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Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, a Vision of Hope

by Timothy J. Joyce

Buy the book: Timothy J. Joyce. Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, a Vision of Hope

Release Date: March, 1998

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Timothy J. Joyce. Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, a Vision of Hope

Lots of History, But...

The cover blurb of this short book by an American Benedictine monk promises Celtic Spirituality "introduces a mysterious and extraordinary spiritual world (that) developed among the Celtic peoples sixteen centuries ago." Fr. Timothy's book tells something of pre-Christian and early-Christian Celtic social structure, customs and worldview and provides a few examples of Celtic prayers. But this book is primarily the HISTORY (i.e., names, dates, administrative structure) of Christian institutions in Celtic lands and not an exploration of Celtic Christian beliefs and practice or, more specifically, how those beliefs and practices shaped the Celtic people before they came under Norman and English domination.

Fr. Timothy emphasizes that Ireland was the only early-Christian culture in Western Europe never controlled by the Roman Empire. The Celtic Church, while strictly Trinitarian in belief, celebrated God's gifts of nature and humanity in a relatively non-legalistic manner. Then he recounts the history of the Roman church eventually dominating the native Irish, until the 1840s Potato Famine horror destroyed both the economy and any remaining traditional Celtic social structure and laid mid-Nineteenth Century legalistic, conservative, hierarchical Roman Catholicism over impoverished, dysfunctional Irish families. Fr. Timothy asserts the result, today's image of "Irish Catholic", is a foreign, inauthentic Irish Christianity far removed from its Celtic roots.

All of that may be true and interesting, but I finished the book still not knowing exactly what Celtic Christianity is and how, other than making pilgrimages to contemporary retreat centers scattered through Ireland and Britain, one might pursue modern day Celtic spirituality.

Although Ireland's lack of Roman domination is mentioned several times and Fr. Timothy mentions Eastern Orthodox Christianity in passing a couple of times, his Roman Catholic-centered world view never lets him, if you'll allow me a newly popular but already overused phrase, connect the dots. Since St. Patrick and his peers brought Christianity to the Celts at a time, around 400 AD, when all Christians were still "Orthodox" and other books demonstrate direct connections between the Celtic Church and the Eastern Christian monasteries of the Desert Fathers, it seems logical to conclude that Celtic Christianity was the local version of what still lives on as Eastern Orthodoxy.

There is a fairly long bibliography (virtually all for books published in the 1990s) and a list of organizations sponsoring Celtic retreats, revival, etc. (although not a single Internet address is provided). A few black and white photo reproductions are unremarkable.

I enjoyed reading Celtic Spirituality, and recommend it as a short history of Christian Church administration in Celtic cultures but feel one needs to look elsewhere to learn more about Celtic (Orthodox) Christianity itself.

From Amazon.com

Celtic Christianity, A Sacred Tradition, a Vision of Hope.

A gentle & interesting book for those exploring Celtic &/or Irish roots, & history. It provides valuable insights into understanding and recognising the Celtic traits and spirituality within us. A worthwhile read for Catholics, who, like myself, sometimes wonder! Definitely worth a second read (or more)!

From Amazon.com

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