Some years ago I and my wife were employed by a publisher producing a series of school books titled “North American Indians today.” We traveled around First Nations recording interviews. Doing so, we repeatedly heard traditional Natives say “Our sacred way involves all of life—not just Sunday mornings.” I always wanted to say “There are many white Christians who practice their faith throughout the week…” I never did say that, though. For one thing, I was doing journalism—certainly not doing missionary work of any sort. Furthermore, after the second time hearing this, it occurred to me that when someone holds a stereotype there’s often a good reason for that.
I’m afraid that for many Christians, faith is indeed compartmentalized. On Sunday morning we hear Jesus’ radical words to redistribute wealth, serve the poor, and eschew violence; but then we go with the flow of a profit-based, status-oriented, violence-ridden culture throughout the week.
Is there an antidote to compartmentalized faith? I see one antidote in the spiritual practices of the Celtic Christ -followers. Their way of life, from the 5th to the 11th centuries, can provide valuable lessons for Postmodern Christ-followers. This is especially true inasmuch as they eschewed the Imperial (homogenous, globalized) branding of Christianity that held sway over the rest of Europe at that time. One of the most valuable perspectives of these ancient believers is that all of life was sacred—all day, all week, all through the seasons, in ever setting—just like Native American indigenous practices.
Saint David (AKA Dewi Sant) brought the Good News to Wales in the 6th century. He had a famous saying, which has made it into modern-day Welsh parlance, “Do the little things.” It was his constant reminder to disciples that becoming a saint, working for justice, and ushering in the Reign of God didn’t consist of big steps and dramatic actions as much as it was comprised of consistency in the every-day, every-hour routines. How they greeted one another, how they cooked the vegetables and how they milked the cow—these were the proof spiritual life. If all of life is sacred then little things matter greatly.
Another example of the importance of little things in Celtic Spirituality is a collection of old prayers and chants called the Carmina Gadelica. In this book there are chants for awakening in the morning, for washing one’s face, for milking, for farming, for fishing, for making a fire, for life transitions, and etc. Whatever a person might do in the day, there were simple chants to sing and prayers to recite throughout the day.
Could you try to connect prayer with “the little things” you do daily? Perhaps a brief prayer for every time you switch on a light bulb, “Light of the world, let me shine in my little part of the world today.” Perhaps a simple grace whenever you raid the cupboard or refrigerator or water cooler for a snack or a drink. Say a quick prayer whenever you encounter someone—in person or via computer—“Christ, may I see you in this person.” Prayers when you leave the home, the office, the car…and so on.
As we live out our faith in the little things, it could have a big impact.
Icon of Saint David at Saint David’s Cathedral, photo by Ken McIntosh