The Faith Mission of the Celtic Saints—Timothy Jones (1955 – )

Timothy Jones, the author of The Art of Prayer: A Simple Guide and Awake, My Soul, was formerly an editor of Christianity Today. He is now senior associate rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. In the following excerpt from his book, A Place for God, he describes the radical commitment of early Celtic saints who embarked on a life of missionary faith without worldly assurances or visible supports.

The Celtic saints of earlier centuries made much of the idea of peregrinatio, a difficult-to-translate word that suggests an open-ended journey. It was not uncommon for medieval Irish monks to set out with no destination; they left with only the simple impulse to go and seek, guided by the Holy Spirit. Unlike the pilgrimages to shrines common to medieval lore, writes Esther de Waal, “there [was] no specific end or goal such as that of reaching a … holy place that allows the pilgrim at the end of the journey to return home with a sense of mission accomplished.” Rather, the idea was to learn to live as travelers, pilgrims, “guests of the world,” as sixth-century Irishman Saint Columbanus put it. There was to be a creative openness, even if that meant living in a kind of exile so as not to hold too tightly to one’s ambitions and spiritual itinerary. The idea was to leave behind the known and safe to find a truer basis for security.[1]


[1] Timothy Jones, A Place for God: A Guide to Spiritual Retreats and Retreat Centers (New York: Doubleday Image, 2000), 47.