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About Our Church

Introduction

We are an Independent Catholic Church grounded in the Celtic Tradition committed to serving God and the needs of you and your loved ones. We celebrate both ancient and contemporary Celtic Catholic Rites and the expressions of Celtic Spirituality which allows for freedom of worship forms and style.  From our long-standing roots, we offer a new vision based on the original First Century Church of Jesus Christ, for those who seek a Church that is Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox, and Sacramental. The altars of our church are open to everyone: "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.." (Gal 3:26-29)Welcome!

Celtic Spirituality

Celtic Spirituality draws its inspiration from the earliest manifestation of Christianity in these islands – an offering that was also inspired by the wisdom of pre-Christian Ireland.

In the prayers of the early church of these islands, in their passion and their practice of the faith, there is clarity and simplicity, and wisdom that speaks directly to many of the concerns of our age.

Here are some aspects of Celtic Spirituality that may inspire you:

 

LOVE OF THE NATURAL WORLD

The prayers of the Celtic Saints are filled with experiences of God’s presence in creation, the simplicity of living in harmony with creation, and awareness of the sacredness of all things. The Psalms are full of praise for God’s handiwork in nature, and Celtic Christianity followed in that tradition, reflected in prayers and poems which spoke of  God’s power and majesty revealed in creation.  As it says in the first chapter of Genesis, all things originate in the Divine Source, and so all things are sacred. that Presence permeates all of creation. It is repeated five times in Genesis chapter 1 – ‘And God looked at the Creation, and said: ‘It is good.’ This speaks to us of ‘Original Goodness’.  It reminds us of the Sacred Presence that is to be found in us and in the natural world. So when we walk in nature, everything is a visible reminder of the Invisible Presence. ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God.’ (Gerald Manley Hopkins).

Columbanus said – ‘If you want to know God, first get to know His creation.’ If there is any one word that would sum up the essence of Celtic Spirituality, it’s the word ‘PRESENCE.’  Awareness of the Sacred Presence at every moment of life, in all places.

 

COMMUNITY

The Monastic way of living fitted the early church in Ireland because pre-Christian society was based on the Tuatha, small villages of people. Celtic Christianity encouraged people to live and work as small communities, following a less hierarchical model of the Church. The  Church at that time was a loose grouping of local communities of prayer, learning, and hospitality.

 

HOSPITALITY

Celtic Christianity, in its monastic practice, believed in openness and welcome to the stranger.  It challenges us today, in a multicultural world, to try to have an open heart, without pre-judgment.  ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels unawares.’  (Hebrews 13.2) Also to look for the Sacred soul in others, for all are made in God’s image.

“I saw a stranger last night. I put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place, and in the sacred name of the Triune, he blessed myself and my house and my cattle and my dear ones. And the lark said in her song, ‘Often, often, often goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.’     

   (A  Celtic rune of hospitality used by the Iona Community)

 

MONASTIC INFLUENCES

Following the experiences of the desert fathers and mothers, Celtic Christianity drew inspiration from the daily rule of life of ancient monasticism. Faith is not just for one hour on a Sunday – but for the whole of life. The Sacred Presence is for all times and all places. It is not a dualistic approach to life that divides the ‘sacred’ from the ‘profane’ – Celtic Christianity reminds us that all is sacred.

 

THE PRACTICE OF THE ANAM CARA – ‘THE FRIEND OF THE SOUL.’

A soul friend is someone who walks the spiritual journey with you as a source of wise advice and encouragement. This practice is being reclaimed in our day through spiritual direction. However, the practice of Anamchara is a gentle accompaniment, respecting the fragile nature of the spiritual search. All the wisdom we need is already within us. Through an Anamcara approach to listening, we can access that wisdom.

 

ART AND MUSIC

Celtic Christianity produced wonderful works of Art e.g. The Book of Kells and the wonderfully elaborate High Crosses. In many Irish villages, to this day the high crosses still stand, reminding us of a time when there were no elaborate buildings to upkeep and the people worshipped outdoors, around the high crosses. The beautiful carvings on the high crosses, telling the stories of the Old Testament and the life of Christ, were used as ‘visual aids’ to tell the stories of the Gospels in an age when literacy wasn’t so common.

