St Patrick: Peacemaker

St Patrick

A Meditation for Saint Patrick’s Day

There is a joke going around Dublin these days that claims St. Patrick made a mistake when he drove the snakes out of Ireland – It should have been the lawyers. An interesting observation in that the Saint himself functioned at times as a lawyer, or Brehon. In fact, history tells us that Patrick was one of the three “Bishops” who codified the Oral Law into what we now know as Brehon Law.

Be that as it may, we all know of the story of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, but do we know about St. Patrick, the Peacemaker?

From Patrick’s Confession:

“There were many who tried to prevent my mission, saying behind my back, ‘What is this fellow up to, talking to God’s enemies?’ … I have done my best always to be honest and peaceful with Christians and pagans alike … I have spent whatever money I possessed for the benefit of the poor … I have given presents to kings and persuaded them to release slaves … I and my companions have at times been arrested and put in irons, our captors ready to kill us, yet the Lord has always set us free (without violence) … Every day I expect to be killed or reduced to slavery, yet I am frightened by none of these things, because my heart is set (at peace) with God.”

Reading between the lines of the writings of Patrick, and those about him, we see that peacemaking for Patrick had five aspects:

  1. Peacemaking between people
  • Peacemaking between people also includes avoiding conflict when it is brought to us (ex: “Deer’s Cry”)
  • Peacemaking between people also includes, “with our ancestors” [explain: the ancestors still walk with you, continue to be present in your life, even to the point at times of the presence being recognizable (not ghosts, but because the two-worlds are en-fused with each other, at time the en-fusion seems to dissolve and both become one.]
  1. Peacemaking between people and Creation
  • For my shield this day I call: Heaven’s might, Sun’s brightness, Moon’s whiteness, Fire’s glory, Lighting’s swiftness, Wind’s wildness, Ocean’s depth, Earth’s solidity, Rock’s immobility.
  1. Peacemaking between the creatures of Creation (which includes the angels)
  2. Making peace with our selves (internal peacemaking)
  3. Making peace with God

For Patrick the last two were inseparable and the most important, for if we don’t have internal peace we cannot be peacemakers. And it is on this that I want to focus for a few minutes:

In the 13th c. a startling discovery was made – at least to those who study things Irish – appended to an 11th c. Latin codex of Brehon Law was a Gaelic poetic catechism of sorts dating to just after the time of Patrick, a Christianized version of even a much older Druidic catechism (that might have had its origins in the regions near Armagh, thus, certainly something that Patrick was aware of and might have even used. The original translator of the Gaelic into English, called the poem, “The Three Poseys.” Today it is more commonly known as “The Song of The Three Cauldron.”

The Song intersperses poetic verse with questions and answers; verse, questions, and answers having to do with the role of three cauldrons given to us at birth:

  1. Coire Goiriath (in the belly)– the Cauldron of Warming (nuture) – from which flows the “utterance of Word.” It is the Vital Energy, or God-Image, within all Cration.
  2. Coire Ernmae (in the chest) – the Cauldron of Vocation is in us upside down, moving to the upright position as it is filled with the flow from the Cauldron of Warming, although it is quite possible for the flow to spill out if we do not exercise our own volition to turn the cauldron right side up. [Peace with the numinous/God]
  3. Coire Sóis (in the head) – the Cauldron of Knowledge is also in us upside down, moving to the upright position as it is filled. Again, we can resist or aid its filling.
  • We are told that the Cauldron of Knowledge sings

with insights of grace,

with measures of knowledge,

with streams of inspiration;

an estuary of wisdom,

a confluence of knowledge,

a stream of dignity

  • This is peace with self.
  • The song we are told spills over through the mouth into the world and gives …

exaltation of the lowly,

mastery of eloquence,

royal discernment,

sovereign insight,

a poetic lineage

to cherish students;

[it is] where laws are regulated,

where meanings are recited,

where musical runs are chanted,

where knowledge is propagated,

where the free-born are taught,

where the bound are set free,

where the nameless win fame;

where praise is related

by measured regulation,

by measures of immunity,

with eloquence of sages:

a confluence of scholarship.

Later the poet tells us, in what has often been called “The Celtic Beatitudes,” that the Cauldron of Vocation gifts us with the ability to gift other…

The Cauldron of Vocation

gives and is replenished,

promotes and is enlarged,

nourishes and is given life,

ennobles and is exalted,

requests and is filled with answers,

sings and is filled with song,

preserves and is made strong,

arranges and receives arrangements,

maintains and is maintained.

Here is Peacemaking at its best! A peacemaking that begins with out own inner peace and then, and only then, successfully promotes peace in the world – and in so doing ennobles our own inner peace.

Closing words from The Lorica of St. Patrick…


God’s Song to give me speech,

God’s Hand to guide me,

God’s Way to lie before me,

God’s shield to shelter me,

God’s host to secure me….

Sermon delivered at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland, 2008