By Timothy George
November 2, 2015
The following is a meditation for All Saints Day presented at Christchurch in Montgomery, Alabama.
Several years ago, my son Christian and I, along with our friend David from Brazil, made a pilgrimage to Skellig Michael. Skellig is the Irish word for “rock,” and Skellig Michael is a rocky mountain island jutting 700 feet out of the icy waters of the North Atlantic, just off the coast of County Kerry in western Ireland. When Charles Lindbergh made his famous solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, Skellig Michael was the very first thing he saw of Europe.
Five hundred years after the birth of Christ, Celtic monks came to live and worship on this island. Buffeted by howling winds and rough seas, enveloped in fog and rain and mist, they huddled together in the little beehive huts they had constructed out of stone. (These sanctuaries of solitude are weathered but still intact today.) They prayed. They copied the Scriptures and lifted their voices in praise to God, morning, noon, and night. Earlier, St. Antony had retreated to the African desert to preserve a Christianity that was being contaminated by secularized Roman society. Irish monks of the sixth century did not have a desert to flee to, but they did have an ocean. Skellig Michael was the most obscure and distant island of the known world. Shrouded in darkness, it became a lighthouse to the world. From places like Skellig Michael, the Gospel was carried forth by Celtic monks and missionaries back to Clonmacnoise and Glendalough in Ireland, and on to Iona and Lindisfarne in Scotland, and eventually to Fulda, St. Gallen, and Bobbio on the continent.
Sites like Skellig Michael are called “thin places” by the Irish. Thin places—not because the air is rarified or the land is narrow but because the distance between heaven and earth shrinks, and time and eternity embrace. A thin place is where the veil between this world and the next is lifted for a moment, and it may be possible to get a glimpse of what one’s life is all about—perhaps of what life itself is all about. Read the rest at First Things.