By Sister Sheila Carney 

A prayer strongly associated with Saint Patrick is variously called the Breastplate of Saint Patrick or the Deer’s Cry. The titles suggest different aspects of the prayer. Breastplate suggests armor, or protection. The Deer’s Cry points to the strong nature imagery. 

This is a morning prayer, the phrase “I arise today,” appearing repeatedly in the text. To what does Patrick arise? 

Light of sun, 
Radiance of moon, 
Speed of lightening,  
Splendor of fire, 
Depth of the sea, 
Stability of earth, 
Firmness of rock. 

Light and motion swirl around him yet his foundation is stable and firm. 

In the next section of the prayer, Patrick expresses his confidence in the God who sustains him. 

God’s strength to pilot me, 
God’s eye to look before me, 
God’s wisdom to guide me, 
God’s way to lie before me, 
God’s shield to protect me, 
From all who would wish me ill 
Afar and anear, 
Alone and in a multitude. 

If you listen to Sean Davey’s rendition of the prayer, the music leads powerfully into the final section and its steady, crescendo powerfully asserts Patrick’s confidence in the all-embracing presence of our savior. 

Christ with me, Christ before me, 
Christ behind me, Christ in me, 
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down. 
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me. 

Centuries later, Irish poet John O’Donohue replicated Patrick’s form in a prayer that also begins “I arise today” but his inspiration differs. John arises: 

In the name of silence, 
In the name of stillness, 
In the name of solitude. 

And he arises blessed by all things: 

Wings of breath, 
Delight of eyes 
Wonder of whispers, 
Eternity of soul, 
Urgency of thought, 
Miracle of health, 
Embrace of God. 

A significant difference between the two is that O’Donohue ends his prayer by expressing his hopes for how he will live the day: 

Compassionate of heart, 
Gentle in word, 
Gracious in awareness, 
Courageous in thought, 
Generous in love. 

The energy of the two prayers differs greatly. Patrick’s full of power and motion; O’Donohue’s a quieter, more reflective approach to his day. 

The two prayers beg a question: “How do we arise each day, and to what?” If you listen to the morning news the response may be: 

War in Ukraine 
Earthquake in Syria and Turkey 
Lingering pandemic 
Mental health crisis

In an effort to “redeem” the news that media brings to our mornings we might add: 

Fervor of prayer, 
Generosity of response, 
Tenderness of relationship, 
Serenity of spirit 

What blesses our day? 

Lives given in service, 
Assurance of God’s embrace, 
Energy of sisterhood, 
Companionship of partners in mercy. 

To each of us is given the task, the invitation, to determine what it is we will bring to our day, how it is we will influence the day. For us in the Mercy family may it be: 

We arise today 

Welcoming mercy, 
Exhaling mercy, 
Acting in mercy.