The Celtic Way of Prayer

The Celtic Way of Prayer

The third book I read this last week is The Celtic Way of Prayerby Esther de Waal. I have read this book a number of times over the last 10 years and never fail to gain fresh insights about the Celtic Christian movement and its lessons for us today.

This time I was particularly impacted by the comment:

They saw the world through eyes washed miraculously clear by continual spiritual exercise; they was with “rinsed eyes”. They was with such clarity because the seeing came out of contemplative vision (96).

This concept is one that I need reminding of time and again. Taking time to see the world, with contemplative vision so easily gets lost in the midst of busyness. Living in the present, being alive to the world around, totally listening to God, looking and listening for the sacred in the midst of every mundane act of the day, finding in the world in which we live the reflection of God’s invisible world, these are the things that I keep coming back to.

A couple of days ago in my post Am I Fully Recognized for What I am I wrote: for Celtic saints all of life was organized in light of spiritual realities. It was the same for the Trappist monks I wrote about yesterday. The centre of all things is meant to be the spiritual reality of our relationship to God. It is this that should control our time, our rhythm of life, our use of resources.

As I continue my journey this is the focus of my thoughts. The questions that keeps revolving in my mind is: What would it be life to give myself totally to God? How can I organize my time, my habits, my thoughts and actions to become instruments of spiritual formation? I hope that you will continue to walk the journey with me. And to guide me today I pray this prayer – one version of St Patrick’s prayer known as “the deer’s cry”

This day I call to me;

God’s strength to direct me,

God’s power to sustain me.

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s vision to light me,

God’s ear to my hearing,

God’s word to my speaking,

God’s hand to uphold me,

God’s pathway before me,

God’s shield to protect me,


In the Power of the Triune God

Celtic cross Mayne Island

One of the spiritual disciplines that is really helping during this season of my life is the writing of prayers. Celtic Christians believed that life was embraced on all sides by God and that God was present alongside, behind, before, above and below. They experienced God as guest, fellow traveller, friend, fellow worker, brother, companion and comforter. This has certainly been my experience over the last couple of weeks.

I hope that you enjoy this prayer I wrote a couple of days ago with these thoughts in mind.

I will enter this day

In the power of the triune One.

God of life,

Christ of love,

Spirit of guiding.

Ignite within me a fire of love,

Its flame in my heart for all to see.

Let it shine for neighbours

And be generous to strangers.

Let I express compassion for friends,

And show forgiveness to foes.

Let it reach the lowliest creatures that live

And exalt Christ’s name which is highest of all.

This day and every day

Triune God,

Creator of life,

Christ of love,

Spirit of guiding,

Ignite within me a fire of love.

You Are the Peace of All Things Calm – Another Celtic Prayer

Here is another beautiful Celtic prayer that I find relaxing and comproting.

Lord you are the calm.002

Celtic Retreat – Evening Liturgy

Here is the liturgy for the second session of the Celtic retreat. This was written by Ryan Marsh of Church of the Beloved. You might also like to check out the reflections that have already been written by participants following the retreat. Pinholes and Paradigms by Lisa San Martin and Where is Freedom and The Shout by Gil George.


Evening Gathering – Eucharist


Opening Responses

ONE: Peace on each one who comes in need

Peace on each one who comes in joy

TWO: Peace on each who offers prayers

Peace on each who offers song

THREE: Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Son

Peace of the Spirit, the Triune One

Song : Come Thou Fount

A New Song : Psalm 98

ONE: O sing to the Lord a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

His right hand and his holy arm

have gotten him victory.

TWO: The Lord has made known his victory;

he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness

to the house of Israel.

THREE: All the ends of the earth have seen

the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;

break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

ONE: Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,

with the lyre and the sound of melody.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

TWO: Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

the world and those who live in it.

Let the floods clap their hands;

let the hills sing together for joy

THREE: Sing in the presence of the Lord, for he is coming

to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

and the peoples with equity.

Set Sail: St. Brendan Meditation

ONE: St Brendan the Navigator set sail with a group of Monks from the Dingle peninsula in a small boat called a currach in search of the Isle of the Blessed. There are many spectacular myths and legends that surround their voyage. They are said to have visited the northern Isles of Scotland, the Faeroe islands, Iceland and eventually Newfoundland. Many years later they returned home with flora and fauna that was neither Irish, nor European. What we know for certain is that they drifted free at the mercy of the wind and the whim of the waves, in the will of God.

