14th September


Let a person dwell alone in silence, for the Lord has laid this upon them. Lamentations of Jeremiah 3: 28

God calls most, if not all, of us to sometimes draw apart and be silent. And God calls some people to make this the main call upon their lives. Solitaries who are following such a call (as distinct from people who are running away from something) should be encouraged. In The Catalogue of the Saints of Ireland there was an entire order of such people – anchorites.

An old Celtic word for prayer meant literally ‘the quiet of Christ’. The Celtic Christians learned the value of silence from the desert fathers and mothers.

It was said that Abba Agatha carried a pebble in his mouth for three years until he learned to be silent.
Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Allow me with your peace and charity to remain in silence in these woods.
Columbanus in a Letter to the French Bishops

Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together.
Thomas Carlysle

Souls of prayer are souls of deep silence. That is why we must accustom ourselves to deep stillness of the soul. God is the friend of silence. See how nature, the trees, the flowers, the grass grow in deep silence. See how the stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. The more we receive in our silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. Silence gives us a new way of looking at everything. We need this silence in order to touch souls. Jesus is waiting for us in the silence. It is there that he speaks to our souls. Interior silence is very difficult but we must make the effort to pray. A soul of prayer can make progress without recourse to words by learning to be present to Christ. In silence we find a new energy and a real unity.
Mother Teresa

In silence I become aware of you, O Lord
In the silence I adore you, O Lord
In the silence my sins stand out and are washed away
In the silence my problems fall into their rightful place.
In the silence I become a grateful person
And in the silence, O Lord, we become one

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13th September


If you have ears to hear with, then listen! Matthew 11: 15

Go to your cell; it will teach you all things.
Saying of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Be slow to anger, quick to learn, also slow to speak, as St. James’ says, and equally quick to listen.

By quietly listening to the description of the stages, transitions, and miraculous deeds of a saint’s life, we can begin to discern and appreciate our life patterns as well as our own kinship with Jesus.
Edward C. Sellner Wisdom of the Celtic Saints

God gave us two ears and one mouth. Why don’t we listen twice as much as we talk?
Chinese proverb

Listen …
to the fragile feelings, not to the clashing fury
to the quiet sounds, not to the loud clamour
to the steady heartbeat, not to the noisy confusion
to the hidden voices, not to the obvious chatter
to the deep harmonies, not to the surface discord

You be my wisdom, you my true Word,
I ever with you, and you with me Lord
You my great Father and I your true son
You in me dwelling and I with you one.
Irish 8th. century

Lord, a thousand voices shout at me this day,
sound-bites and slogans, images and screens,
conversations and traffic, newspapers and internet…
Help me to filter out and turn away
all that is not of you,
and to spot and hold to
all that is of you

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12th September


Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46: 10

In the ground of your being I have my home
so do not seek me in the world apart.
Within your spirit true communion lies.
You are no homeless stranger in a land afar
no alien in a foreign shore
for I am with you.
Do but be still and know that I am God.
I look upon the world with your dark eyes
I feel the flowing air on your cool cheek
I hear the twittering in the moving trees
for with your senses I perceive.
I am with you, I am within you.
So do not turn away but come to rest in me.
Within you is our meeting place.
But be still, and I will speak in silence
to your loving, wayward heart.
Dame Paula Fairlie

God with me lying down
God with me rising up
God with me in each ray of light
Nor I a ray of joy without him.
Christ with me sleeping
Christ with me waking
Christ with me watching
Every day and night.
God with me protecting
God with me directing
The Spirit with me strengthening
For ever and for evermore.
Chief of Chiefs. Amen.
Carmina Gadelica

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11th September

Tuning In

The Son only does what he sees his Father doing …. I only say what the Father has told me to say. John 5: 19; 8.28

The importance of tuning in to the deeper, unseen currents that shape our lives and civilisation is understood by increasing numbers of people who are in touch with the intuitive or feminine side of human nature. They sometimes meet Christians who fear or denounce this, and this puts them off Christianity. These Christians may have a point – for it may be better to be deaf than to listen in to falsehood – but why should the devil have all the best ears? The pre-Christian Celtic people, notably the shamans, had finely developed powers of seeing into people and the future, but this power was divorced from a relationship with Father God as revealed by Jesus. The Celtic saints reassure us that it is possible for Christians to develop intuitive powers, as did Jesus, in a way that attunes them only to the Father’s wavelength.

Cuthbert was having a working lunch with a member of the Northumbrian royal family, the Abbess Aelfflaed, when he seemed to have a seizure, and his dinner knife fell from his hands. At first he made light of it, but then they drew out of him what he had ‘seen’ – the soul of a man from Aelfflaed’s estate being suddenly snatched from this earth. Aelfflaed only thought to enquire about the well-being of her monks, she did not enquire about all her lay estate workers. But the next day they discovered that, though the monks were all well, a shepherd named Hadwald had fallen from a tree and died at that very hour. The point of this is not obvious, but I wonder if it was God’s way of ensuring that the least should be treated as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Cuthbert had many other ‘seeings’ which affected the future of political powers, the course of the church’s mission, and his own future after his death, but I like to think that that these ‘tunings’ come for the same purpose that Christ came – to seek and to save those who are most needy and lost.

