Gifts from the Celts

October 3, 2016



Last week I served as the Spiritual Director for the North Carolina 5-Day Spiritual Academy, a retreat sponsored jointly by the North Carolina Conference and the Upper Room. This event happens once a year and is based on a Benedictine rule of life that balances work and rest with worship and silence. It was a powerful experience. We welcomed two teachers who are experts on Celtic Christianity and had participants from many different states as well as one from Canada.


Before attending the retreat, I was drawn to several practices that are passed down to us directly from the Celts. In fact, if you speak English and you are a Christian, Celtic traditions have influenced what you believe today. For me, one of the most intriguing disciplines practiced by them is the offering of blessing and friendship. Through prayers, poetry and spoken language, they regularly befriend and bless each other. They believe that because we have been befriended by God in Jesus, we have also been invited to seek and offer what they refer to as “soul friendship.” According to their understanding, a “soul friend” (anam cara) is one who will always help us to be who Jesus calls us to be. Celtic Christians believe that we are fashioned for joy in this life. We are ever held in the loving gaze of God, eternally and essentially be- friended by the love of the Risen Christ and invited into the practice of befriending through the power of the Holy Spirit. Very Trinitarian!


The Celts also believe that sin wounds us, and we need to be healed from the puncture it inflicts. They are proponents for the practice of confes- sion that indicates our desire to be healed and turns our sorrow into joy. They see confession as a way of washing our laundry regularly instead of let- ting it pile up. Those who follow this tradition understand that when we con- fess our sin before God and before our soul friends, we are moving towards our personal healing, but most importantly, taking a step for the health of the entire Body of Christ. Further, they believe that God’s Presence is always with us waiting to be revealed. When we open ourselves regularly to God, we will see God.


The final thing I was taught last week is that Celtic Christians understand that our physical bodies are our primary home in this world. They point to the cross rising out of the earth as a symbol that Jesus once lived an earthly life. Because they do regard our physi- cal bodies highly, they also encourage the blessing of one’s self. For instance, if we know that there is disease somewhere in our minds or bodies, we can ask God to shine God’s light into that particular darkness so that we can be made well and whole. Sounds like our Wellness Wednesday programs that promote physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are definitely related to Celtic beliefs.


Thanks for reading about my crash course in Celtic Christianity. I close with a Celtic blessing written by John O’Donohue entitled T o Come Home to Yourself. I pray this for each of you:


May all that is unforgiven in you Be released.
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.

May all that is unlived in you Blossom into a future Graced with love.


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