Top o’ the morning to ya! As you may have heard, today’s St. Paddy’s day, so I figured I’d share a prayer that I’ve used for years when I’ve felt overwhelmed or fearful. It’s just an abbreviated version of a hymn called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. There’s an apocryphal story about the hymn in which St. Patrick and his monks were facing certain death from a squad of King Leary’s men who had been sent to kill them. St. Patrick and his fellow monks travelled through the woods singing the song and when the king’s men came upon them, they appeared to them as a herd of deer and so were able to pass unharmed. While there’s no way of knowing who wrote the hymn, it does date from the earliest days of Irish Christianity and is believed to have it’s roots in pre-Christian Celtic spirituality. It’s a lovely hymn and prayer which you can read in it’s entirety here.
I don’t recall when I encountered the prayer, but a portion of it came to mind one day when I was sitting in my car struggling with a sense of dread and anxiety that I couldn’t push away. I’ve used it when I needed ever since and have taught it to many others who report that they’ve found it helpful as well. The prayer is simply:
Christ above me Christ below me Christ before me Christ behind me Christ to my right Christ to my left
As with all such prayers, the power of it isn’t so much in the words as it is in your state of mind, openness and intentions when you say it. When I say it, I will mentally or even physically turn my eyes (or my mind’s eye) above me, below me, to my front and my back, and to my left and right as I say the words.
The first time I used the prayer, in my mind’s eye, I saw a bubble forming around me. For whatever reason, my bubble has always been a transparent bubble – like a soap bubble – and has a pearlescent pink hue. When I teach people to use this prayer, I always encourage them to also allow a mental image of a bubble around them to form and to take note of the color of their personal bubble.
Once I have a mental image of my bubble, I’ll sit with it for a moment, acclimating myself to the sense of being surrounded by the spirit of Christ until I feel it in my bones. (Or at least down to my subcutaneous tissues, which is the best I can get some days.) I’ll pause for a moment to imagine the spiritual arrows and forces (or people’s mean words and bad intentions) that might come my way bouncing right off my bubble, unable to get through. Often I’ll repeat the words of the prayer over again to myself as I strengthen my sense of being surrounded by this bubble of protection around me. And then, with my pretty pink Jesus bubble securely in place around me, I’m able to re-engage with the world around me from a place of security and with a sense of safety rather than with anxiety and fear.
So there’s my St. Patrick’s Day present for you. Try it and let me know how it works for you in the comments!