Last Friday’s match-up is in the bag: Archbishop Oscar Romero did indeed trounce Lucy (as, you’ll recall, I did predict). John the Baptist you are now vindicated! Hopefully no more people are succumbing to the temptation to vote more than once. Today’s round has the remaining Celtic saint (Hilda of Whitby) up against the survivor of the battle of the Ignatii: Ignatius of Antioch. You might recall I lobbied for the other guy (Ignatius of Loyola). So you’re correct in assuming that my vote goes to Hilda this time. Gotta keep at least one Celt in for at least one more round!
Maybe I should explain my draw towards Celtic spirituality: 14 years ago (wow, has it been that long…!) I was privileged to take a seven week sabbatical while serving my first rectorship at Trinity, Gulph Mills in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. My husband could only join us for the final two weeks, so he missed the five weeks of driving through England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales — 11 year old and 6 year old in tow. One very generous friend lent us a car for the duration and parishioners made their house available to us as a base camp. My intent was to study Celtic spirituality by visiting lots of holy places — which we indeed did. But the study and its end result were a bit different than I had anticipated (remember, I said “11 year old and 6 year old in tow”!). We took the ghost tour in Edinburgh and went to Legoland in Windsor. We waited in line for the release of the second (or was it the third?) Harry Potter book (which my son read avidly even as we drove through the stunning Yorkshire countryside. We dipped our toes in the cold North Sea and learned that paying a pound to play a video game is not the best use of an allowance. My favorite memory is pulling one of them off the altar in the ancient abbey of Iona with the stern words “get down off of there! this is not our church!” Fortunately a large orange cat caught her attention and I was able to absorb some of that holy place.
But what came to me during the course of that trip was that I was actually not studying Celtic Spirituality but rather experiencing it. Because what the Celts have handed down to us is an appreciation of daily life — the moments of beauty, the goodness of creation, the beauty of love. The Celts had a prayer for everything in life, many of which have been handed down to us in a collection called the Carmina Gadelica. During that summer I was given the gift of being with my children in an amazing journey — appreciating many of life’s joyous moments.
Oh, and in that bookend way life sometimes has, during my next sabbatical five years ago I had the privilege of participating in a retreat on Celtic Spirituality in New Mexico, led by John Philip Newell who is the former warden of the Iona abbey.
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Here is an example of a Celtic prayer, from the Scottish highlands: