Firmness of Rock

  — Chapter 1

  Radiance of Moon

  — Chapter 1

  The Prayer


St. Patrick's Breastplate

The following is an excerpt from Firmness of Rock.

One day after church, Mr. Duffy came up to Lucy.

"I hear you're going to talk to your whole school about your brother."

"Yes," she said, wondering how he knew before realizing that the moms all talked, and the dads sometimes got together to watch football games.

"When was the accident, about six months ago now?"

"About that, yeah."

"Well," he said, "the reason I ask is that I have to talk in front of people sometimes, too, and I find this helps." He held out a folded piece of paper to her.

Lucy took it and unfolded it. At the top of the page, dense with print with centered text in the form of a poem, it said "St. Patrick's Breastplate."

"It's a prayer," he said. "They say that St. Patrick said it, that it made him invisible to his enemies. He would look like a deer to them. I imagine that I'm just a deer on the stage or platform, and I'm not so scared any more. I highlighted the parts that help me the most."

The words were:

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.

She read the words, not sure how they might help, but she thanked him anyway and folded the paper and put it away. Later, though, before her first speech, she read the words, and she understood something. Whether it was what helped Mr. Duffy or not, she wasn't sure - to her, the words not only asked for strength from God, but also compared any threat, bodily or emotional, to the wide world out there. Butterflies in the stomach are trivial compared to the wonder of real butterflies. She would be standing in front of the crowd and see someone smiling and think of the radiance of the moon, shining just on her. She would notice her feet planted on the ground and think of the stability of the earth, keeping her from shaking. She would see Mayv or Alana in the crowd and think of the firmness of rock, holding her up. The prayer, or at least these parts of it, had actually helped. She gave the talk four times, reading the passage each time, and finding herself calmed and steadied by it.

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