Celtic Christianity Comes into Focus on Campus

A focus on Celtic Christianity drives this year’s programming at the Center for Norbertine Studies. Director William Hyland expects the year’s Celtic theme to have broad appeal.

“It’s a living tradition, and in the last few generations there’s been an intense revival of interest in it,” he says. “It’s something to which Catholics and Protestants as well feel a strong attachment. It goes back to the early Middle Ages when the church was not yet as divided.”

Celtic Christianity classically refers to spiritual practices in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It also has roots where people from these countries settled.

“Today, one of the great centers of Celtic music is Nova Scotia,” says Hyland. “So is Chicago and even Milwaukee. A lot of people, when they came from those countries, had their traditions, but they sort of became de-emphasized in some ways. They were swallowed up into urban American life, but now a lot of people are really exploring these things again.”

Hyland adds that women played significant roles in early Celtic Christianity. He pointed to St. Brigid of Ireland as an example.

“(These women) were very traditional and very Catholic on one hand, but also very interesting and possibly very helpful when we think about the Church today,” he says.

The closeness to nature in Celtic Christianity is also very applicable today as people strive to be more ecologically conscious.

Each free event in the center’s Celtic Christianity series stands on its own, Hyland says. Offerings in the series include 

  • “The Premonstratensians in Medieval Ireland” by Irish scholar and archaeologist Miriam Clyne, Sept. 13, 7 p.m., Fort Howard Theater. In addition to her talk, Clyne visits classes throughout the week and will publish a revised version of her dissertation in a Center for Norbertine Studies-sponsored book series.
  • “Anam Cara: A Celebration of Celtic Sacred Music,” Oct. 9, 7 p.m., Old St. Joseph Church. The St. Norbert College Music Department performs in this Killeen Chair Lecture Series concert, sponsored by the Center for Norbertine Studies and the Office of Mission and Student Affairs.

The Center for Norbertine Studies is also organizing a spring semester presentation by Edward Sellner, author and professor of theology at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. “[Sellner is] going to give a public lecture about the theme of anam cara, which means spiritual friendship,” says Hyland. “He will discuss spiritual friendship as a concept among the early Celtic monks.”