A bit of history

What is a monastic order? Vocation Network summarises it really well –

“SINCE THE CALL of the first disciples, some followers of Jesus have sought a different way to live their faith. In the early church groups of widows gathered to dedicate themselves to prayer and good works. Others craved solitary prayer, so they fled to the desert to commune with God and guide others in the pursuit of holiness. Monasteries, cloisters, and religious houses eventually came into being, and religious life as we know it began to take shape. 

Consecrated life—in its diverse expressions around the globe—is a gift to the church and world. Its prayer lifts the entire church. Likewise, good works and the pursuit of justice shape society to more closely resemble the reign of God. A life of chastity, poverty, and obedience gives powerful witness to faith in Jesus without a word being uttered.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, religious communities of men and women rise up, serve a purpose, thrive, and live on or come to an end. This ebb and flow has occurred for 2,000 years and will continue for millennia to come as new members around the world take vows and join their lives to communities to live out the gospel in radical ways.”

Christianity first came to Celtic Britain in the 2nd century during the Roman occupation, probably through individual converts in the army. But only developed its distinctive elements

after the Romans withdrew from Britain. Roman Christianity tended to be authoritarian, hierarchical, male dominated, rational, legalistic, with a need for control and uniformity and an approach to governance rooted in the Roman Empire.  The Celtic church however, recognised the sacredness of all creation, enjoyed mysticism and poetry, deeply respected the feminine, including women in its leadership and allowed clerical marriages.

If you are a history buff then here are some links that summarise the development of Monasticism

Time line of monastic orders through history

Monastic overview

This can all feel a bit heavy but we are not looking to be ascetics! Disciplined maybe, but valuing the spirit, soul and body equally, hopefully providing a helpful framework for living in the fullness of life that Jesus gives us.

Ychydig o hanes

Beth yw urdd fynachaidd? Mae ‘Vocation Network’ yn crynhoi’r peth yn dda:

“SINCE THE CALL of the first disciples, some followers of Jesus have sought a different way to live their faith. In the early church groups of widows gathered to dedicate themselves to prayer and good works. Others craved solitary prayer, so they fled to the desert to commune with God and guide others in the pursuit of holiness. Monasteries, cloisters, and religious houses eventually came into being, and religious life as we know it began to take shape. 

Consecrated life—in its diverse expressions around the globe—is a gift to the church and world. Its prayer lifts the entire church. Likewise, good works and the pursuit of justice shape society to more closely resemble the reign of God. A life of chastity, poverty, and obedience gives powerful witness to faith in Jesus without a word being uttered.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, religious communities of men and women rise up, serve a purpose, thrive, and live on or come to an end. This ebb and flow has occurred for 2,000 years and will continue for millennia to come as new members around the world take vows and join their lives to communities to live out the gospel in radical ways.”

Daeth Gristnogaeth i Brydain Geltaidd gyntaf oll yn ystod meddiannaeth y Rhufeiniaid yn yr 2ail ganrif, fwy na thebyg trwy unigolion yn y fyddin oedd wedi cael troedigaeth. Ond datblygodd ei elfennau unigryw ar ôl i’r Rhufeiniaid adael Prydain. Tueddiad i fod yn awdurdodaidd, hierarchaidd, yn wrywaidd, rhesymol, deddfol, gyda’r angen i reoli a bod yn unffurf oedd Gristnogaeth Rufeinig, gydag agwedd wedi ei wreiddio yn yr Ymerodraeth tuag at lywodraethu. Roedd yr Eglwys Geltaidd, fodd bynnag, yn cydnabod y cysegredig yn y greadigaeth i gyd, yn mwynhau cyfriniaeth a barddoniaeth, yn dangos parch mawr tuag at y benywaidd, yn cynnwys merched yn arweinyddiaeth yr eglwys ac yn caniatau i glerigwyr briodi.

Os oes diddordeb mewn hanes gennych, yna dyma ddoleni sydd yn crynhoi hanes datblygiad Mynachaeth.

Time line of monastic orders through history Llinell amser urddau mynachaidd trwy hanes

Monastic overviewTrosolwg o fynachaeth

Gall hyn i gyd deimlo’n drwm iawn ond nid chwilio am bobl i fod yn asgetigion ydym! Disgybledig o bosibl, ond hefyd yn gwerthfawrogi corff, enaid ac ysbryd yn gyfartal, ac yn gobeithio darparu fframwaith fydd o help i fyw cyfanrwydd y bywyd y mae Iesu yn ei roi inni.

St.David by Karen Lowe

He hadn’t signed up for this, the people
were desperate to hear him, touch him,
meet him, but they couldn’t even see him
through the throng, who were one push,
and shove, and punch, away from riot.

Praise be for miracles!

The ground, the earth, rose up beneath
St. David’s feet, lifting him much higher
than the crowd, but like a dodgy lift on
a bad day, this miracle got stuck between
ground floor, and heavenly encounter.

Desperate days, called for desperate,
Tom Jones inspired measures, as
un-deterred, the crowd ripped off
their clothes, throwing down shirts
and britches, tunics, knickers, and
last stitches, to build a mound of rags
so that they too, could see and hear
their saint, above the roar of the
noisy excited, streaking crowd.

