What is Celtic spirituality?

Sr. Louise Zdunich

YOUR QUESTIONS

October 20, 2014

QuestionMy family and I went to listen to the McDade family playing Celtic music. I understand there is a Celtic spirituality, as well. What is Celtic spirituality, and does it conflict with the teaching of the Catholic Church?

 


AnswerCeltic practices existed at a time when there was much less uniformity in different parts of Christendom. But Celtic refers to practices which were not separate from the Catholic Church. Some commentators suggest a pre-Protestant stance against the Catholic Church. Modern scholars find this idea questionable.

The origins of Celtic spirituality and practices are not completely clear to historians. Twentieth-century Celts were influenced by the 18th-century Romantic movement which idolized the Celts as a primitive spiritual people, as well as by the Irish literary revival of the 20th century.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, New Age groups claimed the movement is similar to their spirituality. Today, identification with Celtic spiritually is widespread in Ireland.

At the end of the sixth century, Augustine of Canterbury was sent to Britain and Ireland to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity but he met with resistance. When Patrick arrived later, he set up diocesan structures with bishops, priests and deacons.

Some practices differed from the European Church. One was the date of Easter, a difference which was resolved.

Other practices were accepted and adopted. The form for Confession was adopted by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) which also added the requirement of Confession at least once a year. According to the historian Bede (c. 673-735), there was a variance in baptismal practices with the general Roman rite which was resolved.

There have been revivals of Celtic spirituality periodically throughout history. This spirituality emphasized the idea of a bond between creation and divinity. The Celtic Breastplate depicted the power of protection in the symbols of a triad and circle showing a strong devotion to the Trinity.

In addition, mentors, healers, dancers and storytellers, symbols of light and darkness, as well as the relationship with nature were reflected in Celts' later devotion to the saints.

Another view of Celtic spirituality's origin is with a barbarian tribal group from the British Isles who conquered much of Europe and spread their spiritual customs. This view led to the belief that it is from these Celts that the present-day movement emerged.

GOD IN THE ORDINARY

Today, we hear of Celtic practices and they seem to be a valuable form of spirituality. With Celts, we find the presence of God in the ordinary. The Celts prayed during everyday tasks and let God enter their lives. We, too, can bring God into our work day by interior prayer at any time as we go about our lives.

The Celts were strongly influenced by the "other world" which was evident in their devotion to the angels and saints who were looked upon as guardians. We can do the same.

Most important for the Celts was to become fully aware of the wonders of creation. We can do the same by noticing and admiring flowers, the sunset or the sound of the wind, and detecting God's message in them but often, confined to the four walls of our offices, we miss God's gifts in nature.

BEARING OUR CROSSES

In time of suffering, we can look at the cross and receive Christ's courage to bear our crosses. An interesting way to do this would be to cut out a cross and write our life's joys and sorrows on it. Then examining our lives written on the cross, we can offer them to Christ.

The Celts' love of learning can be an example for us to grow in our spirituality though study and reading. It's easy in a busy life to forget about this necessary aspect.

The Celts valued silence and solitude which came naturally in their rural lifestyle. We, too, can remember to turn inward to God's presence when commuting to work or going for a walk or doing other tasks.

It is good to see the Celtic singers on TV with a big cross in the background. They are an inspiration as they show their joy in their faith to the world.

(Other questions? Email: zdunich@telus.net)