THE Community of Aidan and Hilda is a “dispersed Celtic-inspired New Monastic community”, whose vision is to engage with the “saints and the streets; the seasons and the soil; Spirit and the scriptures”. Thirty members have collaboratively provided 20 short chapters on aspects of prayer, drawing insights from the Celtic tradition as they range from meditation to daily work, the inner city to needlework, social issues to icons.
Their focus is on living prayerfully now, not historical investigation, although, by the end of the book, we have also received a useful introduction to the Celtic background. Their spiritual feet are on the ground. Establish a rhythm of daily prayer, we are advised: “I imagine that such a length of time could be about four minutes.” Recognise times when you may need liturgy rather than meditation: “I found that silence just created a space for worry.” Avoid “unreal and unbiblically shallow positivity”.
They acknowledge that mind and heart go together in faith, but the book reflects the tradition’s emphasis on the affective and imaginative over the cognitive (the contributor who saw the hand of God when she failed to get a job as a surgeon, because it left Friday nights free for the church house-group, might have benefited from a more robust theology of Providence).
The outstanding chapter is Becky Mairi Farrell’s radical reflection on living with disability. “Some disabled people don’t welcome prayers for healing because we are already whole.” “The term ‘disability’ itself is unacceptable to many as it doesn’t address the way that society at large can disable people.”
The authors clearly value belonging to their community. We hear little about the place of the local church.
Written at a popular level, Celtic Prayer is an attractive volume from an enterprising community, who embody a practical spirituality that is both ancient and modern: “Let the light fade and the work be done. Let the flowers and the laptops close.”
The Revd Philip Welsh is a retired priest in the diocese of London.
Celtic Prayer — Caught Up in Love: Wisdom for living from a modern Celtic community
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