March is the month the Catholic Church dedicates to St. Joseph, the strong foster-father of our Savior, and it’s also the month in which the church recalls the legacy of St. Patrick, the strong and saintly father of Ireland.
In March you’ll be wished the “luck o’the Irish,” but instead, let us pray for the kind of Irish blessings that can be found through the intercession of St. Patrick.
During this month, famous for shamrocks, let us turn to a saint we can admire for the way he used those shamrocks to honor the Trinity, and all the wisdom he shared with the world.
St. Patrick first came to Ireland as a slave. After escaping, he returned to the country of his enslavement to set the land of his former captors free from sin, idolatry, and despair. It was a bold and saintly move to return to the scene of his persecution — but he knew the people needed him. This is an incredible example of loving one’s enemies and praying for those who hate you … and of the triumph that God eventually brings out of such authentic abandonment to His Holy Will.
St. Patrick braved the elements to bring the Gospel in all types of weather. He would often go to a mountain to pray, as Christ did. He used nature to help his sermons. In fact, it is said that during Patrick’s ministry in Ireland, the former slave-turned-bishop taught the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity by using a shamrock. It is also said that he developed the Celtic cross by placing the shape of the sun (also resembling a Host) behind a cross.
Let us listen to the advice of St. Patrick, in his own words.
Tips for life from Saint Patrick
“I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
The first tip for life based on the wise advice of St. Patrick is this: pray everywhere and at all times!
Further, the beautiful world of God’s creation should be a catalyst for prayer. Through his holy example, we learn thatwhen we admire nature, we must never separate our admiration of that beauty from our gratitude for God who has given everything in nature out of love.
Also, it is our faith in God that can get us through any storm. Therefore in March, which for so many of us “comes in like a lion” with seasonal storms, how often we are called to realize that if it wasn’t for our faith, we would be lost! But God is there even in the storms.
To live this tip from St. Patrick, remember how Patrick was often outdoors, walking through the Irish countryside and braving the weather as he journeyed. Next time you take out the garbage, take the dog for a walk, or even walk outside to get the mail, linger a bit longer and say a prayer.
Since Patrick mentions praying “even before dawn,” try setting your clock 15 minutes earlier to wake up and dedicate time to God first thing. Try starting the day strong by praying the morning prayers of The Divine Office.
“Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort me 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.”
These words of St. Patrick are taken from his famous Lorica prayer. St. Patrick’s work was dangerous. There were many who wished him harm, so each day he prayed the Lorica, also known as the Breastplate of St. Patrick. This poetic prayer is sure to hearten and strengthen anyone who prays it.
In this famous prayer, we are taught by St. Patrick how to prepare for each day’s challenges and anxieties as we remember Christ, who walks with us in every moment. St. Patrick through the “Breastplate” prayer teaches us to wear our faith like armor. This was a man who faced daily attacks, persecutions, and trials so if anyone understands what it’s like to carry the burden of life’s troubles, it is he.
So many of us have anxieties or face challenges, and Patrick’s prayer is like armor from the Irish saint. Especially when it is prayed aloud, it has the effect of taking away fear. We recall Christ is everywhere and our courage and strength increases when we begin the day asking Him to cover us like a shield.
Based on the powerful effects of this prayer, we can be inspired to pray the Breastplate of St. Patrick, or Lorica, as often as needed this month to stoke our courage and extinguish our anxiety. Try leaving a printed version of the prayer somewhere you’ll see it when you need encouragement, such as on your desk, in your car or purse, or by your bedside.
“The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelieving heart, so that I should recall my sins.”
Like Patrick, we are called to cultivate the spiritual regimen of the examination of conscience. All this month we are in the midst of Lent and so this quote is especially useful as a daily or nightly reminder to recall our sins. Penance, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting are all so much richer if we first recall our sins, that we may be more humble and eager to amend our lives.
The best way to honor this advice from St. Patrick is go to Confession more frequently. So many saints recommend frequent confession to receive great graces. Confession is the natural outgrowth of the examination of conscience. Recalling our sins and bringing them to the Sacrament leads to the great unburdening and peace that comes with the priest’s absolution.
To celebrate the feast of St. Patrick in a holy way, try to get to Mass on the 17th, which falls on a Friday this year. To bring the feast day home, print out a copy of the Lorica prayer and pass it around the table when you gather for a meal. Ask each family member to share which line of the poetic prayer touches their heart most deeply and why. Set out a paper shamrock at each person’s plate and ask them to write, on each leaf of the shamrock, one thing they would like to do to make the second half of Lent even more holy than the first. Discuss your answers as you eat together. Enjoy an Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage (if your diocese has waived the Friday Lenten abstinence) or soda bread and tea, but don’t forget the original meaning of “the wearin’ of the green.” While it turned into the current tradition of wearing the color green to celebrate the Irish saint, “the wearin’ of the green” originally meant pinning a shamrock to one’s lapel! This honors the Trinity, and is a lovely tradition for Catholics to revive.
Here are a few reflection questions to journal that will help you journey more deeply with St. Patrick this month:
How can you draw prayerful inspiration from nature this month?
What are you anxious about this month that you can offer up to God as you pray the Lorica?
Do you do a nightly examination of conscience? When is the last time you went to Confession? Make a commitment to go!
In honor of St. Patrick this month, why not bake an extra soda bread and drop one off on someone’s doorstep?When you wrap it up, you could include a note with a copy of the Lorica prayer.
May you and your loved ones have not only a blessed St. Patrick’s Day, but also a blessed St. Patrick’s Month, steeped in the wisdom of this wonderful saint!