Tuesday, August 21, 2007

As a good humanist...

I'm not one for petitionary prayer, so I'm not going to ask for that. But St. Andrews has its appeal before the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools tomorrow.

It's a good place that has made a difference in a lot of lives. They don't train people who grow up to be famous or rich, which is likely a big part of the college's financial problems. But I've seen a lot of dumbasses, potheads, rednecks and fuckups go there and turn into salesmen, elementary school teachers, nurses and non-profit workers and for a small southern school that's not a bad record.

So please, keep St. Andrews in your thoughts.



fausto said...

I remember that, a while ago, one of the UU blogging seminarians posted a reflection on praying with hospital patients, asking whether it was insincere to pray in a way that pleased the patient if it did not really reflect one's own personal beliefs and devotional practices. As I recall, several more experienced UU clergy said words to the effect that it is appropriate ministry to the patient to speak in terms that have meaning for the patient, rather than to conduct observances that may reflect one's own personal beliefs more closely but leave the person being ministered to feeling empty. (Most of us lay UU's certainly have been on the other side of that coin at one time or another -- being led in prayer by a doctrinaire worship leader whose words and beliefs left us empty.)

Having said that, for the protection of, and on behalf of, St. Andrew's Presbyterian College, I offer "St. Patrick's Breastplate", with the first-person references understood to stand for SAPC before the board of appeal:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with 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 the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of 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 host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
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 when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

(The Celts are a poetic tribe accustomed to speaking metaphorically, of course, so it would be well for us rationalists not to question too closely whether lines like "innocence of holy virgins" actually still apply to SAPC in the literal sense.)

LinguistFriend said...

That is very moving, Fausto; I wish that I could rationalize prayer as successfully as you do. I do know that I have read descriptions of SAPC in books about colleges that make clear that it is really good at making itself accessible to all sorts of people with problems or issues in such a way that they can get what seems to be a reasonable education. (They even did a pretty good job with our friend CC, who must have been a tough case.) Even the several professors from there I have met were educated people with human values rather than educational technicians, which was pleasant. So I will wish SAPC the best (aw, what's wrong with a little prayer: "pater hemon, ho en tois uranois, hagiastheto to onoma su . . . ").

Comrade Kevin said...

Some might say there is more virtue in a college that mends the broken rather than educates the chosen.

St. Andrew's will be in my thoughts, prayers, reflections, and analysis.

fausto said...

LF, I find I am able to read an old Trinitarian devotion like "St. Patrick's Breastplate", interpret what I perceive to be its transitory dogmatic formulas and Dark Ages superstition as figurative rather than literal expressions, and then appreciate it not only as the product of a particular time and place but also as a more universal and timeless expression of confidence, courage and resolve.

I realize, though, that many UUs would get so hung up in the specific language that it would obscure the unversal spirit behind the particular expression. Over at her blog pastor prayers, UU minister "Pastor P" offers some further thoughts on the meaning and efficacy of both personal and corporate prayer to us UUs, including those of us who don't necessarily apprehend the Divine as sentient, supernatural or personal.

PG said...

including those of us who don't necessarily apprehend the Divine as sentient, supernatural or personal

Although I'm an agonistic, I've always liked my mom's explanation of why we Hindus prayed to gods of multiple names and "roles": because it made them feel closer to our small human concerns. (She also had a nice explanation of why we prayed at all, given that God knew everything; we prayed not so much to inform God but more to formulate for ourselves what our most important needs and desires were, and to become more centered in our pursuit of them as we asked for God's help as well.)

I'd feel strange about praying to an all encompassing "God" that I would do well on my math test right after an earthquake in Japan, so having sort of "big gods" for matters like earthquake relief and more specialized gods for matters like education was reassuring.

fausto said...

(She also had a nice explanation of why we prayed at all, given that God knew everything; we prayed not so much to inform God but more to formulate for ourselves what our most important needs and desires were, and to become more centered in our pursuit of them as we asked for God's help as well.)

Nicely said. Prayer is more about centering and focus and naming of our thoughts and feelings than it is about the addressee, I think.

fausto said...

What's the rumor mill saying about how the hearing went, cc?

Chalicechick said...

(((What's the rumor mill saying about how the hearing went, cc?)))

There is, of course, an inverse relationship between any given cog in the rumor mill's proximity to people who know things and said cog's willingness to tell me things given that those things will almost certainly end up on the internet. As far as I know, there are only two blogs even writing about this and my hits from North Carolina have been considerable recently.

