22nd January

The Church Is Our Mother

My dear children, just like a mother in childbirth, I feel the same kind of pain for you until Christ’s nature is formed in you … the heavenly Jerusalem is free and she is our mother. Galations 4: 19, 26

One Sunday the ailing Mungo felt a keen desire for a hot bath. With loving care his Christian family lowered him in to the warm soothing water. After a time he rallied, and gave these, his final words to his friends: ‘My children … love one another … be hospitable … beware of heresy .. keep the laws of the church … she is the Mother of us all’. His jaw dropped and this dear soul, known as the Beloved by so many, was dead.

‘She is the Mother of us all’. The church is divine, though its members are all too human. Wheat and weeds grow together. Those who take their cue from the weeds become cynical about the church. Those who take their cue from the wheat become part of its divine work of fostering and mothering. Before Illtyd and Samson brought a renewal to the church in Wales most clergy were drunk. By the end of David’s life ‘everywhere are heard evidences of churches, everywhere voices are raised to heaven in prayers; everywhere the virtues are unwearedly brought back to the bosom of the church; everywhere charitable offerings are distributed to the needy with open arms’.

Lord, unlock the treasures of wisdom to me
but first give me a heart for humble learning

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21st January

God in Ordinary People

Now remember what you were when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing. God purposely chose … what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 1 Corinthians 1: 26, 27

The Lord prefers common looking people. That is why he made so many of them.
Abraham Lincoln

We should never forget that, although only the words and deeds of the most notable Christians get handed down, Christianity was first spread by slaves, working soldiers and traders.  In Celtic times Christianity was the religion of the people, it took root in ordinary hearts and homes. This fact is reflected in the prayers of the Scottish highlanders and islanders recorded by Alexander Carmichael so many centuries later. Here we have a glimpse of an army of ordinary people who invited God to be in the warp and weft of their everyday lives.

These arrow prayers for ordinary days are inspired by the Carmina Gadelica:

As I wash, the love of Christ be in my breast
God protect the household
God consecrate the children
God encompass our assets

May I do my rounds under the shield of Michael chief of angels

May the ingredients for the meal be mixed together
in the name of God’s Son who gives growth

Circle all my business dealings,
keep out what is false, keep within what is good

In everything my hands do today I will keep my fingers as a cross
In my exercise may thankfulness pulse through my body
As I sleep may your right hand be under my head

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20th January

Signs and Wonders

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. Acts 5: 12

Let him who will, laugh and insult, I will not be silent, nor will I hide the signs and wonders which were ministered to me by the Lord, many years before they came to pass, as he who knew all things before the world began.
Patrick of Ireland

God who judges the heart showed by signs and wonders what Aidan’s merits were.

Cuthbert became famous for his miracles. Through his persistent prayers he restored to health many who were sick, he cured some that were afflicted by unclean spirits, not only when present….praying, touching, commanding and exorcising, but also when absent either by prayer alone or even indeed by predicting their cure… Signs and wonders whereby he shone outwardly gave witness to the inward virtues of his mind.
Bede’s Life of Cuthbert

And after raising of dead men, healing lepers, blind, deaf, lame and all kinds of sick folk… after expelling demons and vices…. after performance of mighty works and miracles too numerous to mention, St. Brendan drew near to the day of his death.
The medieval Life of St. Brendan

Great Father of the blood-red moon
and of the falling stars;
Great Saviour of the miraculous birth
and of the rising from death;
Great Spirit of the creators and the seers;
Come in sovereign power
into our dreams
into our thoughts
into our mouths
into our bodies
into our actions
till we become your sign, and presence, and wonder.

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19th January

Deliver Us From Evil

Deliver us from evil. Matthew 6: 13

A dear friend of Cuthbert’s named Hildmer was responsible for the administration of law in his locality. His wife became demented. She was writhing, shrieking and salivating. Hildmer was not only deeply upset for her, he was also embarrassed that this should happen to a respected Christian couple. He came to tell Cuthbert she was ill and to ask him to send a priest from the Lindisfarne monastery to administer the prayers for the sick and dying, but he could not bring himself to tell Cuthbert the nature of the illness (‘Christians aren’t supposed to have demons or dementia’).

Cuthbert agreed to send a priest, and Hildmer was leaving, when the Holy Spirit stirred Cuthbert to call Hildmer back and tell him ‘It is my duty to come with you, not another’s’. So Cuthbert, with a group from the monastery, accompanied the weeping Hildmer to his dying wife.

Cuthbert sensed the true condition of the patient, without having to be told, and during the journey he revealed to Hildmer the things Hildmer had hidden from him. Cuthbert re-assured him ‘It is not only the wicked who are tormented like this, but sometimes God also allows the innocent to be taken over not only in body, but also in the mind. But don’t worry, for when we come to your house, your wife whom you think is dead will come to meet me. When she takes these reins of the horse which I have in my hand she will be restored to full health, and will look after our needs, and the demon will be driven away’.

