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St Patrick and Answering the Call ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

A Blessing for Coming Home*

Godde of Homecomings,
our lives are a pilgrimage journey
seeking the discovery of home in the world.
We travel, not in straight lines,
but in circles and spirals, revisiting old patterns
and ways of being that need healing,
trusting in life’s unfinished nature,
but also our deep desires of the heart calling us
to re-orient ourselves again and again.
Magnify our vision
so that each journey we make leads
to expanded growth and wisdom.
Help us to continue to dive into
the refreshing river of life,
allowing the current to carry us closer to you.
Carve out in us a space for both grief and joy,
so we may meet life with eyes and heart wide open.
Remind us of the ancient pilgrims we travel with,
seeking an experience of you beyond boundaries
drawing us closer to our own wild edges.
Those moments when we do arrive home,
give us the deep rest we desire,
where we remember your presence in all that we do.

Dearest monks and artists,

Starting Tuesday, Simon de Voil and I will begin a 9-day virtual Celtic pilgrimage for the feast of Beltaine (May 1st) honoring Saints Colman, Sourney, and Patrick. 

Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and the most well-known of all the Irish saints. He was born in 390 either near England’s west coast or in Wales. When he was about sixteen years old, he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he lived as a slave for six years. He endured many hardships, including hunger, thirst, and cold under the rule of a cruel pagan king. 

It was during his enslavement, while spending long hours in solitude tending sheep, that he had a spiritual awakening. Through the prompting of dreams and other voices, Patrick was able to escape and return back home again. He set out for Gaul to learn theology and prepare himself for his future ministry. After many years passed, he had another dream in which he heard the Irish people calling out to him to return to the land of his enslavement. 

Patrick’s name actually means “one who frees hostages,” and when he returned to Ireland, he was very vocal in his opposition to slavery. 

He returned there in 432 and spent the rest of his life preaching the message of Christianity and helping to establish the Christian Church in Ireland. There is a great deal of evidence that Patrick was not the one to bring Christianity to Ireland, that it had already begun to flower, but certainly he was key in its continued growth.

I find his story intriguing. Here was a man enslaved, who escaped by divine intervention, and then heard the call to return to the land of his slavery—and he went willingly. He must have experienced more than his share of discomfort at the thought. 

There are churches founded by Patrick in the area around Galway. One of my favorite sites is Inchagoill island on Lough Corrib, just a few miles north of us. The name of the place means “island of the stranger.” The island is now uninhabited, but there is a stone church at the site where Patrick’s fifth-century wooden church would have been, as well as a marker stone where his nephew and navigator is buried; it is one of the oldest Christian markers we have. There is a later twelfth-century church nearby as well. We visit this church as part of our virtual pilgrimage

Seeking out this “strangeness” and “exile” was at the heart of the monastic call. In going to the places that make us feel uncomfortable and staying with our experience rather than running away, they cracked themselves open to receive the Spirit in new ways. 

But in this seeking out of strangeness and risk, one does long for a sense of protection or safety within the arms of the divine. St. Patrick’s well-known lorica prayer was one type of prayer to invoke this protection and a reminder of the sacred presence always with us already.

If you’d like to dive deeper into the spiritual wisdom of the Celtic saints, please join us for our virtual pilgrimage starting Tuesday! 

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Dancing Monk Icon © Marcy Hall

*Pilgrimage Blessing by Christine Valters Paintner from our Soul of a Pilgrim prayer cycle

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