Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Five Celtic Christianity books: Number 1: How the Irish Saved Civilization

I was recently asked "what are the top five books on Celtic Spirituality?" Great question and let me try to answer that question. I've had a day to think this over, so let roll out my top five (drum roll please.....)!

My number one book on Celtic Spirituality is Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization" (1995).  That may come as a surprise to some so let me explain why I've ranked it as my number one. It's at the top of my list because the book does an amazing job pulling together all the main themes of Celtic Spirituality; the history, the key players, the spirituality, and then does a bang up job telling the story is a fascinating and interesting way. And all in 200 or so pages which read like a historical novel.

And there's more! The surprise of "How the Irish Saved Civilization" is that in a remote part of the world (Ireland), a group of monks kept alive the great traditions of the Greeks, Romans, Church fathers and pagan humanists. So while the rest of Europe was wallowing in what we call now the Dark Ages, the Celtic monks kept aflame a great tradition of learning by translating and copying important pieces of literature, philosophy, and theology.

"It is hard to believe" wrote Sir Kenneth Clark, "that for quite a long time-almost a hundred years-western Christianity survived by clinging to place like Skellig Michael, a pinnacle of rock eighteen miles from the Irish coast, rising seven hundred feet out of the sea" (pg.2).

There is of course, more to the story. The life of St. Patrick and his writings against slavery; the Celtic monasteries where monks could marry and women could be Bishops. And there are many parallels with the state and health of the church today.

This is an amazing story and you can find the book almost anywhere at book sales, libraries and on Amazon for pennies.

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