What better way to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day than to explore one of the Church’s many roots? When Saint Patrick and others went out to Celtic regions like Ireland they found a remarkable people, steeped in spirituality. These people had a love of learning and exploration. The extraordinary equality of women, the worth of ordinary life, and respect for relationships made a particular impression on early missionaries. They found people with a spiritual life based on a thin veil of separation between the sacred and the secular and with an understanding of time connecting past, present, and future. These concepts are part of our Church today. Join us and Father Patrick Pierce as we celebrate this heritage. While you’re there take some quiet time to reflect on life in the peaceful setting that is Saint Paul’s.
When Saint Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, was sent by Pope Gregory the Great to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons of Britain in 595 A.D. he found Christianity already present. There are reports of Christians in Roman Britain in the 1st Century A.D. The form of Christianity that Augustine discovered was influenced by the Celts (pronounced “Kelts”, not “Selts”). Those of Celtic origin were found in present day Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and parts of France. It was the type of Christianity that Patrick took and molded with the Druid spirituality in Ireland.
The Celtic Christianity existed alongside that brought from Rome by Augustine until the Synod of Whitby in 664 A D. At that event Saint Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfrane, agreed to accept the for all of England the Roman form of worship and order that Augustine introduced almost half a century earlier. So Celtic Christianity took a back seat to the Roman Church for many centuries. But it was and is still present in the people of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, and it has found resurgence in the North America today.
Celtic Christianity is Orthodox Christianity, and places emphasis, though, on certain principles. The spirituality of the Druids included respect for women, love of nature, and the interconnectedness of the web of all life. Celtic Christianity incorporates those principles plus the following:
- A love of learning.
- A yearning to explore the unknown and to travel.
- A love of silence and solitude.
- A deep understanding that past, present, future, and all times are connected.
- An appreciation of ordinary life.
- A valuing of kinship, confidant, or “soul friend” relationships in this time or between times
- A thin divide between the sacred and the secular
- Greater equality of women
The renewed interest in Celtic Spirituality in recent decades is especially present as it influences Anglican Spirituality. This form of spiritual living molds well with current concern for stewardship of our earth; yearning to experience the awe and mystery of the divine in life; and seeing in The Holy in people, relationships, and places.
For more information about Celtic Christianity and Spirituality I would suggest two books: A Celtic Eucharist by Brendan O’Malley, and The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther de Waal.
The Rev. Patrick A Pierce+