25th June

A Nursery Of Saints

Abraham is the spiritual father of us all. As the Scripture says: ‘I have made you a father of many peoples.’ Romans 4:16, 17

Is the faith community to which you belong like a museum or a nursery? Museums are painless, but also lifeless. Nurseries are messy, but they foster life. Ever since Abraham God has been in the business of nurturing people of faith. This is how a nursery of saints began in Ireland.

The day before St Comgall was born Mac Nisse of Connor heard a horse and carriage passing by and said to the people around him ‘That carriage carries a king.’ However, when they all went outside to have a look they could see only two occupants, neither of them royal, Sedna and his pregnant wife Birga. Had Mac Nisse got it wrong? He insisted that his first ‘seeing’ had not been mistaken.  ‘It is the baby that woman is carrying who shall be a king’ he said; ‘he will be adorned with all sorts of virtues and the lustre of his miracles will light up the world.’

So it proved to be. Comgall was to establish the famous community at Bangor at which, it was said, some four thousand monks were under the grace of God. Among the famous missionaries who trained there and went on to win countless disciples on the continent were Columbanus and Gall. The service book of the monastery, The Antiphonary of Bangor, survives in the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

Bangor became known as ‘The Vale of Angels’, and later Bernard of Clairvaux described it as being ‘truly sacred, the nursery of saints’.

Sometimes individuals develop their own little nurseries. St Ita, who died in January 570, was originally named Deidre. She adopted her new name as a pun which reflected her ‘hunger for divine love’. As a result of her great love and her powers of healing and prophecy she became known as ‘the foster mother of the saints of Ireland’. When Comghan was dying in a monastery he felt God tell him that if Ita laid hands upon him in prayer he would go straight to heaven. This she did.

Lord, I would like to be part of a nursery of saints.
Show me what needs to happen for this to be.
May my life be a seed-bed of prayer and of friendship
Lived out in fellowship with others of like mind.

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24th June

A John The Baptist For A New Generation

Jesus began to speak about John the Baptist to the crowds…. You saw much more than a prophet… John is greater than any one who has ever lived. But the person who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John. Luke 7: 26, 28

Every generation needs people like John the Baptist who make a radical break with comfort and convention, and prepare the way for a new move of God. In some ways Columba was a John the Baptist figure for his time, as these verses suggest.

He broke passions, brought to ruin secure prisons
Colum Cille overcame them with bright action.
Connacht’s candle, Britain’s candle, splendid ruler
In scores of curraghs with an army of wretches
he crossed the long haired sea.
He crossed the wave-strewn wild region, foam-flecked, seal-filled
savage, bounding, seething, white-tipped, pleasing, doleful.
Wisdom’s champion all round Ireland, he was exalted;
excellent name: Britanny’s nursed, Britain’s sated.
He left chariots, he loved ships, foe to falsehood;
sun-like exile, sailing, he left fame’s steel bindings.
Triumphant plea; adoring God, nightly, daily,
with hands outstretched, with splendid alms, with right actions.
Fine his body, Colum Cille, heaven’s cleric –
a widowed crowd – well-spoken just-one, tongue triumphant.
The last Verses of Beccan

Give us, O God
something of the spirit of your servant John the Baptist
His moral courage
His contentment with simplicity
His refusal to be fettered by this world
His faithfulness in witness to the end
From Brendan O’Malley: A Pilgrim’s Manual: St. David’s

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23rd June

Child of God

But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

The thought often occurred to a hermit to rest today and pray tomorrow. He would challenge his thought by saying, “No! I will pray today. May God’s will be done tomorrow.”

To all who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. He gave us the responsibility to use what he had given us. A vehicle is not much use parked in the driveway. But turn the key to the ignition, and a whole new world opens up to us.

Holy God, holy and mighty
You have given us all we need to be your children.
Allow your Holy Spirit to teach, guide and challenge us daily to use what you have given us wisely

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22nd June

The Leadership Of The Inner Life

This is what the Lord God, the Holy One, says to you…’In quietness and trust shall be your strength.’ Isaiah 30: 15

Arthur may have looked out from that hill named ‘Arthur’s Seat’ towards the defended cities he had established at Dunedin, Dundonald, Dunbarton, Stirling and Dunpelder. These were the result of leadership of great activity. Yet, if the kingdom of God is to be established in the heart of a people, the leadership of action needs to be complemented by leadership of a different kind that cultivates the inner life.

