Friday, December 10, 2004

This year, I've read two great books on Celtic Spirituality: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Cahill and The Celtic Way of Evangelism. I did a little seminar on this over the summer and have been asked to do a seminar on this in February for a group of pastors. Here's the text of the seminar, which will be the basis of the seminar I'll do in February.

The Celtic Way of Experiencing God: An Introduction

The story of St. Patrick

· Patricius, a young Romanized, Christian Briton, is captured by Celtic pirates at the age of 16 and sold into slavery to Miliuc
· He is assigned to herding Miliuc’s cattle, and deepens his faith
· He learns Celtic language and culture, and prays for them
· He escapes to Gaul, takes priestly training, and becomes a priest in Britain
· At age 48, he has a dream directing him to return to Ireland

Patrick’s brilliant missionary strategy

· Patrick is ordained as a “missionary bishop”
· Arrives in Ireland with an entourage in 432 AD
· Patrick rejects the Roman model: civilize, Romanize, then Christianize
· Patrick accepted the morally neutral aspects of Irish culture, and patiently tolerated the immoral aspects, knowing that it would take generations to change some things
· Patrick’s team practiced team evangelism. They would move into a village and win people by improving people’s lives and by example, by prayer and by blessing
· From that, a monastic community surrounded by a thriving village/town would develop; Irish were quickly incorporated into places of leadership
· Key elements of Irish culture were embraced as a means to winning people to the gospel: passion, mysticism, a love a symbols and a love of nature. An example is the Celtic cross.
· Patrick fought against the slave trade; some Briton Christians were slaving Irish Celts, and he fought them vigorously
· Patrick dies at age 76, after 28 years of ministry. About 20% of the island had become Christians.
· After Patrick’s death, the remainder of Ireland is evangelized.
· His successors evangelize Scotland, preserve much of ancient learning through the era of the barbarian hoards, and supply leadership to much of the church in Europe
· Later, as Rome reasserted authority, much of the Irish way (especially as it pertains to evangelism) was suppressed in favor of the Roman ideal: the only right way is the Roman way. The idea of respecting and working through the existing culture is abandoned. This was a tragic error.

A distinctive way of experiencing God

· This led to a distinctive Celtic Christian style of spirituality
· In contrast to the violent ways of the Celtic clans, they embraced peace as a virtue
· All aspects of life were embraced as under God’s care
· The spiritual life is to be pursued as a member of a community, not alone
· Contemplative prayer is central to the life of the Spirit
· Prayer permeated all aspects of life
· The Trinity is central in devotion
· Love of nature and celebrating nature as God’s handiwork is also critical in Celtic Christian devotion, as celebrated in the famous Celtic cross and orb

Example of Celtic Prayers and Blessings


Peace between neighbors, Peace between kindred, Peace between lovers, In love of the King of life.
Peace between person and person, Peace between wife and husband, Peace between woman and children, The peace of Christ above all peace.
Bless, O Christ, my face, Let my face bless everything; Bless O Christ mine eye, Let mine eye bless all it sees.


I arise todayThrough a mighty strength:
God's power to guide me,God's might to uphold me,God's eyes to watch over me;God's ear to hear me,God's word to give me speech,God's hand to guard me,God's way to lie before me,God's shield to shelter me,God's host to secure me.


My dearest Lord,Be thou a bright flame before me,Be thou a guiding star above me,Be thou a smooth path beneath me,Be thou a kindly shepherd behind me,Today and for evermore.
-St.Columba of Iona


Thanks to Thee, O God, that I have risen today, To the rising of this life itself;May it be to Thine own glory, O God of every gift, And to the glory, aid Thou my soul
With the aiding of Thine own mercy, Even as I clothe my body with wool, Cover Thou my soul with the shadow of Thy wing.
Help me to avoid every sin, And the source of every sin to forsake, And as the mist scatters on the crest of the hills, May each ill haze clear from my soul, O God.

Contemplative Prayer

Example: Luke 10:38-42

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" 41"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

1. Read the passage, seeking a single word or phrase through which that the Spirit highlights for you.
2. Pray about that word or phrase.
3. Share with another why that phrase spoke to you.
4. Read the passage again, preferably aloud.
5. Pray again, asking the Lord to speak to you about a specific action He’s calling you to take based on that word or phrase.
6. Read the passage one more time and close in prayer.

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