Most people know him as Patrick, but his name was Sucat. And he was born in England, not Ireland. And he didn’t drink (ok, I’m only kidding about that last one). His mother was a sister or at least related to the famous St. Martin of Tours. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all appear to have been clergymen (no celibacy was enforced in these days in Britain. Indeed, the law of celibacy was ignored in Ireland and the Celtic church until it was imposed upon them in the 11th century).
When Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured during a raid by the Irish king Niall of the Nine Hostages and carried away to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. After six years in slavery, he escaped and was able to return to England. But his heart remained with the Irish.
He returned to Ireland in 432 and became the great missionary to the Emerald Isle. He suffered persecution and imprisonment and daily faced danger, attack, capture, and death.
Tradition says that it was during Patrick’s time at Tara (the capital of the Irish district of Meath) that he composed his “Lorica” (or “breastplate”). It was a prayer used when traveling to beg God for protection. We no longer realize the importance of such prayers but in the days of early missions into pagan lands they were invoked with great earnestness. Patrick said, “I daily expect either murder, . . . or to be reduced to slavery, or mishap of some kind. But I fear none of these things, on account of the promises of the heavens; for I have cast myself into the hands of the Omnipotent God, who rules everywhere, as saith the prophet, ‘Cast thy thought on the Lord, and He will sustain thee.’” It was in this spirit that he composed his “breastplate” and here are a few of the stanzas that indicate his awareness of his need for God’s protection:
I summon today around me all these powers,
Against every hostile merciless power directed against my body and my soul
Against the incantations of false prophets, Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heretics, Against the deceit of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and Druids,
Against all knowledge which hath defiled man’s body and soul.
Christ protect me today, Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wound, That I may receive a multitude of rewards.
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 breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees me,
Christ in the ear of every man that hears me.
His humility, modesty, and great zeal for the world of unbelieving men is remarkable. He was not eloquent and was always embarrassed that he could not speak with “clearness and brevity” but understood his calling as a child of God. We are here to be instruments of God in changing the world. This calling gripped Patrick and thus he was willing to live with holy abandon in the midst of a pagan and barbaric people, rebuking their sins and folly and calling them boldly to faith in Christ.
He deserves to be remembered. So, let’s do it. Lift one up for St. Sucat and pray that God raise up more men like him.