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Anam Cara Pilgrimages & Retreats

Enhancing your spiritual life through soul-friendship, practicing and promoting the reality of being a member of the Colony of Heaven.

Anam Cara

Anam Cara Pilgrimages is intentionally named.  The phrase anam cara carries the very heart of our journeys, as the following quote illustrates.


“In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship.  One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara.  Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend.  So anam cara in the Celtic world was the soul friend.  In the early Celtic Church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion or spiritual guide was called an anam cara.  Anam cara was originally someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life.  With the anam cara, you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart.  This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging.  When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the ‘friend of your soul’.  The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul.  There is no cage for the soul.  The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other.  This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship…The anam cara is God’s gift.  Friendship is the nature of God. The Christian concept of God as Trinity is the most sublime articulation of Otherness and intimacy, an eternal interflow of friendship.  This perspective discloses the beautiful fulfilment of our immortal longings in the words of Jesus who said: ‘I call you friends.’  Jesus as the Son of God is the first Other in the universe; he is the prism of all difference.  He is the secret anam cara of every individual.  In friendship with him we enter the tender beauty and affection of the Trinity.  In the embrace of this eternal friendship, we dare to be free.”


This description (by the Irish writer-poet John O’Donahue) articulates well the intention of these pilgrimages: to discover our deep friendship with God and with each other, and to release our souls to live vibrantly free with God.

The Beauty of Pilgrimage

Ireland is celebrated as the mystic Isle of the Saints.  If not the cradle of Western Christianity, it certainly can claim to be its nursery.  It is out of the Irish monastery—as asserted by the author, Thomas Cahill—that Western civilization was “saved”.  Our pilgrimage is an opportunity to experience this enlivening land, this divine landscape. 


While enjoying the experience of journeying through this land—with its music and pubs, its museums and people—the true aspiration of our journey is pilgrimage.  It is a time for reflection upon our own lives as we reflect upon the lives of those who devoted themselves to experiencing the God that St. Patrick famously presented to a transformed audience.  It is a time of contemplation upon Jesus in the midst of a vibrant life.  In the eloquent words of John O’Donahue, “This should be a contemplative time. A time of pilgrimage. Because a pilgrim travels differently.  Always in a pilgrimage there is a change of mind and a change of heart. The outer landscape becomes a metaphor for the unknown inner landscape.” To join any of these pilgrimages is to journey deeper into your own soul and your life with God, balanced with a hearty mixture of Irish frivolity.

A Typical Pilgrimage Day

7:15a                     Meditation & Morning Prayer

8:30a                   Breakfast

10:00a                 Pilgrimage Talk

11:00a                  Free time

1:00p                   Journeying and Experiencing Place

6:00p                  Evening Prayer

7:00p                  Dinner and Sharing Experiences

The Rule of St. Columcille and Holy Speech


An important intention of our pilgrimage is to discover our deep friendship with God and with each other. We do this overtly with pilgrimage teachings, intentional prayer, and times of quiet meditation. Equally important is the subtle experience of traveling in community with each other. Part of this experience is the intentional practice of holy speech.


The early Celtic Christian monasteries were sanctuaries for the practice of holiness. As Colonies of Heaven, the monastics attempted to live to the fullest the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The means of such life were set down in various monastic rules, one of the earliest of which was the Rule of St. Columcille (Columba).


While on our pilgrimage we hold to the portion of this rule which applies to the practice of holy speech. It is a practice that creates good relationships with others and a peaceful heart within our soul. It is a practice that embraces the teaching of Jesus to “judge not”, better understood in modern language as “have no set opinion”. This is different from having a firm conviction. Opinions differ from convictions in that convictions are firmly held beliefs still open to discussion and transformation, while opinions are the result of a closed mind which are often expressed in anger when confronted.


While on pilgrimage we suspend our opinions in favor of conviction and dialogue. We suspend all present political discussions that are not framed by a humble, scripturally based conversation. All deliberations are placed in the context of scripture and tradition, not in the context of political loyalties or philosophies of the day.


Holy speech was developed in the early Celtic Christian Church by embracing the following portions of St. Columcille’s Rule:  (1) I forgive every person from my heart; (2) I pray constantly for those who annoy me and those who quarrel with me; (3) I do not lose my temper or harbor hatred or resentment; (4) I am a patient person; (5) I am pure and respectful in my speech; (6) I do not speak until necessity demands; (7) I avoid converse with anyone who gossips or grumbles about what he may neither prevent nor rectify, simply giving him my blessing and sending him off about his business.


These final two rules offer a significant means of discerning whether I am stuck in an opinion, or if I am open to a transformative conversation. I may ask myself, “Am I going to discuss an issue, or am I merely wishing to prove a point or grumble?” If I answer that I am out to prove a point or win a debate, it is best for me to follow the rule: “I do not speak.” If someone else begins such an argument, then I enact the rule: “[I] simply give them my blessings and send them off about their business.”


To bless and be blessed is the desire of our pilgrimage, and the subtle pursuit of holy speech allows us to love others and to find the blessing of God in our heart.

A Pilgrim’s Prayer


My Jesus, be a smooth way before us

Be a guarding star above us,

Be a keen eye behind us

This day, this night, forever.


May God the Father shield us on every step,

May Christ keep us on every path,

May the Spirit bathe us in every pass.


May God take us in the clasp

of His own two hands.



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