The beauty of this Christmas season has inspired me to begin a series of posts on the virtues of the Irish monks described in Msgr. Barr's book The Shadow of the Cross. It was Msgr. Barr's presentation of the spiritual way of those great saints that inspired the creation of this group and web site. The Celtic Virtue of Detachment seems to be at the front of my mind these days. This is nor surprise since Christmas always brings with it the desire to be closer to family.
Msgr. Barr introduces his book with the story of St. Columbanus leaving his home in Ireland to become a missionary. The young Columbanus decided to leave home and become a "restless wanderer for Christ" over the objections of his mother who threw herself down accross the doorway to stop him. According to the story Columbanus said "Don't grieve me" as he stepped over her body, through the door and into the night without looking back. Msgr. Barr instructs us that Columbanus was living the Gospel call of Christ "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62) The virtue of detachment enables us to let go of the things of the world and put our selves wholy at the service of God. There is nothing that will stand in the way of serving God, nothing more important than responding to that yearning placed in our hearts to serve God. We are all guests of this world with our true home and destiny in Heaven.
Detachment teaches us about our humanity, that we are born to rest in Him, that our longings for family and love are ultimately an aching for a life lived in union with our God. So, living this detachment teaches us about ourselves, about our weakness, and how our sin suppresses our yearning for Christ. Detachment and focus on Christ teaches us what it means to be human.
Its been a beautiful Christmas and one full of yearning for family. Ye tsomehow, the thousand miles of distance from family is instructing me on who I am and helping me to keep my hand to the plow. After all its Christmas, a celebration of the Incarnation, God made man born as a little child in a poor stable. There can be no looking back for the scene is too beautiful.