In the Christian monastic tradition, a lorica is a prayer recited for protection. It is essentially a 'protection prayer' in which the petitioner invokes all the power of God as a safeguard against evil in its many forms. The Latin word lōrīca originally meant "armor" or "breastplate." Both meanings come together in the practice of placing verbal inscriptions on the shields or armorial trappings of knights, who might recite them before going into battle.
The idea underlying the name is probably derived from Ephesians 6:14, where the Apostle bids his readers stand, "having put on the breast-plate of righteousness,".
Similar to a litany, the lorica often listed whose protection was requested. "Gabriel be my breastplate, Michael be my belt, Raphael be my shield..."
Lorica of St Patrick
The Lorica of Saint Patrick, begins:
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.
Linguists cannot trace this lorica back further than the eighth century, which raises the question of whether it was based on an earlier poem dating back to the time of St. Patrick (5th century), or whether actually completely unknown to the saint to whom it has been ascribed.
Lorica of St Fursey (or Fursa)
The Lorica of St Fursa dates from the early seventh century and is still a popular prayer in Ireland. The original text of the Fursey Lorica is held in the British Library. The translation, from Old Irish and German, was made by Fr Francis Mullaghy CSSR and Fr Richard Tobin CSSR, for use in St Joseph's Monastery, Dundalk, Co Louth. This Lorica translation is quoted by John Ó Ríordáin (3) and begins:
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
A caim, (meaning "encompassing"), is similar to a lorica, and is used to invoke the protection of God directly, or through a saint. In making the caim the suppliant draw an invisible circle around him/herself with the right index finger by extending the arm toward the ground and turning clockwise with the sun as if on a pivot, describing a circle with the tip of the forefinger while invoking the required protection. The circle, a symbol of the encircling love of God. encloses the suppliant and accompanies him as he goes, a reminder of God's presence and protection. One well known caim is that of St. Bridget.
Others invoke the Trinity, the guardian angel, or some saint:
Be to me a bright flame before me
Be to me a guiding star above me,
Be to me a smooth path below me,
Be to me a kind shepherd behind me,
Today, tonight, and forever.
- "Gildae Lorica", Early Church Fathers, pp.289-293, (1899)
- Jungmann, Josef Andreas, Irvine, Christopher and Coyne, John. "Lorica", Christian Prayer Through the Centuries, Paulist Press, 2007, ISBN 9780809144648
- St Patrick, a Visual Celebration, Davis, Courtney, Blandford, 1999, p. 31, “St Patrick’s Breastplate”, Gill, Elaine
- Alexander, Jesse t., "Celtic Circle/Caim Prayer", Learning From the Saints
- Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica, p.49, T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh, 1900
- 'The Music of What Happens', John Ó Ríordáin, pp. 46–47, The Comumba Press Dublin, 1996
- Add MS 30512 folio.35v
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