That is exactly what happened.

Lord, save us from making judgments about people who are ill
Make us eager to encircle them with the prayer of loving friends
Help us discern what you wish to do in each situation
That a step towards wholeness may always be taken
Not in our way, but in yours.

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18th January

A Broad Mind

I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with the understanding. 1 Corinthians 14: 15

For eagerness of the truth, it is fitting that its proper nature should be reckoned: zeal without anger, humility without neglect…

What is best for the mind? Breadth and humility, for every good thing finds room in a broad, humble mind. What is worst for the mind? Narrowness and closedness, and constrictedness, for nothing good finds room in a narrow, closed, restricted mind.
Colman mac Beognae The Alphabet of Devotion

Pray attentively and you will soon straighten out your thoughts. Desert Sayings

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand. William Blake

Always make a practice of provoking your mind to think out what it accepts easily. Our position is not ours until we make it ours by suffering. If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can. If you do not, someone will be the poorer all the days of their life.
Oswald Chambers

If you aim at nothing, you hit it. Anon

Jesus, Son of Mary
Have mercy upon us
Jesus, Son of Mary
Be with us and for us where we shall longest be.
Be at the dawning of our life
Be at the darkening of our day.

Consecrate us –
All that we inherit, all that we acquire
Consecrate each mind and body
Each day to yourself
Each night also
King of kings
God of all.
Carmina Gadelica

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17th January

Abandonment of Power

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one; we have ruined no one; nor tried to take advantage of anyone. 2 Corinthians 7: 2

A group of English people went on a week’s prayer walk along the length of the river Thames. The walk began with Celtic prayers in a church near the Thames’ source which is dedicated to St. Samson. It ended near a statue of Neptune, a symbol of the power of the city of London, and of the British Empire, epitomised by the song ‘Rule, Britannia!’.

The prayer walk led these Christians into repentance for the lust for power in the English people. Ask Irish, Scots or Welsh what they most dislike about the English, and they will tell you it is the lust for power that neither notices nor cherishes the other person or nation.

Yet the true birthright of the English lies in their gentle apostle Aidan who gave up his right to ride a horse, in order to be one with the ordinary people, armed only with the defencelessness of love.

The method of church building used by most Celts was to build small, provisional buildings – the church was the people growing in relationships of love. They built churches without walls.

The Celtic clerics dressed simply; without a note of triumphalism. Many bishops were monks, which meant that they renounced possessions, and did not try to extend the kingdom of God through collecting possessions ‘for the church’.

When Celtic bishops met with Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, perhaps on the site where that Thames Prayer Walk began, they sought advice from a holy hermit whose authority lay in his having renounced power. The hermit’s advice was: ‘If Augustine is a holy man you should take his advice. You will know if he is holy if he is humble enough to stand up to greet you. If he does not, you need not take his advice’. The result was a lost opportunity. Yet, despite ‘losing out’ in terms of worldly power, the Celtic witness, which lies in the abandonment of power, is the witness which speaks to millions today who reject a way of being church that is built upon worldly power or status.

Strip from us everything except integrity
Bring the servant heart to flower

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16th January


I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Psalm 131: 2

Cuthbert kept throughout the same countenance, the same spirit. At all hours he was happy and joyful, neither wearing a sad expression at the remembrance of a sin nor being elated by the loud praises of those who marvelled at his manner of life….

After two years he resigned the bishopric and returned to the solitary way of life on the island…. He remained alone, satisfied with the converse and ministry of angels, full of hope and putting his trust wholly in God, though his body was now infirm and afflicted with a certain sickness.
Life of Cuthbert by an anonymous monk of Lindisfarne

(Following the imposition of Roman regulations at the Council of Whitby) there were certain brothers at the Lindisfarne monastery who preferred to conform to their old usage rather than to the monastic rule. Nevertheless Cuthbert overcame these by his modest virtue and his patience, and by daily effort he gradually converted them into a better state of mind. In fact very often during debates in the chapter concerning the rule, when he was assailed by the bitter insults of his opponents, he would rise up suddenly and with calm mind and countenance would go out, thus dissolving the chapter, but none the less, on the following day, as if he had suffered no repulse the day before, he would give the same instruction as before to the brothers…. For he was a man remarkable for the strength of his patience and unsurpassed in bravely bearing every burden whether of mind or body.
Bede’s Life of Cuthbert

The serenity of Christ
The serenity of kindly Cuthbert
The serenity of mild and loving Mary
The serenity of Christ, King of tenderness
Be upon each window and door
The four corners of this place
The four corners of my bed
Be upon each thing my eye takes in
Upon each thing my mouth takes in
Upon my body that is of the earth
Upon my spirit that came from on high.
Carmina Gadelica – adapted

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15th January

Prayer Changes Things

She answered ‘We will starve to death …’ The widow went and did as Elijah told her, and all of them had enough food for many days. 1 Kings 17: 12, 15

Christians believe that prayer can change anything. But experience shows that God is not in the business of the ‘quick fix’. Frequently we go away disappointed after our initial requests. The following story reminds us that prayer, like life itself, is a process. If at first we do not get through, re-evaluate and pray from a different perspective. We will find that the good God, who is full of surprises, will not fail us.

