St. Patrick’s Breastplate: Your Spiritual Weapon

St. Patrick’s Breastplate: Your Spiritual Weapon

For daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere.

St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland

St. Patrick is beloved to people around the world, though the details of his life are unknown in contrast to his popularity.

The truth is that there are facts about his life that would surprise most people.

For one thing, he lived much longer ago than we might realize—the Church was still quite young. Born circa 385, St. Patrick (Irish: Pádraig, Latin: Patricius) died sometime between the years 462 and 493.

St. Patrick Preaching to the Kings. Carlow Cathedral. Photo credit: Andreas F. Borchert. CC BY-SA 4.0
St. Patrick Preaching to the Kings. Carlow Cathedral. Photo credit: Andreas F. Borchert. CC BY-SA 4.0

Furthermore, St. Patrick was not Irish, but Romano-British. As a teenager, he was abducted by pirates and made a slave by the pagan Irish. He worked as an enslaved shepherd for six years before escaping and returning to Britain. 

He was not a devout Christian before his captivity; but during his slavery, he hit rock bottom, his heart was converted, and his spiritual life deepened, as did his dependence on God.

Saint Patrick, Bishop of Ireland by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

After Patrick’s escape to Britain, he continued to study the Christian faith. He had a vision a few years after his return home:

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”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”

St. Patrick, Confessio

Patrick responded to this vision with faith and extraordinary courage, returning to Ireland as a missionary after being ordained a priest. He then spent all of his strength, and the rest of his life, bringing Christ to the pagan Irish. He suffered numerous hardships and dangers for the Gospel, facing death at every moment among hostile people. 

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.

St. Patrick, Confessio

Despite the fact that he lived so long ago, we still have his personal writings today. His autobiography can be found in the Confessio (Confession) of St. Patrick. 

Patrick’s words course with strength, wisdom, and true power founded in humility.

I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that “all that I am,” I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God…I speak out too for love of my neighbors who are my only sons; for them I gave up my home country, my parents and even pushing my own life to the brink of death. If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.

St. Patrick, Confessio

Patrick evangelized the land of Ireland and eventually saw the Catholic faith take root in the hearts of its people. Many of the men and women became monks and nuns; the sons of Irish chieftains became devout Christians. 

Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and St. Patrick, Goleen, County Cork, Ireland, Goleen, County Cork, Ireland. Photo credit: Andreas F. Borchert. CC BY-SA 4.0
St. Patrick Stained Glass, Goleen, County Cork, Ireland. Photo credit: Andreas F. Borchert. CC BY-SA 4.0

Patrick writes:

“Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!”

St. Patrick’s feast day is, of course, March 17th, the day on which he died according to tradition.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate: Spiritual Weapon

The Lorica of St. Patrick

The powerful prayer attributed to St. Patrick is his Lorica, which is Latin for “body armor” or “breastplate.” 

It is more popularly known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” and is believed to have been composed in preparation for his spiritual battle—and ultimate victory—over paganism in Ireland.

A thousand-year-old document offers this description with St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

Saint Patrick sang this when an ambush was laid against his coming by Lóegaire [King of Ireland], that he might not go to Tara [where kings were inaugurated] to sow the faith.

Liber Hymnorum, 11th-Century Collection of Hymns

This prayer can be prayed daily in advance of the work day, or whenever we face difficult situations, travel, conflict of any kind, and major life decisions.

It is a powerful reminder for us to put on the armor of Christ each day.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

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 in 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.

Amen.

“Put On the Armor of God”

"Put on the whole armor of God" Ephesians 6

Prayers like the Breastplate of St. Patrick are a real spiritual weapon. They are effective. They are fortifying.

St. Paul reminds us of the spiritual warfare that we must be prepared for every day:

[B]e strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:10-17

Consider adding St. Patrick’s prayer (and the St. Michael prayer) to your morning or night prayer routine.

And tell us in the comments below: what prayers do you turn to for spiritual protection in everyday life?

This article was taken from the fascinating series Spiritual Warfare, featuring video host U.S. Army Chaplain Colonel Matt Pawlikowski (RET). Subscribers have raved about the experience of this spiritual journey. You can join them by signing up here.