This little book on the Celtic Saints was first written as a guidebook for the pilgrim visiting the Celtic Saints Garden in Co. Donegal. This guidebook has now been adapted to comprise a short selection of favourite Celtic saints , at home and abroad , along with prayers inspired by them; their spirituality, endeavours for the faith and personal expressions of Christianity during the Golden Age of Celtic Spirituality and missionary outreach.
Fr Neal Carlin founded the Columba Community for Prayer and Reconciliation in Derry in 1981. He is now based at the Iosas Centre in Co. Donegal. He lives in Co. Donegal.
Two pieces of Church history have always inspired me. One is the Acts of the Apostles, in which is detailed the faith, courage and community lifestyle that existed among the early Christians. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-47). What an image of shared new life in Christ our Saviour!
The other is the Golden Age of Ireland (fifth , twelfth century) when hundreds of saints built small church communities, giving place names to Irelands townlands and villages. They also evangelised and revitalised Britain and the rest of Europe. They brought the light of the living Lord and dispelled the Dark Ages that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire.
We present these brief facts of the saints lives and prayers with a two-fold purpose: to honour the men and women of Irelands Golden Age and thus glorify God; and to renew interest in the characteristics of Celtic Spirituality, so that we, using them as our model, will be renewed.
Today the churches in Ireland need to present the treasures of the faith in Christ Jesus in a way that will give life to our people, young and old. We need new wine skins to present the new wine of the Spirit of Love, Truth and Joy. We need renewed structures to simply present the fullness of Christ and his message. The Lord is building new, authentic Christian communities.
Our own Columba Community, founded in 1981 and built on the charisms of Columba (Colmcille), is an example of a modern Christian community of prayer and reconciliation. In such communities the spirit and teachings of Vatican II documents are being implemented in a very real way. This model of Church, which allows for lay participation and is open to respond to the needs of our age in apostolic ways, certainly requires the attention of anyone seeking to live a full Christian life. If we are to have the credibility, accountability and confidence of the searching people, it would seem that alternative systems of governance, like the ones that Columba and his contemporaries had, are required. This booklet calls us to listen to the Word of God and to obey it radically as did our predecessor, Patrick. God chose to call Patrick to come back and walk once more among us. He started a fire of the Holy Spirit at Slane that burned brightly through the land. His fire was carried by men and women throughout the Continent, the known world at that time.
The Columba Community has been blessed by God. We now have four apostolic centres, including the Celtic Peace Garden. This community is modelled on the Acts of the Apostles and on the ancient Celtic monastic system. Yet because God is always doing a new thing, he spoke a fresh word to inspire this new foundation. This booklet on the Celtic Saints was first written as a guidebook for the pilgrim visiting the recently constructed Celtic Peace Garden on the Donegal/Derry border. Here the pilgrim is invited to walk the six-acre site around Ireland and rediscover our common Christian heritage. Here we offer the characteristics of those men and women of the Golden Age, an age that pre-dates Reformation and counter-Reformation structures and thinking. The love of nature, hospitality, community- centred (Muintearas), Scripture-centred spirituality and art of the Celtic mindset is attracting many visitors from all denominations to our Celtic Garden. Our DVD on the beautiful Celtic Garden and Walk with the Saints of Ireland is available for purchase (see contact details below).
May the Lord, through the lives and ideals promoted by our predecessors, inspire our people again, especially our searching youth so that they experience the light of Christ and become light-bearers in renewed Christian communities throughout this land. May he inspire you, the reader, to listen to his voice and lead you to rebuild his church as he did through Columba, and indeed St Francis.
Enjoy this booklet by reading it slowly and reflectively. May it inspire you to pray with scripture and to fall in love again with the One who loves you and all of us.
St Ita - 15 January
Born near Waterford City, c. ad 475, St Ita was baptised Deirdre.
It is said that St Brendan was a pupil of St Itas and that she told him of three things that were important and pleasing to God: True Faith, Simplicity of Life and Generosity of Spirit. Ita lived a life of austerity, and by fasting developed a great prayer life. The child Jesus appeared to her and she sang a lullaby to him. Ita formed a praying community at Kileedy, Co. Limerick, where many young people came to join her. She is known as the foster mother of the saints of Ireland.
Lord, we thank you for giving Ita the passionate love for you that allowed her to give up everything for you.
May your love put a zeal and a fire in our hearts as young people, so that we too may sing a new song to you; that we may be enthusiastic about life, filled with God, and not waste time with greed.
May we listen to you for our calling.