TWO: Picture yourself in the place of Brendan… staring across the ocean toward the horizon, the edge of your known world, into the unknown. Maybe there are distant lands across the sea, maybe there is nothing, only God knows! See yourself standing at the wooden jetty, in front of you a feeble looking boat, made of unseasoned wood and leather, smeared in animal grease to seal it from the waves. In the bottom of the craft there lies a roll of leather, there to patch the unavoidable leaks and tears. The boat continuously slams into the jetty bruising the leather as the swell of the great western ocean throws it around. Who knows, maybe the waves themselves are returning from those far off shores, shores which at this time are simply a glimpse of the possible, a dream of what might be out there beyond the horizon.

Deep inside you hear a call that says – “SET SAIL”,

THREE: A secret voice heard only in your heart, “SET SAIL INTO THE UNKNOWN”,

TWO: A stirring on the edge of the wind “SET SAIL INTO THE UNKNOWN, STEP OFF THE EDGE OF YOUR WORLD”,

ONE: An echo of stones dragged along the beach by the tide “SET SAIL INTO THE UNKNOWN, STEP OFF THE EDGE OF YOUR WORLD, COME WITH ME INTO MINE”

TWO: What are the moorings in your life? Not the things that frustrate you, but the things you hold on to. The comforts which you cling to, the insecurities which cloud your willingness to go into the unknown… to SET SAIL.

THREE: What are your dreams, the dreams which seem far too distant and unreachable. What are the visions you have that feel beyond your grasp, too vast? What are the big ideas which leave you stumped, no idea of how to even start. Strain for them, reach for them, go for them… SET SAIL.

TWO: What does it feel like to truly abandon the shore? To leave behind Models and Strategies, to ignore the speculation of Maps and Guides, to cut oneself adrift from techniques and practices, to place yourself beyond the horizon, no turning back? No clutching to tried and tested solutions or the words of experts, to put yourself solely in the hands of God… to SET SAIL.

ONE: Brendan put himself at the mercy of the wind, at the whim of the waves in the will of God. What would it mean to drift in the Missio Dei, the mission of God? What would it mean to go beyond the horizon of your own knowledge, experience and ideas, to put your faith in the beckoning Christ… what would it mean for you to really SET SAIL?

St. Brendan’s Prayer

TWO: Brendan left us with the prayer he prayed before setting sail. It’s a glimpse into the heart of faith.

Together, let us pray the prayer of St. Brendan,

Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home?

Shall I turn my back on my native land,

and turn my face towards the sea?

Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy,

without silver or horse, without fame or honor?

Shall I throw myself wholly upon You,

without sword and shield,

without food and drink,

without a bed to lie on?

Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?

Shall I pour out my heart to You,

confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness,

tears streaming down my cheeks?

Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach,

a record of my final prayer in my native land?

Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict?

Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean?

O King of the Glorious Heaven,

shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?

O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?

Dressing the Altar

THREE: We are ready to set sail. This morning we placed objects on the altar as symbols of that setting sail. But the day has taught us new things, given us new companions, stirred within us a new sense of the journey God calls us to. What are the new things you take with you today as preparation for the journey ahead? (Time to share – kids first, then youth, then adults)

Chant : All Things New


RYAN:  The Lord be with you

And also with you

RYAN: Lift up your hearts

We lift them up to the Lord

RYAN: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give God thanks and praise

RYAN: The day St. Brendan and the monks embarked, they set sail towards the summer solstice. They had a fair wind, and therefore no labour, only to keep the sails properly set; but after twelve days the wind fell to a dead calm, and they had to labour at the oars until their strength was nearly exhausted. Then St Brendan would encourage and exhort them: ‘Fear not, brothers, for our God will be unto us a helper, a mariner, and a pilot; take in the oars and helm, keep the sails set, and may God do unto us, His servants and His little vessel, as He wills’. They took refreshment always in the evening, and sometimes a wind sprung up; but they knew not from what point it blew, nor in what direction they were sailing.

