FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean to be a Celtic Evangelical?

As Celtic Evangelicals, we are Christians from Evangelical, Bible-based backgrounds who hold the Celtic Christian worldview, a distinct mindset held by both ancient and post-modern Celtic Christians.  This worldview is inclusive and can be embraced by Christians from any background.

Some distinctives of Celtic Christianity are:

Hope

Hope looks for the good in everything first, rather than the evil.

“And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”–Genesis 1:31

“And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” –I Corinthians 13:13

Equality (Non-hierarchal)

Every person is equal before God. No one can claim authority over anyone else.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” –Galatians 3:28

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” –Matthew 20:25-28

Mystery

The Infinite God can’t be fully explained or comprehended by finite Man.

“…who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”–I Timothy 6:16 NIV

“Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them.” –I Corinthians 4:1 MSG

“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.

Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.” –Romans 11:33-36 MSG

Environment

Humans are both part of  God’s creation and its caretakers.

“Then the LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” –Genesis 2:15

“You made [humans] rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.”–Psalm 8:6-8 NIV

“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” –I Corinthians 4:2 ESV

Anamnesis

Anamnesis is a Greek word meaning the conscious, prayerful remembrance of God, the continuing sense of God’s presence throughout the day as we work, pray, eat, talk and rest. It is the awareness of the sacred in all times and places and the refusal to compartmentalise life.

We develop this awareness through spiritual practices such as meditation, particularly Lectio Divina, a meditative reading of Scripture begun by the Desert Fathers.

“‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” —Acts 17:28

“And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” –Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Immanence

We acknowledge God’s immediate presence with His Creation.

“For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be the glory for ever.  Amen.” –Romans 11:36

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” –Acts 17:24

Simplicity

We emphasise basic essential doctrines such as the traditional creeds of Christianity.

“But I fear, lest by any means…your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” –II Corinthians 11:3

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third dayaccording to the Scriptures…” –I Corinthians 15:3-4 NIV

“You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” –I Corinthians 2:1-2 MSG

Anam Chara

As we study ancient Celtic Christian life, we find another unique feature: the Anam Chara or ‘soul friend’. Having a soul friend is a practice followed by those both inside and outside the Celtic monastic life.

All monks were assigned to a more mature monk in the community to learn from.  The scope for such a relationship could vary, but a large part of it was listening, having loving concern, and giving spiritual direction to help us avoid or get out of spiritual pitfalls.

This is a tradition we would like to see revived in Christian practice.  It seems an organic and loving method of discipleship, foundational to grounding new believers in their walk with Jesus.

The idea is for each of us to have someone who cares deeply and specifically for us, and in whom we can confide. It’s a little like a non-authoritative confessor, or counsellor, or just a spiritually mature “good listener”.  From our understanding, an Anam Chara does not tell you what you must do; the Anam Chara listens and asks questions to  help you hear the Holy Spirit tell you what to do.

Adapted from a work of  The Prayer Foundation.

So, seriously, you guys are monks?

We’re seriously exploring how monastic life can intersect with 21st century life.

Monkdom has been described in much detail by many, but I believe the essence of it is devotion to God’s word and prayer to the point of laying aside a busy/materialistic/ entertainment-oriented lifestyle in order to pursue these more fully.  “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” is the goal of this devotion, to live more fully aware of God’s presence in my life, and through this awareness and focus to become more Christ-like.

I, and I am sure many others, have felt throughout life a sense of longing for a life of devotion. I have known I am set apart unto God, and ‘should’ set apart more of my life specifically to Him. Although neither Catholic nor male, I could identify strongly with St Francis and St Patrick and other Christian mystics of the past, and wished there was a way I could incorporate more of their walk of faith into my own, without compromising my evangelical theological position.

Reading Thin Places, An Evangelical Journey into Celtic Christianity by Tracy Balzer only fanned the flames, defining many things that I have been long aware of or long desired in my spirit, but could not articulate.   A Google search for the metered version of “The Breastplate of Saint Patrick” brought me to The Prayer Foundation .