Esther De Waal, a well-known writer on Celtic Spirituality has commented on the shape of the Celtic Cross, with its circle and cross combined. In her view, it represents the combining of salvation (the Cross) and the world of creation (the circle). Christ’s salvation was not only for human beings but for the whole cosmos (see Romans chapter 8). So in the carvings and the artwork, animals and the rest of creation are also included.

Art and music enable us to perceive with the senses as well as the intellect and to use both the right and left brain. In worship, our love of God can be expressed through the whole of our humanity, including the senses, intuition, imagination, and emotions.

 

PILGRIMAGE

Celtic Christianity had a particular kind of martyrdom which they called ‘white martyrdom’ – for those who left home and family behind and went out into the world as pilgrims for the sake of the Gospel. Today many are rediscovering the power of pilgrimage and the ‘Peregrini’ by going to ancient sacred places such as Iona, Lindisfarne, Ireland – and Armagh. The Celtic Saints called these places ‘thin places’ because there seemed to be only a thin veil between this world and the world of Spirit.

‘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’Donohue The Benedictus)

We may not be able to travel to faraway places, but there is yet benefit in being a ‘heart’ pilgrim – i.e. Having that nomadic approach to life that is always open to moving on, not getting stuck in a rut, open to new experiences, new relationships, and understandings – open to the ever onward call of God.

(All content provided by the Centre for Celtic Spirituality, Armagh, Ireland)

Independent Catholic vs. Roman Catholic Churches

The Creed which we recite on Sundays and holy days speaks of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. As everybody knows, however, the Church referred to in this Creed is more commonly called just the Catholic Church. It is not, by the way, properly called the Roman Catholic Church, but simply the Catholic Church.

 

     The term Roman Catholic is not used by the Church herself; it is a relatively modern term, and one, moreover, that is confined largely to the English language. The English-speaking bishops at the First Vatican Council in 1870, in fact, conducted a vigorous and successful campaign to insure that the term Roman Catholic was nowhere included in any of the Council's official documents about the Church herself, and the term was not included.

 

     Similarly, nowhere in the 16 documents of the Second Vatican Council will you find the term Roman Catholic. Pope Paul VI signed all the documents of the Second Vatican Council as "I, Paul. Bishop of the Catholic Church." Simply that -- Catholic Church. There are references to the Roman Curia, the Roman missal, the Roman rite, etc., but when the adjective Roman is applied to the Church herself, it refers to the Diocese of Rome!

 

     Cardinals, for example, are called cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, but that designation means that when they are named to be cardinals they have thereby become honorary clergy of the Holy Father's home diocese, the Diocese of Rome. Each cardinal is given a titular church in Rome, and when the cardinals participate in the election of a new pope. they are participating in a process that in ancient times was carried out by the clergy of the Diocese of Rome.

 

     Although the Diocese of Rome is central to the Catholic Church, this does not mean that the Roman rite, or, as is sometimes said, the Latin rite, is co-terminus with the Church as a whole; that would mean neglecting the Byzantine, Chaldean, Maronite or other Oriental rites which are all very much part of the Catholic Church today, as in the past.

 

     In our day, much greater emphasis has been given to these "non-Roman" rites of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council devoted a special document, Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches), to the Eastern rites which belong to the Catholic Church, and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church similarly gives considerable attention to the distinctive traditions and spirituality of these Eastern rites.

 

     So the proper name for the Universal Church is not the Roman Catholic Church. Far from it. That term caught on mostly in English-speaking countries; it was promoted mostly by Anglicans, supporters of the "branch theory" of the Church, namely, that the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of the creed was supposed to consist of three major branches, the Anglican, the Orthodox, and the so-called Roman Catholic.

