Since returning from Iona, I’ve had Celtic spirituality on the mind.
And what better season to explore Celtic spirituality, really, than in Eastertide? The Christian stream of this ancient way of encountering the Divine highlights the life-giving themes of Easter through its emphasis on experiencing God through creation (the living example of death and renewal) and prepares us for the season of Ordinary Time to come by focusing on the sacredness of everyday life.
If you’d like to learn more about Celtic spirituality, here are 7 books to get you started from my very own bookshelf:
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue
“John Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for ‘soul friend,’ the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death.”
A national treasure in Ireland! It seemed like they had his books in every bookstore.
Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong by John O’Donohue
“There is a divine restlessness in the human heart, our eternal echo of longing that lives deep within us and never lets us settle for what we have or where we are.In this exquisitely crafted and inspirational book, John O’Donohue explores the most basic of human desires—the desire to belong, a desire that constantly draws us toward new possibilities of self-discovery, friendship, and creativity.”
Another favorite by John O’Donohue: To Bless the Space Between Us.
Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell
“Listening for the Heartbeat of God presents a spirituality for today, modeled on the vital characteristics of Celtic spirituality throughout the centuries, with an emphasis on the goodness of creation and of humanity made in the image of God.”
My first introduction to Celtic spirituality.
The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality by John Philip Newell
“By the author of Celtic Prayers from Iona In Celtic tradition, the “Book of Creation” is where we “read” what the Creator has said to us. J. Philip Newell here reflects on the seven days of creation in Genesis, using them as a guide to the practice of Celtic spirituality. Each day explores a different aspect of creation as a manifestation of God, revealing divine presence at the heart of everyday life.”
With meditations and prayers for each chapter.
The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination by Esther DeWaal
“Esther de Waal, one of Celtic Christianity’s preeminent scholars, shows how this tradition of worship draws on both the pre-Christian past and on the fullness of the Gospel. It is also an enlightening glimpse at the history, folklore, and liturgy of the Celtic people. De Waal introduces readers to monastic prayer and praise (the foundation stone of Celtic Christianity), early Irish litanies, medieval Welsh praise poems, and the wealth of blessings derived from an oral tradition that made prayer a part of daily life. Through this invigorating book, readers enter a world in which ritual and rhythm, nature and seasons, images and symbols play an essential role. A welcome contrast to modern worship, Celtic prayer is liberating and, like a living spring, forever fresh.”
Still on my to-read list, but highly recommended by many.
“Celtic Daily Prayer is the fruit of the spiritual life of a remarkable community. Its liturgies, prayers, and meditations are drawn from a deep well of spiritual experience that transcends fashion, culture, and denomination. Blending prayer and praise and building upon the ancient wisdom of traditional Celtic Christianity, this prayer book is extraordinarily fresh. At the heart of the life of the Northumbria Community, as well as this book, lies the Daily Office—morning, noon, and evening prayers and a monthly cycle of meditations for individual or communal use each day. With words drawn from sources such as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, Teresa’s Bookmark, Columba’s Blessing, and the Psalms, this cycle of daily prayers reflects the essential rhythms of life.”
My first prayer book and exposure to the Daily Office—a perfect initiation, if you ask me!
“This collection of Celtic writings brings alive the language and images of the Celtic tradition. The basic theme is that of celebrating the seasons of life: the wonder of creation, New Year, Easter, Harvest, the daily toil, being alone with God, baptism, marriage, family, reconciliation and peace. Pat Robson also outlines the history of Celtic Christianity, and offers short biographies of those who influenced the growth of Celtic spirituality, from St Anthony to King Arthur.”
Bought this while on Iona this past March. My favorite part? The biographies of Celtic saints.
Water, Wind, Earth & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements by Christine Valters Paintner
“Organized around “The Canticle of the Creatures” by St. Francis of Assisi, Water, Wind, Earth, and Fire is the first book to consider the ways in which praying with the natural elements can enliven Christian spiritual life. Teacher, artist, and Benedictine oblate Christine Valters Paintner offers concrete suggestions and guided contemplative exercises; for instance, she suggests that readers take time to ‘watch the sunrise or sunset and breathe in the beauty of the fiery sky. Contemplate what those beginnings and endings have to say in your own life.’ Readers benefit from Paintner’s extensive training in theology and Benedictine spirituality, as well as her unique work in bringing the expressive arts to spiritual direction.”
It’s not explicitly Celtic, but it follows the Celtic tradition of encountering God through nature, and it’s obvious that Christine is inspired by Celtic spirituality in all she does. Learn more about her pilgrimages and online courses at abbeyofthearts.com.