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In an hour and a half, I am leaving to return to my favourite place in the world since childhood.  The last time I visited, it had been 17 years since I last set foot there.  I had  given up my dream of ever seeing it again, let alone living there, when suddenly I was presented with the means so go, and I went.

It was delightful and life changing, despite some trying circumstances.  Now again, I am suddenly presented with means to go, again in trying circumstances.

In many ways I feel woefully unprepared.  The requirements of my home life plus all the physical preparations and regular practices didn’t allow for long reflection and spiritual preparation in the short time leading to now.  What was done, was done ‘in the midst’.

Perhaps this was helpful to keep me from over-analysing and planning.  Perhaps I can choose for this to be more of an ‘in the moment’ time, open to the blessings of what is, rather than a fully premeditated venture with specific goals and expectations.

Perhaps the basic preparation I have done is enough to keep the time centred, but fluid and able to take in the unexpected.

Perhaps it will be more of an unexpected pilgrimage than I even expect!


prodigal-son-jpgIt’s been said that religion is us looking for God, but Christianity is God looking for us.  Christ Jesus did not come to set up a new religion, but to restore a lost relationship.

In our world that prizes education and how-to, the temptation is to let a system replace a relationship.  “If I do step A and B and C, in the proper order with the proper words, I will wind up with D, a close personal relationship with God.”  And so long as my main focus is the relationship, it can be said to work.

Too often though, ways of being that once benefited my spiritual life become an anxious habit, a striving to ‘keep up’ the progress I’ve made instead of focussing on the ever present, ever loving, ever patient Person of the Creator.

I am struggling with this.

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on May 27 I recorded this by my favourite river, to honour my Dad who loved to hear me play.  Please click to view on YouTube

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In imageMarch, I became a Novice monk in the familia Columba I now hyphenate my name to “Quinn-Columba”, and am consecrating more of my time/life  to practice Psalmody and silence and mindful work and other daily spiritual pursuits.

I also began, despite former misgivings, to wear a scapular over my very small wardrobe.  It is, above all, a sign and reminder to me, to be who I really am.  Amazing how difficult it can be to remember identity in the midst of filling various roimageles!

Clothes do not make the person, but they can give a clue and I need all the help I can get!

It’s been long enough now that I don’t feel quite right without it, even at home when it needs washing.  My not always observant dear husband even notices something is ‘off’ when my scapular is not ‘on’, and the kids just think it’s cool.

Despite the comfort it gives me, it is still a daily choice that is sometimes easier than others.  Authenticity has a cost in a peer-oriented world.  Compared with the persecutions so many endure worldwide, such a minor thing is laughable.  Remembering this is a good challenge to accept whatever comes with grace.

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celtic-butterfly-tattooIn the cocoon, everything the caterpillar was, dies.  It turns to mush, it’s DNA is rewritten, it becomes something unrecognisable to what it was before.  When the transformation is complete, to strengthen its new wings for flight, there is another process – release from the cocoon.

The change seems sudden and dramatic to the outside observer, watching the butterfly begin life on the wind. But it has been a long haul.

Transitions take time for me – there have been very few sudden changes in my life.  I sense myself on the verge of significant change, now.  A sweeping one, I hope, that encompasses both my internal and external worlds.

Maybe it is wishful thinking.  Maybe it is birthday melancholy – I will be 42 soon, the age when Columba founded Iona, and Hildegard von Bingen was baptised in holy fire and began to write her visions and revelations and music. Perhaps I just long for significance.  Certainly I long for transformation.

How does the new butterfly know it is time to emerge?

There is the passive time of being undone in the cocoon, unmade and re-formed, then the aggressive act of untangling from the shroud of the caterpillar.  The timing for this would seem to be important.

O Creator, work in me my transformation; give strength and guide me to outwork my own part in it.



Praying the Hours

Praying the Hours

While I have made significant progress in my ‘taking the habit’ journey, today I want to share some revelation I’ve had regarding another part of my calling.

Taking the discipline of the Hours, (also known as the Daily Office), was part of my monastic journey I tried to jump into right away.  Early research informed me that praying the hours was taking time apart, up to 7 or 8 times a day, to focus on God in the midst of our work.  That number was set by St Benedict in his Rule, but there are other valid ways to go about it.

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No Stereotype

Each individual [hermit], as indeed each monastic community, went it’s own way.  Celtic monasticism carried no stereotype.

…There is a traditional story of a discussion between the heads of two monasteries about the virtues of celibacy [for monks] or not, to which the reply was that neither should claim superiority since everyone would get to heaven in any case.  Each monastery went its own way.

~Esther deWaal, Every Earthly Blessing; Rediscovering the Celtic Tradition


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“I found that the Celtic way of seeing things has also become a source of healing and renewal to people raised with a narrower and dualistic Christian spiritual world-view.  The Celtic view breaks through splits and isolations.  It helps us to connect with the earth.  It gives a positive perspective to us relating as male and female humans, and as human beings to all other creatures, both heavenly and earthly.  With a profound awareness and belief in the Holy Trinity, it sees all relationship as inherently reflecting our being made in the image of a relation-based Triune God in whom we live and move and have our being.”  ~Timothy Joyce, OSB



I’ve been on a Celtic Christian-based monastic path since 2011.  Shortly after stumbling across this Trinity-centric,celtictrinity knot wonderfully earthy, and at the same time mystical expression of the Christian faith, I was hooked.

Never ‘fitting right’ in regular church, I am still astonished that there exists a way of faith so utterly in line with who I am.  From cultural aesthetics to eco-honouring asceticism to celebration of Creation, all wound about with reverence for and Oneness with the Creator, (and other happy paradoxes), I continue to find it a delight.

Back in 2011, when I embraced this way, I received a distinct ‘call to transformation’ from God.  It went like this:

“Take the name
Take the habit
Pray the hours
Renounce excess

It’s ok that this will take time”

There was more to it, but this is what was to shape my daily life.

I started right away memorising St. Patrick’s Breastplate and beginning an on again-off again relationship with praying the hours.  Same for efforts at simplifying my home and my eating.  Some times were better than others, but overall improvement has been consistent, if slow, and is ongoing.   Good thing it was ok to take time!

I was given Grace to immediately lay down some passions that required a lot of time and creativity, and funnel that time into developing stillness and contemplation as a significant part of my lifestyle.  Among people I spent time with, I took the name I now bear, which then became my legal name.

Taking the habit for the first years involved letting go earrings, then make-up, then wearing only solid colours, preferably green or blue, in natural fabrics. I in no way think this is something anyone else ‘should’ be doing, it’s just been my attempt at obedience to a specific call.

But there are layers as we go deeper into spiritual life, and in the past months I’ve been drawn to revisit this initial call, and take it to another level.  Legally taking my current name over a year ago was a significant step, but attention has been drawn to the other aspects as well now.

Despite demands for my attention at home and work, I’m spending more, not less time in my cell, about my spiritual practices (also known as wasting time with God).  By Grace my eating has been radically simplified to allow for more time on what really matters and that leaves… the matter of the habit.

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A brother asked Abba Poeman, ‘Some brothers live with me; do you want me to be in charge of them?’

The old man said ‘No, just work first and foremost, and if they want to live like you, they will see to it themselves.’

The brother said ‘But it is they themselves, Abba, who want me to be in charge of them.’

The old man said to him ‘No, be their example, not their legislator.’


from “Becoming Fire; through the year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers” Edited by Tim Vivian


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