilies are all focused on this period of 40 days during which we are called to journey. Throughout these days, familiar traditions like the readings and prayers of the daily Divine Office, the weekly Stations of the Cross, and the daily meditations are welcome markers along the Lenten road. Yet, even though I grew up in this religious tradition, and – as a cradle Roman Rite Catholic – have been accustomed since my youth to this period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, I have long felt the need to examine the significance of this particular journey more closely.

This is my first blog post in a very long time, and hopefully it will be the initiation of a new beginning. Those who know me well understand that it is not merely an over-committed schedule that has kept me from writing -though it has certainly been a handy and justifiable excuse. Among those issues that are churning deeply within my heart and soul is the directive of Pope St. John Paul the Great in Line 54 of his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, in which the Holy Father declared that “the Church must breathe with her two lungs.” Raised in a traditional Roman Rite Catholic family, I have a deep and abiding love for the tradition into which I was Baptized and Confirmed. Yet, I am also deeply drawn to Eastern Catholicism, and through a program of rigorous study over the past several years, have earned a graduate certificate in Eastern Christian Spirituality. I have found that the struggle to find balance and authentically begin “breathing with both lungs” as an individual Catholic can be challenging. I also recognize that those personal tests often reflect in microcosm the complexities faced by the larger Church.

During this Lenten period, I intend to focus my journey on the path before me; engaging and appreciating both the familiar landscape of the West, as well as the less trodden vistas on the horizon toward the East.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,