A fine example of such leadership, working hand in glove with Arthur, is Monenna. She had been inspired by St. Brigid to found a monastery in her native Ireland. Such was its quality that crowds flocked to her. They encroached too much upon her calling to the inner life, so she moved away to Scotland where she had space for a daily discipline of contemplation.

Monenna’s real name was Edana, to which was added the affectionate prefix ‘Mo’. At the summit of the high rock where Edinburgh castle now stands she built herself a prayer cell. The hill became known as Edana’s Hill, later as Dunedin, and much later as Edinburgh. Arising out of her contemplation God led her to match Arthur’s strategy by founding a community of prayer in each of his five defended towns. These two types of leadership ensured that both the outer and the inner life of society was looked after.

Monenna’s type of leadership is still as needed as Arthur’s. We need a brain drain in reverse, a constant stream of people who are ready to leave behind the whirlpool of business and concentrate on the contemplative life. In fact we need both kinds of leadership – the active and the contemplative – as never before. In which direction is God calling you?

Holy Three
Help me to live at the still centre
Of the world’s whirring wheels
Where everything is led by you.

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21st June

Winter Solstice

I will give you treasures from dark, secret places. Isaiah 45: 3

The darkest and the coldest time
is also the brightest time:
O Christmas Christ
The radiance around the moon
is not as fair
as the radiance
around your head.
O Holy One
the majesty of the winter sea
is not as glorious as your majesty.

At the departing times
the coldest times
of our lives;
at the times of excitement
and the times of expectancy;
at the times of intersection,
when hard choices
have to be made
be with us
Prince of Peace.
Kate Mcllhagga

Lord of the seasons, on this day of briefest light
help us to be at home with the treasures of the dark.
As the days have drawn in
help us to flow with the ebb tides of life.
At the turning of the year
help us to welcome the Dawn from on high.

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20th June

Great Leadership Is Possible

The Lord said to Moses…’ I will make you and your heirs into a great.’ Exodus 32: 10

One frosty night I meditated under the stars on the hill overlooking Edinburgh known as Arthur’s Seat. Our lands seemed to be sinking under a sea of troubles, and those who were meant to give a lead seemed to be blighted by small-mindedness. I sensed that God was wanting to release the potential for great leadership that lies untapped in so many people, and that the spirit that animated that great leader, Arthur, can animate us, too.

Unlike the well-known Celtic saints, the life of the great Celtic war hero Arthur is shrouded in the mists of legend. Yet, wherever he may have lived, and whatever the actual details of his life, we can be grateful that here was a man who dared to give a lead, to stand up to the tyrant, to rally the forces of good, and to live out Christian values.

The legends give a sense of Arthur’s Christ-centred strategy for the nation during the period after the Roman troops left, when brutal Saxon invaders were taking over. Arthur built a chain of defended towns to protect the Britons from the invaders, and so secured, for a period, what is known as ‘Arthur’s Peace’. Arthur was thwarted by quarrelling Celtic kings, yet ‘he was beginning to display that rarest of qualities: a joy inspired by hardship, deepened by adversity, and exalted by tragedy’. He was given a vision for Britain: ‘A land shining with goodness, where each man protects his brother’s dignity, where war and want has ceased, and all races live under the same law of love and honour … a land bright with truth, where a man’s word is his pledge … where the True God is worshipped and his ways acclaimed by all’.
Stephen Lawhead Arthur, an historical novel

Some nation must produce a new leadership, free from the bondage of fear, rising above ambition, flexible to the direction of God’s Holy Spirit… Some nation must give a lead. Some nation must find God’s will as her destiny, and God-guided people as her representatives at home and abroad. Will it be your nation?
Frank Buchman

Lord, give to us that inner dynamic
Which calls out and combines
The moral and spiritual responsibility of individuals
For their immediate sphere of action

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19th June

Another Way

Being warned in a dream not to return to King Herod, the visitors who studied the stars returned home another way. Matthew 2:12

After the star, the dim day.
After the gifts, the empty hands.
And now we take our secret way
Back to far lands.

