By Fr. Mark Perkins
While looking for a good version of "St. Patrick's Breastplate" to listen to on this, the feast of St. Patrick, I stumbled across my post from exactly one year ago, when the life-altering impact of the pandemic was just beginning to be felt.
The scene I described in that post remains indelibly imprinted in my mind: my teaching career abruptly ended (I would go on to "teach" a few months of online classes, but they were but a pale shadow of the real thing), I stood in the auditorium of our school with a few fellow parishioners and a couple of other colleagues. Together but socially distanced, we sang "St. Patrick's Breastplate."
I wrote then,
"Just now many of us are praying for a different kind of protection, but the hymn is no less appropriate when our needs are bodily — doubly so, given the existential fear and spiritual anxiety that bodily danger frequently provokes."
I knew that "St. Patrick's Breastplate" was appropriate for the moment, but I suppose I could not then appreciate just how appropriate it would turn out to be.
We stand in a different moment, amidst a society profoundly transformed and, on the whole, not for the better. Let us again imitate St. Patrick, and once more bind unto ourselves the strong name of the Trinity.
To that end, you will want to read Ken Myers' reflections on the text and tunes of this hymn over at Cantica Sacra and listen to the renditions he embedded. (You would certainly also benefit from listening to Ken's reflections on Arvo Pärt's "The Deer's Cry" on Volume 144 of MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.)
Fr. Mark Perkins is Curate at St. Alban's Anglican Cathedral in Oviedo, Florida and Executive Editor of Earth & Altar.