Sister Bridget has done a remarkable job researching and bringing to life the reality behind the myths about the lives and accomplishments of these strong women who shed the roles they were born into and helped shape the Celtic religious beliefs for Pagans and Christians alike. Bridget Mary Meehan has shown me the Catholic religion can change and grow to allow women their rightful place in history. I hope women (and men) will read this book and realize the incredible importance women had in the development of religion in the Celtic world and take pride in these strong women who attained equal footing for all time.
...At age 76, I'm getting too old and set in my ways to deal with a fresh, sparky book like this by a couple of women who apparently couldn't care less what some male out of the past might think of them. The authors are celtic holy women themselves, no doubt about it. (Pronounce that kel-tic" -- unless they play basketball.) The celtic women inside the book turn out to be some twenty-one legendary, mostly celibate, holy characters too, often associated with one of the sacred wells that bubble in that part of the world by the thousands.
In the book wonder-filled legends are recounted unapologetically: you can make of them what you like. Into the mix go accounts of what happened on their own trip to the shrines. For people who want to make the pilgrimage that Bridget and Regina made, or want to do so through their private prayers, a lovely ritual is provided in each chapter. Then come discussion questions. A nice job, testifying to immense enthusiasm judiciously salted by the courageous conviction of women's full equality with men. Equality or better.
We might personally disdain "superstition" when we encounter it in ancient societies, but I would guess that the mentality that produced it is healthy. Our world is well described as magical in many aspects. Science has its superstitions too. Almost every scientist believes in the Big Bang, but what actually happened 4000 million years ago made no bang (there was no air) and was exceedingly small (expanding from a minute beginning). The thousands of "holy wells" in Ireland are considered awesome for the same reason as is the Big Bang. It's something wonderful, and no one seems to understand how it happened. Both seem the voice of the Divine..
The companion authors are women Religious, Meehan being the best known. She is surely a writer after my own heart. She has written and published 19 books by various small publishers, so, like myself, she obviously doesn't give up easily. Trying to get my lifeguard certificate at summer camp, a counselor fished me out coughing up water and said: "You passed, you passed," though I knew I hadn't. That's the trick for people like Bridget and me: never say die, even when you're restless heart is choking on great dreams. If St. Peter tries to detour her from heaven, he's in trouble.
This beautiful new book is a paperback for a hefty price, but you'll love the color plates that justify the expense. Who can blame a feminist for wanting her heroines to look their best? A beautiful Mary shines out from the Book of Kells. (The Blessed Mother once visited Ireland, you know.) St. Non glows from a flashy stain glass window -- as does "Brigit" herself. You even get a color view of Bantry Bay in Cork where St. Cannera hung out in "a small hermitage" back in the sixth century. You may ask, how do you get through the day as a solitary lady in the sixth century? My guess is you don't. You may call yourself a hermit, but there had to be a crew of a dozen people who brought food, washed linen, emptied the trash, walked the dog and brought you the news, not to mention someone to say Mass, lead the singing of hymns, and hear the confession of sins - if there are any. For Cannera's sake, I hope there were at least a few. Her life story suggests as much.
On the book's cover there's a lady Excellency leaning on her crosier, wearing a red halo around her head, and carrying a bible face up in her arm like she's selling it door-to-door. I don't find her identified in the book but I suppose she's Bishop Bridget. She looks dangerous, like someone who would ordain a woman priest in a heartbeat. She's definitely someone to look out for.
Should we not honor the Faithful Departed? In so-called primitive societies the people often felt the presence of their ancestors, and why not? Both physics and evolutionary theory insist that nothing in creation is ever destroyed but merely changed, so why should something as undeniably real and unique as a celtic holy woman - or ourselves, for that matter -- cease to exist? That would be an evolutionary anomaly.
So perhaps at last - with books like this to help us -- moderns will catch up to primitive societies and learn to live in an awareness of ancestors around us, welcoming into the present all the holy women and men, our departed parents, for instance, who had so much to do with who we are. My Irish cousin-in-law once walked me to a holy well near her home in County Down, a place she frequently goes to pray. There she talks to her departed husband, agonizing mostly, she says, because of "the awful silence." I was touched. None of us can do religion or science without our imaginations to help deal with the impenetrable mysteries on all sides. Books like this one ease an otherwise awful silence. Good work. #