St. Patrick the Caregiver

Yes, corned beef is boiling here, even though that’s likely an American adaptation and not originally Irish.

We are going to visit a possible residence for our son today, and I’ll wear a green shirt.

TullamoreProbably not drinking at all, despite all the social convention.

Instead, let me share a thought about St. Patrick that might be an encouragement to caregivers.

Patrick entered Ireland as a slave, not as the now famous missionary. He was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold to tend the flocks of a chieftan.

After several years, guided by a spiritual vision, he escaped.

What’s amazing is that he would return to the very land and masters of his servitude, to bring them good news and care for their needs by choice.

Caregivers sometimes feel enslaved. It’s not just the chores, stinky, repetitious and burdensome as those might be, but the whole environment of laboring under a situation we didn’t imagine in our desires and daydreams. The world we knew before a special need entered our lives seems far away. It’s like we’ve been taken from home into some foreign place and put to work at the pleasure of a captor.

Patrick shows us that we can learn and grow in such a setting, and, despite all fantasies of escape, can “return” to serve with great love and the strength it brings. We can undertake the care of others as a sacred mission.

That said, Patrick was no pollyanna. He realized the the work in which he’d placed himself could be his undoing. He had a strong spiritual life, and a prayer traditionally attributed to him takes into account all the potential hardships of his day:

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Caregivers don’t face all of those threats, thank God, although some moments feel like hell’s been unleashed against us.

Whatever we face, Patrick gives us the example of sticking with those who’ve “enslaved” us, growing in love and service for them, and practicing high level self-care to carry out our work.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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