Once again we drew inspiration from the Celtic saint, this time using words adapted from the brilliant book Celtic Worship Through The Year by Ray Simpson. We began:
Leader: In the name of our sending God
In the name of the pilgrim Jesus
In the name of the wind-like Spirit
In the name of the Three-in-One.
Leader: High Monarch of land and sea;
All; Wherever we go, is yours.
Leader: You led our forebears by cloud and fire:
All: You lead us through the days and nights.
Leader: You led St. Brendan by sign and sail:
All: Your presence goes before us now.
Leader: Brendan was willing to leave all and sail out into the unknown:
Forgive us for putting safety first.
Lord have mercy
All: Lord have mercy.
Leader: Brendan sought to be of one mind with his brothers and sisters.
Forgive us for acting as if we know best.
Christ have mercy
All: Christ have mercy.
Leader: Brendan built communities of faith and love:
Forgive us for fostering self-sufficient attitudes.
Lord have mercy
All: Lord have mercy.
We read from Jonah 2 and then, reflecting on our own journeys we used these words:
We journey into your love
Reader: Forgetting what is past, we look to things unseen
All: We journey in your light
Reader: We leave behind our ties
All: We journey with single hearts
Reader: The sun shall not strike us by day, not the moon by night
All: We journey in your shielding
Reader: We look not to right nor to left, but straight towards your way
All: We journey in your truth
Reader: The rough places shall be smoothed and the pitfalls shall be cleared
All: We journey in your power
Reader: The proud shall be brought low and the humble shall be raised up
All: We journey in your justice
Reader: The hungry shall be fed and the poor shall have good news
All: We journey in your love
Reader: No final home have we on this life’s passing seas
All: We journey towards our everlasting home.
We took time then to wander around the park with the story of Brendan and to reflect on it, using the symbolic action at the river as suggested:
The Life of Brendan the Navigator
Brendan was born in Tralee Bay in the south west of Ireland, not far from Cork, around 486. Patrick had been born a century earlier and Christianity was well-established in the majority of local communities, with monasteries everywhere. Whilst pregnant Brendan’s mother, Annagh, dreamed that her womb was full of pure gold. On the night of his birth, Erc the local bishop, saw the village all in one great blaze’ with angels in shining white garments all around it. Realising that this child was special, he asked a nun called Ita to foster the boy and, when Brendan was six he was sent to a monastery and taught the Bible and about the Irish (Celtic) saints. He went on to be ordained a priest by Erc himself, become a monk and to create a new monastic community. Brendan was deeply touched by the promise of Jesus that whoever left family and possessions for his sake would receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life. Increasingly, he yearned to leave everything he knew behind and it was this that led to his famous voyages which inspired storytellers for centuries and were written down in the 10th century.
Inspired by a friend who had stumbled across a monastery on an island and who had spoken of the monks being radiant with the light of Christ, Brendan determined to set sail to find this land of promise. With fourteen brothers (and three unbelievers who joined them at the last minute) in three large coracles, piled high with provisions, they set out to see where they might be led to. They visited some islands, skirted around others, met holy hermits, overcame terrifying whirlpools and rode on dolphins! The most well-known adventure at this time was of them landing on an island and only after disembarking finding it to be a huge sea creature!
After a return to Ireland, a second voyage searching for Paradise took them into hair-raising experiences, illness, death, fellowship with other island hermits and a rapport with creatures of land and sea. Some tales may be references to Iceland with descriptions of what sounds like volcanic eruptions and pillars of ice. After seven years, they came across a land where they met a native who was entirely unclothed. Brendan believed this to be the island of paradise, with this man being an innocent Adam. The man, deemed ‘holy’, eventually persuaded Brendan and the brothers that they should not stay: if they did so, they would spoil the innocence of the land. The brothers left, but Brendan did so reluctantly and seems to have become angry with his disappointment in being sent back after yearning to find this place. If this was America, as some have suggested, it is fascinating to consider how prophetic this advice was, from the point of view of the Native Americans.
Stories tell of Brendan taking out his disappointment and temper on others, struggling to come to terms with his shadow side… He was advised to travel and did so, visiting monasteries in Britain and Brittany, meeting the likes of Brigid and Columba who perhaps acted as spiritual guides. In so doing he began to mellow and grow into a significant (if unsmiling!) spiritual leader. He founded the Clonfert monastery, which attracted 3000 brothers and wrote an inspired Rule for Life which others adopted for several hundreds of years. The week before he died, he spoke of God calling him to the eternal kingdom and of his resurrection. He died at exactly 93 years old.
Reflection ideas: Give thanks for Brendan… Give thanks for your birth – that was just as special to God; Give thanks for those who you have found to be alive with God’s reality & love; Reflect on the 3 unbelievers who hopped on the coracles at the last minute – what message might there be in that? Reflect on your faith journey, its disappointments and surprises, the ups and downs…Find a leaf and think of it representing the coracle of your faith journey through life. Reflect on where you have come from and how your future is unknown to you – but known to God. Go to the bridge to drop it and see it taken along by the water. Pray that you will grow in faith in the years to come and be able to share God’s love and good news with those you meet, just as others have before you.
Returning to the bandstand, we shared our the names and circumstances of others and ourselves who needed our prayers. After silent prayer, we joined together with the following words, which felt incredibly pertinent:
Reader: We thank you for the ways you have led us. We ask for your help as we journey through difficult places.
All: Father be with us on every road
Jesus be with us on every mound
Spirit be with us through every stream
Headland and ridge and round.
Reader: Protect those who work on the seas, those who travel by night, those who serve us in space. Protect our brothers and sisters who are making difficult journeys of faith, those battling persecution and doubt, those walking with grief and despair
All: Be in each sea, each town, each moor, each lying down, each rising up;
In the trough of the billows, in the wastelands of emptiness,
Each step of the journey we take.
Steve wrote the words for the sharing of bread and wine, reminding us of the story of Brendan and brothers landing on the giant sea creature which allowed them to have communion on its back, when they believed it to be an island (!):
And so we companions arrange our table, bedecked with Jesus – bread and wine
Imagining the ground is solid, the terrain is safe, we are secure
In our imagining
So thought Brendan and his companions stepping onto that island
But we trust not in this fleeting world, life’s passing seas, the grass that withers
We join St Brendan in looking elsewhere – to bread and wine – contingent on harvest and human toil and the hidden magic of yeast
Praise God we eat this bread which is for evermore: Jesus with us
And drink this wine which is for evermore: Jesus with us
We finished with a blessing:
Jesus who stopped the wind and stilled the waves
Grant us calm in the storm times;
Jesus victor over death and destruction, bring safety on our voyage;
Jesus the purest love, perfect companion, bring guarding ones around us;
Jesus of the miraculous catching of fish, and the perfect lakeside meal,
Guide us finally ashore.
And if you have read all that then you deserve a cup of tea!!!! For us, with certain news shared, it was poignant and special for all it was wordier than usual!