Top o’ the morning to you! I hope that you are wearing green or drinking a Shamrock Shake or eating corned beef or doing whatever it is you do on a day when everyone is Irish.
So most of us have heard of Saint Patrick, but today I’d like to introduce you to a lesser-known Irish hero: a monk named Saint Dallan. You’ve probably never heard his name, but you just might know his work: he’s the author of the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.”
In the sixth century, a hundred or so years after Patrick landed in Ireland, Dallan dedicated his life to the Lord and to the people of his country. His given name was Eochaid, but most people called him Dallan, which meant “little blind one.”
That’s right. The man who wrote “Be Thou My Vision” was blind.
For generations, the Old Irish version of “Be Thou My Vision” was used as a prayer and chanted by monks throughout Ireland. It wasn’t until 1905 that the words were translated into English. The poem was set to music several years later, in 1912.
The simple yet profound lyrics of this song are just as relevant today as they were when they were penned some fourteen centuries ago:
Be Thou my vision,
O Lord of my heart.
Naught be all else to me,
Save that Thou art.
Almost five years ago, I walked down an aisle on a dewy August morning toward Daniel, grinning like a schoolboy in his gray striped suit, while a handful of our closest family and friends sang these words:
Thou my best thought,
By day or by night,
Waking or sleeping,
Thy presence my light.
The words seemed more fitting than other song we could find. As we entered into this covenant, this promise that was bigger than either one of us, we couldn’t see what lay ahead. We knew God had a plan to knit our stories together into one, but there was so much we couldn’t see. We had to cling to the belief that he would see us through the days and years ahead—that he would be our vision when we couldn’t see.
Be Thou my wisdom,
And thou my true word,
Thou ever with me,
And I with Thee Lord.
The truth is, even if we have eyes, we lack vision. In those moments when our dreams blind us or our trials cloud our ability to see or the darkness makes us lose our step, we don’t just need better vision. We need the Lord himself to be our vision.
Thou my great Father,
And I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling,
And I with thee one.
Today I invite you to join me in praying the words of this blind monk:
Be Thou my vision at work.
Be Thou my vision at home.
Be Thou my vision in my relationships.
Be Thou my vision in my decisions.
Be Thou my vision in all I do today.
And if you’re feeling especially festive, you can attempt the Old Irish version:
Rop tú mo baile, a Choimdiu cride:
ní ní nech aile acht Rí secht nime.
I love that hymn! Thanks for the great post about its origin and how it helps us today.
Thanks for stopping by, Robyn! May the Lord bless you and keep you today.
What a lovely remembrance and thank you for putting this great old hymm in my head today!
I love that hymn. One of our family hymns! And how nice to know about Dallas. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Maggie! How wonderful that this is one of your family hymns…what a great tradition.
Sharon Leavitt says
Thanks for this new information on one of my favorites.
Be Thou My Vision was the song we sang in Haiti last week. My Haitian friend, Kendy asked me for the words so he could learn it and practice his English.
Oh wow, I love thinking about this song being sung by lovely people in Haiti! Thanks for sharing.
Kristen Joy Wilks says
Oh, you made me cry Stephanie. That song was kind of the theme song of the music program at the little Canadian Bible College that I attended with my husband our first two years we were married. He went to go to the seminary and I took Bible College classes just because I could and that wonderful man never complained about the cost of me doing that, in fact, he urged me to take that distance writing class as well! Anyway, so I took this music class and that was our song. I’m helping my grandfather write down his story (he will be 99 next month) and he said that our family came from Whales to Ireland and then when trouble came to Ireland (when did trouble not come to Ireland, I ask?) we moved to Canada and then the U.S. then to Canada during the depression and then back to the U.S. No matter how much Irish is left after all these years, that song speaks so strongly, to all of God’s children. Thank you for telling this amazing writer’s story, his legacy still speaks to us all!
What a legacy…for your family and for the song!