Fearing attack by hostile Druids, Saint Patrick's companions journeyed uneasily with him to the hall of the Irish king, Laoghaire, to preach the Gospel of Christ's love and peace. None of the companions carried weapons.
Saint Patrick soothed their anxiety. Exhorting them to trust in the power of Christ, he led them in song.
While they approached the crossroad singing of Christ's enveloping presence, unbeknownst to them, a band of Druids lay hidden in ambush. But hours past, and the Druid's saw nothing save "a stag leading his band of deer." Lochru, the Druid leader was sure he had heard the deer singing.
To this day, the song that Patrick and his friend sang as they passed by Lochru and his band is known as "The Deer's Cry."
For Saint Patrick's feast day this year, you can read the whole exciting story to your children from James A. Janda's book : (best for elementary-school kids; might be too wordy for preschoolers)
Invigorate your own trust in Christ with Saint Patrick's story but also with this beautiful setting of "The Deer's Cry" by Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt: (Read about the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary here.)
"The Deer's Cry"
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 me, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me,
Christ with me.
I'm looking forward to sharing this musical-theological feast with my kids on March 17.
As this is one of the rare years when St. Patrick's day falls before Lent proper, we'll also be enjoying an Irish fish and colcannon dinner. Just be sure to inform your children that St. Patrick most assuredly never ate potatoes himself as those were imported to Europe from the Americas in the late sixteenth century. (Fact-check it. It's true.) Liturgical traditions evolve, however. So it's spuds for us!