In 1898, six-hundred future Irish priests gathered at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Ireland and sang, “We gather in the name of Columba…" Saint Columba’s life, over a thousand years prior, was such an inspiration that this group of six-hundred Irishmen gathered in hopes of honoring and following Columba’s spiritual legacy. Not only was Columba an inspiration to these 19th-century Irish priests, but he has been an exalted saint for over a thousand years and continues to a be beloved spiritual icon today. Celtic spirituality is beautiful in the ways that journeying, poetry, and community fluidly converge with one another.
My favorite practice at the very heart of Celtic spirituality is journeying. The dangerous and beautiful landscapes of the British islands have shaped and inspired the Celtic spiritual journey for centuries. This was especially true in Columba’s untamed territories in Ireland and Scotland, where distinct forms of spirituality developed as a result of journeying without the luxuries of the paved roads of the Roman Empire. Journeying through the vast wildernesses of Ireland and Scotland contributed heavily to the temperament of Celtic spirituality. There is a fierce and primal experience to venturing into the unknown with a passion for connecting with God. Perhaps you've experienced "venturing into the unknown" on a retreat or during a hiking trip.
This type of journey is what some refer to as “passionate wandering.” Passionate wandering captivates our imagination, expands the environment around us, and leaves us only with the sound of our footsteps and nature’s elements.
It is active poetry.
From Saint Patrick in the 4th century to Columba in the 6th, Celtic spirituality had an indigenous quality in part due to the unstructured nature of tribes and clans. This included a form of temporary asceticism in which a person would practice prayer and penance while isolated in the wilderness. Columba took part in the most extreme form of journeying through his self-exile from his homeland. Whether “passionate wandering” determined one’s entire life through self-exile or simply through a period of temporary isolation, the concept of journeying with God is at the very core of Celtic spirituality. The passion of Celtic spirituality not only inspires women and men to venture into the unknown but also to sing and write about these encounters with God and nature. Poetry, prayers, and songs were the natural result of the transformative experiences of passionate wandering within the Celtic tradition.
In today's fast-paced society, is there still a place for Celtic spirituality? Have you ever experienced "passionate wandering?" What would it look like to be a passionate wanderer today?