Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

St. Patrick and Thin Places

posted by Mark Herringshaw

When St. Patrick founded the Christian Church in Ireland he incorporated many redeemable elements of the Celtic culture into the new faith community. For all the centuries since the Celtic picture of Jesus and his Kingdom has added a marvelous mystery to our Christian faith. Here’s an excerpt from the book Jennifer Schuchmann and I wrote, “Six Prayers God Always Answers” about the Celtic – Patrick’s – contribution to our faith.  

The ancient Celts of Ireland and Scotland associated spiritual experiences with specific geographical locations: a deep, cold cave, a grove of ancient trees on a hilltop, an open meadow between thick forests, or a stubborn, jagged cliff enduring the rage of ocean waves. Through the sublime places of nature, the Celts believed we might glimpse the wonder of super-nature. They believed these beautiful places had a kind of magical power to turn mundane life into mystical rapture.

The Gaelic word for these sacred spaces is “caol ait.” It means, “thin place”–where the barrier between our world and the realm of the spirit is translucent. Thin places serve as holes in a fence where human beings can touch God and in return be touched by him. In thin places anything can happen; these places are approached with a sense of anticipation.

And may we today again find the “thin places” in our world where we too can come close to God, as he has come close to us. By his presence God himself creates thin places in our ordinary world, here and now. We can find him and speak to him anywhere, anytime!


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    i didn’t know about this thing of the ‘ thin places.’ but i have certainly experienced it. thank you for sharing the naming of this mystical experience.

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