Getting to a Thin Place

The Celtic Spiral

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I do not know of any true Irish blood in my family but my hodge-podge geneaology includes enough of the British Isles to at leaast come close.  So I have donned my green and I’m set for the day!
St. Patrick was said to have been born Maewyn Succat (Lat. Magonus Succetus) in Roman Britain (Scotland) around the year 387.  As the story goes, when he was sixteen, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family.  He wrote that his faith grew in captivity and he prayed daily. The story is told that one day Patrick heard a voice saying “your ship is ready” and took it to mean that it was time to return home.  Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port two hundred miles away, found a ship, and sailed home.  He entered the church and later returned to Ireland as a missionary.  By the eighth century, he had become the patron saint of Ireland.

In this season of Lent, we are called to do our own returning.  Part of Lent is about returning to your source, to that from whence you came.  It is our season of returning to God, letting go of all the baggage that we’ve stacked up along the way, and beginning again.  Lent is about relearning to travel light.  Celtic spirituality is based primarily on pilgrimage.  Life, in this understanding, is about growing and moving and not “pitching our tent” in one place too long.  It is about connecting with all of Creation.  It is about connecting with God.  It is about recognizing the transcendent, those places where one meets God in his or her life.  In Celtic Spirituality, they are called “thin places”, those places where the spiritual spills into the material, where time and space are one, those places where we feel so connected to God, to our source, that the eternal is there for the taking.  It is those places that are in this life and in this world where one has the sense that one hears the harps eternal just over the not-too-distant hill.  It carries an understanding that all in life is sacred, that all in life is of God; we just have to return with new eyes and new ears and a new heart to see it.  Lent calls us to find our own thin places.  They are not the places where God exists but rather the places where we can finally sense the Presence of the One who is everywhere.

Legend credits St. Patrick for banishing all of the snakes from Ireland.  It is interesting to note, though, that evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never really had any snakes.  Perhaps it was an account of Patrick’s influence in the doing away with the belief in serpents that were so common in Druid belief.  Or perhaps it is a reminder to us what a life of true faith, a life of singular devotion to God, can mean.  When one returns to his or her source, when one finds that place where one knows God and senses the God who is all things and everywhere, all those things that haunt us, all those things that perch around corners and strike unexpectedly, all those things in life that we try to avoid, try not to step on, finally do not matter.  It is said that Patrick feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God.

So, in this Lenten journey, may you find your thin place.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left,…
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today the strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity,
The Creator of the Universe.  
(From The Prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate, supposedly composed by him in preparation for victory over Paganism.)

Grace and Peace,


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