 

       It was to avoid that kind of interpretation that the English-speaking bishops at Vatican I succeeded in warning the Church away from ever using the term officially herself: It too easily could be misunderstood.

Today in an era of widespread dissent in the Church, and of equally widespread confusion regarding what authentic Catholic identity is supposed to consist of, many loyal Catholics have recently taken to using the term Roman Catholic in order to affirm their understanding that the Catholic Church of the Sunday creed is the same Church that is united with the Vicar of Christ in Rome, the Pope.

 

     This understanding of theirs is correct, but such Catholics should nevertheless beware of using the term, not only because of its dubious origins in Anglican circles intending to suggest that there just might be some other Catholic Church around somewhere besides the Roman one: but also because it often still is used today to suggest that the Roman Catholic Church is something other and lesser than the Catholic Church of the creed. It is commonly used by some dissenting theologians, for example, who appear to be attempting to categorize the Roman Catholic Church as just another contemporary "Christian denomination"--not the body that is identical to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of the creed.

 

     The proper name of the Church, then, is the Catholic Church. It is not ever called "the Christian Church," either. Although the prestigious Oxford University Press currently publishes a learned and rather useful reference book called "The Oxford Book of the Christian Church," the fact is that there has never been a major entity in history called by that name; the Oxford University Press has adopted a misnomer, for the Church of Christ has never been called the Christian Church.

 

     There is, of course, a Protestant denomination in the United States which does call itself by that name, but that particular denomination is hardly what the Oxford University Press had in mind when assigning to its reference book the title that it did. The assignment of the title in question appears to have been one more method, of which there have been so many down through history, of declining to admit that there is, in fact, one--and only one--entity existing in the world today to which the designation "the Catholic Church" in the Creed might possibly apply.

 

     The entity in question, of course, is just that: the very visible, worldwide Catholic Church, in which the 263rd successor of the Apostle Peter, Pope Francis, teaches, governs, and sanctifies, along with some 3,000 other bishops around the world, who are successors of the apostles of Jesus Christ.

 

     As mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, it is true that the followers of Christ early became known as "Christians" (cf. Acts 11:26). The name Christian, however, was never commonly applied to the Church herself. In the New Testament itself, the Church is simply called "the Church." There was only one. In that early time there were not yet any break-away bodies substantial enough to be rival claimants of the name and from which the Church might ever have to distinguish herself.

 

     Very early in post-apostolic times, however. the Church did acquire a proper name--and precisely in order to distinguish herself from rival bodies which by then were already beginning to form. The name that the Church acquired when it became necessary for her to have a proper name was the name by which she has been known ever since the Catholic Church.

 

     The name appears in Christian literature for the first time around the end of the first century. By the time it was written down, it had certainly already been in use, for the indications are that everybody understood exactly what was meant by the name when it was written.

 

     Around the year A.D. 107, a Bishop, St. Ignatius of Antioch in the Near East, was arrested, brought to Rome by armed guards, and eventually martyred there in the arena. In a farewell letter that this early Bishop and martyr wrote to his fellow Christians in Smyrna (today Izmir in modern Turkey), he made the first written mention in the history of "the Catholic Church." He wrote, "Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" (To the Smyrnaeans 8:2). Thus, the second century of Christianity had scarcely begun when the name of the Catholic Church was already in use.

 

     Thereafter, the mention of the name became more and more frequent in the written record. It appears in the oldest written account we possess outside the New Testament of the martyrdom of a Christian for his faith, the "Martyrdom of St. Polycarp," bishop of the same Church of Smyrna to which St. Ignatius of Antioch had written. St. Polycarp was martyred around 155, and the account of his sufferings dates back to that time. The narrator informs us that in his final prayers before giving up his life for Christ, St. Polycarp "remembered all who had met with him at any time, both small and great, both those with and those without renown and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world."

 

     We know that St. Polycarp, at the time of his death in 155, had been a Christian for 86 years. He could not, therefore, have been born much later than 69 or 70. Yet it appears to have been a normal part of the vocabulary of a man of this era to be able to speak of "the whole Catholic Church throughout the world."

