Sunday, November 15, 2009

Listmania for Celtic Spirituality

I confess I love reading books, holding they in my hands, and learning new things. And no doubt, this “bookish” aspect, is one which drew me to study in Britain. Like many, perhaps even you, I frequently browse on Amazon for used books and also peek at the lists (Listmania) of books other readers suggests on a given topic. It’s also a great way to see what others are reading. That gave me the idea to provide my own list of suggested books on Celtic Christianity for the blog.

I am not an expert in Celtic thought by any means, and have been seriously reading it for ten years. I was first introduced to Celtic Christianity while at New College, University of Edinburgh in the late 1980's. I am grateful to my own denomination, the Celtic Catholic Church, for introducing me to a fascinating tradition and providing me with an excellent historical and spiritual foundation, and holding my feet to the fire to read books on Celtic history and spirituality. Along the way, I got connected with some really cool authors and great books. Here I provide ten titles that any serious student of Celtic Christianity would do well to read and purchase. Yes, my math is OK, I just could not find a photo cover for the first entry listed, hence only nine book covers are shown. My favorites change as I read new books, but these books listed below are "old faithfuls" and ones I return to repeatedly. Focus your attention on these, and you will be well on your way to becoming a Celtic Monk, like me. And don’t forget also to look on ebay and Abebooks for cheap second hand books.

An Introduction to Celtic Christianity, 1989, James P. Mackey. A collection of interesting essays perhaps the most important being the ones on Celtic Christianity, Saint Patrick, Pelagius, and Celtic Art and Scriptures. Sometimes hard to find, but eventually found for sale on ebay.

Carmena Gadelica, 1992, Alexander Carmichael. Originally in six large volumes, this is a collection of Highland Prayers, Hymns, and Incantations from the 19th century. The books helps one to understand the Celtic use of prayer in everyday events, from rising to sleeping. Our version of The Book of Common Prayer.

Celtic Christian Communities, 2000, Ian Bradley. Bradley, a theologian at the University of St. Andrews, does his best to dispel any romantic notions of Celtic Spirituality (such as if there were a break away Celtic Church or that it is the answer all for every problem). By contrast, the stress on monasticism, worship, and pilgrimage is something which can revive the church in the world today.

Celtic Spirituality, 1999, Oliver Davies. Perhaps the best starting point for any student of Celtic Christianity. Part of the Series, The Classics of Western Spirituality. An excellent and readable introduction to the main Celtic “sources” including hagiography, monastic texts, poetry, devotional texts, liturgy, exegesis and theology. Also useful is Celtic Christian Spirituality, 1995, by Oliver Davies, a younger version of the above.

Celtic Theology, 2000, Thomas O’Loughlin. I was lucky enough to find this on ebay for $5. This is the most “theological” of the books listed and is not an easy read. Some theological background and interest in history, is required. Surveys tough issues such as the Penitentials, Adomnan of Iona, Muirchu, and the Stowe Missal.

One Foot in Eden, 1999, J. Philip Newell. Newell’s readable books convey both the wonder and power found in Celtic thought. Poet, theologian, and a former warden of Iona Abbey. Some interesting discussion on Pelagius. For more on Newell, check out his website linked here.

The Celtic Way of Evangelism, 2000, George Hunter III. I love this book because it is so practical. The Celts were not irovy towers thinkers. How were the Celts able to convert a pagan Europe? This book will tell you. Live and learn amongst the pagans themselves. Learn to speak their language, and get to know their thought forms. The church would do well to follow this message as it is now immersed in a predominantly pagan culture.

The Quest of the Three Abbots, 1968, Brendan Lehane. The book covers “the golden age” of Celtic Christianity in the lives of Brendan, Columba and Columbanus, three “wanders of Christ” who traveled to America, Iona, and Europe. An incredibly well written and enlightening book. One of the best.

Exploring Celtic Spirituality, 2004, Ray Simpson. Written by the former warden of Lindisfarne. This book provides a Celtic blueprint for the church today. Provides a unique blending of background information, but also very practical lessons as to how the Celtic tradition can be implemented. A study guide is included with exercises, follow up suggestions, Bible study for both individuals and groups.

The Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, 2006, Ed Sellner. Another excellent starting point for the beginner. Sellner’s beautifully illustrated book (filled with wonderful maps and pictures) contains perhaps the best short introduction to Celtic thought I have read. The first 60 pages are fantastic, and the prolegomena for Celtic studies.

Enjoy and happy reading!

1 comment:

  1. Books are the best way to learn more. I think we can learn a little from internet but books give more details and I think we can trust more a book than many blogs...