Continual study and learning is vital to spiritual growth. I often wonder how it is that I take the time to feed my body every day but pay so little attention to nourishing my inner being with good theology and spirituality when I am struggling with deadlines and difficult schedules. How easy it is to starve the spirit when life gets hectic and full. The Celts' love of learning calls me back to my own need for this as a source of growing wiser and deeper.
Lenten practice: Ask yourself how you are growing and stretching mentally in your relationship with God and others. Do you have a commitment to ongoing learning? Are you growing wiser spiritually? Read a good spiritual book or participate in a parish adult-formation program.
The Celts valued silence and solitude in their simple, ascetic rural lifestyle. Sometimes individuals chose to live in very remote areas where they could experience a deep and strong bond with the ruggedness of land and sea. It was here that they most knew the mystery of creation and the Creator.
Silence and solitude clear out the complex cobwebs of our daily rushing and provide a space in which to renew the purpose of our relationships and our work. It is hard to find silence and solitude where most of us live now. These valuable requirements of spiritual growth are not easily available to us. However, we can find reflective spaces if we are intent on doing so by turning off the car radio, watching less television, or turning inward when we are engaged in activity that allows for inner quiet such as spending time in the garden, working on the car, commuting on the train or bus, or going for a walk or other forms of exercise. While we do these things we can intentionally turn toward the divine presence within us and around us.
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Lenten practice: Choose a time once a day where you can have a time for stillness and quiet listening.
Some time ago I was accompanying a woman in spiritual direction who was experiencing severe anxiety attacks. She had a professional position that required her to speak in front of large groups and would often be overwhelmed with fear and worry. I suggested she use a Celtic prayer called the lorica, or breastplate prayer, used for protection from danger and harm.
The loricas were invocations on behalf of self or others in which one was "clothed" or shielded with the power of God and the saints. The Celts knew the need for protection because of the danger of natural elements as well as their spiritual concerns regarding temptation and evil.
Another Celtic prayer of safeguardingwas that of the cairn. In this prayer the Trinity, Mary, or other saints would be called on for protection as the right hand was stretched out and the forefinger extended while pivoting around sunwise, thus totally encompassing or enclosing oneself in a safe circle while calling on God for protection.
Lenten practice: Compose your own lorica or pray a Celtic one such as: "God before me, God behind me, God above me, God below me, God beside me, God always in my heart."
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