‘When you travel,
A new silence goes with you,
And if you listen – you will hear what your heart would love to say’
John O’Donoghue, The Bendictus

This journey might not mean we leave our homes, families or communities in a white martyrdom of self imposed exile from all we hold dear but it may mean that we willingly embrace the unknown. That which we have no concept of and leave behind our pre-conceptions, traditions, internal structures and concepts of ‘how things should be’ and risk a journey that could reshape our lives, families, homes and communities.

This love of journey, peregrinatio, ‘wandering for the love of God’ is rooted in the Celtic Christian heritage of these lands and even further back to the Celts themselves as they wandered across Europe with no destination in mind, just a living connection to the land.

So rooted in their culture, the ‘open ended curve’ or ‘sinusoidal wave’ expressed free will, free choice and an independence of spirit also found in their art, torques, shields and everyday objects. Their inspiration drawn from nature and a ‘primordial dependence upon natural life.[1] They were brokers in time and space where nothing was finite, no edges or boundaries and everything was possible.

Frank Delaney captures the Celtic draw towards movement, from one moment to another beautifully “The pages of the Book of Kells simply call to mind a love of pattern, intricacy, colourful expression drawn from everyday life and embellished to – literally – fantastic extremes. And each moment within each page depends and relies upon the moment next to it: in the tension dwells the soul.” [2]

The melding of the love of journey and the love of God amongst the Celtic monks found an outlet in their unique expression of pilgrimage –

“The word itself is almost untranslatable, but its essence is caught in the ninth-century story of three Irishmen drifting over the sea from Ireland for seven day, in coracles without oars, coming ashore in Cornwall and then being brought to the court of King Alfred. When he asked them where they had come from and where they were going they answered that they “stole away because we wanted for the Love of God to be on pilgrimage, we cared not where.” This wonderful response and this amazing undertaking comes out of the inspirational character of early Irish spirituality. It shows at once how misleading is that word “pilgrimage” as we use it and how very different indeed is the Celtic peregrinatio from the pilgrimages of the Middle Ages or the present day. There is no specific end or goal such as that of reaching a shrine or a holy place that allows the pilgrim at the end of the journey to return home with a sense of mission accomplished. Peregrinatio is not undertaken at the suggestion of some monastic abbot or superior but because of an inner prompting to those who set out, a passionate conviction that they must undertake what was essentially an inner journey. Ready to go wherever the Spirit might take them, seeing themselves as hospites mundi, “guests of the world,” what they are seeking is the place of their resurrection, the resurrected self, the true self in Christ, which is for all of us our true home.

So peregrinatio presents us with the ideal of the interior, inward journey that is undertaken for the love of God, or for the love of Christ, pro amore Christi. The impulse is love. And if the journey is undertaken for the love of Christ, then it argues that Christ must already hold a place in our lives.”[3]

No doubt many of us have been journeying for years, internally and literally moving to and through nations following the wind of the Spirit but it does feel like there is a fresh wind blowing on the movement of people across nations, spheres and institutions. Martin Scott has for some time talked about a repositioning of the body of Christ out of the building and into the world and I sense the pace is picking up.


[1] Frank Delaney, ‘The Celts,’ p130

[2] Frank Delaney, ‘The Celts,’ p135

[3] Esther de Waal, ‘The Celtic Way of Prayer’

2 thoughts on “Peregrinatio

  1. Loved the challenging clarity regarding the contrast to the pilgrimages of the Middle Ages. No shrine, not specified goal. Thank you for the challenge to embrace life and passion for Jesus as the journey. Keep writing – this is true food for the soul in this season.


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