1st June

One Vast Family

All the people of the world come from one stock. Acts 13: 26

I am sure that the exploration of this Celtic world will be prophetic for the future as we try to break down the barriers so that we may reach out to one another. This discovery of my own Celtic roots has meant that I have also become more aware of the riches of many other traditional peoples. Here, instead of the highly individualistic, competitive, inward looking approach common in today’s society … everyone sees themself in relation to one another.
Esther de Waal The Celtic Way of Prayer

At the root of all war is fear.
Thomas Merton

Only love – which means humility – can cast out the fear which is the root of all war.

All humankind are one vast family
this world our home.
We sleep beneath one roof,
the starry sky.
We warm ourselves before one hearth,
the blazing sun.
Upon one floor of soil we stand
and breathe one air
and drink one water
and walk the night
beneath one luminescent moon.
The children of one God we are
brothers and sisters of one blood
and members in one worldwide family of God.
From the Book of Remembrance
Cathedral of St. Paul the Apostle, Los Angeles, California

Christ, victim of barriers
Christ, vanquisher of barriers
Christ, linking us across the shores
of treachery and time
be with us all this day.

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31st May

Be Prepared!

Prepare the way of the Lord. Mark 1:3

In the wasteland may the Glory shine
In the land of the lost may the King make his home.

For Celtic Christians the time before Christmas, (known as Advent which means the Coming), is a period of preparation, as we repent and wait in hope for the coming Return of Christ. This period used to be known as a second Lent. Fasting was less severe, but people carved out time to go apart and wait on God. C Could we make it our aim to dispel the spirit of restlessness and acquisition, and to instil the spirit of wonder, warning and waiting during this period?

What did those Celtic Christians focus their minds on during these weeks, and what should we focus our minds on? God prepared for the birth of Christ within his people, through prophets. Many of them lived in simplicity as a sign that they were waiting for God to fulfil his promises. As we meditate on their lives and words we, too, hear the call to live lives of simplicity as a sign. Then we think about the witnesses at the time of Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Anna and Simeon, whose waiting was joyful and humble.

This is also a time for thinking about what the universe, humanity, and ourselves are coming to, and about the four last things of death, giving account, eternal bliss, and separation.

At heart, this should be a time of waiting in contemplation of the presence of Christ within us; for we are called, like Mary to be bearers of Christ now and into the future. In the coming days the readings will focus on these things.

Calm us to wait for the gift of Christ;
cleanse us to prepare the way for Christ;
teach us to contemplate the wonder of Christ;
touch us to know the presence of Christ;
anoint us to bear the life of Christ.

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30th May

A Kick-Start To Overseas Mission

The man who had had the demons went all through the Ten Towns, telling what Jesus had done for him. And all who heard it were amazed. Mark 5:20

‘The church is the only organisation that exists for those who are not its members” Archbishop William Temple.

The lives of Jesus’ first apostles demonstrate great zeal to spread the Good News to others. We learn of their mission journeys in the Bible, and through tradition, which tells, for example, of Thomas founding a church in India. Some believed that Andrew, who was so keen to introduce his brother Simon to Jesus, once came on a mission to Scotland. Britain’s own early apostles had a similar zeal.

When Samson first landed on the beaches of Britanny he brought with him a large crew to help begin the great mission there. But God’s first lesson for them was this: no amount of evangelistic organisation is a substitute for a prayed for, God-architected, God-timed healing encounter. Such an encounter can have a domino effect which influences a whole region before the organisation has even begun to get into gear.

As they were mooring their boat they saw a hut not far from from the harbour, and a man weeping, and gazing out towards the sea. Samson went to him and asked what was the problem. ‘I have now waited here three days and three nights’, the man told him, ‘for someone to come and help me from across the sea’. He was a devout man of prayer, who had a leprous wife and a deranged daughter, and as he had prayed for them, God had given him the assurance that he was to wait at the harbour for such a man who would heal them.

Samson went to the man’s home and poured forth prayers over the sick women, who were restored to health. This was the start of a wonderful ministry, and from there Samson established Christian communities throughout the region, one of which, at Dol, became the most famous of all.

God of healing
God of strategy
help me pray like that weeping man;
help me act like that heroic apostle.

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29th May

Time To Wake Up!

The time has come for you to wake up out of your sleep. Romans 13:11

Do not consider what you are but what you will be. What you are lasts for a mere moment; what you will be is eternal. Do not be lazy, but acquire in a short time what you will possess for ever. Overcome the dislike of exerting yourself now by thinking of the reward to come. Why do you chase after vain things? Remember, life’s joys disappear like a dream in the night. So wake up …

We sleep when we think that the world is as it always was.
It is high time to awake to the truth that Jesus has come.
His summons is urgent in our midst.
Nearer than we know he is coming in judgement.
He might come in judgement this Christmas.

We confess that we sleep
when we think that power is still of this world.
It is high time to awake
to the truth that his power alone is working permanently.
All the civilisations built in scorn of his power
are as if they had never been.
And our civilisation with them will equally go down.
Nearer than we know he will be seen coming in power.
He might even come in power this Christmas.

