The Cell And The Future Of Civilisation

I am at Shallowford House in the English Midlands. Those in Vows (Voyagers) from UK are joined by Voyagers from Ireland and Norway for our Annual Retreat. The theme is CONNECTING WITH THE DESERT CHRISTIANS. My talks explore the relevance of Martin of Tours for our world. His church had got sucked in to imperial ways. But his imperial world, like ours, was falling apart. The 'Us First' ethnic peoples rebelled against the distant elites. How could Christians model trans-national community that loved the poor?

At Poitiers Martin established Europe's first monastic family among the poor in Europe, known as White House, and then a larger one at Tours. These became a prototype. Although the imperial style of church replaced these in France, White House prototypes spread throughout Celtic lands, became part of their DNA and flourished for hundreds more years until the same process repeated itself there. Today, both political and religious elites are being rejected. They are being replaced by bottom-up selfishness, prejudice, racial hate and ignorance. A third current. however, is also flowing. As once thousands fled into deserts to live for God alone, so now people seek something similar even in urban areas. The genius of Martin of Tours was that though his base was desert-like, from it flowed streams of compassion that healed the people, greened the land and restored real community.

So we explored how to create a cell in a city. If you would like to know more, my talks are now a resources download on this site.

Or you might want to organise a Saint Martin pilgrimage. It could have six stops. 1) Milan, where he helped monotheists who could not believe that Christ was God to experience the One God as a communion of loves. The site of his cell can still be visited. 2) The isle of Gallinera (now Isola d'Albenga). The cave where he and a friend tried the two year experiment of living as hermits, feeding on roots, can still be seen on this nature reserve. Expedia arrange hotels. 3) Poitiers. The Baptistry where his host, Bishop Hilary lived as a neo monastic family is the oldest Christian building in France. Liguge Abbey, not far away, stands on the site of Martin’s Original White Hut, and recent excavations have revealed traces of this first desert hermitage in Europe. 4) Tours. The cathedral contains the tomb of Martin. But it is still possible to walk down the river Loire to a school, and ask permission to see a tree which is planted by the original cave which Martin chose as his bishop’s cell – soon to be joined by hundreds of recruits in nearby cells. 5) The Martin influence in what is now England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales is too widespread to be covered in one pilgrimage. But pilgrims might choose to stop at St. Martin’s Cross on Iona and at the Kilmartin Museum on the mainland south of Oban, and stop off at St. Ninian’s Whithorn, which may originally have been a daughter monastery of Tours. 6) In England you might visit St. Martin’s Church, Canterbury, the oldest parish church in England in continuous use for worship, or St. Martin in the Fields at London’s Trafalgar Square. In Wales you might visit St Peblig’s Churchyard, Caernarfon, St. David's Cathedral and Llantwit Major church.

Posted at 01:07am on 31st January 2017
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