How my heart leapt when I discovered inter-denominational monkdom offered to both men and women through the Knights of Prayer, for those who already consider themselves ‘a monk in their heart’.  I checked their  statement of faith and plan of salvation , and I completely support both.

Searching the requirements for lay-monks I found not legalistic, but recommended practices for monks;  praying the hours, studying the psalms and a scripture-based plan for Christian growth. Now officially a postulant, (it takes two years to reach full lay-monk status) I have begun with the basics, and I find that the more I enter into this way of life, the rhythm of ‘pray and work’, the more I wish to do.

 

No, really. Monks? In robes and stuff?

Technically, by joining with the Knights of Prayer it will take two years to achieve full lay-monk status.  Quinn, currently a postulant, does intend to take the green habit, but feels two years of focus on spiritual growth an important prelude to that very public choice.

What is a monk, and why have I become one?

Monkdom has been described in much detail by many, but I believe the essence of it is devotion to God’s word and prayer to the point of laying aside a busy/materialistic/ entertainment-oriented lifestyle in order to pursue these more fully.  “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” is the goal of this devotion, to live more fully aware of God’s presence in my life, and through this awareness and focus to become more Christ-like.

I, and I am sure many others, have felt throughout life a sense of longing for a life of devotion. I have known I am set apart unto God, and ‘should’ set apart more of my life specifically to Him. Although neither Catholic nor male, I could identify strongly with St Francis and St Patrick and other Christian mystics of the past, and wished there was a way I could incorporate more of their walk of faith into my own, without compromising my evangelical theological position.

Reading Thin Places, An Evangelical Journey into Celtic Christianity by Tracy Balzer only fanned the flames, defining many things that I have been long aware of or long desired in my spirit, but could not articulate.   A Google search for the metered version of “The Breastplate of Saint Patrick” brought me to The Prayer Foundation .

How my heart leapt when I discovered inter-denominational monkdom offered to both men and women through the Knights of Prayer, for those who already consider themselves ‘a monk in their heart’.  I checked their  statement of faith and plan of salvation , and I completely support both.

Searching the requirements for lay-monks I found not legalistic, but recommended practices for monks;  praying the hours, studying the psalms and a scripture-based plan for Christian growth. Now officially a postulant, (it takes two years to reach full lay-monk status) I have begun with the basics, and I find that the more I enter into this way of life, the rhythm of ‘pray and work’, the more I wish to do.

 

How can you be monks if you’re not Catholic?

For over 700 years in Ireland and beyond, Celtic Christians founded independent monasteries and abbeys, studied scripture, spread literacy as well as the gospel and held to the Nicene Creed all without being recognised by the Roman Catholic church.  Some sources say that the Pope was venerated by Celtic Christians, but the evidence below indicates that leading Roman Catholics did not consider Celtic Christians part of the Roman Catholic church.

In 731 a Roman Catholic Monk, The Venerable Bede, wrote a diatribe against the non-Roman Catholic Celtic monks, being especially horrified that some of them were married.  The Ecclesiastical History of the English People Penguin Classics – Pages: 345, 346

In the 1100’s, Pope Adrian IV urged Henry II of England to conquer Ireland “for the enlarging of the bounds of the Church”. Soon after the military subjection of Ireland was achieved, the indigenous Irish Celtic Christians were then also brought under the authority of Rome with the Synod of Cashel.  Shortly after, all of the historic Celtic monastic orders which had flourished in Ireland independently for over seven centuries, were declared dissolved.

After the Synod of Cashel, indigenous and independent Celtic monasticism was replaced by continental Monastic Orders such as the Augustinians and Benedictines.