Make me attentive to the lap of the waves
Make me attentive to the movements of the sky
Make me attentive to the grasses that grow
Make me attentive to the soul’s every sigh.
Make me aware of the landscape that must pass
Make me aware of the new scape coming in
Make me aware of the universe within.
Make me aware of the beatings of your heart

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10th September

When You Feel A Failure

I trust you will know that we are not failures. We pray to God that you will do no wrong – not in order to show that we are a success, but so that you may do what is right, even though we may seem to be failures. For we cannot do a thing against the truth, only for it. 2 Corinthians 13: 7, 8

The man who wrote a biography of David of Wales five hundred years after David’s death was so keen to promote his own diocese that he would record any bit of folk lore, however far -fetched, that served to make his diocese seem more important.

So although we cannot take all that is written at face value, it would be foolish not to reflect upon those episodes which, when the embroidery is removed, were clearly believed to have taken place.

One such is the belief that Patrick, when he returned to his parents on the north west coast of Britain, came on a mission to Dyfed, and intended to settle at an attractive place there named Rosina Vallis. However, an angel spoke to him in a vision: ‘God has not planned this place for you, but for a son of his (David) who will not be born until the next generation’. Patrick probably felt rejected and rather a failure, until God gave him the call to be the leader of a mission to Ireland, affirming him with these words: ‘You will be radiant with signs and virtues, bringing the whole nation under my rule. I will be with you’. The place where this vision was given came to be known as Patrick’s Seat.

Patrick made his preparations, and before he boarded the boat for Ireland, God used him to raise someone from the dead!

How often do we feel a failure? Remember Patrick’s Seat. He felt a failure, but went on to raise someone from the dead and to win a nation to Christ! Find a seat where you can contemplate, not what is not to be, but what, under God, is yet to be. There is always a ‘yet to be’ with God. The darkest moment of night comes just before the dawn.

You pour your grace on those in distress
Without stop or stint
Son of Mary , Son of the disappointments,
Who was, who shall be
With ebb and flow
Be with me wherever I go

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9th September

Master Carpenter Seeks Joiners

What wisdom is this that has been given to him? How does he perform miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters living here? Mark 6: 2,3.

Ciaran, unlike most leaders of the early Irish churches, who came from ruling families, was the son of a carpenter. Yet he became such an influential leader that he was known as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

How was this possible? Like David, whom we read about in the Bible, Ciaran was brought up the hard way, looking after the cattle, yet in the fields he had God-guided encounters which built up his character. His tutor would say divine service some distance away; Ciaran always knew when these began, and would join in wherever he was. A fox befriended him and fetched his tutor’s lesson notes to him each day. So he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour of God and beast.

The time came for Ciaran to study under the famous Abbot Finnian at Clonard monastery. Overcoming his mother’s negative attitude, Ciaran took a cow with him which proved so fertile it provided milk for many more students than himself. Ciaran was so attractive, both physically and spiritually, that many people gave him land and treasures which he used for God’s glory. He decided that, having received the best training in scholarship at Clonard, he now needed to receive the best training in prayer, so he decided to go to Aran and be discipled by Enda.

There God gave the two of them a vision of a great and fruitful tree growing beside a stream in the middle of Ireland. This tree protected the entire island, its fruit crossed the sea, and birds of the world came to carry off some of the fruit. Enda told Ciaran that he was the tree, and that God was calling him to establish a church in the centre of Ireland by the banks of a stream. So step by step, Ciaran was led to establish the community at Clonmacnoise. He died of the plague only seven months after arriving there. Yet Clonmacnoise remained a great community for a thousand years, which indicates how significant was the foundation work Ciaran did.

Jesus, Master Carpenter of Nazareth,
wield well your tools in this your workshop
that we who come to you rough hewn
may here by fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand

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8th September

Get Ye Up!

A man from the household of Jairus, the synagogue leader, came and said : ‘Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher any more’. Luke 8: 49.

The Travelling People have a special place in Irish life, and they can offer fresh perspectives on old truths. Travellers assume that anyone who has a house big enough to have stairs must be very important, so they call such a person ‘one of them’. Although many Travellers cannot read, they can learn and tell a Bible story like no one else, as the following version illustrates:

‘T’was like this. Jesus Christ was goin’ along the road and the sun was blazin’ an’ he was all sweatin’ and the crowds were all there after him; and they were shoutin’ and roarin’ and beltin’ each other. Then all of a sudden up cums a big man, important and one of them, an’ he drops down an’ looks up at Jesus Christ, and says to him: ‘Jesus Christ, would ye ever help me? Me daughter’s back home an’ she’s dead or near it. Would ye ever make her better?’ Say he: ‘I will, of course. Cum on back and show me where ye live’. Then back he goes, the two of ‘em, till they cum to the big man’s house and in they go. And ye know what? ‘T’was a house with stairs. Stairs all the way up, and didn’t Jesus go up them stairs, an’ he was nearly deaf ‘cos there was loads of women an’ they were bawlin’ and shoutin’ and he’s never heard anything like them. An’ he stops there on the stairs with his hands shuttin’ off the noise from his ears, an’ says he: ‘Will ye shut up and get out, the lot of ye!’ An’ didnt they do so, an’ there was just Jesus Christ there with the daddy an’ the mammy an’ the corpse. An’ says he to the corpse: ‘Get ye up out of that!’ An’ she, she opened her eyes an’ looks at him, an’ she’s able to get straight up there an’ look at him again. An’ she wasn’t sick any more. An’ Jesus Christ, he looks at her too. An’ he sees she’s well, an’ says he to the mammy, ‘Give her a cut o’ bread.’