Give us grace to wait in spiritual expectancy his coming again
to practice true humility
to be exercised in the ways of real power, to express his glory
that we may recognise the kingship of a cradle
the royalty of being ruled, the seniority of service
so that should he come this Christmas
his body bloody but his head crowned
we would be found among those who worshipped
and not among those who would kill.
If these things would be
it is high time to awake out of sleep.
George MacLeod , founder of the 20th. century Iona Community

Wake me up, Lord.

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28th May

Heaven Is Amazing!

Make the best of the little you have here on earth and you will be given a big opportunity in the eternal homeland. Luke 16:9

Have you sometimes wondered what heaven is like? Some people project on to it inadequate, boring, fading images from human life. The opposite is the truth. The unknown author of this fourteenth century account of the death of St. David knew that heaven was amazing!

After David had given his parting blessing to everyone who had gathered, he spoke to them: Take care that you guard your faith and do the little things which I have taught and shown you. Good bye . Be good. For we shall never meet again’. The people broke out in a great crying.

From the Sunday to the Wednesday after David’s death they ate and drank nothing; they just prayed. On Tuesday night the whole town and the sky were filled with singing and joy of angels. In the morning Jesus Christ came, accompanied by nine orders of angels, and the sun shone with brilliance. That day, the first day of March, Jesus Christ bore David’s soul away in great triumph and gladness and honour.

The angels bore his soul to a place where there is rest without labour, joy without sadness, an abundance of good things, victory, brilliance, and beauty: a place where Christ’s champions are commended and the undeserving wealthy are ignored, where there is health without sickness, youth without old age, peace without dissension, glory without vain ostentation, songs that do not pall, and rewards without end.
From The Book of the Anchorite of Llanddewibrefi, 1356, adapted.

Faithful vigil ended
watching, waiting cease.
Master, grant your servants
their discharge in peace.
Based on words from Luke 2 by Timothy Dudley-Smith


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27th May


Why are you cast down O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise my Helper and my God. Psalm 42:11

As nights draw in dark depression settles upon many of us to a greater or lesser degree. In some cases it is clinical depression. Treatment may include prescribing the right chemicals, vitamins and so on. For others the depression, though not clinical, is still bad enough. There is less sun, less exercise, less fresh air, less stimulus, less relaxation, less fun, less travel – and we become stale and cast down.

What can we do about this? We can’t help a slump in our spirit, but we can choose not to yield to self pity, to selfishness, and we can choose not to hide from depression in hyper activity which only builds up future trouble. We can follow the example of the Celts, and tell stories of the heroes. Then we can raise our downcast spirits in these two ways:

First, through constant praise. Some people do this by singing hymns or in tongues. As we have seen, Columba linked our praise with the eternal praise being offered to the Trinity:

By the singing of hymns eagerly ringing out
by thousands of angels rejoicing in holy dances
and by the four living creatures full of eyes with the twenty four elders
casting their crowns under the feet of the Lamb of God
the Trinity is praised in eternal three-fold exchanges.
Columba Altus prosator

Second, we can respond to depression by praying over the depressed person within us. Talk to it, and cherish it, be gentle towards it and give it a treat. Let the love of Jesus come to your depressed inner being.

Put oil or water on your face and repeat this prayer:

I will bathe my face
In the nine rays of the sun
As Mary washed her Son
In the rich fermented milk.

Now place your hand over your heart and pray:

The love that Mary gave to her one Son
May all the world give me.
The love that Jesus gave to John the Baptist
Grant that I give to whoever meets me.
Both prayers are from the Carmina Gadelica

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26th May

A Promise To Pray From Heaven

The Lord told Isaiah to go back to King Hezekiah and say to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears …. I will let you live fifteen years longer. 2 Kings 20:4-6

God extended Hezekiah’s life as a result of his prayers. Some early Irish Christians asked their beloved saint Moninna to pray that her life would be extended, too. But in her case God had something else in mind.

Moninna was one of the earliest saints of Ireland about whom we have reliable information. She was a contemplative linked to a community, and much loved by her own people throughout the region. When they learned that she was on her death-bed, the local rulers and many others gathered round, and appealed to the local bishop to give this message to her: ‘We appeal to you as those who are linked to you by blood and by the spirit, that you will give just one more year of your earthly presence with us. For we know that God will give you whatever you ask. In fact any of us who has a slave girl will set her free to the Lord, and every man employed as a fighting man will give away a cow in its prime in exchange for your life.’

Moninna gave these good folk the following reply through the bishop: ‘May God bless you for bothering yourselves with my weak self. If you had asked before yesterday I would have granted your request. But from today I cannot do so. You see, the apostles Peter and Paul have been sent to guide my soul to heaven and they are here with me now. I see them holding a kind of cloth with marvellous gold and artwork. I must go with them to my Lord who sent them. God hears your prayers. He will give a life to one of you. I pray God’s blessing on your wives, children, and homes; I leave you my badger skin coat and my garden tools. I have no doubt that if you carry these with you when enemies attack God will deliver you. Do not be sad at my leaving you. For I truly believe that Christ, with whom I now go to stay, will give you whatever I ask of Him in heaven no less than when I prayed to Him on earth’

Saviour and Friend,
may I leave this life with my loved ones around me.
May I leave this life united with your dear ones in heaven.
May I leave this life with oil and with gladness.
May I leave this life in order to give more blessings.

