May 16, 2008

Brendan

So the Irish Saved Civilization, but did they discover America? Irish monk Brendan, who's Feast Day is today, founded many monasteries and boldly traveled visiting Scotland, Wales, Brittany and Iceland. But no one knows whether the sagas told, written, and sung, of a voyage to North America are fiction or nonfiction. Could he have crossed the ocean in a curragh - a round, hide-covered boat, a glorified canoe? 

Brendan lived from around 484-577. A stamp was issued in 1994 picturing such a journey. This man called 'The Navigator' and 'The Voyager', is pictured in stained glass at the US Naval Academy in Maryland. Frederick Buechner tells his story in a book called Brendan. Ogham, Irish inscriptions written prior to the 800's, have been found in North America.

Even if a religious allegory, it reminds me of a word I learned: peregrinatio. It's a hard word to define. Our definition of 'pilgrimage' does not really fit this word because since the Middle Ages pilgrimages have plans and destinations and when the goal is accomplished, people return home. 

It's been told that three men were in such a skin boat without oars, and when found they said they were "on a pilgrimage, we care not where". It's a celtic word for a journey undertaken for the love of God - surprising and risky and not really having some end or goal in view. But it's not a restless wandering because there seems to be some sense of grounding, and 'at-homeness'.

Brendan's story reminds me that I too have an at-homeness in God, but am I willing to go wherever the Spirit desires me, into the unsafe and unfamiliar - both external and internal journeying?!
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