Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Smells, Bells and the Book of Kells

Recently, there has been an interest in Celtic Culture spurred on by the Titanic and Braveheart movies and we have the influence of Celts in popular music and the Christian church too. There are numerous "Celtic worship" CD's available (I have several) and for a time, the sure way to score a hit on top 40 radio was to include the plaintive wail of the penny whistle with much reverb added, or the bleating sound of warm air being squeezed from a sheep's bladder under the armpit of a Scotsman. There have even been recent popular Christian books written describing early Celtic Christianity as innovative and vibrant and thoroughly distinct from the Roman Church.

My question is this? Was Celtic Christianity as spread to Ireland by St. Patrick (under authority of Pope Celestine who sent him) truly similar to American evangelical Christianity?
Meaning non-sacramental, independent , and with the Blessed Virgin relegated to a reading in Luke 1 around Christmas time?

The Book of Kells is one of the most famous books in the history of the world and was completed in about 800 AD but may have been started 1-200 hundred years before. It was written in Latin, not to confuse the Celts, but because Latin was the language of scholars in all cultures and therefore was truly a universal way of communicating the written word. The Mass in Latin has been derided as a way of keeping the common man from understanding the gospels, but the reality is it is the language of Roman Culture which at one time ruled the entire ancient world.

The manuscript contains transcriptions of the four Gospels, lavishly illustrated and ornamented. It is the most elaborate manuscript of its kind to survive from the early Middle Ages and most Celtic iconography derives its inspiration from its pages.

The scribes and artists who created the Book were Columban monks who lived in a monastery on the remote island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. The monastery was founded late in the sixth century by an Irish monk, St Colm Cille.

At the time the book was produced, Irish monks were renowned throughout the rest of Europe for their work as scribes and illustrators. These Irish monks practiced a monastic life but participated in the sacraments of the Church including the Blessed Sacrament as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Interestingly, when missionaries from the continent came to Ireland, private confession was taken back to the rest of the Catholic Church and was instituted by Rome as the way to receive the sacrament. Prior to this confession and reconciliation was a public affair and the penitents had to confess their sins in front of the entire Church and the penance given often tooks months to perform! (Ouch!) Remembering of course, doing penance is not for the forgiveness of sins, only Jesus can forgive sins through the priest. Penance is making restitution for the temporal consequences of your sin, but I digress.

My main point was that Celtic Christianity was thoroughly Catholic in doctrine though there were definitely some variances which the Church corrected (See my last post)
The photo above is from the Book of Kells. Needless to say, they understood the role of Mary in salvation history. So the next time you hear the plaintive wail of the Northumbrian pipes and your heart waxes warm towards those good old days of Celtic Christianity, remember it was always smells (incense), bells (rung during the Consecration), and the Book of Kells (Gospels)!


Blogger NotMyOpinion30 said...

I, like alot of people who have visted Ireland, have seen the Book of Kells. It's in Trinity College, Dublin.

It amazes me how quickly Catholicism spread throughout the world, despite the persecutions of the Romans and the Jews and the attacks of the territorial attacks of the barbarians. It is so well documented.

January 13, 2007 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

One thing I've found interesting in my reading is that when they changed the language of the Mass from Greek to Latin, which was the "vernacular" of its time, it caused as much an uproar as anything post-Vatican II.

January 13, 2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I recently heard of a book attempts to make the point that Roman Catholicism stunted the growth of Christianity after St. Patrick died. My reading of history doesn't tell me this and the Celtic Church was Catholic in doctrine and practice and ultimately as the Synod ofWhitby shows, was submitted to Rome.

January 13, 2007 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there are two extremes when it comes to the Celtic church, as you rightly point out there are protestants who want to see it as a proto-protestant church which is clearly not true historically. However I believe the gap between the Celtic Church and the Roman church is bigger than you suggest. I would say that with the notable exception of some monastic orders from Constantine on the Roman church basically assumed a Christendom model which assumed whole populations were Christians and at times forced them to be, the Celtic church did seem to work with more of missiological understanding of the nature of the church. I think the Roman church also was wedded to conformity to its ways and the Celtic church more open to contextual diversity.
James Pettigrew

January 13, 2007 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What, then, more evil can be thought about the Mother Church than if we say 'Rome errs, Jerusalem errs, Alexandria errs, Antioch errs, the whole world errs; the Irish and British alone know what is right?
St. Cummian

January 14, 2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger Danny Garland Jr. said...

Good post! One thing to notice is that many Irish monks after St. Patrick traveled to Rome and other places and taught in monasteries and schools. This wouldn't have happened if Celtic Christianity was different from Rome. Where there was errors, Rome corrected them as you pointed out, and the Irish monks became great defenders of the Faith!

Celtic Christianity=Catholic Christianity!

January 15, 2007 8:17 AM  

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