Breast Cancer and the Breastplate of St. Patrick

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! We’re celebrating here with an Irish-inspired Soup & Stories post from our dear friend Pat Gohn who among her other talents hosts the Among Women Podcast. In today’s post, Pat shares a bit about her Irish heritage and how the Lorica of Saint Patrick/Breastplate of St. Patrick prayer comforted her while battling breast cancer. She also passes along a recipe for St. Patrick Irish Cheddar soup from a cookbook that is now on my wish list. Any recipe that calls for Kerrygold Irish Cheddar immediately catches my attention!

But back to that prayer for a moment. Most of the stanzas of the prayer begin with the words, “I arise today.” Imagine what it means for someone staring down a potentially life-threatening illness to pray those words. Everybody knows somebody who is battling something. Consider sharing the prayer with that person today.

Saint Patrick

Photo credit: Maria Morera Johnson. Stained Glass of St. Patrick, St. Augustine’s Church, Andover MA

I was born in New York to a mother of Irish descent. I arrived just a few days shy of Saint Patrick’s Day. Thus I am named both for himself and my Godmother.

Some of young Patty’s fondest Catholic memories are childhood visits to the towering Cathedral of St. Patrick on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. It always left a powerful impression on me, when compared to our rather plain suburban church.

St. Patrick’s Day was also parade day, so it was pretty cool to be named for a saint that was recognized both by the church and the culture at large.

So why not a soup to celebrate the day?

When I had a family of my own, I was happy to have this soup to vary our menu and to call attention to my patron sake, and to tell his story. Since March 17th usually falls within the Lenten season, I found this to be a tasty soup that was somewhat penitential, since it was meatless, yet very nourishing.

I discovered this soup in this recipe book in 1996. It was a gift from my mother after my diagnosis of breast cancer that year. My long recovery gave me lots of time to read. The first soup I tried from the book was this one named for my patron. It has been a family favorite ever since.

Speaking of favorites … after my breast cancer bout, the irony was not lost on me that one of the most famous Irish prayers through the centuries is St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I have prayed that prayer with great fervor ever since, entrusting myself to God’s protection through it.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate is drawn from the longer prayer known as the Lorica of Saint Patrick. When you need a prayer that wraps you like a blanket from God, you might wish to pray this prayer.

Lorica of Saint Patrick

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.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets, against false laws of heretics,
Against the craft of idolatry, against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning, against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

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 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.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

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Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup (Download PDF copy here)

This recipe comes from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, Triumph Books, 1996.

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
2 leeks
2 potatoes
4 carrots
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 cups vegetable or meat stock
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon thyme power
¼ teaspoon sage powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
5 ounces grated Kerrygold Irish Cheddar cheese (or any mild cheddar)*
*Note: I use either mild or sharp. Go with your preference.

I often buy extra cheddar to add shredded cheese as a garnish when serving, and/or reserve a few chopped “curls” of the leeks for garnish atop the soup.

  1. Clean, peel, and chop vegetables. Melt the butter in a soup pot and sauté the vegetables lightly for about three minutes. Stir frequently.
  2. Add the stock, garlic, herbs, and seasonings. Bring the soup to a boil, then cover the pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Blend the soup in a blender and return it to the pot. Add the milk and cheese. Reheat the soup, but do not allow it to boil again. Serve hot.

Garnish with fresh shredded cheddar or a few curls of chopped leeks.

I often add a hearty loaf of bread as a side that can be dipped in the soup, or it is a great choice to be served in a bread bowl.

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Find all posts in the Soup & Stories series here.

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