Saints’ Bridge

Celts to the Creche 

A Celtic Advent Devotional 2017

An Advent Pilgrimage with Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Saints 

Advent Begins December 3, 2017

Virgin Mary with Infant Jesus from the Book of Kells. Trinity College, Dublin

              Virgin Mary with Infant Jesus from the Book of Kells. Trinity College, Dublin

The early Celtic monks would get into their little leather boats called coracles, paddle out to the sea, pull their oars into the boat, and pray, “Spirit, blow me to my place of Resurrection.” Wherever they landed, was to be the place chosen by the Spirit where they would live, share the Gospel, and experience their future Day of Resurrection at the end of their life.  In our sacred imagination, let us jump into our little coracle and ask the Spirit to blow us to places we never dreamed or imagined as we journey together with the Celts to the Creche, where Christ is born anew in our lives this holy season.

Blow, Spirit, Blow 

Leather Coracle. photo from boats

A Celtic Prayer for Pilgrimage

God be with us at each stop and each sea;

At each lying down and each rising up;

In the trough of the waves;

On the crest of the billows;

Each step of the journey we take.

4 Responses to Saints’ Bridge

  1. Greetings from the far exurbs of Washington, D.C. I’m also a Brendan scholar and would love to share a piece I wrote titled “St. Brendan’s Influence on American History” Please write back if you’re interested. God bless you and your necessary work!

    • Yes, please send your work on St. Brendan and American History-sounds very interesting. I will read it.

      • My interest in St. Brendan began in the 80s. In 1984, I began plotting a sequel, of sorts, to the navigator’s story, with the working title The Legend of Josh Brendan. It remains an unfinished work, among many others, but when I find the right collaborators I do foresee it on the widescreen (in our living rooms, as an epic miniseries) later this decade.

        The cinematography begins on the summit of Cnoc Bréanainn, where the saint himself climbed “to see the Americas, before setting sail for them.” Through the mists he sees the promise of a new land, and immediately knows the Lord is calling him there. And then Josh Brendan awakens from his dream. It’s 1986, and he’s all of 13. His father’s side of the family claims a direct link within the saint’s lineage. His mother is skeptical. But Josh is the true descendant. He is a visionary who sees the new land with even greater clarity than his forebear. Stay tuned.

        My fascination with Brendan also extends to his influence on American history, beginning with Columbus. Here are five of the most persuasive quotes, from various sources:

        “Navigatio Brendani … was well known to Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella when they were planning the 1492 voyage.”

        “Columbus used the story as proof for Queen Isabella to finance his journey.”

        “Queen Isabella had her transcribers copy the book The Travels of St. Brendan, prior to [Columbus’s] first voyage to the New World.”

        “Columbus may well have had the old account of St. Brendan in the back of his mind when he set sail for the West.”

        “Fact or fantasy, the Navigatio had incalculable impact on the great Euro­pean voyages of discovery—including that of Columbus.” [National Geographic].

        And so I imagine Christopher Columbus as a child, hearing tales of Brendan, dreaming of his own voyages, perhaps. Navigatio may also have bolstered his growing conviction there was a western route to the far East.

        Additionally, Navigatio could easily have contributed to Columbus’s mental image of the (round) world. It contradicted the prevailing superstition of “Ne Plus Ultra” (“there is nothing more beyond [the Atlantic],” a warning to sailors). Columbus’s passionate belief in “Plus Ultra” — which later became (and to this day remains) Spain’s national motto — could have been his conviction from a very early age, sparked by Navigatio.

        I therefore believe we have St. Brendan to thank, at least in part, for Plus Ultra, a meme that is nearly synonymous with American history, and which continues to change the world.

        So here’s the question I invite you to consider: If Brendan had never been born, how might it have affected American history? Would the last 520 years have been the same had our sixth century patron never ascended the “cnoc” that now bears his name?

      • Thank you John for this 21st century look at Brendan. Yes, life on planet earth might have looked different if he had not been born and became a navigator.

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