A Birthing In Ireland?

Banners in the languages of Cornish, Manx, Breton, Welsh, Scottish and Irish brightened the opening event of the Pan Celtic Festival at Dingle. The organisers most generously allowed our, mainly English-speaking group, to contribute to the programme. A coach-load of Welsh-speakers joined the Wednesday pilgrimage led by Mairt Hanley, a new Explorer and Dingle's Church of Ireland minister. We visited three ancient monastic sites, including the Gallerus Oratory, and returned along the Dingle Way by the shore. I contributed meditations. The much loved Msg Padrai O'Fiannachta enthused us with Irish and Welsh bardic literature. He has turned the defunct convent into The Diseart, a cultural and spirituality centre which draws many USA students to its programmes. On Friday several of us gave talks on Celtic spirituality. And on Saturday the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick, formerly leader of the Corrymeela Community, led us in discussion about new monastic expressions of Christianity. This was timely in view of the crisis affecting the Roman Catholic Church. |

Dominick, a Pentecostal-style pastor who has opened a centre named My Father's House brought some singers. He told Mairt that God is bringing something to birth. Mairt invited me to tell the story of The Community of Aidan and Hilda, and to introduce us in a service which will be broadcast. Mairt has gifts as a lecturer, archeologist and friend which will unfold. As I relinquish my tasks my thoughts turn to the development of our studies programmes. Could there be a link with places such as the Diseart - maybe a summer school? Fr Jim Sheahy leads a pilgrimage to Northumbria next month.

The service will be broadcast at 10.45 on June 20 by RTE Radio 1 Extra, long wave 252 and can be downloaded from its web site for seven days after that. In case you forget - here is the message.

I come as a pilgrim walking the saints ways of Dingle. I bring you greetings from And's outpost in England, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where Saint Aidan went from boyhood beside the Shannon to manhood beside the Saxon. Aidan was a bishop, but he refused to put on airs or abuse the trust the people placed in him. If he was given money by fat cats who wanted to buy influence, he gave it to the poor and carried on as before. When he was given a royal horse to speed up his mission, he gave it to a beggar and continued to walk everywhere. Aidan was a great walker. He was one of those many Irish pilgrims for the love of God who for ever left their beloved homeland and lay down their lives to make another people great - in Aidan's case that the unruly, barbaric English might learn the gentle ways of Christ.

That was a long time ago, yet Aidan's example, almost forgotten by his own people, has inspired a modern movement of spiritual seekers across the world. What an extra-ordinary thing that this should happen at the very time when people, disappointed by failings in organised religion, put their trust in the Celtic Tiger and during the boom years we fell in love with the things money could buy. But it could not last. And deep down we knew that we could not take those material things with us when we die. That is why people are asking 'Where do we head for now? We don't want to go back into a closed box nor fall off a ladder of plastic gold'

Columbanus thought of people as guests of the world. Why don't we make this global village our home and earth our friend, and let our feet follow our heart until we find places of resurrection? That is what those who follow our Community's Way of Life, along with many others, seek to do. Columbanus also advised that as we walk the world we hold a book in each hand: in one, the book of Scripture, in the other, the Book of Nature. If we comb through the Bible we find pearls which are like love letters from God. Why don't we store these love letters in our hearts so that they inspire our every step? If we become still and truly present to nature, star and stone beckon to us, and we learn to flow like water, soar like birds and run like deer. Those who follow our Way of Life make a daily practice of learning in these ways. Dingle will host sporting races of running, cycling, swimming and kayacking. We encourage people also to be Athletes of the Spirit.

At Bangor monastery, where Columbanus trained, they taught that a person with a soul friend, an anamchara, is like a human being without a head. So we, along with ever growing numbers, invite a soul friend who is an Athlete of the Spirit to accompany us on our journey - someone with whom we can be ourselves and entrust our deepest thoughts.

We had a reading about a prophet named Elijah who went into a desert place and listened to God. Elijah actually started a school of people who learned to listen to God. Listening is almost a lost art, so we are trying to develop groups who learn to listen to God. If you would like to be one of them, please contact me through our Community of Aidan and Hilda web site. The New Testament reading described how Jesus sorted out someone who felt a hundred voices were tearing him apart. I know that feeling, too. The hubbub of soundbites and adverts, invitations and advice and expectations within and without - how do I choose the right way? We pledge to create spaces of silence as well as work, play as well as duties so that we develop a good life rhythm, with time to think.

I have spoken to priests in the last few days. 'We have got to learn to let go' said one - then there's no knowing what new thing God will do. When we modern people make our promises to let go of our own control and let the divine spirit deep within lead us, we have a little ceremony. We call it Making the Voyage of the Coracle. We read a piece from the Voyage of Saint Brendan, who set out in his coracle within sight of this church. I have witnessed young and old people Make their Voyage of the Coracle in places as varied as the Australian outback and a Norwegian fjiord. When they have pledged to leave behind all that holds them back from following the call, we say words like these to them, and we extend them to you, today:

God is calling you to leave behind everything that stops you setting sail in the ocean of God's love. If you have heard the call of the Wild Goose, the untameable Spirit of God: be ready for the Spirit to lead you into wild, windy or well-worn places in the knowledge that God will help you restore a weakened church to its mission a fragmented world to its wholeness

Posted at 04:45am on 12th April 2010
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