notes by Dennis Doyle

I arise today,
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of the sun, radiance of the moon.
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind, depth of sea,
Stability of earth and firmness of rock.
I arise today,
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me.
From the snares of devils, from temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and near, alone and in a multitude
St. Patrick

My Druid is Christ, the son of God,
Christ, Son of Mary, the Great Abbot,
The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
St. Columba

I would like to have the men of Heaven in my own house:
With vats of good cheer laid out for them.
I would like to have the three Marys, their fame is so great.
I would like people from every corner of Heaven.
I would like them to be cheerful in their drinking,
I would like to have Jesus too here amongst them.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings,
I would like to be watching Heaven's family, drinking it through all eternity.
attributed to St. Brigid


431 Palladius sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine
387-461 Life of Patrick
432 Start of Patrick's mission to the Irish
(the same year that Mary is declared the "Mother of God" by the Council of Ephesus)
445 Armagh founded
452-524 Life of Brigid
486-578 Life of Brendan the Voyager (Clonfert)
500 Monastery of Kildare founded by Brigid
512-545 Life of Ciaran (Kieran)
544 Monastery of Clonmacnoise founded by Ciaran
520 Monastery of Monasterboice founded
521-597 Life of Columba (Colmcille)
546 Monastery of Derry founded by Columba
560 Monastery of Kells and Durrow founded by Columba
563 Columba founds Iona
558-618 Life of Kevin
590 Glendalough founded by Kevin
c 600 Book of Durrow
c 600-1100 Celtic High Cross building
664 Synod of Whitby brings Celtic Church into conformity with Rome
700-800 Irish Monasticism reaches its zenith.
795 First reports of Viking invasions
800-847 Vikings raid continually, setting up settlements on the coasts
c 800 Book of Kells
c 900-1100 Round tower building

Features of Celtic life:

-iron-age cattle-culture-largely agrarian economy.
-which was a nomadic, warrior, heroic,tribal, hierarchical and aristocratic society.
-fosterage of children.
-oral word-based culture; most of the people illiterate but had great memorization skills.
-they loved to hear great stories.
-greater equality for women.
-a sense of closeness and immanence between the natural and supernatural.
-a mandate for hospitality.
-emphasis on family and kinship ties
-high respect for the learned and the artisans, with a strong politically powerful group, the "Aos Dana", composed of druids, brehons, poets and bards.
-payment of fines to forgive crimes.
-Roman historians said that they were boastful threateners, given to loud bombastic self-dramatization, yet quick of mind, and naturally talented in music and art.
-the calendar was divided into two parts, the light part and the dark part, with four great feast days marking the year:
Samhain (November 1) (our Halloween) which was the Celtic New Year, marks the end of the harvest, and the beginning of the dark half of the year. All lights are extinguished until relit by a central bonfire. This day is a "gap" in time and consciousness when travel to the other world and through time was possible.
Imbolc (February 1) (our Ground Hog Day) St.Bridget's Day, which marks the first day of Spring and the middle of the dark half, the time for the reemergence of green things. This marks the first flowing of milk in the udders of the ewes. Associated with the goddess Bríd.
Bealtaine (May 1) The first day of the light part of the year. Cattle are driven through great bonfires to protect them and ensure fertility. Young couples jump through the fire also.
Lúghnasadh (August 1) marks the beginning of harvest and celebrates the victory of the god Lúgh against the earth spirits that would keep the harvest. Lúgh is very much a "Christ" figure in that he died for the sake of humans, pierced and hanging from a tree.

Features of Celtic Christianity:

-love of nature and a passion for the wild and elemental as a reminder of God's gift.
-love and respect for art and poetry.
-love and respect for the great stories and "higher learning".
-sense of God and the saints as a continuing, personal, helpful presence.
-theologically orthodox, yet with heavy emphasis on the Trinity, and a love and respect for Mary, the Incarnation of Christ, and Liturgy.
-religious practice characterized by a love for tough penitential acts, vigils, self-exile, pilgrimages, and resorting to holy wells, mountains, caves, ancient monastic sites, and other sacred locations.
-no boundaries between the sacred and the secular
-unique Church structure:
-there were originally no towns, just nomadic settlements, hence the church was more monastic rather than diocesan, resulting in quite independent rules and liturgies.
-also, Ireland was very isolated and it was hard to impose outside central Roman authority.
-influenced much by middle-eastern and coptic monasticism.
-they celebrated Easter and Lent according to the ancient calendar system.
-Irish tonsure shaved the front of the head (like the druids).
-abbots had more power than the bishops.
-monasteries often huge theocratic villages often associated with a clan with the same kinship ties, along with their slaves, freemen, with celibate monks, married clergy, professed lay people, men and women living side by side. (Sometimes monasteries "raided" other monasteries, esp. during the period of the Anglo-Norman invasion.)
-while some monasteries were in isolated places, many more were were at the crossroads of provincial territories.
-women had more equal footing in ancient Irish law, thus had more equal say in church government. (Did St. Bridget receive Holy Orders and act as an Abbot?)
-developed the idea of having a "soul friend" (anmchara) to help in spiritual direction.
-invented personal confession.
-monks traveled as "Peregrinari Pro Christ" (White Martyrdom).
-many pagan practices were "Baptized" such as St.Stephen's Day, and the resorting to holy wells, and many monasteries were built on pagan sacred site (as evident in the names Derry, and Durrow).

