Renew your spiritual life and community worship with these adaptations of ancient Christian practices.
Published May 21, 2019
What follows is a paraphrased version of steps 1-7
Celtic Christian spirituality refers to a set of practices and beliefs that emerged in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales during the beginnings of the monastic tradition in the early fifth century. Many of these activities have their roots in desert spirituality; Celtic monks regarded the lessons of desert mothers and fathers to be essential wisdom.
Celtic pre-Christian culture pervaded the land dating back to 500 B.C.E., and these ideas influenced Celtic spiritual activities significantly. As a result, most of Celtic Christianity has a strong incarnational theology: the natural world, in particular, exposes the sacramentality of all creation. Matter is imbued with the divine presence and reveals the realm underneath the surface of things. This faith honours the human imagination by encouraging creativity via creative forms such as illuminated manuscripts and vibrant metalwork.
Celtic Christianity has recently seen a tremendous revival of interest as a method to revitalize our spiritual lives and community worship. This section explores 12 Celtic Christian practices for modern Catholics’ everyday spiritual lives, as well as scriptural readings for meditation.
Thresholds are the spaces between when we move from one time to another, such as the transition from dawn today or dusk to dark; from one space to another, such as during pilgrimage or when transitioning from secular to sacred space; and from one awareness to another, such as when old structures begin to disappear and we begin to envision something new.
The Celtic peoples had a love of boundaries and boundary locations, most likely as a result of being on an island, but they also had a profound awareness of the Otherworld as a realm just behind the curtain of this one.
Celtic Christian monks, inspired by those who fled to the desert, were also drawn to the fringes. They discovered their own threshold locations, such as Skellig Michael, a jagged stone island jutting out into the Atlantic with the ruins of a monastic community perched on top.
Recognise when you cross a threshold. This could be across a doorway, transitioning from one activity to another, or the day’s thresholds, particularly at dawn and dusk. Pause at each of these and say a short prayer of thanksgiving.
Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
Dreams were revered as divine signs in ancient times. Dreams play a key role in the Bible, with guidance and direction frequently arriving in these night visions.
The Hebrew Bible’s Joseph, Jacob’s dream of a staircase from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending, Daniel’s dream of the four beasts, and Joseph the father of Jesus’ four separate dreams are all noteworthy examples.
Many Irish saints also had meaningful dreams. According to legend, St. Patrick had a dream in which he was visited by an angel who encouraged him to flee captivity and aided in organising a miraculous escape. He later experienced another dream in which he heard the Irish people pleading with him to return to the land of his enslavement land and help Christianity thrive.
One of the best ways to remember your dreams is to keep a journal and a pen next to your bed at night and then ask God for a dream before going to sleep. Even if you only have a fragment or a feeling when you wake up, write it down.
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you.”
3. Peregrinatio pro Christo
Wandering was a powerful practice in the Celtic monastic tradition, inspired by the biblical story of Abraham. This wandering is known as peregrinatio pro Christo, or the call to wander for the love of Christ. It is distinct from pilgrimage, a phrase with no precise English definition.
The wandering saints set out without a destination, often boarding a coracle, a small boat with no oars or rudder, and trusting themselves to the currents of divine love.
They surrendered completely to the wind and the sea, allowing themselves to be carried to what they called the place of their resurrection, where they would live and work, die and be buried, and where their remains would await their resurrection on the Last Day.
In daily life
Each evening, consider the previous day and look for signs of the divine presence. Where have you felt nudges to act? How have you been invited to give up control and trust? Where have you turned your back on these? How did you resist or ignore your holy impulses?
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you and will make you exceedingly numerous.”
4. Blessing each moment
Blessing is one of the Celtic practices that aids in paying attention to daily life. Blessings are prayers that celebrate the mundane tasks of the day. The Carmina Gadelica is a beautiful book of Scottish blessings compiled by Andrew Carmichael in the 19th century in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. It’s full of blessings from the day’s events.
Blessing is an act of acknowledging and thanking God for the gifts and graces that are already present. Every day’s mundane activities are opportunities to see grace at work.
In daily life
We can begin to see our daily lives as portals into the depths of the world. The steam rising from my coffee, the bird singing from the tree branch outside my window, the doorbell announcing the arrival of a friend, and the meal that feeds my body for service all bring me closer to God’s grace. Consider writing a gratitude blessing for each of the regular things that sustain you throughout the day.
God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
5. Soul friendship
Another important practice for the Celtic saints, inspired by earlier desert traditions, was having a soul friend. St. Brigid is frequently quoted as saying, “Go forth and eat nothing until you get a soul friend, for anyone without a soul friend is like a body without a head; is like the water of a polluted lake, neither good for drinking nor for washing.”
Everyone was expected to have a spiritual mentor and companion on the soul’s journey, whether lay or clergy, man, or woman. This was a person to whom they could confide all of their inner turmoil, someone who could help them find their way and guide them through the process of discernment. This relationship had a genuine warmth and intimacy to it, as well as a deep respect for the other’s wisdom as a source of blessing. Age or gender differences were irrelevant.
Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Christ with me, Christ before me
Christ behind me, Christ in me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me
—Prayer excerpt attributed to St. Patrick
A lorica is a type of prayer for protection in the Celtic monastic tradition, invoking God’s power to protect against darker forces. You’ve heard of the lorica prayer, which is attributed to St. Patrick. The biblical inspiration could be found in Ephesians 6:14, which mentions putting on the breastplate of righteousness.
This practice is rooted in the precarious sense of existence that many of us have. Travellers faced dangers at night, especially from thieves or wild animals, with only fire and prayer for protection.
In daily life
These breastplate prayers invoke Christ’s presence in all directions as a protective shield and a reminder of God’s loving presence. You may expand this circle to include your family, community, country, and the rest of the world.
You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
7. Walking the rounds
Walking the rounds is a common Celtic practice at sacred sites such as churches, graves, crosses, and holy wells.
This entails walking sunwise (or clockwise) around various markers or monuments in a mindful manner. The number of rounds varies, but three is commonly used to reflect the sacredness of three in the Celtic imagination. There are pattern days associated with various holy places, as well as a set number of rounds to walk in specific places while praying.
Walking is helpful in reaching a place and slowing down. Circular walking assists us in departing from linear thinking and opening our hearts to receive God’s grace.
In Daily life
Choose a holy site and walk around it. It could be a sunwise walk around a favourite tree, your church, or the perimeter of a labyrinth. Traditional prayers like the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer may be said while walking the rounds, but any prayers from the heart are welcome.
When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
For the remainder of this article please go to – https://uscatholic.org/articles/201905/12-celtic-spiritual-practices-that-celebrate-god-in-our-world/
Source: Paintner, C.V. (2019). 12 Celtic spiritual practices to celebrate God in our world. [online] U.S. Catholic. Available at: https://uscatholic.org/articles/201905/12-celtic-spiritual-practices-that-celebrate-god-in-our-world/.