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Understanding St. Patrick’s famous prayer

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Walking into the parish hall of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls March 17, guests were welcomed outside by a bagpiper from Christendom College in Front Royal and inside, there were green lights strung up across the hall and shamrocks on the tables. The smell of corned beef and cabbage, fresh cookies and fruits permeated the room. A band played Irish music, Irish dancers spun and jumped across the stage and a duo of brothers played pennywhistle. 

The sea of people dressed in green were at the church to celebrate the Irish feast and hear author Joseph Pearce speak about the prayer called the Breastplate of St. Patrick.

The Institute of Catholic Culture hosted the event in partnership with Father William P. Saunders, diocesan episcopal vicar of faith formation and pastor of Our Lady of Hope.

Pearce is a senior editor at the Augustine Institute and the Tolkien and Lewis Chair in Literary Studies at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.

“I hope the attendees take away a greater knowledge of not just St. Patrick, but about the beauty of the prayer of St. Patrick,” said Pearce in an interview before his presentation. “It is deep in theology and Catholic spirituality.”

Pearce pointed to the beauty of the prayer.

“The fact that this is so beautiful as a translation makes us imagine how beautiful it must be in the original Gaelic,” he said.

Pearce went through the prayer section by section.

“Patrick rises in the morning and causes us to do the same thing by invoking the power of Christ’s crucifixion and the whole of salvation history that is encapsulated and incorporated into his mystical body, the church, as strength, and that strength is connected to grace,” he said. “Without that supernatural grace we can do nothing. There’s no getting to heaven through the strength of our own will.”

Mike Hadro, a parishioner of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton, said coming to the event was an opportunity to get together with old friends from the institute and enjoy the faith. “The richness of the faith shone tonight,” he said.

Barbara Aldridge, a fellow parishioner, said she enjoyed the presentation. “It was very moving,” she said. “I wasn’t familiar with the prayer before I came and Joseph Pearce opened it up for me.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019