This is the first post of a short series on St Patrick’s famous prayer called the Breastplate of St. Patrick. Saint Patrick was actually born on the island where Britain is now, in the south of Scotland. He was kidnapped as a young boy and taken to Ireland and lived for several years as a slave shepherding sheep. It was during this time of great suffering and duress that Patrick rediscovered the faith of his youth. He said of himself that he prayed as many as a hundred prayers in the day and as many at night. He had frequent angelic visitations, and in fact was led to escape from his captors by an angel. He returned to his boyhood home, but eventually went to Gaul to seek out spiritual training amongst the Christians there. Patrick tells us in his Confessions the powerful experience that led him back to the place of his captivity, Ireland:
And there I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was Victoricus, coming as it were from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter, which were, `The voice of the Irish’; and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard their voice—they were those beside the Wood of Voclut, which is near the Western Sea—and thus did they cry out as with one mouth: `We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more.’
And I was quite broken in heart, and could read no further, and so I woke up. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord gave to them according to their cry.
And another night—whether within me, or beside me, I know not, God knoweth—they called me most unmistakably with words which I heard but could not understand, except that at the end of the prayer He spoke thus: `He that has laid down His life for thee, it is He that speaketh in thee’; and so I awoke full of joy.
So it was that at age forty-eight Patrick left with the blessings of his elders and a few companions to reach the Irish with God’s message of love, freedom and reconciliation.