Now for the practicalities, the mound
wasn’t very wide, it didn’t need to be
as St. David lived simply on garlic
and on water. Yet recently he had
prayed most earnestly for a heavenly
dispensation, from the earthly shame,
indignity, of a drop dead case of
death-breath halitosis.

Yet undeterred, St. David stood, proud
trooper, like a heron on one leg, trying
not to twitch, as the lice, bed bugs, and
mice, from the pile of lousy clothing
abandoned ship to him – for the record
it was his shortest sermon ever.
Did he in this instance, consider that his
life message- ‘do the small things’
might have been seriously overrated?’

Monastic Values

Cyfeillion-friends has no structure or hierarchy, it is simply relational, open ended, no set goal, but sharing values and following the Holy Spirit on a journey – it is a peregrination in and of itself. This is not an exclusively female order, but open to male, female, single, and married people, the key point is that you respond to Jesus.

So what are the values that inform the lifestyle? Some of the values that we aim to live by are summed up in the 3 precepts

Friends of God (Cyfeillion Duw)
Friends of the Poor (Cyfeillion y Tlawd)
Friends of Creation (Friends of Creation (Cyfeillion y Greadigaeth)

Words like devotion, honour, honesty, simplicity, hospitality, generosity and healthy boundaries are important in teasing out what it all looks like. Some of the phrases we will expand upon include –

Friends of God
Living in the Holy Spirit, the ‘love bond between the Father and Son’ [1]
Honour Him with integrity, not insisting on our own way
Allow what brings you joy to shape your life
Devotion expressed creatively through lifestyle and the arts

Friends of the Poor
Care for the poor, marginalised, sick, vulnerable, excluded
Walking with the wounded to discover who they were made to be and live it

Friends of Creation
Be generous and hospitable with healthy boundaries on our relationships, promoting wellbeing
Enjoying the beauty of, and enhancing, God’s creation
No separation between earth and heaven – making room for the Kingdom of God by willingly co-operating with the Holy Spirit.

We are hoping to find new language, borrow some and rephrase some of the stories of older saints so that they find a resonance with today.


[1] A phrase accredited to Augustine and Richard of St Victor – Amos Young Relational Theology p18

Gwerthoedd mynachaidd

Nid oes strwythur na hierarchi i Cyfeillion. Rhywbeth perthnasol, pen agored, heb nod penodol ydyw, ond sydd yn rhannu gwerthoedd ac yn dilyn yr Ysbryd Glân ar daith. Mae’n bererindod ynddo’i hun. Nid urdd ar gyfer merched yn unig ydyw, ond mae’n agored i ddynion a merched, pobl sengl a rhai sy’n briod. Yr hyn sy’n allweddol yw eich bod yn ymateb i Iesu.

Felly, beth yw’r gwerthoedd sy’n hysbysu’n ffordd o fyw? Mae rhai o’r gwerthoedd yr ydym yn ceisio eu byw yn cael eu cynnwys yn y tri hyn:

Cyfeillion Duw
Cyfeillion y Tlawd
Cyfeillion y Ddaear

Mae geiriau fel defosiwn, anrhydedd, symlrwydd, lletygarwch, haelioni a ffiniau iach yn bwysig wrth inni ddeall yr hyn sydd dan sylw. Dyma rai o’r cymalau y byddwn yn ymhelaethu arnynt:

Cyfeillion Duw
Byw yn yr Ysbryd Glân, y ‘cwlwm cariad rhwng y Tad a’r Mab’[i]
Ei anrhydeddu ef gyda hygrededd, heb fynnu ei ffordd ein hunain
Caniatau i’r hyn a ddaw a llawenydd ichi i siapio eich bywyd
Mynegi defosiwn yn greadigol trwy ffordd o fyw a’r celfyddydau

Cyfeillion y Tlawd
Gofalu am y tlawd, yr rhai sydd ar yr ymylon, y sâl, y bregus, y gwrthodedig
Cerdded efo’r rhai sydd wedi eu clwyfo er mwyn darganfod pwy ydynt i fod a’i fyw

Cyfeillion y Greadigaeth
Bod yn hael a lletygar gyda ffiniau iach o gwmpas ein perthnasau, yn hybu lles
Mwynhau prydferthwch creadigaeth Duw, ac ychwanegu ato
Dim gwahanu nef a daear – gwneud lle i Deyrnas Dduw trwy gydwethio parod efo’r Ysbryd Glân

Rydym yn chilio am iaith newydd, benthyg peth ac addasu rhai o straeon yr hen saint fel eu bod yn cyseinio heddiw.

[i] Cymal a achredir i Awstin a Rhisiart Victor Sant – Amos Young, Relational Theology t18

St Patrick’s Breastplate

I have had occasion to pray this Celtic prayer over this week. At times of transition and change or when you are pressing in to new and unfamiliar ground it can be a vulnerable time. Patrick’s confidence in God’s protection of him and the presence of angels is evident as is his authority to establish a place to stand. (Click the image to see a full screen version).