Go green for St. Patrick’s Day & pray the Breastplate, too

SATURDAY, MARCH 17: Sink your teeth into some corned beef and don’t forget to wear green—it’s St. Patrick’s Day!


Many observers claim this is the most famous saint’s day in the world and St. Patrick’s name, of course, is emblazoned on buildings, monuments and institutions around the world. Americans of all ethnicities love the holiday. In 1905, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were married on St. Patrick’s Day. They were distant cousins, before marriage, and their ancestors, who arrived before the American Revolution were mainly Dutch and English. Nevertheless, it seemed a grand holiday to the young couple, who began their honeymoon in New York and only later that year toured Europe or a formal honeymoon.

To this day, millions love the festivities, the greens of spring and the tasty treats. Got an Irish taste yourself? Try a recipe from Taste of Home, AllRecipes or Food Network. Looking to enjoy some Irish dancing? Find out Riverdance’s 2012 tour dates, or watch a video from the show, here. And for families: Find Irish crafts, kids’ games, recipes and more at Kaboose.


Photos via Wikimedia Commons and in public domain.St. Pat’s Day may be a secular bash in many communities, but it also has deep religious roots that matter to millions. The purest forms of religious expression, each year, naturally occur in Ireland. (Wikipedia has details.) Every year at ReadTheSpirit, we get fresh requests for versions of the well-known prayer, often called The Breastplate of St. Patrick. We now have accumulated three versions you’ll enjoy and may want to share with others …

Versions 1 and 2: Here is St. Patrick’s Breastplate in English prose and in 19th Century lines of a hymn.
Version 3: T
hanks to an alert reader, we also have St. Patrick’s Breastplate in Gaelic.

You probably remember some of the most famous lines from St. Patrick, such as:
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me

And also:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.

But, there is so much more to this classic prayer!


It was the 4th century when St. Patrick was born into a wealthy family of Roman Britain; the infant’s father and grandfather were both Christian deacons. At 16, St. Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland. Some time later, he reported having had a dream that told him to flee Ireland, and he did. Back in Britain, St. Patrick studied to become a priest, and in 432, he returned to Ireland as a bishop to convert Irish pagans to Christianity. (Learn more about his life from AmericanCatholic.) Although Ireland’s history is marked by other saints, as well, no one is remembered as fondly—nor as easily remembered by the shamrock—as St. Patrick. It’s believed St. Patrick used the Irish shamrock to visualize the Holy Trinity in his teaching to the pagans. The stained glass window shown above supposedly shows St. Patrick delivering one such sermon with his shamrock held aloft.

Since the early 1600s, the Catholic Church has marked the Feast of St. Patrick on its liturgical calendar, using the day as a “Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card” during Lent (it has been traditional to use the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day as a time to feast, not fast, and to eat Irish meats).

In 1996, the Republic of Ireland began the St. Patrick’s Festival to highlight everything Irish to other world citizens; today, the festival lasts four days, attracts more than 1 million visitors and requires 18 months of planning. (Check out the St. Patrick’s Festival website for more.)

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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