From Wikipedia:

In 1155, three years after the Synod of Kells Adrian IV published the Papal Bull ‘Laudabiliter‘, which was addressed to the Angevin King Henry II of England. He urged Henry to invade Ireland to bring its Celtic Christian Church under the Roman system, and conduct general reform of governance and society throughout the island. The authenticity of this grant, the historian Edmund Curtis says, is one of “the great questions of history.” He states that the matter was discussed at a Royal Council at Winchester, but that Henry’s mother, the Empress Matilda, had protested. In Ireland however, nothing seems to have been known of it, and no provision had been made against the prospect of Angevin Norman aggression, despite their westward expansion throughout England and Wales.[12] Ernest F. Henderson states that the existence of this Bull is doubted by many[13] while, in noting that its authenticity has been questioned without success, P. S. O’Hegarty suggests that the question is now purely an academic one. It is notable that decisions of Pope Alexander III, his successor, Pope Lucius III, and King Henry VIII in proclaiming the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 was predicated on this document.[14]

Can monks be married?

Since scripture nowhere commands celibacy and often celebrates marriage, we see no problem in monks being married.

The following comments from Edward Sellner’s book on Celtic Christianity. (It was also mentioned in Carmal McCaffery’s book, “In Search of Ancient Ireland”) and Welsh Celtic examples described in Wikipedia  indicate the Celtic Christians felt the same way.

The Celtic Monastic Communities had married and celibate monastics and often the Abbot was married and handed down the monastery to his own kin.  They were very much self-supporting and self-contained communities. The celibate monks were often the ones sent out to start the new monasteries.

By the 11th century, the Welsh Church consisted of three dioceses which were tied closely together by a strong sense of community and a shared sentiment in religious practice, but were independent of each other and whose boundaries were somewhat indeterminate.[12][14][15] Central to this organizational approach was the rural nature of Welsh settlements which favored localized and autonomous monastic communities called clasau (sing. clas).[13]

Clasau were administered by an abod and contained a number of small timber-built churches and dormitory huts.[13] Women, who held a higher status in Welsh law and custom than elsewhere in Europe, could hold quasi-sacerdotal (semi-priestly) roles in the Welsh Church, noted Davies.[14] As celibacy was not an important aspect of the Welsh Church, many priests married and supported families of their own, with some monasteries serving as single or extended family endeavors, and some ecclesiastical offices becoming hereditary.[14] For many Welsh, monasticism was a familial way of life spent in devotion to Christ. As marriage was viewed as a secular social contract and governed by the well established Welsh law, divorce was recognized by the Welsh Church.[14]

Wikipedia: The Welsh Church in Gwynedd

Can Women Be Monks?

One of the Celtic Christian distinctives is “Equality ~ of men and women, clergy and laity.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” –Galatians 3:28

In July of 1999, Monk Linda became the first woman to receive full Monk status, through the Monastic Order of The Knights Of Prayer. They say:

We feel that historically not giving Full Monk Status to women was symbolic of a second-class status for women that is opposed by the clear teaching of God in His Scriptures.

You may ask, “Well, aren’t “Nuns” just female Monks?”  No, Nuns are “female monastics.”  Among traditional Monastic Orders women have generally been relegated to a “second-class” status. For instance, in the Roman Catholic Church, women are not allowed to administer communion, hear confessions, or in any way function as ordained ministers (Priests).  When Mother Teresa founded her Order, The Missionary Sisters of Charity, she had to be assigned a Male Priest so that her Sisters could receive these ministrations.

The Celtic Christian Church had women in ministry and positions of authority.  Many Celtic Christian “Double Monasteries” (monasteries containing both men and women) were founded and headed by women.  The Celtic Church also recognized married monks. When portions of the Celtic Christian Church were taken over by the Roman Catholic Church, these Celtic practices were no longer permitted.

You may have noticed that we are unique among all monks in using the term of address “Monk” John instead of “Brother” John. We do this out of respect for those of our female monks who find the term “Sister” to be not representative of their Full Monk Status because it has historically been used only by Nuns.  Those of our male Monks who prefer the term “Brother” are free to use it, as are our female Monks who wish to use the term “Sister.”  We feel that it is the decision of those who are women monks to make (as to what they would like to be called), not ours.