Facing Aging with the Spirit of St. Patrick: A Meditation on Patrick’s Prayer

Rev. Bruce G. Epperly, PhD

Rev. Bruce Epperly shares the power and comfort of invoking St. Patrick's prayer as he faces aging and mortality. He shares how through the prayer, we can experience a spiritual center that enables us to face our anxieties and helps us to know that we are not alone.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation...
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

mature male praying dark pew background

As we age, we discover mortality and fragility. We also may discover new wellsprings of creativity, resilience, and relationship with God and our neighbors. The power to live with courage and grace that inspired St. Patrick. According to legend, Patrick uttered this prayer in a time of crisis, when the assassins of a local chieftain were pursuing him on a lonely road. Without defense, Patrick invoked God’s presence, power, and love. Baffled, all his pursuers heard was the cry of a deer bounding across the road.

I regularly invoke this prayer to remind me that I am never alone and that I have resources in challenging times. God’s circle of love surrounds me. Nothing can separate me from the love of God in life and death, joy and grief, celebration and desolation, health and diminishment. The prayer reminds me that God is the center of my life, and I am at the center of God’s care and so is everyone else.

We live in a world of relationships, many of which become more precious as years go by. Having just celebrated my forty-fifth anniversary, I consider each day with my wife Kate, a UCC and Disciples of Christ pastor, precious and unrepeatable. I try to pause throughout the day to see Christ in her eyes that see me and ears that hear me and discern God’s presence in our conversations. I realize that although as introverted in spirit as I may see myself as a writer working in solitude, the reality of my life is captured in the word, ubuntu, “I am because of you.” I also realize that the spirit of ubuntu relates to my relationship with persons both living and dead.

As I face aging and mortality, I find comfort in Patrick’s affirmation: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left. It recalls my childhood sense that Jesus was my companion wherever I went. Jesus “walked with me and he talked with me, and he tells me I am his own,” whether I am in a garden, leading a class on Zoom, attending church, studying, with my grandchildren, or taking a walk with my dog. I am in a circle of love that is unconditional and non-negotiable, and that when my own resources fail, I have the unlimited resources and inspirations of God and the gifts of those around me.

These days, we feel confronted by challenges on every side. Not just the challenges of aging, but the challenges of political instability and incivility, threats to democracy, heedlessness on the part of many leaders to the dangers of climate change, violence at home, and violence perpetrated by nations. We often feel anxious and at risk. Yet, when we invoke Patrick’s prayer, we experience a spiritual center that enables us to face our anxieties knowing that we are not alone and are sustained by a Love Greater than Our Own and that Love gives us what we need to reach out to others and be agents of healing in our relationships and the world. Let us arise today with God’s strength and presence, and faith in the future that lies ahead for those who trust God and reach out to the world.

Bruce in wind and water Cape Breton 1
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, pastor, and author of over eighty books, including “The Jubilee Years: Embracing Clergy Retirement,” “101 Soul Seeds for a Joyful Retirement,” and “Jesus: Mystic, Healer, and Prophet.” He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..