The name had caught on, and no doubt for good reasons.

 

     The term "catholic" simply means "universal," and when employing it in those early days, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna was referring to the Church that was already "everywhere," as distinguished from whatever sects, schisms, or splinter groups might have grown up here and there, in opposition to the Catholic Church.

 

     The term was already understood even then to be an especially fitting name because the Catholic Church was for everyone, not just for adepts, enthusiasts, or the specially initiated who might have been attracted to her.  Again, it was already understood that the Church was "catholic" because -- to adopt a modern expression -- she possessed the fullness of the means of salvation. She also was destined to be "universal" in time as well as in space, and it was to her that applied the promise of Christ to Peter and the other apostles that "the powers of death shall not prevail" against her (Mt 16:18).

 

     The Catechism of the Catholic Church in our own day has concisely summed up all the reasons why the name of the Church of Christ has been the Catholic Church: "The Church is catholic," the Catechism teaches, "[because] she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all people. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is 'missionary of her very nature'" (no. 868).

 

     So the name became attached to her for good. By the time of the first ecumenical council of the Church, held at Nicaea in Asia Minor in the year 325 A.D., the bishops of that council were legislating quite naturally in the name of the universal body they called in the Council of Nicaea's official documents "the Catholic Church." As most people know, it was that same council that formulated the basic Creed in which the term "catholic" was retained as one of the four marks of the true Church of Christ. And it is the same name that is to be found in all 16 documents of the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Church, Vatican Council II.

 

     It was still back in the fourth century that St. Cyril of Jerusalem aptly wrote, "Inquire not simply where the Lord's house is, for the sects of the profane also make an attempt to call their own dens the houses of the Lord; nor inquire merely where the church is, but where the Catholic Church is. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Body, the Mother of all, which is the Spouse of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Catecheses, xviii, 26).

The same inquiry needs to be made in exactly the same way today, for the name of the true Church of Christ has in no way been changed. It was inevitable that the Catechism of the Catholic Church would adopt the same name today that the Church has had throughout the whole of her very long history.

(Written by Kenneth D. Whitehead for EWTN- with thanks]

COMMUNITY OVER INSTITUTION

There are many things which distinguish Celtic Christianity from the rest of the Western Church. The most obvious is a fondness for community over institutional religion. While the churches of the West adopted the hierarchical organizational structure of the Roman Empire with its militaristic chain of command and obedience to authority, the Celtic Church stressed community and intimacy. While the rest of the Western churches were building large basilicas and organizing large urban geographical areas (dioceses) under the jurisdictions of monarchial bishops, the Celtic Church concentrated on small fellowships of Christians. And, Celtic Church buildings were modest structures in rural settings designed for small communities in which the worshiper knew those with whom he or she worshiped.

 

CLERGY AND LAITY

These small communities were also distinctive in their attitudes toward the roles of clergy and laity. Unlike the rest of Christendom, there was no gulf between the clergy and laity. It was in the monasteries (the ideal size being 13 members) where the strength of the Celtic Church was found rather than in the power of bishops. And these monasteries were led by abbots and abbesses who were often lay people who had taken on the yoke of religious vows.

The clergy (the bishops, presbyters, and deacons) perceived their roles as that of identifying with the people. They concerned themselves with missionary outreach and pastoral ministry rather than organization and administration of a religious institution. And, unlike many of their European counterparts, they renounced elaborate vestments, preferring the simple dress of a monk.

 

THE ROLE OF WOMEN

Other churches isolated women from positions of authority and relationships of friendship with men. The Celtic Church believed women were equal to men with similar legal rights. St. Morgan of Wales argued that women should be taught to read and interpret Scripture. The leadership of women was valued and encouraged, not ignored. Women had positions of ecclesial authority, even assisting in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. The Church of Rome chastised the Celtic Church for the use of female "conhospitae" over a thousand years before the contemporary use of female "eucharistic ministers." Popular legend holds that St. Brigid was consecrated as a bishop by Bishop Mel in the 5th Century.

