Monday, June 10, 2013

Saint Columba and Modern Mortgages/Monasticism

Yesterday was the feast day of Saint Columba.  It's interesting to think about this saint, both a monastic and a traveler, in this time when I'm going through so much effort to get a new house and to sink down serious roots in South Florida.

Saint Columba is one of the great early Irish Christians, whom some would give credit for spreading Christianity to Scotland. He also helped spread literacy and founded a school for missionaries. He's one of the great monastics.

He's associated with Iona, that thin place in Scotland, a place that remains an important force in Christianity to this day. I could make a good argument that some of the most exciting music and liturgy of our current time period comes to us because Iona exists. Some day, I'll make a pilgrimage there. I should start planning this soon. It would be neat to go with my church musician mom.

As I think about it, I can think of a whole slew of friends who might also like to go. What I love about monasticism is that it isn't as offputting to non-believers and the less devout. For some reason, people just get monasticism, in a way that they can't comprehend other expressions of spirituality. Perhaps it's because monasticism is such an ancient tradition. Perhaps it's because monastics have a sort of discipline, a steel-like strength at the core, that other forms of spirituality lack. Maybe it's a holdover from the Thomas Merton days--and of course, Kathleen Norris made monasticism cool to a whole new generation (including me!). All I know is that when I tell people I'm intrigued by monasticism and that I go to monasteries, people accept that--and often want to go with me. It's a different matter when I tell people that I go to church most Sundays. People want to argue about what a waste of time that is.

But for now, I will not be going on a pilgrimage any time soon.  I figure that the next several years will be tight financially, as we take on a new mortgage.  But my hope is that it will all be worth it in the end. 

I will try to remember the ancient monastics and the value of creating community in the place where one has washed up.  Saint Columba had to leave Ireland because of a dispute with another monk which led to a pitched battle, a literal one, in which many men were killed.  Instead of excommunication, Saint Columba had to serve as a missionary to Scotland.

At that time, Scotland was a fierce and scary place.  But Saint Columba sailed off with his supporters and managed to turn a punishment and exile into something positive.

I am not in a situation that's similar at all.  But buying a new house comes with its own terrors and purgatories.  I will remember Saint Columba this week, as I prepare for what's to come.


Wendy said...

My pastor (friend) is heading back to Iona this summer on her sabbatical (she went on pilgrimage for her 50th birthday). I would love to go some day. I got to know the Celtic saints through the Northumbrian community prayer book (Celtic Daily Prayer), and then discovered the connections to early Medieval English literature (Bede!), and then found a church that celebrated such things and learned about Iona. Fascinating!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget--Christianity bills itself as counter-cultural and monasticism is an "outward and visible sign" of this. What could be more counter to our sexladen, consumer driven,frenzied, and technology ridden lifestyle than this?

Kristin said...

Thank you both for reading and commenting. Wendy, I find your journey towards Celtic Christianity intriguing. I'd love to know more about how your church celebrates with Celtic elements--and how fascinating that your pastor heads off to Iona for celebration and sabbatical.

Yes, Anon., Christianity in its better forms is quite counter-cultural--hurrah for that!