Saturday, March 15, 2008


Ireland celebrated the Feast of St Patrick yesterday (early, as it cannot be celebrated in Holy Week). But what would St Patrick - arguably the most famous Celtic saint - make of the practices and beliefs called 'Celtic Spirituality' today? In the excellent online journal of the British Jesuits, Thinking Faith, Liam Tracey examines whether the Celtic church was really anything like the romantic picture often painted of it. Read the article here. This is a topic which has interested me from a number of angles over the years. The book I co-edited for CTBI in 2001, Christian Mission in Western Society, has an excellent article on the respective traditions of Columba and Augustine (usually portrayed as opposites) which unpacks the myths of 'the Celtic'. Its author, academic Michael McGraith comments, on passing a religious bookshop in Cambridge, that the enthusiastic books on Celtic spirituality are not very scholarly and the scholarly books are not very enthusiastic! Later in the same volume, Jay Kothare looks at how popularized versions of these traditions have been a surprisingly helpful resource in the multi-faith, inner city situations in which he was worked as an Anglican priest. The economy of the Spirit is, indeed, surprising and unpredictable. Incidentally, this summer my father-in-law, Willard Roth, is leading a pilgrimage around Celtic and other sites in Britain for a group of American Mennonites (as he done several times over the years). I hope to link up with them at some point. Oh, yes... the title for this post is from Kevin Scully's play (in case he is watching).

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