Products of the Celtic Church:

Strong Personalities:

St.Patrick, "Aze Head""reptile slayer"= the deer, Mongonus Secatus Patricius, actually a Romanized Brit

St.Bridget,"bright shining one" Abbess of Kildare = Bríd, Goddess of Knowledge and Life, protector of the family against want and need, heroic generosity.

St.Kevin of Glendalough "Valley of the two lakes"=in touch with the earth and the elements

St.Columba of Iona (Columcille) "church dove"= warrior monk and Druid poet

St.Ciaran, founder of Clonmacnoise, seat of learning on the Shannon which lasted 1,000 years.

St.Columbanus= relentless missionary

St. Brendan "Mobi" "Fair drop"

-hand illustrated gospel books: (The Book of Kells and Durrow)
-Celtic high crosses
-gold and silver and bronze jewelry, chalices and other church furnishings.

-preservation of classical learning during the "dark ages".
-the arrival of literacy to Ireland and other Celtic lands.

Selected Readings on Celtic Spirituality

Ó Ríordáin C.Ss.R, John J., The Music of What Happens , The Columba Press, Dublin

Ó Ríordáin C.Ss.R, John J., Irish Catholic Spirituality , The Columba Press, Dublin

Sellner, Edward, Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana

Bamford, Christopher and Marsh, William Parker, Celtic Christianity: Ecology and Holiness, Lindisfarne Press, Great Barrington, Mass.

Cahill, Thomas, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Doubleday, New York, New York

Allchin, A.M. and de Waal, Esther, editors Daily Readings from Prayers and Praises in the Celtic Tradition, Templegate Publishers, Springfield, Illinois.

Schmiel, Mary Aileen, The Finest Music in the World: Exploring Celtic Spiritual Legacies from Western Spirituality, edited by Matthew Fox, Bear and Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico

ó Tuama, Sean and Kinsella, Thomas, An Duanaire-- An Irish Anthology Poems of the Dispossessed 1600-1900, The University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia

D'Arcy, Mary Ryan, The Saints of Ireland, Irish American Cultural Institute, St. Paul, Minnesota.

O'Donohue, John, Anam Chara,Bantam Press, New York, London, et al.

de Waal, Esther, God Under My Roof: Celtic Songs and Blessings, Paraclete Press, Orleans, Mass.

McCormick, Malachi, Columcille, The Stone Street Press, Staten Island, New York. Malachi makes beautiful hand-made books. He also has collections of Old Irish Monastic Prayers and a translation of the Deer's Cry of St.Patrick.

Fox, Matthew,editor, " Celtic Wisdom", a complete edition of Creation Spirituality Magazine, Vol. VII, Number 1, January 1991, Oakland CA.

Doyle, Dennis and Paula,Songs of Celtic Christianity , Mel Bay Publications, Pacific, MO, 1995 with companion compact disk

Doyle, Dennis,Celtic Spirituality and Liturgy , an article in Parish Liturgy, March 1994, Amercan Catholic Press, So.Holland, Il.

Celtic Spirituality on the Internet

St.Patrick http://www.irelandnow.com/legends/patrick.html

A short biography.

The Confessions of St.Patrick http://www.ccel.org/p/patrick/confession/confession.html

St.Patrick's own words translated from the original Latin.

St.Brigid http://www.irelandnow.com/legends/brigid.html

St.Columcille http://homepage.tinet.ie/~frduffy/re/school/unit4p/colmcille.html

The Carmina Gaedelica Online http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/corpus/Carmina/

Ancient Celtic Prayers collected by Alexander Carmichael


http://www.hullp.demon.co.uk/SacredHeart/saint/StCiaranofClonmacnoise.htm Ciaran (Kieran)

The Book of Kells http://www.tcd.ie/library/kells.htm

At the Trinity College Library. Sample images are at http://www.tcd.ie/library/Shop/

Irish Manuscripts http://www.ucc.ie/celt/

Irish manuscripts in digitized form.

Creating a Celtic Liturgy

closeness between God and nature
the four elements: fire, water, earth, air
respect for the "old wisdom", storytelling
human intimacy with God and the saints
the Trinity
importance of kinship and community
education (the Irish monks were the educators of Europe)
mission (the white martyrdom)
prayers for protection
love of the Mother of God
peace and justice

deer St.Patrick
salmon fish of knowledge
shamrock the Trinity
eagle St.John
fire new life, new fire of Easter
straw hand-woven cross St.Bridget, the eye of God

Art Ideas:

Art: banners can be made with images from:
the Book of Kells
or Celtic crosses
A Coloring Book of Ancient Ireland, Bellerophon Books 36 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
The Book of Kells Coloring Book, Geoff Greenham, Bookmark Publishers, P.O. Box 84, Cork, Ireland
Dover Clip Art Series: Celtic Borders, by Mallory Pearce ,Dover Publications, 31 East 2nd Street,Mineola, NY 11501
Patrick Gallagher, 24 Saint Mary's Street,Wharton, New Jersey 07885 201-361-3533
Patrick is an expert in Celtic Art and can steer you in the right direction for the use of symbols and can do original work for you.
Karen Burgess, 18 Rogers Street,Branford, CT.,06405,203-481-2638. She has done some beautiful Celtic religious art, has prints for sale and has done commissions. T-Shirts with her religious designs are available from All Ireland Graphics 800-752-4683.