After the cave, the bleak plain.
After the joy, the weary ride.
But journey we, three new-made men
Side by side.

Came we by old paths by the sands.
Go we by new ones this new day,
Homewards to rule our lives and lands
By another way.
Author unknown

I beg assistance, God of my journey
to accept that all of life is only on loan to me
to believe beyond this moment
to accept your courage when mine fails
to recognise the pilgrim of my heart
to hold all of life in open hands.
Joyce Rupp OSM A Pilgrim at Glendalough

Be a smooth way before me,
Be a guiding star above me,
Be a keen eye behind me,
This day, this year, for ever

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18th June

The Aidan Way Ahead

I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Luke 10:1

The famous sculpture of St. Aidan on Holy Island has four features which have much to say to us. The four features are: his face, his torch, his staff and his Celtic cross.

Aidan’s face looks out to the future, and south, to the un-evangelised regions, with faith-filled vision.

Which places does Christ want us to give our attention to?

Aidan takes with him from the past the torch of the Faith to hand on to others as a living flame.

To whom does God want us to hand on the flame of faith?

Aidan carries everywhere with him his pastoral staff, a sign of gentle love and compassion for all.

Where do we need to grow in gentleness and compassion?

There is something else in this sculpture which we must never forget. Behind and above Aidan, as a shield wherever he goes, is a cross with a circle. For Aidan had a sacrificial mission – to plant a cross in the soil of a new land, and in the soul of its people. The circle meant that the message of the cross was to encompass all. It was not just to be a message but an experience of the cross to be lived and applied in every area of life, every moment of every day.

No gain without pain. No false triumphalism. No words divorced from humble service. Only so will our dreams and resolutions survive the rocks of cruel human nature. Only so will setbacks be surmounted and the serene strength of Christ still be ours as we journey on in faith.

God be with you at every leap;
Christ be with you on every steep;
Spirit be with you in every deep;
Each step of the journey you go.

All that I do
All whom I’ll meet,
All that I’ll ever be I offer now to you

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17th June

On The Move For God

Some wandered in trackless wastes, finding no way to a city to stay in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and the Lord delivered them from their distress, and led them by a straight way. Psalm 106:4-7

Therefore let us live by this principle, that we live as travellers on the road, as pilgrims, as guests of the world … singing with grace and power ‘When shall I come and appear before the face of my God?’
Columbanus

Many prayers for journeys were collected in the nineteenth century by Alexander Carmichael, some of which went back to the times when Celtic Christians such as Brendan travelled the seas in coracles. When he wrote there were still many small prayer places where men went to pray before and after their voyages. This spirituality continues in the different circumstances of modern life. It is reflected, for example, in this prayer, written and displayed in an airport chapel:

Home!
Relaxed, warm-welcomed,
Full of ease, embraced and nourished.
Newly arrived from far away, yet home.
The words that sped me on my way
Still echo in this foreign place.
The hands that held me there
Now greet me here
And I am home
With that same God who knew and loved me then.
This end of journey too is but a staging post
On another journey
From this on to another home.
Anonymous

May Father aid me
May Son aid me
May Spirit aid me
On sea and land
In the shielding of the City everlasting
Carmina Gadelica

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16th June

Stars Of Wonder

God hung the stars in the sky – the Great Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the stars of the south. Job 9: 9

The greatest contribution any of us can make to the coming of the King is to allow a sense of wonder to grow. ‘To foster a sense of wonder’ – this should be written into the aims of every school and of every home.

My eyes like to see
The lovely stars in the sky
Shining like diamonds and crystals
And the sun above my head
And the moon shining and shining.
Eyes are shiny, too,
And the golden water shines.
My eyes like to see candles
And the light in the sky.
God will give me a new heart
That shines with happiness inside me.
Angus Aged 6

O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright
westward leading, still proceeding
guide us to the perfect light.
J. H. Hopkins

Let the flowers close and the stars appear
Let hearts be glad and minds be calm
And let God’s people say Amen, Amen
Creation Liturgy of the Iona Community

Open my eyes to your scenery
Open my ears to your call
Open my heart to your coming
Great king, born in a stall

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