So we do here tonight what those monks of St. Brendan did in the boat every evening of their long voyage. Like them, we need strength for the journey and God makes a table for us in every place.

So we do here tonight what Jesus did in an upstairs room… [Words of Institution]

Jesus promises to always travel with us, guides us, sustains us, surrounds us. Wild Wind of the Spirit, Come! And open our ears to your call. Come and open our eyes to your presence. Come and open our hearts to your love, So that we might surrender ourselves into your hands without fear, but with a simple trust, ready for all, accepting all, welcoming all. Here we are Lord, feed us and send us on. Amen.

Communion Song: My Hope Is Built

Sending Prayer

ONE: As we go we will not refuse any destination:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.

TWO: As we go we will embrace all that crosses our way:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.

THREE: As we go we will open our hearts to the good in all creation, despite our reservations:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.

ONE: As we go we will hold close to your Word and give all to you:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.

TWO: As we go we will not be bound by our weaknesses nor limited by our strengths:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.

THREE: As we go we will see each struggle as a place of learning:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.

ONE: As we go we will welcome any companion who wishes to journey with us:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.

TWO: As we go we will not predict or plan for rigid outcomes,

THREE: but will relish all of the surprises and take the greatest risks:

For wild blows the wind of the spirit.


RYAN: Bless to us, o God,

the moon rising above us

the Earth firm below us

the Friends gathered around us

and your image deep within us.


Sunday Morning Liturgy For Celtic Retreat

Wish I was at the Celtic retreat today where they will be finishing with this liturgy. I am heading home to Seattle from Sydney instead. Lots of memories, lots of tears, much to remember and think about.


Our annual Celtic retreat is over, one of the best we have ever had. Jeff Johnson’s beautiful chants and music are still with me as I unpack and prepare for the coming week. Those of us who stayed through the weekend finished out time together with this liturgy.

As this day begins Christ be with us,

Be in our hearts and in our minds,

Be in our souls and in our spirits,

Be in our thoughts and in our desires.

As this day begins Christ walk beside us,

Show us the love only you can give,

Show us the light only you can provide,

Show us the wholeness only you can reveal.

As this day begins Christ surround us,

Circle us with your presence,

Keep protection near and danger far,

Bring us the assurance of your love.

Pause for a time of silent reflection on the glory of God.


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Walking is For Naming

Iona pilgrims - Sarah Bingham

While I sat beside my mother lost week I read to her from the book In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands. She loved the story of Iona and Columba often asking me to keep reading even after my voice was hoarse and I wanted to stop.

One reflection from the book really stood out for me.

Everything on Iona has a name. each physical feature of the island has been part of a specific human experience and therefore thought worthy of bearing a name….

These many names are a testimony to the human scale of life on Iona. As the scale of physical size diminishes as one travels to the island-England, Scotland, Mull, Iona-the scale of individuals and spiritual significance increases. Walking is the maximum desirable speed for seeing things fully enough to name them. And when we name things we begin to value them. No wonder we want to be named and known. (37)

To really see and fully enter into the world around us we must walk not run or drive. And when we walk we want to name everything and everyone.  We say hello to the people we meet, we look at the flowers and mention them by name, we watch the birds and identify the species. We even like to give our own names to landmarks we pass and houses we enjoy.

To give something an appropriate name that reflects its nature, we must be able to see it fully. To continue appreciating it we need to slow down and notice, not once but regularly. Only in walking or in stillness is this possible.


The High Crosses of Ireland

As many of you already know, while I am in Australia with my Mum, the rest of Mustard Seed Associates are getting ready for our annual Celtic retreat. We have a number of Celtic crosses we use for this event, all based on these High Crosses, so I thought I would post this as a respite to the journey I am living out here.

