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Catholic Activity: Gaelic Prayers

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These prayers are marvelously suited to children—and of course to grownups. Included are the Grace before Meals, a Sunday prayer, a bedtime prayer, and the Breastplate of St. Patrick.

DIRECTIONS

Here is one to try for a change from your usual Grace before Meals:

Food

May the blessing of five loaves and two fishes which God divided amongst the five thousand men, be ours; and may the King who made the division put luck on our food and on our portion. Amen. And here is a prayer for the family to help them keep a sanctified Sunday. It is a lovely prayer to say in the car on the way to Mass:

Prayer for Sunday
A thousand welcomes to thee, Blessed Sunday, Now coming to help us after the week: My feet guide early to holy Mass, Part my lips with blessed words, Out of my heart banish wicked thoughts, That I may look upon the Son of the Nurse. Since it was the Son of God Who bought us, I rely for my soul's protection on Thee, O Jesus, May God establish Thee within my heart, Mayst Thou dear the stain and soil of sin from me And fill mine eyes with tears of repentance. Amen.

Here is another to be said by all together in the kitchen of a morning, before setting off to work or school:

Prayer for the Day
The grace of God and the blessing of Patrick On all I see and all I undertake, From the time I arise in the morning Till I go to sleep at night. Amen.

And this beautiful one for going to bed. First for the children, and later for the mothers and fathers:

Prayer on Lying Down

May I lie down with God and may God lie down with me, May I not lie with evil, nor evil lie with me. Brigid's girdle around me, Mary's mantle beneath me; O Blessed Michael, hold my hand, And make my peace with the Son of Grace. If any evil thing pursue me, May the Son of God protect me For a year from this night, And this night itself, and ever, And always. Amen.

There are many more, too many to include more here. Best of all the things in it, for us, is the ancient St. Patrick's Lorica, or Corslet, or as it is more commonly called, "The Breastplate of St. Patrick." We have used this for our family prayer on his feast day, with a grownup reading one line and the family repeating it, then another line read and repeated. Carefully and distinctly recited, with a thought for what each line means, it is one of the most magnificent prayers in all the world. (We use it on other days, too.) The entire prayer is longer than this, but this excerpt is quite enough to tear your heart.

The Breastplate of St. Patrick (composed by St. Patrick in the year 433)

I rise up today Thro' a mighty strength, Thro' my invocation of the Trinity, Thro' my belief in its threeness, Thro' my avowal of its oneness To the only Creator. . . . I arise today, God's strength guiding me, God's might sustaining me, God's wisdom directing me, God's eye looking before me, God's ear listening to me, God's word speaking for me, God's hand protecting me: The way of God stretching out before me, The shield of God as my shelter, The hosts of God guarding me against the snares of the demons, Against the temptings of my evil desire, Against the evil inclination of my will, Against everyone who plots against me, Anear or afar, alone or in a multitude. . . .

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ after me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right hand, Christ at my left hand, Christ in my breadth, Christ in my length, Christ in my height, Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. . . . .

As a last treat, there is this marvelous bit from Mr. Gogarty's I Follow St. Patrick to be read aloud. First, show the children the Gratias agamus in the Preface of the Mass, and its translation, "Let us give thanks." Otherwise they will miss the point.

He was a "steadfast and unchanging man." That is the verdict of a contemporary witness — and the same a king — on him. The story arises from the fact that the Saint had set his heart on founding what was to be the headquarters of all his church organization on the Height of Macha, the present Armagh. Not far from his own dwelling at the eastern foot of the hill King Daire granted him a little holding, on which a circular space was marked out one hundred and forty feet in diameter, and ramparted round with an earthen wall. Within were erected a Great House, a kitchen and a little oratory, according to what seems to have been the plan of the primitive establishments of the Saint and his company. But the Saint wanted the site of what was to be his chief ecclesiastical city on the heights. At first the King refused to grant a space on the summit. He fell ill, but was restored to health by holy water which the Saint had blessed. Then the King paid a visit to the lowly settlement and presented the Saint with a bronze cauldron brought from over the sea. "Gratias agamus," said the Bishop; but he said it rapidly (a man of his temperament must have spoken rapidly), in the Latin of the colonies, and it sounded in the way it has been preserved for us phonetically, "Gratzacham." This was not enough for Daire. His three-gallon cauldron acknowledged by but one word, and that unintelligible! He sent his servants to bring back that which the Bishop apparently could not appreciate. And these reported that all the Saint said as it was being taken away was "Gratzacham."

'"What?' said the King, '"Gratzacham? He said that when it was being given and he says it when it is being taken. It is a strong spell that is used for getting and losing. I will give him back his cauldron." And the King came with it and presented it in person:

"Keep the cauldron, for you are a steadfast and unchanging man."

And he gave him the land which was his heart's desire.

Activity Source: Year and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956

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