Thursday, November 6, 2014

Number 3: An Introduction to Celtic Christianity

Book number three on the top five books on Celtic Christianity is "An Introduction to Celtic Christianity".

I have to admit it, that I only bought this book because I studied with several of the authors when I was a divinity student at New College, University of Edinburgh-some nostalgia yes!  I recall Dr. James Mackey and Fr. Noel O'Donoghue lecturing on Celtic Christianity back in the late 1980's but honestly did not appreciate their efforts at the time. And FYI, the book is a festschrift in honor of Fr. Noel, who lectured for many years at New College, and was the embodiment of the Celtic monk/scholar. 

That being said, I am very glad to have purchased this book and to have read this fine but choppy work on Celtic Christianity. Several essays in the work stand out for me, including; Professor Mackey, "Is There A Celtic Christianity?"; R.P. Hanson, "The Mission of St. Patrick"; Noel O'Donoghue, "St. Patrick's Breastplate"; M. Nicolson, "Celtic Theology: Pelagius". These essays are worth the price of the book alone and provide wonderful overviews and footholds for the aspiring Celtic student.

A major strength of the book is in the effortless way it transports the reader to the past, and provides one with the tastes, smells, and noises of the Celtic world. As I finished the book, I felt like I do with most good books that I have read. Something in me had been touched and changed, and I felt like I knew and appreciated the Celtic point of view in a new and different way.

One piece of information I found in the book which was particularly fascinating to me and had never encountered before. In the essay on Pelagius, the writer commented that Pelagius's emphasis on the importance of good works, and striving to live a good life, resulted in the founding of new schools, monasteries, and churches throughout Europe. In a sense, it was "Catholic guilt" which caused people to leave the comforts of their own homes, and to build something greater and more significant. And for that the world is a better place. So perhaps some guilt every now and then is not so bad after all! And what a contrast to the lazy, spineless, mindless  "brands" of Christianity one sees advertised on the radio and television. 

A difficult, challenging and satisfying book. Fr. Noel would be proud of the essays included in this work!

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