My Mother’s Love of the Hynn, St. Patrick’s Breastplate

The hymn, “I Bind Unto Myself Today” was my mother’s favorite hymn. In fact, instead of the wedding march at my sister Leslie’s wedding, this hymn was the processional. This was also true for my wedding blessing held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Sherman, Texas after Ray and I eloped. I didn’t know until today that this hymn is also known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate and the words are attributed to St. Patrick, who sang the hymn with his followers for protection when traveling through Ireland to preach the Gospel. In fact, legend has it that men sent to kill St. Patrick and his followers could not find them on the sole road through the forest. Instead, they saw only a herd of deer. It is widely believed this happened because St. Patrick and his followers were singing this hymn.

I now wonder for the very first time in my married life if my mother wanted this hymn played at my sister’s and my weddings as an invocation to keep her daughters safe in their new journeys into wedlock. Just the thought of that brings tears to my eyes. My mother was a Biblical scholar, and I am certain she knew the history of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. The thought she was asking God to protect Leslie and me in our new lives touches me deeply.

I always think of my mother when I hear this hymn. Now, I will know there was even more to her love for the hymn (and for my sister and me) than I’d ever realized before.

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