Humans started praying thousands of years ago. It has always been a big part of our societal behavior. We see it as an invocation of a higher being. It has always made us feel safe and a little less lost in the uncertainty of human existence.
As a result of its permanence in human history, prayer has evolved into a more complex ritual. Many new invocations have arisen over time. One of them is the Boondock Saints Prayer. Since its creation in the late ’90s, it has gained massive popularity.
The Boondock Saints Prayer’s Origin
What a deep and obscure sounding name! It might fool you into thinking that this prayer dates back to medieval times. However, it’s far from having been found engraved inside a hidden sacred tomb. Nor was it passed on by eerie-looking hooded monks.
To everyone’s surprise, the Boondock Saints Prayer first appeared in a 1999 homonymous film. The creative mind behind it is movie director Troy Duffy.
In the film, Catholic twin brothers Connor and Murphy McManus receive a message from God. The higher power commands them to hunt down evil so that innocence will prevail. Both siblings fulfill their divine mission by killing (in the name of God, of course) all wicked people in town.
After the release of the movie, the prayer grew quite popular. So much so that it’s become a widespread element in pop culture. It’s very common to see people wearing it on shirts, printing it on posters, or even immortalizing it on tattoos!
What Does the Prayer Say?
“And shepherds we shall be.
For Thee, my Lord, for Thee.
Power hath descended forth from Thy hand.
That our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command.
So we shall flow a river forth to Thee.
And Teeming with souls shall it ever be.
In Nomine Patris, et Fili, et Spiritus Sancti.”
Meaning and Analysis of the Prayer
The Boondock Saints prayer is an oath to God. In other words, it is a promise to rid the world of all evil so that good may triumph. Having said that, let’s break it down and analyze it in a hermeneutical approach. By doing so, we’ll get to a better understanding of it.
For Thee, My Lord, for Thee: Shepherds and Sheep
The invocation begins with two simple sentences: “And shepherds we shall be. For Thee, my Lord, for Thee.” This part encases the prayer’s primary goal. It lets God know that the people who recite it are giving themselves over to Him.
On top of implying absolute compliance, the repetition of the words “for thee” is meant to emphasize devotion. In other words, after pronouncing these words, the parishioner will act in the name of God.
Another noteworthy thing about this particular part is that it deems the person praying a shepherd. This thought carries great importance within the religious context. In the Bible, there is a widely known analogy about leadership and guidance: the shepherd and his sheep. Shepherds are mentioned several times in the scriptures.
Important biblical characters like Adam (Gn 4:2), Abraham (Gn 12:16), Jacob (Gn 30:31-40), and Moses (Ex 3:1) perform this profession. The Holy Book portrays prophets as shepherds who lead believers as sheep and bring them to God. We can see this analogy in many different verses of the Bible, like this one from John 10:14-16:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. “
We can conclude that the first part of the invocation states the intention of those praying. It means that they’re offering their actions to God in their holy mission of bringing believers over to Him.
Let’s take a look at the second part of the prayer. It reads: “Power hath descended forth from Thy hand. That our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command”. This fragment is easy to analyze, especially after watching the movie. The McManus twins recite the litany before their executions in an attempt to claim God’s approval.
Those who chant these words are calling themselves mere instruments of God. It’s a way of stating they perform their actions in servitude towards the higher power they believe in.
The Boondock Saints prayer continues with the words: “So we shall flow a river forth to Thee. And teeming with souls shall it ever be.” These sentences are, again, very fitting to the purpose of the litany. These words show that sinners will know the true essence of God once their punishment comes.
Besides, using the first person (“we shall flow”) highlights the power inflected by God into the people reciting this prayer. It showcases their will to exert the force of God upon those who do wrong. Like the shepherd with the sheep, they shall bring them over to Him for judgment.
In Nomine Patris Meaning
The litany follows up with a sentence in Latin: “In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.” The literal translation to these words is: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” We can find this phrase several times throughout the Bible, like in Matthew 28:19-20:
“Euntes ergo docete omnes gentes baptizantes eos in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti docentes eos servare omnia quaecumque mandavi vobis et ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem saeculi.”
Which, in English, would be:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
The Boondock Saints prayer’s closing sentence offers a clear statement. In this context, the meaning of “In Nomine Patris” is that those who mutter this sentence are following God’s commands. Both in the Bible and the prayer, it is a clear sign of subjugation.
Veritas Aequitas Meaning
The litany ends with “Veritas Aequitas,” two Latin words closely associated with the 1999 film. The reason: the main characters’ matching ink. One of the brothers, Connor, has “Veritas” tattooed on his trigger finger. His brother, Murphy, has an “Aequitas” tat in the same spot.
However, these words existed before the movie, with “Veritas Aequitas,” meaning truth and justice, respectively. In ancient times, people traditionally associated these terms with the goodness of honest merchants. In the Boondock Saints prayer, both concepts state that the invocation is genuine. Those who say this prayer will act in the name of truth and justice.
It’s easy to notice that this litany shows devotion to God through good deeds made in His name. It also emphasizes that these actions’ goal is to rid the world of all evil so that good can flourish.
The Boondock Saints Prayer has made its way into the list of most notorious pop culture references of our time. It has even attracted non-religious people. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say the prayer has many Biblical bases and lots of research behind it.