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25th May


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

We came from Palestine to one of the Abbas in Egypt, who gave us generous hospitality. So we asked him: ‘When the monks in Palestine give hospitality to visitors they keep to their own Rule of fasting; why don’t you do that?’ The Abba gave us this reply: ‘I am always fasting, but I can’t keep you here always. Although fasting is useful and necessary, it is a matter of my personal choice. But whether I show love to you is not a question of choice, it is the law of God. So, to receive Christ in you I must be fully present to you, and be sharing with you. When I have sent you on your way I can take up fasting again.’ The Abba also quoted the words of Jesus: ‘The friends and family of a bridegroom do not fast while he is with them; they wait until he has left before they fast.’
Cassian. Desert Sayings

We saw a stranger yesterday
We put food in the eating place
Drink in the drinking place
Music in the listening place
And with the sacred name of the triune God
He blessed us and our house
Our cattle and our dear ones.
As the lark says in her song:
Often, often, often goes the Christ
In the stranger’s guise.
A Celtic rune of hospitality

Bless, O Lord, the food we eat
and if there be any poor creature
hungry or thirsty walking along the road
send them into us that we can share the food with them
just as you share your gifts with all of us.
From an Irish grace collected by Mount Melleray Monastery, Ireland

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24th May

Respect For All

Respect all people. 1 Peter 2:17

Leaders from Scotland, England and Ireland assembled at a great convention on the plains of Birr in 697 and accepted the Law of Adamnan which guaranteed protection of women, children and other civilians.

Adamnan, whom we remember today, was born into the same royal family as Columba. Abbot of Iona, diplomat, writer, peacemaker, he was respected for his wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures, and near the end of his life he achieved this major advance in social justice.

His mother Ronnat first turned his thoughts towards the plight of women in the seventh century. Then he received divine guidance to make ‘a law in Ireland and Britain for the sake of the mother of each one, because a mother has borne each one, and for the sake of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.’

This law protected women from offences ranging from murder and rape to impugning the good name of a married woman. Penalties were exacted and fines had to be paid to the communities established by Columba which were known to be honest.

This Law came to be known as Cain Adamnain or The Law of the Innocents. The attitude that fuelled this legislation was expressed thus: ‘…great is the sin when anyone kills the one who is mother and sister to Christ’s mother.’ What a contrast to the horrific descriptions of women in war in those days: ‘On one side of her she would carry her bag of provisions, on the other her babe … her husband behind her flogging her on to battle … for at that time it was the head of a woman or her two breasts which were taken as trophies.’

High King, Creator of all
Remind us that every human life is sacred
whether it belongs to a woman in a war-torn land
or to a handicapped person next door
to an unborn infant or a terminally ill patient.
Remind us that whatever a person’s age, race or creed
each individual has been made in your likeness
and Christ has given his all for them.
This makes them precious in your sight.

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23rd May

Stand Firm

…people will stumble and fall, but we will rise and stand firm. Psalm 20:8

Columbanus and his monks made their weary way to the courts of several kings as they travelled north, stopping for a time by the shores of Lake Zurich, which was under the jurisdiction of their friend, King Theodobert. There they established a community. which was to grow into the Swiss town of Bregenz.

Columbanus made a long journey south to pass on some prophetic words to King Theodobert: ‘You will lose your life and your soul unless you become a monk now’ he told him; ‘if you do not do this voluntarily you will be made to do it against your will’. Sadly, Theodobert disregarded Columbanus’ advice His army was completely destroyed in battle; he was taken captive and forced to wear a monk’s habit as a sign of submission. This defeat meant that Theodobert’s lands returned to the jurisdiction of relatives who were hostile to Columbanus, so he said farewell to his monks, and moved on to Italy accompanied by just a small band of brothers, one of whom, Gall, they left behind on the way. The Lombard King and Queen welcomed him, and they built their last monastery at Bobbio. There he died on 23 November, 615.

After his death the sternness of Columbanus’ original Rule gave way to the gentler system of Benedict. This may have been what was needed over the long term, but tough times call for tough measures, and the Celtic monks had been called to a task tougher even than breaking virgin ground – they had to win back lost territory. Only people with an overmastering faith could have seen why it was worth doing. Only men who trained their bodies to stand up to unbelievable physical hardships, and their souls to battle through seemingly impossible situations, could have survived.

We can learn this key lesson from Columbanus: he trained his team to depend upon God alone. They were not put off their calling by the way other people treated them, however harsh. They used the spiritual armoury of prophetic direction, and faith directed mission so that they overcame all things in Christ’s power, and stood firm in all circumstances.

Toughen me , Lord.
Give me a heart of love
but a backbone of steel

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