 

CELTIC THEOLOGY

The core of Celtic theology is found in the thought and writings of two laymen: St. Morgan of Wales (5th Century AD) and St. John Scotus Eriugena (9th Century AD).

St. Morgan (more commonly known by his Latin name, Pelagius Britto) was a layman and monk and is the first known major Celtic writer and theologian. He taught the freedom of the human will as a God-given human right and the individual's responsibility for sin. He believed that a just and good God creates man and woman without virtue and without vice. Consequently, he rejected the Augustinian theological concept of original sin as equally unscriptural and inconsistent with the actions of a just and good God. St. Morgan said that every human is created with a soul, free will, and a conscience with which to make choices. And he rejected election and predestination as theological concepts which deny the individual the freedom to make choices and, in effect, make God a tyrant.

 

It was the belief of St. Morgan that salvation is a matter of the individual accepting the grace which God freely offers to all people and, with the help of God's grace, choosing to live a life in conformity with the Gospel of Christ. His teachings are a Celtic expression of the Orthodox idea of theosis ~ uniting our lives with that of God ~ and is a cornerstone of the Celtic concept of sacramental living.

 

Unfortunately, the thought of St. Morgan has been confused with that of some later followers who distorted his teachings and were condemned as heretics under the name "Pelagians." However, no Ecumenical Council of the undivided Church ever condemned St. Morgan as a heretic. Nonetheless, St. Morgan's chastisement of the rich and powerful for their abuses of wealth and power brought a civil condemnation upon him by the Roman Emperor. In effect, St. Morgan was an intellectual martyr for Celtic theology.

 

Eriugena was neither a priest nor a monk, but a layman of great Christian devotion and theological insight. He taught that human nature is a product of the creative activity of God and that every nature is in its essence incarnational, divine, and part of God. Sin arises from human will; it is not inherited at birth. He rejected predestination as a theological concept that makes a person's responsibility for individual actions null and void; when, in fact, each individual is solely responsible for his or her sin. Drawing upon the Gospel of St. John and the writings of St. Paul, he also taught that since all things proceed from God, in God they must end. He did not deny that sinners would be punished for their actions, but he rejected the idea of eternal punishment, believing eternal damnation was inconsistent with Christ's loving sacrifice on the Cross, and that through Christ all things would be reconciled to God the Father.

The feast of St. Morgan of Wales is celebrated on June 23rd. The feast of St. John Scotus Eriugena is on April 3rd.

 

SACRAMENTAL LIVING

It has been said that "a sacrament is the outward sign of an inward grace." The Celtic Church took this to mean that our lives, which have received the spiritual grace of God, should outwardly reflect that inward grace. Celtic Christians observed the major Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion and the lesser Sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Extreme Unction.

They also believed that all of life is potentially sacramental. The whole of our lives should be a sacramental act of love.  The life of the Celtic Christian faith entailed finding a worthy mentor or mentors (lay or clergy) from whom wisdom could be learned and establishing a network of spiritual friendships. The goal for each Celtic Christian was to become a spiritual mentor and friend to others. Such a "soul-friend" was called an "anamchara."

 

The epitome of sacramental living was uniting one's life to God's life and beginning a spiritual pilgrimage for Christ through prayer, learning, and the everyday practice of His teachings.

 

The art of sacramental living began by "listening with the heart." Modern people "listen" with their minds ~ hearing what is rational and readily explainable. In so doing, they are deaf in one ear, hearing only half of what God is saying.

Listening with the heart means approaching Holy Scriptures, the lives of the Saints, the teachings of the faith, and the rituals of worship with less of a critical eye to what is historically accurate or verifiable and with more openness to what they can teach us about God, holiness, and our own mysteries. A willingness to listen with the heart, quietly meditating on God's voice, allows us to fully grasp and integrate spiritual wisdom into a way of life lived in kinship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Celtic Christian Distinctives

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