I've been in touch with several people and all of them tell essentially the same story:

The administrative hearing is a farce and despite the face that the 'Drew is in
7 million dollars worth of better shape than they were when this began, SACS is very unlikely to decide against itself.

After that, though, we go to court and SACS has, according to an unverified but typically reliable source, NEVER won one of these things in court.

The students have on the whole been quite supportive and the admissions dropoff has been pretty minimal.

So that's good.


LinguistFriend said...

Fausto, I had an idea about your prayer, and, guessing that the name is translated from Latin "lorica" (cuirass or defense), found that it is a 19th c. translation of an Old Irish hymn (oldest ms. 11th c., not relatable to St.Patrick on linguistic grounds). See sources under "breastplate" in the 3rd ed. of the Oxford Dict. of the Christian Church.

fausto said...

That's right. It's also called "St. Patrick's Lorica" or "The Deer's Call", based on the legend that St. Paddy sang it on a road known to be plagued by bandits and highwaymen, who miraculously saw only a deer rather than a monk in the road when he passed by. Supposedly a "lorica" was not only a physical breastplate, but also a genre of supernaturally defensive poetry popular in pagan Ireland even before Christianity and perhaps traceable as far back as Alexander the Great.

However, using the same techniques of text cirticism that have been applied to Biblical texts, scholars have determined that the Gaelic of "St. Patrick's" Lorica dates only from the 7th or 8th century -- so it must actually be pseudepigraphical, and not written by St. P himself.

In the late 19th century it was rewritten metrically and set to music as a hymn, which is probably the version most widely known today. Read the rhymed version and listen to the tune here.

fausto said...

And since you're a linguist, here it is in the original Gaelic:

Atomriug indiu
niurt tríun
togairm Tríndóite
cretim treodatad
foísitin oendatad
i nDúilemon dáil.

Atomriug indiu
niurt gene Chríst cona baithius
niurt a chrochtho cona adnacul
niurt a esséirgi cona ḟresgabáil
niurt a thoíniuda fri brithemnas mbrátho.

Atomriug indiu
niurt gráid Hiruphin;
i n-aurlattaid aingel
i frestul archaingel
i frescisin esséirgi ar chenn fochraicce
i n-ernaigdib úasalathrach
i tairchetlaib fáthe
i praiceptaib apstal
i n-iressaib foísmedach
i n-enccai noebingen
i ngnímaib fer fírían.

Atomriug indiu
niurt nime
soilsi gréine
étrochtai ésci
áini thened
déini lóchet
lúaithi gaíthe
fudomnai maro
tairismigi thalman
cobsaidi ailech.

Atomriug indiu
niurt Dé dom lúamairecht;
cumachtae nDé dom chumgabáil
cíall Dé dom imthús
rosc nDé dom remcisin
clúas Dé dom étsecht
bríathar Dé dom aurlabrai
lám Dé dom imdegail
intech Dé dom remthechtas
scíath Dé dom immdítin
sochraite Dé dom anacul
ar intledaib demnae
ar aslaigib dúalchae
ar airrechtaib aicnid
ar cach nduine mídúthrastar dam
i céin ocus i n-ocus
i n-úathad ocus i sochaidi.

Tocuirir etrum indiu inna huli nertso
fri cach nert n-amnas fristaí dom churp ocus dom anmain
fri tairchetla saebḟáthe
fri dubrechtu gentliuchtae
fri saebrechtu eretecdae
fri imchellacht n-idlachtae
fri brichtu ban ocus gobann ocus druad
fri cach fiss arachuili corp ocus anmain duini.

Críst dom imdegail indiu
ar neim
ar loscud
ar bádud
ar guin
condomthair ilar fochraicce.

Críst limm, Críst reum, Críst im degaid
Críst indium, Críst íssum, Críst úassum
Críst dessum, Críst túathum
Críst i llius, Críst i ssius, Críst i n-érus
Críst i cridiu cach duini rodomscrútadar
Críst i ngiun cach oín rodomlabrathar
Críst i cach rusc nomdercadar
Críst i cach clúais rodomchloathar.

Atomriug indiu
niurt tríun
togairm Tríndóite
cretim treodatad
foísitin oendatad
i nDúilemon dáil.

(No, I don't read or speak Gaelic, but I can cut and paste it pretty well.)

Chalicechick said...

That's OK. Linguist Friend doesn't speak it either.


LinguistFriend said...

I don't know beans about Celtic, but a friend of mine is a specialist on Old Irish. The listed names of the people who have looked at this hymn are among the best, such as Binchy and Bieler, so it is probably a strong literature. in a scholarly sense.