Give an account of the missionary outreach of the Celtic Church in Britain? (35 Marks)

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Give an account of the missionary outreach of the Celtic Church in Britain?    (35 Marks)

The missionary outreach of the Celtic Church in Britain was a big success.  This was mainly due to the work of a number of important peregrini.  Peregrination is “the pilgrimage for Christ”.  This follows that the peregrine were “pilgrims for Christ”.  However, Gougaud rightly warns us against this literal translation, as it implies that they make a pilgrimage to a shrine, and then once the visit has been made, the pilgrim returns home and “resumes his normal life.”  In this case then, the early Celtic peregrini were not, strictly speaking pilgrims, because in the vast majority of cases, they were leaving their homes, never to return, in a state of permanent, voluntary exile.  The peregrini worked by either re-evangelising those who had lapsed into pagan ways, or converting the polytheists to monotheism.              

Colmcille turned his back on what could have been an illustrious political career in the Uí Néill dynasty.  He was forever faithful to religion over politics, and was first and foremost a priest and a monk, before a political leader.  His Church was very much a missionary Church and he aimed to create a living and vibrant faith throughout the land.  Colmcille was a man of incredible pragmatic gifts.  He knew that where there was faction and political instability, his mission was impossible, and by establishing a Christian Church, he also gave peace to two tribes who were at war.  Long after the death of Colmcille, Iona was the outpost of the Celtic Church in the area and the “citadel and retreat” of Celtic missionaries.   Adómnan, a hagiographer at the time of Colmcille, and author of Colmcille’s Life, tells us that “He could not pass the space of even a single hour, without applying himself either to prayer, or reading, or writing, or else to some manual labour.”  His desolate asceticism is well attested to in Adómnan’s Life, to the extent where he even said that Colmcille used stone as a pillow.  He also tells us of Colmcille, “He endured hardships of fasting and vigils without intermission by day and night; the burden of a single one of his labours would seem beyond the powers of man.”  He was a very simple monk, and he served his people faithfully, with sincerity and humility.  He used whatever ambition he possessed to the good of his people and his Church.  His strong desire for peace is very evident in his final words to the monks, “This, dear children, is my last message to you- that you preserve with each other sincere charity and peace.”

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Colmcille was the pioneer of this missionary outreach.  The Church he established was endured to centuries after his death.  According to Bede, Columba “left successors distinguished for their great charity, divine love and strict attention to disciple.”  The island of Iona became the mother house to a number of monasteries that were created by her sons, least of all Lindesfarne.  This was mainly seen in the seventh century, which was at the height of their fame.  Colmcille had spearheaded the great missionary outreach of the Celtic Church.  In Kenny’s view, the achievement of Colmcille’s followers in Christianising their Anglo-Saxon ...

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