Mungo, from his base at Clathures, became a firm friend of Rhydderch, the Christian King of Strathclyde, whose headquarters was fifteen miles down river at Dunbarton. But Morcant, the local ruler and patron of the Druid altar at Craigmaddie Moor was a bitter enemy of them both. His mercenaries looted the local crops which they stored in Morcant’s barn. That winter real hunger struck Mungo’s people. He walked to Craigmaddie Moor and confronted Morcant, saying the people needed food. ‘You Christians teach that God will provide for those who serve him. Well, I don’t serve him and I have plenty; you serve him and have nothing, so your teaching must be false,’ Morcant mockingly told him.

Mungo returned to Clathures empty handed, but he was not defeated. He gathered the people to pray. Their prayers were answered in this way. After they prayed the rain came down in deluge after deluge. The rivers flooded their banks, and Morcant’s barn took off towards the river Clyde like an ark on a wild cruise. On the banks of the Molindar it went hard aground beside Mungo’s church!

Next morning Mungo gathered his flock to thank God and eat a good breakfast. Morcant did not find it at all funny!

Some have meat and cannot eat;
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we have meat and we can eat
Sae let the Lord be thankit!
Robert Burns

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14th January

Abandonment to God

Lord God … you show your people your love when they live in wholehearted obedience to you. 2 Chronicles 6: 14

Four things by which the Kingdom of heaven may be pursued: stability and detachment from the world, devotion and constancy.
Colman mac Beognae The Alphabet of Devotion

O God
manage me
because I can’t manage myself.
A schoolboy

Selwyn Hughes, the veteran author of Bible reading notes ‘Everyday with Jesus‘, was asked by a TV interviewer “What is the most important lesson you have learned?” “Dependency”, Selwyn replied. “Life works better when you throw all your weight on Christ. Not part of your weight, not even a lot of your weight. All of your weight.”

I am giving you worship with my whole life
I am giving you assent with my whole power
I am giving you praise with my whole tongue
I am giving you honour with my whole speech

I am giving you reverence with my whole understanding
I am giving you dedication with my whole thought
I am giving you praise with my whole fervour
I am giving you humility in the blood of the Lamb

I am giving you love with my whole devotion
I am giving you kneeling with my whole desire
I am giving you love with my whole heart
I am giving you affection with my whole sense
I am giving you existence with my whole mind
I am giving you my soul, O God of all gods.

My thought, my deed
My word, my will
My understanding, my intellect
My way, my state.
Carmina Gadelica

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13th January


Every day they studied the Scriptures. Acts 17: 11

In regard to the deeper meanings of the Scriptures, so acute was Samson’s understanding that he wanted to dig deeper than his teacher. Once the two of them came across a doubtful point; though they had carefully studied all the books of the Old and New Testaments, they could not find a satisfactory explanation. Thereupon Samson decided to undertake fasts and vigils until God’s understanding broke through. He was praying at nearly midnight when a heavenly light appeared and a voice spoke out of the light: ‘Do not trouble yourself any further on this, God’s chosen one, for in future whatever you ask God for in prayer and fasting you will obtain’. Then Samson returned quite happy to his cell and told Illtyd, his teacher, all he had seen and heard.
The Life of Samson of Dol

Urged by devoted Christians and my own inmost heart, I have made as penetrating a study as possible of the entire character, body and mind, of Christians who by their active and their contemplative life shine like stars of heaven to help us.
The author of the Life of Samson

Daily Bible reading is at the heart of this way of life. In addition, we study the history of the Celtic church, becoming familiar with such saints as Aidan, Brigid, Caedmon, Columba, Cuthbert, David, Hilda, Illtyd, Ninian, Oswald and Patrick. We remember their feast days and consider them as companions on our journeys of faith. We also bear in mind their strong link with the Desert Fathers and the Eastern Church, and wish to draw them too into our field of studies. It is essential that study is not understood merely as an academic exercise. All that we learn is not for the sake of study itself, but in order that what we learn should be lived. We encourage the Celtic practice of memorising scriptures, and learning through the use of creative arts.
The Way of Life of the Community of Aidan and Hilda

O Lord, may it be your wisdom, not my folly
Which passes through my arm and hand
May your words take shape upon the page.
For when I am truly faithful to your dictation
My hand is firm and strong
A scribe in a Celtic monastery

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