Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blog interview with Ed Sellner

Today, we are pleased to spend a few moments with a leading American writer and scholar of Celtic Spirituality, Ed Sellner, who is a professor of Theology at St. Catherine's University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Ed has written ten books on different aspects of theology and spirituality. I've read several of Ed's books-they are excellent-and already reviewed one on this blog. They are an excellent starting point for anyone interested in learning something about Celtic Spirituality. As stated earlier, the first fifty-four pages of Wisdom of the Celtic Saints (2006), is the clearest and most succient introduction to Celtic Christianity ever. I won't say much about Finding the Monk Within (2008) which I reveiwed earlier on the blog, except to go out and buy it.

I've also had the pleasure of knowning Ed for five years, and consider him a friend. He's been to Hawaii twice, and led a one day workshop on Celtic Spirituality at St. Andrew's Cathedral here in Honolulu. We spoke today over the phone, sipped coffee, caught up with each other's lives, and in between, I slipped in a few questions.

How did you get interested in Celtic Spirituality?
"Funny but I was raised without any awareness of my Irish ancestoral background. It was through my interest in JFK and in attending the University of Notre Dame, where I took some classes on spirituality, that I became aware of the Celtic notion of soul friendship. I eventually did a Ph.d on the concept of penance, and included many references to the soulfriend. As I moved into teaching, my interest increased, and I continued my research. My early books were on the subject of mentoring, and included Soulmaking (1991), Father and Son (1995), and Mentoring (2002). As I continued to teach, and travel to Ireland, I also visited the holy and historic sites such as Iona and Lindisfarne. This sparked a deeper interest in the Celtic notion of the soulfriend. The result was a 600 page manuscript which I had a hard time trying to publish. The reason was, it was actually two books in one. At the suggestion of my wife, I split it into two, and this resulted in The Celtic Soul Friend (2002), and Stories of the Celtic Soul Friend (2003)".

Who is your favorite Celtic saint?
"That's a good question. Well, as I first think of it, I am reminded of the Celtic trinity of saints, Patrick, Bridit of Kildare, and Columcille. However, my favorite Celtic saint is Cuthbert. I recall reading Bede's Ecclesiastic History at a difficult time of my life. I identified with how Bede depicted Cuthbert. At that time, I was doing lots of administrative work both at the University and with some Church community programs. Cuthbert desired to be a hermit, and have a more quiet and focused life, and moved to Farne Island, off the coast of Lindisfarne. Cuthbert's example resonated with me, and as a result I gave up many of my administrative duties to focus on my writing and teaching. It was the right move".

Who are some of your favorite authors?
"I would have to say there are three. The first is Esther deWaal, who has written some excellent books on the Celtic idea of prayer. Next would be Donald Allchin, who became a mentor to me, while I was studying and doing research at the University of Oxford. His book on Welsh spirituality is terrific! Third, I'd have to say Benedicta Ward, who was a tutor for me when I was at Oxford. She wrote an excellent  book on St. Cuthbert, and The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (2003)".

What books are you working on now?
"I've been working on a book called The Double. The book focuses on the spirituality of male relationships such as father to son, brother to brother, and friend to friend. I do so in a historical sense, and it begins with the Gilgamesh epic and goes through the Twentieth Century, ending with Jack Kerouac. Some examples of chapters include the relationship of St. Augustine with his son, Adodatus, who died at the young age of seventeen. I'm excited about this, as very little has been written about this relationship. There is also a chapter on Aelred of Rievaulx, that great Cistercian monk, where I discuss his notion of spiritual friendship, and it's implications for today.  I also have the benefit of coming to these topics as both a father and son".

Thanks Ed, for your time, and we look forward to The Double hitting the bookshops. If you'd like to contact Ed, you can find him on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. How fun for you to get to interview him, Fr. Andrew. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us. Sellner is one of my favorite of the various authors on Celtic Christianity. Some of them I can't stand at all, but he often has something really good to say.