The Aidan Way

It is St. Aidan's Week. On Sunday 31 the Bishop of Lindisfarne, John Arnold, an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, will preach at St. Mary's Church amid guest musicians.

'Aidan of Lindisfarne: Irish Flame Warms a New World' is launched. This historical novel with extensive historical notes has taken ten years to write. A friend read an advance copy in one sitting - she was entranced by the story. I hope that is a harbinger of things to come.

It became clear during my recent visit to USA that Hispanics, Anglos and descendants of slaves who were evangelised by their slave owners all inherit defective models of mission. Mission was mixed with imperial ways. What we call The Aidan Way is vital in all these spheres. I concluded my talk on 'The Spirit of Early Irish Monks' at last week's summer school in Ireland as follows:

Perhaps the Irish monastic who illustrates the gentle listening and befriending approach to mission better than any is Aidan. He refused to ride a horse the king offered him, which would have put him above the people. He dressed in simple woollen clothes as did the peasants and he walked among them. He taught all his monks to do the same, to greet each person they met and listen to their story. Only then, if invited, did they share their own greatest story ever told. Moreover, he gave all donations they received to the poor, without strings attached, or he purchased a slave his freedom at the slave market.

The importance of this model was brought home to me earlier this month when I witnessed the life vows of six members of The Community of Aidan and Hilda in the USA. We met at Madonna House, the retreat centre of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico. A devout member of staff, with mixed Hispanic and Indian blood, told me how the Spanish converted the Native Americans. Franciscans arrived, she said, with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other, and told the savages, as they called them, that they must renounce their beliefs and accept the true God.

We were invited to an American Indian Pueblo. We learned how the Anglos had treated them in a similar fashion. We learned about the civil war over African slaves. Many of the African Americans had been evangelised through their slave owners. They had preached the Gospel but promoted slavery. Robert Beckford, a black theologian and presenter in a TV series on the History of Christianity, confessed that although he was a committed Christian he had never had a model of Christianity he could be wholehearted about, since he had inherited the faith through forbears who had been evangelised by their slave-owners. As a result of the TV programme on the Irish monastic model as it was applied on Lindisfarne he now felt complete.

Posted at 23:03pm on 28th August 2014
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