Musical Meditation for the Feast of St. Patrick

Saint Patrick (window).jpgI’ve got to admit that my life haven’t felt particularly Lenten of late. The anticipation, excitement, and joyful celebration of Papam Week 2013 has dominated the last few days, and I’ve been struggling to return to a more “liturgically-appropriate” frame of mind ever since.

Ironically, today’s feast — traditionally a time of great/excessive celebration — might have been just what I needed. After a YouTubing session that contained nearly as many Irish drinking songs as sacred selections, I happened across John Rutter’s “A Pray of St. Patrick” — a musical snippet of the much longer “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” sometimes referred to as “The Lorica of St. Patrick” or “The Deer’s Cry” (and attributed to St. Patrick himself).

I’ve been familiar with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s setting for years, and I’m nearly certain that I’ve happened across Rutter’s piece in the past. But for some reason, it resonated much more strongly with me this time around.

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 above me, Christ beneath me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Listening to Rutter’s setting, I remembered stumbling across St. Patrick’s “Confessio” a few weeks ago while digging through the embarrassing riches of iPieta’s library.

It was there that the Lord opened up my awareness of my lack of faith. Even though it came about late, I recognised my failings. So I turned with all my heart to the Lord my God, and he looked down on my lowliness and had mercy on my youthful ignorance. He guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son.

That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.

At first, St. Patrick’s words felt painfully self-deprecating to me; nearly every other sentence a reminder of why he could claim none of his significant abilities or accomplishments as his own. But by the end of the work, I had come to see just how profoundly and unequivocally he viewed every single one of his achievements — no matter how small — as a manifestation of God’s incredible, uncompromising love. A wonderful reminder of how immeasurably much I owe and how painfully inadequate my gratitude is. And if that’s not Lenten, I don’t know what is.

(Humility often looks strange to me, come to think of it, probably because I have — and want to have — so little of my own. But if last week’s events and news coverage are any indication, it’s on a lot of minds right now. I guess I’ll be forced to think of it a bit more regularly. Great. …and I mean that without sarcasm. …mostly.)

Attribution(s):Saint Patrick (window)” by Sicarr (via Flickr) and licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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