Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In addition to being the birthday of my sweet, smart, beautiful wife Carol, today is the Feastday of St. Patrick. Most people aren't caught by surprise by this fact, since it's impossible to be unaware of the increased number of green retail decorations and Guiness advertisements this time of year, and many, many people are happy to call themselves Irish for a day, if for nothing else, as an excuse to eat corned beef and cabbage and slightly more beer than usual.

Many lose sight of the fact (if they ever knew in the first place) that St. Patrick was a real saint, and quite a famous and colorful one at that.

Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies. As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him. During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote

"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred and in the night, nearly the same."

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family. He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more." He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.

Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.
Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

One of the most famous and beloved prayers in the world is called The Breastplate of St. Patrick. Here it is in it's entirety:

I bind unto myself today
the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of the Cherubim;
the sweet 'Well done' in judgment hour;
the service of the Seraphim,
confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
the Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun's life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
the hostile men that mar my course;
or few or many, far or nigh,
in every place and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles,
against the heart's idolatry,
against the wizard's evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity;
by invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Have a blessed St. Paddy's Day. As the Irish say, God love you.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Anti-Catholic Tract Stirs Controversy

Think rank anti-Catholicism has gone the way of the 19th century Know-Nothings? Think again, as a Baptist minister in Tennesee has gotten himself in hot water for distributing the infamously anti-Catholic tract, "The Death Cookie," penned and distributed by the notoriously anti-Catholic (and anti-A Lot of Other Things), Jack Chick. From the report by Fox News:

A Baptist pastor in Tennessee says he now regrets that his church distributed an anti-Catholic leaflet that a local Catholic priest decried as “hate material."

Pastor Jonathan Hatcher, who leads Conner Heights Baptist Church in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., has removed the inflammatory leaflet, “The Death Cookie,” from his congregation. He says he will no longer distribute it.

“Looking back, I don’t think it was the right tract to give out,” Hatcher told “I have some others that wouldn’t have been as offensive. But I will continue to spread the gospel — that’s what I’m called by Christ to do. I’m still going to hand out tracts, but not ‘The Death Cookie.’”

The illustrated leaflet, distributed since 1988 by California-based Chick Publications, features an ominous character with a snake around his neck who advises a man that he can control the world by establishing a false religion based upon worshipping a cookie. Upon taking the control of the cookie, the man becomes the "papa" — a reference to the pope.

Jack Chick had a huge presence in California when I was growing up there, and after my adult conversion to the Faith, I ran into his little booklets (including this particular one) in just about every Protestant book store I went into. I wrote one shop to request they stop carrying them, but they never answered back. I complained to another large store, which featured an entire aisle dedicated to the tracts, and they replied "Many of our customers find the tracts helpful so we feel obliged to carry them." I visited the store a few years ago and noted (to my satisfaction) that they no longer seemed to carry them. (On the other hand, I was chatting with a young Baptist minister in his office last month, and when he opened his desk drawer to get something, I saw a neat little stack of Chick tracts in the corner. Sigh.)

These days you normally find them strategically placed (just like Jehovah's Witness materials) in locations --- campus, bar room and truck stop bathrooms; public laundry facilities; telephone booths, etc. --- where they can be picked up by the most vunerable audience, i.e. bored folks looking for something to read, and those largely uneducated in religion and most likely to be swayed by simplistic and emotional arguments.

As noted in the news report, Jack Chick has a long and colorful career as an anti-Catholic. The apologetics organization, Catholic Answers has done a comprehensive special report on this gentleman's "ministry" called "The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick." You can find it here.

Finally, I would like to give kudos to the priest, Father Jay Flaherty, for opposing this bigotry and well-worn hate literature and for standing up for truth and for the members of his flock. This is just what a good shepherd is supposed to do.