Living Christ, you can do anything, anything, anything!
You can come to my house, to the most out-of-reach house!
I name the person I have lost faith for…
Come to their place of unbelief.
Come today

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7th September

A New Page

You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are of heaven. Colossians 3: 1

The resurrection of Christ turned the page of human history. It can also bring a new page in to our tatty and tattered lives.

In the Book of Kells there is no picture of the resurrection but only the word ‘Una’, in the centre of the page, to denote the first day of the week, the day of resurrection. George Otto Sims describes the resurrection page of that book as follows:

Angels are guarding the capital letter U, one at each of its four corners. It looks at first like a dark, dull page, but out of the dim gloom the feet, the hands and the faces of the four angels, painted with white lead, shine out gleaming and bright. These angels are looking up and out from the page … They are alive and alert, not asleep, nor downcast. Their message is ‘Christ is risen, he is not here. Why look for the living among the dead?’

We also observe, in the top right-hand corner, that the fierce monster is speeding away out of the picture. The power of this enemy has been overcome. The beast is on his way out, defeated … The capital U, with a tangle of graceful birds in the heart of the letter, and surrounded by guardian angels, helps us to have a picture in our minds of the empty tomb on the first Easter Day.
George Otto Simms in Exploring the Book of Kells Dublin 1988.

Last night Christ the Sun rose from the dark.
The mystic harvest of the fields of God
And now the little wandering tribes of bees
Are brawling in the scarlet flowers abroad.
The winds are soft with bird song all night long
Darkling the nightingale her descant told
And now inside church doors the happy folk
The Alleluia chant a hundredfold.
O Father of your folk, be yours by right
The Easter joy, the threshold of the light.
Sedulius Scottus

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6th September

Relationships Can Be Restored

Eutychus fell to the ground from the third storey and was picked up dead.. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed’, he said. ‘He’s alive!’.. The people took the young man home and were greatly comforted. Acts 20: 9, 10, 11.

Thieves planned to carry off by night some bullocks that belonged to Ninian’s community. That same day, however, Ninian prayed for God’s blessing on his herds before staying the night with a neighbour.

This had an effect on the thieves. First they were overcome with dizziness and stumbled around in a way that unsettled a bull. The bull attacked them and gored the leader.

Next morning, as a Spirit-filled Ninian returned, he found the panic- stricken men around their leader who was now dead. ‘Tell me, why did you wish to harm a person who never wished to harm or cheat you in even the smallest way?” Ninian asked them. Then he made a most magnanimous gesture. In the name of God he released them from sin and from all ill effects of what they had done.

But that is not the end of the story. Ninian knelt beside the dead man and prayed: ‘O Christ, throned on high, I beg you to give life to this corpse. Impart warmth to his whole body; let the spirit enter into his frozen limbs and restore the functions of life.’ The deceased man came back to life. The men, who were terror-struck, started to speak heartfelt words to the Lord.

Raise us from greed to generosity
Raise us from falseness to friendship
Raise us from death to life

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5th September

Seeds That Sprout New Life

Jesus asked his disciples ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?… Don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets of pieces did you pick up?’ ‘Twelve’, they replied. ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets of pieces did you pick up?’ They answered, ‘Seven.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’ Mark 8: 19 -21.

Once Ninian sat down for dinner with his brothers and realised that there were no green vegetables on the table. ‘Run down to the garden and pick some of the vegetables that are springing up’, he asked someone. The chief gardener intervened: ‘There won’t be any growth yet, I was still planting seeds this morning.’ ‘In that case’, said Ninian, ‘go in the faith of the Lord to search for vegetables, for God Almighty can accomplish anything’. The gardener quickly made his way to the heart of the garden, and to his surprise found all sorts of vegetables springing up and sprouting. He returned to the brothers and was able to share vegetables with them all.

Ninian was given a gift of faith for a particular occasion. This was possible because he constantly cultivated an attitude of faith. We, too, can cultivate an attitude of faith, by frequently meditating on Scriptures and stories like those for today. As we do this, we will be given promptings that are in fact a gift of faith for a particular need. Look out for such an occasion today.

May the blessing of the five loaves and the two fishes,
which God shared out among the five thousand, be ours.
May the King who did the sharing bless our sharing.
May the food we eat restore our strength,
give new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds.
May our drink restore our souls
give new vision to dry spirits,
new warmth to cold hearts.
And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to you
who gives us all.
Celtic graces

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