Music Ideas:

instrumentation: in addition to the regular instruments, try to work in the uillean pipes, bag pipes, bodhrán, harp, whistle, and flute.

Vox de Neube and Good People All, Noírín ní Riain, available from Friends of Creation Spirituality, P.O.Box 19216, Oakland, CA 94619.

Caoineadh na Maighdine, Noírín ní Riain and the monks of Glenstal Abbey, Gael-Linn, 26 Murrean Square, Dublin 2, Ireland.

Ceol an Aifrinn (Mass Music), Irish language sung Mass by Sean ó Riada, record and music book can be had from Gael-Linn, 26 Murrean Square, Dublin 2, Ireland. The recording seems makeshift, but it gives you an idea of how some of the pieces should sound. I'd recommend you get the recording and then make your own arrangements. Includes: the hymns "Ag Críost an Síol"and "Bí a Iosa".

Available from Veritas Co. LTD.8 Abbey Street Lower Dublin 1, Ireland, Phone:011-353-1-788177 :

Aifreann Cholmcille Mass of St. Columcille,
Irish language sung Mass by Tomás ó Canainn.

Light the Fire,
liturgical music and Mass parts by Fr. Liam Lawton. Distributed in North America by GIA Publications, Chicago, IL

St.Patrick: The Contemplative Celt & Abbess, Songs of St.Brigid, traditional and original music collected by Dennis and Paula Doyle, Incarnation Music P.O.Box 1061, Glendale, CA 91209-1061, 818-956-1311. Music book ($10.50), cassette ($10.50) and compact disk ($15) available. Includes: Hail Glorious St.Patrick, Be Thou My Vision, The Breastplate of St.Patrick, Dochás Linn Naomh Pádraig and many other traditional and original pieces.

The God of Life, songs in the Celtic vein by John Michael Talbot, Birdwing, a division of Sparrow Records, Canoga Park, CA.Probably in most Christian book stores.

Mass of the Feast of St.Patrick, Notre Dame Folk Choir, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN. Has a nice version of "Ag Críost an Síol", and "Tabhair Dom Do Lamh".

Irish Acclamations by Kevin Keil, Mass parts in English which are based on the air "Kerry Dancer". Kevin may be contacted at 14829 Lisa Drive, Maple Heights, OH 44137

Christopher Walker's Celtic Mass, available from Oregon Catholic Press, Portland, OR

also available from GIA Publications, Chicago, IL:

in the Worship hymnal: These hymns are based on traditional Gaelic melodies and themes: Daylight Fades, Lord of All Hopefulness, This is My Will,The King of Love My Shepherd is,Those Who Love and Those Who Labor, With Jesus for Hero, This Day God Gives Me, Praise and Thanksgiving, Now the Day of the Lord is at Hand, Baptized in Water, O Breathe on me O Breath of God.

In the Gather hymnal: The Celtic Alleluia, God of Day and God of Darkness, Morning Has Broken, Baptized in Water, In the Breaking of the Bread, We are Called, I Danced in the Morning, The Servant Song, On Eagles Wings, Song of St.Patrick, Come to Us Creative Spirit, The Stars Declare His Glory,Sing Out Earth and Skies, and God of All Creation

Planxties by the great Turlough O' Carolan that I've used in Liturgy: Planxty Safaigh, Planxty Sudley, Blind Mary, Planxty Eleanor Plunket, Carolan's Welcome, Bridget Cruise, the Dark Plaintive Youth, and Planxty Fanny Power.

By Roirí Dall ó Cathain: Give Me Your Hand, Londonderry Air

Irish Gaelic Missallettes (four pages on newsprint, specify the date of the Liturgy; includes all the Mass and readings in Irish.) available from: Lurgan Printers (Clódóirí Lurgan), Indreabhán, County Galway, Ireland phone: 091-93251


not so radical as one would expect. Try traditional step-dancing, interpreting the scripture or for communion meditation.

Appreciate this resource? Check out Mr.Doyle's recordings:
Dennis DoyleIrish Blessings

Lovely peaceful all instrumental Celtic Harp with fiddle, oboe, tin whistle and guitar. Traditional Irish airs including "She Moves Through the Fair", "Wild Mountain Thyme", the "Wild Geese" and many more.

  more about the cd

Examples of Celtic Christian Songs

Send comments, questions, or corrections to Dennis Doyle ddoyle@glendale.edu.