High Crosses or Celtic Crosses as they are also known, are found throughout Ireland (and Scotland) on old monastic sites. Along with the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow, these High Crosses are Irelands biggest contribution to Western European Art of the Middle Ages. Some were probably used as meeting points for religious ceremonies and others were used to mark boundaries. The earliest crosses in Ireland were made of wood and metal and probably much smaller than the great stone monuments we see today. It was generally accepted that the Western Ossory group were amongst the earliest examples of High Crosses to be found in Ireland. Their design imitates the wood and metal crosses before them; but a recent study suggests they may not be 8th century but possibly mid 9th century. These crosses are found within a few miles of each other at Kilkieran, Kilree, Killamery and the finest examples at Ahenny. The majority of scriptural crosses are also believed to have been erected around the 9th century and there are several local groupings: the North Leinster group includes Kells, Monasterboice and Duleek; the Midlands group includes Clonmacnois and Durrow; and another distinct group of granite High Crosses are those of the Barrow valley that includes Castledermot, Graiguenamanagh, Moone and Ullard.

To find out more and for links to information about individual crosses check out The HIgh Crosses of IrelandOr for a slide show of some of the high crosses click here

A Celtic Blessing

Highlands-Wade 007

May the blessing of Light be on you
Light without and light within,
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
And warm your heart till it glows like
A great peat fire, so that the stranger
May come and warm himself at it,
And also a friend.
And may the light shine out of the two eyes of you,
Like a candle set in two windows of a house,
Bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.

Raindrops on leaf

And may the blessing of the Rain be on you
The soft sweet rain. May it fall upon your spirit
So that all the little flowers may spring up,
And shed their sweetness on the air.
And may the blessing of the Great Rains be on
You, may they beat upon your spirit
And wash it fair and clean,
And leave there many a shining pool
Where the blue of heaven shines,
And sometimes a star.

Walking on the beach

And may the blessing of the Earth be on you
The great round earth; may you ever have
A kindly greeting for them you pass
As you’re going along the roads.
May the earth be soft under you when you rest upon it,
Tired at the end of the day,
And may it rest easy over you when,
At the last, you lay out under it;
May it rest so lightly over you,
That your soul may be out from under it quickly,
And up, and off, and on its way to God.

I was sent this blessing a few days ago – not sure where it comes from though. If you can help I would appreciate you letting me know

Columba’s last prayer

St Columba

St Columba – Bishop’s House Iona

I just came across this beautiful prayer which was supposedly written by St Columba on his deathbed in the community of Iona (which he founded) in 597. So enriching and a wonderful reminder of the importance of peace and unity. Enjoy!

See that you be at peace among yourselves, my children, and love one another.

Follow the example of good men of old, and God will comfort you and help you,

both in this world and in the world which is to come.

Still Listening to the Celtic Saints

Brendan's voyage

I am starting to get ready for this year’s Celtic retreat at the site of the future Mustard Seed Village. This is one of my sacred spaces, a thin place where heaven always seems but a breath away. This year’s theme is Celebrating the Newness. There are many new things emerging in MSA and new things that God is giving birth to within all of us. We want to celebrate and encourage this newness.

I am working with Ryan Marsh of Church of the Beloved to put our program together. He has wonderfully creative ideas of how to use the voyage of St Brendan in our retreat. I am delighted with the fresh new approach and what is emerging. Tomorrow I will meet with Kendra Long and chat about how to incorporate the same themes into the children’s program. We also hope to initiate a new program for youth this year. What began as a gathering for half a dozen people in the Camano State park over 20 years ago has become the central gathering event for Mustard Seed Associates.

This may be our 22nd retreat but there is a newness and freshness to what is emerging that I am really excited about. It’s time to sign up if you want to take advantage of the early bird special. I hope that you can join us.

In getting ready for my meetings with those helping to develop the program I came across this beautiful prayer that was written by Jennifer Parker Reeves at a retreat I conducted on Learning from the Celtic Saints a few years ago. I thought that some of you would appreciate it.

Christ around me, Christ within me
Spirit in my soul, Spirit in my mind.
God my Father, God my mother, in my body, in my life
In my rushing, in my anger, my impatience and my pride
God is with me, offering mercy, peace, trust and love.
Stillness, stillness, I choose stillness.
The presence of my God is here.
In that stillness, find my center
I see who I was made to be.
Hope grace, Lord have mercy.
Next time I rush, call me back to center.
When I get angry, call me to confession.
When my pride dictates my movements
remind me of your grace once more.
Stillness, stillness, I choose stillness
The presece of my God is here.