The Breastplate of St. Patrick


March 17th
Troparion (Tone 3)
O holy hierarch, Patrick, wonderworker, equal to the Apostles and illuminator of the Irish people, pray to the merciful God that He will pardon our transgressions.

Patrick was British by birth, born about 373, the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest. His first trip to Ireland was as a slave, having been kidnapped by Irish pirates. He managed to run away and eventually made his way back to England. He was then sent as bishop to Ireland around 435, setting up his see in Armagh. He had sincere simplicity and deep pastoral care and worked tirelessly to abolish paganism. He is often depicted with a shamrock which he used to explain the Trinity. His scroll reads: “I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity.” This is taken from his “Breastplate”, a prayer that he wrote and used for protection on his journeys.

This is by the hand of Nick Papas and is from St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral, Pittsburgh, PA.

New Front Door Design

This house is older than our former house and has an even smaller front door. The existing door is OK looking, but is starting to leak a bit. It is thin and does not have insulated glass. It opens into the bottom of the stairs. There is no point in leaving it open and having a screen door, because in the open position it blocks the door into the den and would limit cross ventilation. Bethann wants an operable window in the door itself. This presents an exciting design challenge. Here is what I came up with:

inside / outside
inside / outside

The plan shows the door in mahogany and maple. The local woods that I actually found for the door at Hudock’s Hardwoods about 8 miles from here are purple heart and ash. The door is 29.5″ by 76.5″. The rails and stiles will be made of 1-7/8″x 6″ purple heart, with the exception of the bottom rail, which will be about 8″ wide. The panels will be made of 1-1/8″ thick ash. It will be flush with the interior of the rails and stiles, leaving deep insets on the exterior of the panels.

The window will be 18-1/2″ square, 5/8″ thick tempered, insulated glass with 1″ lead strapping inside and out. This will be set into a 1″ wide ash frame for overall dimensions of 19-1/2″ square. This frame will be hinged on the bottom, so the window can open down and be secured to the inside of the door. I haven’t quite worked out how I want to secure it yet. (I am leaning toward transparent suction cups.) It will have a compression weather stripping gasket in the opening and two wooden toggles to hold it shut. There will be a 17-1/2″ square screen that will attach in the inset space outside the window using spring-loaded pegs in the warmer seasons.

The hinges and lockset will be distressed nickel. The door will be finished with four coats of water based polyurethane, to allow the natural beauty of the wood to shine through. I’ll try to keep you informed as the project progresses.

Thursday was reading night.

In our home, when I was growing up, Thursday night was reading night. This was never, ever announced or even mentioned. It was never enforced. None of us kids were even aware of it. However, it was intentional, consistent and disciplined. My mom told me about it when I was in college.

My folks wanted to make sure that all four of us kids would enjoy reading and make it a part of our lives. They determined that the best way to do this was by providing opportunity and example. So they chose Thursday. On Thursdays, the television did not get turned on. Mom and Dad would sit in the family room and read. There were built in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace and they were filled with books. Of the approximately forty lineal feet of shelves, half were taken up with reference books: an encyclopedia, dictionaries, thesaurus, legislative manuals and almanacs. The other half were filled mainly with history and biographies, with maybe three feet of philosophical fiction and two feet of family photo albums. My brother and sisters and I each had our personal collections of books in bookcases in our bedrooms. 

On Thursdays, we could pretty much do what we wanted. There was a stereo, pool table and fireplace in the basement recreation room. There were games and books there, too. There was a table for puzzles and crafts in the family room. We could play organ in the living room. But we would find our folks quietly reading. I don’t remember being told that we couldn’t turn on the TV. They were reading in front of it. It just wouldn’t seem polite.

We all grew up to be readers.

Years ago, I heard a story on NPR about Iceland being a super-literate country. Thursday was family reading night. All broadcast television would go dark on Thursday evening. It was practically considered one’s civic duty to write at least one book in your lifetime. I haven’t been able to run down the source of this story or substantiate it. Perhaps the internet and cable have erased this distinction there, by now. I did think it was curious that they also chose Thursday. We know a man whose full name is Samuel Shakir Kamees Massad, which translates from the Arabic as: “asked of God to be thankful for Thursday.” To that I say Yes I am!

He fixed a flat and served mankind.

The first time I helped to change a flat tire was when I was not yet ten years old. The whole family was in the station wagon on a lonely two lane road in the middle of Minnesota, on our way to a lake. A car was stopped on the side of the road with a flat, left, rear tire. The woman driving the car was just starting to try to figure out how to change her flat tire. This was long before the days of GPS and cell phones. My dad pulled over to offer assistance. He then backed the car up so that we were behind the lady’s car, so our headlights could help us see. He proceeded to change the tire, instructing my brother and me on how to properly foot the jack and remove the nuts while the tire still has contact with the ground. My brother, Tom, who is six years older got to help pump the jack and loosen the nuts. I was in charge of stowing the nuts in the hubcap. 

After the tire was changed and the jack and damaged tire secured properly in the trunk of the lady’s car, she thanked us and offered my dad payment of ten dollars. This was the early 1960s, so that would translate to be about $50 or $60 in today’s money. My dad thanked her, but told her to keep her money. I was just a little kid, so any paper money was a big deal. I couldn’t imagine turning it down. She insisted that my dad accept it. He firmly told her no thanks, and added, “The way you will pay me back is the next time you see someone in need and you are able to help, you will help them out.” When we got back in the car he repeated the conversation for my sisters to hear. He stressed that everyone is in need sometime, so if you hope to be helped in an emergency, you need to always do what you can when the opportunity presents itself. That was probably the most important life lesson my dad ever taught me.  

This was not the only time he taught this lesson. It was repeated by example countless times and by words a few. But this was the time it stuck with me. 

(Since then, I learned that stowing the lug nuts in the wheel cover is not always a good plan. If you step on the edge of the wheel cover, it acts like a catapult launching them in unpredictable directions.)


Charles Robert Coulter
Charles Robert Coulter | August 15, 1924 - February 24, 2009

Charlie was the baby of his family, the youngest of four siblings born to Mae Wise Coulter and “Freeman” Joseph Coulter.