There must be something about being green—just look around! But beyond the shamrocks and harps can we, using a slightly green lens, explore how Celtic Christianity Spirituality is echoed in Pope Francis' Laudato Si’ encyclical?
Doing some web searching I found a paper by Kevin Vaughn titled: The Imagination of Interconnection: Laudato Si’ and Celtic Christianity. Dated 2018.
Vaughn describes the interconnectivity we share with all Christians over the centuries as well as today. Reading the paper, we learn how our religious imagination, rooted in prayer, helps us to grasp these interconnections and to celebrate them.
Most of you have seen the movie THE TWO POPES. In the film are very believable conversations between the actors playing the parts of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Although these conversations are not based on recorded transcripts of real conversations, the director took the words of each Pope and then imagined what such a conversation would be like. The result is compelling.
So, can we imagine today what a conversation between Pope Francis and St. Patrick might be like? As a setting: Picture a site in Ireland- a field of heather, a rushing stream, a misty morning, a howling wind, the smell of flowers or a damp bog. And Francis asks Patrick, “Could all this have anything to do with why you returned to Ireland after you had escaped slavery. Or was it the people of God that drew you back? Or was it both?”
Patrick pauses and Francis continues. “Did most of the people REALLY recognize and revere the Divine Spark in every creature as your analogy of the shamrock and the Holy Trinity could imply? “And Patrick responds, “Ah now Francis, would you believe it was like the people were waiting to learn about the Blessed Trinity?”
Analogies from nature and daily life about 3 in 1 permeated Celtic art and verse. There was the triad knot, and they had a saying 3 joints-one finger. So, the shamrock was ready made to use for teaching the 3 in 1 God, Father, Son and Spirit.
“And Francis, the Celts valued and practiced hospitality, they were able to welcome the Good News of Christ as expanding not contradicting their beliefs.” Francis asks, “Patrick, what were their liturgies like that the Irish came to love the celebration of the Mass—the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist?”
Patrick answers “The Celts like all ancient cultures had an aching longing for the Spiritual to fill the emptiness that is felt by every human person.” The Irish heard the Message of Christ and the gift of Christ’s sacraments. Because they accepted this gift of Faith, they were able let it take them from their pre-existing connections to the spiritual to the sacred.
Patrick then asks, “Francis, have you heard of the Thin Places where the veil between Heaven and earth is so thin that to be there, in a thin place, is to get a glimpse of Heaven?” Well, let’s go back to pre-Christian Ireland. Because they had no creation story as such, they believed all lives, natural and spiritual were intertwined; never beginning-never ending. Can you see how this belief opened the way for them to see the Eucharistic Liturgy as a thin place? A glimpse of the eternal glory of God.
Do you see Francis, it was the ability of the Irish people to keep what they loved in their liturgies. Light, fire, water, song, dance, ashes, processions and to use them in worship of the One True God they were coming to know.
I know this is true of many other cultures but for today, I remember how my Mother lit the Blessed Candles at the first streak of lightning; how about bringing flowers to Mary in the month of May?
“One more thing Francis. Your letter to the world, Laudato Si’ proclaims the same Good News of Jesus Christ. You are right in saying that humanity has forgotten its interrelatedness with the rest of creation. We are all—you and me and all of God’s people to spread the Good News that God desires only good for all of the earth. God’s beautiful and mysterious universe is meant to be home for all of God’s creatures. We are created to share in its beauty for a short time and then pass it on to the next generations.
Francis, there are many people throughout the world who do hear your words. They are using their time here on earth to teach that Justice and Peace are the birthright of all people. Stay the course, Francis. All life is beautiful…all life is green so…we say Up Kerry, and Up Sparkill and Carry forth…It’s a great, great day.”
– Sister Bridget Kiniry, OP
A resident of Dominican Convent, Sister Bridget is a preacher and
coordinator of the Days for Girls program there.