“May the guiding hands of God be on my shoulders,
may the presence of the Holy Spirit be on my head,
may the sign of Christ be on my forehead,
may the voice of the Holy Spirit be in my ears,
may the smell of the Holy Spirit be in my nose,
may the sight of the company of heaven be in my eyes,
may the speech of the company of heaven be in my mouth,
may the work of the church of God be in my hands,
may the serving of God and my neighbor be in my feet,
may God make my heart his home,
and may I belong to God, my Father, completely.”
—Lorica of St. Fursa (Fursey), 7th Century, Translation composite, from Facebook Page of the Rev. Dr. Frederick Schmidt.
Fred Schmidt puts a prayer on his Facebook page almost every day. I cannot get this one out of my mind. St. Fursa was an Irish monk who was among the first to spread Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England in the seventh century. A “Lorica” is a protection prayer in the Irish Celtic tradition, often used before going to battle. It may have come from the original Latin word lorica, meaning breastplate or armor. It is suggested to have been inspired by Paul’s writing in Ephesians 6:11 to “put on the whole armor of Christ.”
As modern Christians, we stand to learn much from the Celts. We have a treasury of their wisdom, because writing and education were so important to them. I think of others who worshiped God, but of whose traditions we know nothing, because their experience—and not the writing—was primary to them. We need both.
This is the kind of prayer that should meet us as we wake up in the morning, maybe with that first cup of coffee or tea, or even before.
We may need to go back to it during the day, leaving a copy of it in a convenient place so as not to miss putting on “the whole armor of God.” Sometimes life does seem like going into battle especially in times like this.
On this 4th of July I wonder if any of the men and women during the American Revolution said Celtic prayers like this one. I wonder if their experience was like ours. When prayers such as this one become part of our being, we recognize that the battle is over and that love has already won.