Glendalough Hermitage

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Anam Chara

Celtic Spirituality was greatly influenced by the early desert hermits and Desert Fathers and Mothers of Egypt. It valued the solitary life and the hermit tradition. Stories abound of many people some well known saints who were drawn to solitude and silence.

Yet the Celts had a great sense of the importance of community and of friendship. Those on a spiritual path would be encouraged by the experience of a soul friend ‘anam-chara’. This friend might be a teacher, a mentor, a spiritual director to whom one opened one’s heart and shared the intimacy of one’s life. Anam-Chara might also be a relationship of mutuality and love. An Irish writer and poet, John O D’onoghue in his book ‘Anam-Chara’: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World’ (1997) has opened up the treasures of this ancient Celtic practice. O’Donoghue believed that ‘love alone can awaken what is divine within you. In love, you grow and come home to yourself…as possibilities for your human destiny are asleep in you.’…The anam-chara experience opens a friendship that is not wounded or limited by separation or distance. Such friendships remain alive even when the friends live far apart from each other because ‘you are joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul’. O’Donoghue believes that ‘Jesus is the secret anam-chara of every individual. In friendship with him we enter the tender beauty and affection of the Trinity.’

A Friendship Blessing
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love, warmth, feeling and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them; may they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated, but may you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with you anam-chara.

Anam-chara; Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World.
(John O’Donoghue. Bantam Press, London.1997)