Musical prayer: The Deer’s Cry

I first heard “The Deer’s Cry” on retreat a year ago.  One of the retreat leaders played it for a morning prayer, and it is, I feel confident saying, probably the best song I can think of to greet a new day.

I arise today 
Through the strength of heaven
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock.

The lyrics are based on a longer prayer attributed to St. Patrick, though apparently some believe it was written later, around the eighth century.

I arise to-day
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s eyes to look before me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
From all who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul

See what I mean?  This is very good thing to hear early in the morning.  Even if your resident cruel merciless power is nothing worse than a bad morning commute, it helps to be reminded that you don’t face it alone.

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

I don’t just listen to this song in the morning. It helps me at any time of day when I feel vulnerable.  When my mother-in-law was dying last summer, and Scott was in New York with her, I remember listening to this song alone on the sofa after the kids were in bed, and I cried and cried but it was the kind of crying I needed to do.  And I thought about Joan’s life, and all of our lives really, and how we may not always know it, but the world is positively saturated with the presence of Christ; we can’t escape it, thank God.

It’s a truly beautiful song.  If you don’t know it, take a listen.  There are a few versions on YouTube but somehow I really like this one, in spite of the bad video quality.  It’s a singer named Rita Connolly singing at the inauguration of the Irish president Michael D. Higgins.

It’s a shaky recording, but it’s a rare chance to witness the song sung in the context of real life.  You get to see all the people at the inauguration listening to the words and, I’d venture to guess, finding the day that much better for hearing them.   That’s always true for me, at least.

5 Responses to Musical prayer: The Deer’s Cry

  1. She has a beautiful voice; thanks for sharing. I didn’t know that this was a song, though I did know of the prayer as a result of a meditation book I picked up years ago in an Italian hostel. I meditated on it later in my travels when climbing a particularly high pass in Nepal. Your post brought back both experiences and enhanced them with the lovely music too; thanks!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing “The Deer’s Cry”. Lord knows that I needed to hear this song at this very moment. It was truly a blessing that I clicked on your blog after my 3-Minutes Retreat with Loyola Press. God bless you.

  3. I love that story, Therese. I can see how this would be an inspiring prayer to keep in mind while climbing a mountain!

    Thanks so much for your comment, Rita. It sounds like the song reached you at the perfect time. And I love the LP 3-Minute Retreat, too — it gets my day off to the right start.

  4. Good morning, I love this music so very much and have been looking for a choral arrangement or even a solo arrangement of it for my advanced women’s chorale, or my church choir or as a solo work for myself. Does anyone know where I can acquire the music? Even the simplest arrangement (preferably with guitar chords or piano accompaniment would be wonderfully helpful!

  5. Hi Karen — I love it too. Alas, I know nothing about how to acquire the music itself. Maybe try Googling it to see? There must be places online to order music like this, hopefully. Best of luck in your search!