St Brendan’s Day Celebration – 16th May

Happy St Brendan’s Day. This year we are pleased to offer you some special treasures – old and new – from our archives. These include:

  • some questions to help you reflect on, and go deeper with, the Brendan liturgy
  • a couple of short films from Lynda Owen-Hussey to introduce two special Brendan places from County Kerry, Ireland.
  • a special recording of ‘The Story of Brendan the Fisherman’, written by Clare and Ant Grimley and read by their daughter, Katie.
  • a short film of the Overseers building a coracle , as part of a retreat with the Bethany Community, Leicestershire, in September 2021
  • a creative reflection on ‘Beyond these Shores’ by Iona

JOIN IN: A Celebration of Brendan the Navigator (c. 486-575)

A Call to Risky Living

Today, we invite you to read and engage with the example of Brendan, as we celebrate one of the best-loved of all the Celtic Saints. The story of his sea-voyages has held a special fascination for every generation and his voyage of adventure is an appropriate analogy of the spiritual journey that each of us is challenged to undertake.

  • Pray the Brendan liturgy, if possible with others. (You can download it below, or find it on page 302 of Celtic Daily Prayer, Book One). Allow space for the words to settle.
  • Re-read the words slowly and thoughtfully, asking God to draw to your attention particular words and phrases that are important for you to think more about. Which questions in the text strike you most?
  • Highlight or circle these words and phrases on a print out of the liturgy.
  • Reflect on these phrases. What are the main themes that they express?
  • Sit quietly and offer these thoughts to God, asking that His Spirit may guide you as you begin this journey of reflection with Brendan.

AND FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION:

VISION

Brendan was ‘caught by a vision’. Visions are not necessarily dramatic or vivid revelations. They may be hunches, gut feelings, fleeting glimpses, whispers, or stirrings of the heart.

  • Is there a vision or dream for me to follow? How would I describe it?
  • Does it excite or scare me? Or both?
  • How do I ‘test the truth’ of what I sense? Who can help me discern it?

JOURNEYING

1. Think of your spiritual journey life as a sea crossing. Consider:

  • What journey am I taking/do I need to take?
  • Where am I now? In the safety of the harbour? Out on the open sea? In a tempest or in the doldrums? At risk of falling overboard?
  • What is the vessel? What is the ‘deep’ we cast ourselves onto?
  • Draw an image to represent your current position, and think about why you are where you are.

2. Brendan’s mountain prayer asks God for the courage to leave the familiar and journey into the unknown. Place an empty case or bag in front of you. Think of the luggage you take on a journey. Reflect:

  • What ‘comforts and benefits of home’ (physical / psychological / spiritual) might I need to leave behind? What am I afraid to let go of / leave behind?
  • Write a short prayer expressing any fears and concerns, and your desire to trust God with your journey into the unknown. Place in the case or bag.

GATHER ROUND: A Sense of Place…

Lynda Owen-Hussey, a Companion in Community, invites us to experience two special places near where she lives, in County Kerry, Ireland, that are associated with St Brendan – Fenit Island and Ardfert Cathedral.


LISTEN TO A SPECIAL STORY:

Brendan the Fisherman

Recorded specially for St Brendan’s Day – 16th May – 2022, The Story of Brendan the Fisherman is taken from an unpublished book ‘Field of the Saints’ by Clare and Ant Grimley and read by their daughter, Katie.

VIEW THE STORY, CHAPTER BY CHAPTER:


YOU CAN ALSO VIEW A COMPLETE VERSION OF THE STORY HERE

In 1995, Clare and Ant Grimley, newlywed members of the Northumbria Community, set out exploring the monastic sites of Ireland for their five-week honeymoon. After a further four visits to Ireland they set about writing a pilgrimage book Called ‘Field of the Saints’. The book was to be a companion for those wanting to explore the rich heritage of the early monastic church in Ireland and included fictional stories of Irish Saints written by Clare to accompany more historical and geographical detail of the landscape.

This journey led the Grimley family to found an organisation called Monos in order to provide support and education to those who found themselves having similar experiences.

To fully participate in the living tradition of St Brendan, it’s advisable to visit some of his monastic sites, read the original version of his life and make your own coracle, then listen to what the Holy Spirit brings.

Ant Grimley – Monos.

Click HERE TO learn more about the work of Monos.


GATHER ROUND: My boat is so small and the sea is so big…

In September 2021, Catherine Askew, Sarah Hay and Sarah Pillar spent a few days with Kev Grimley and family at the Bethany Community, Leicestershire, to learn how to build a coracle…

Brendan, and other Irish monks, would have set out in this kind of small, round boat to find their own ‘desert in the sea’, entering into a deliberate, intentional vulnerability and expecting God to take them wherever wind and tide carried them.

A journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown…


JOIN IN: A creative reflection on ‘Beyond these shores’ by Iona

LIVING THE QUESTIONS

We invite you to listen again to ‘Beyond these shores’ by Iona and/ or respond to the lyrics below.

Respond to the music and lyrics in any way that feels appropriate to you such as words, art, movement or prayer. 

Beyond these shores
Into the darkness
Beyond these shores
This boat may sail
And if this is the way
Then there will be
A path across the sea

And if I sail beyond
The farthest ocean
Or lose myself in depths below
Wherever I may go
Your love surrounds me
For you have been before
Beyond these shores

There seems to be a beautiful and powerful mix of certainty and uncertainty in the lyrics: the uncertainty of the journey and our own sense of direction, versus the certainty of God’s love for us, which knows no bounds in seeking us out, no matter where we are.  

In our journeying, often, we discover more questions and uncertainty, where we had hoped to find answers and certainty. But our questions, too, are our teachers, and the challenge, once again is to trust amidst all uncertainty. 

Read and reflect on the following quote by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet: 

“I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, and to try to love the questions themselves, as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you wouldn’t be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

  • What questions are you currently facing at this stage of your spiritual journey?

Offer your questions to God in prayer. Consider putting your questions away somewhere that you might return to them at some point in the future.

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