In Celebration of St. Patrick

Every time I attend an ordination, it is always my hope that the opening hymn will be Hymn 370 “I bind unto myself today.” The words of this hymn speak volumes to me of what the Christian Gospel is all about, as well as the call to ministry. The words were written by St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Though this hymn is difficult to sing, (The tune comes from an Irish melody harmonized by Ralph Vaughan Williams) it captures a profound sense of compassion, forgiveness, ministry and faith. Known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” this hymn was written somewhere in the in 5th century while St. Patrick was serving God as Bishop of Ireland. The following portion of the hymns illustrates Patrick’s faith and journey.

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, the 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 the cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb, his riding up the heavenly way,
his coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to harken 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.
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 God of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Patrick role-modeled for the Christian community what it means to forgive others. He also taught us that we have to follow the call of God because it will make a difference in this world. He became a hero by winning the Irish to Jesus Christ. Patrick’s life exemplifies Jesus command to reach the lost. The Gospels give us the following messages from the heartbeat of Jesus on the importance of doing the Great Commission.

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, I hope others will take time as I do to reflect on Patrick’s life and legacy. His life was pretty amazing. Captured as a young man in England and brought to Ireland as a slave, he escapes and finds, not only his freedom, but his way back home to England. Responding to God’s call to serve, Patrick returns to Ireland to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Patrick’s legacy is physically and spiritually present everywhere you go in Ireland today. Over the years I have had the wonderful opportunity to spend quality time in Ireland. Not on only is St. Patrick’s presence seen throughout the country, it is clearly felt in the lives of the Christian faithful. Of all the countries in Europe, Ireland has the highest percentage of people attending church on Sundays, both Roman Catholics and Anglicans. I believe this is reflective of many seeds St. Patrick planted during his life.

I think St. Patrick’s faith can be summed up from these words found in the hymn: “I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead, his eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to harken 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.”

So, in the midst of the wearing of green, eating corn beef and cabbage and drinking beer, take time this Lenten season to read and reflect on St. Patrick’s powerful words and his life that bore great fruit for Christ. Maybe, if each of us could embrace faith a little more, as well as compassion and the passion for ministry as St. Patrick did, the church and the world would be a better place