Retreats | Sabbaticals | Silence | Solitude | Ireland

Celtic Roots

In 1995 the Spiritual Life Institute community was invited by Bishop Thomas Finnegan of Killala diocese to establish a home in the Insula Sanctorum (the Island of Saints).  In the Ox Mountains of County Sligo on the northwest coast of Ireland we have made our home ever since. Here we have recognized that our way of life is similar to that of Celtic monasticism.

Like the early Irish hermits, we value simplicity and beauty; we aspire to be filled with celebration and oneness with nature.

The Celtic Faith rested in
•    An appreciation of God’s Presence in all of ordinary life.
•    A love of silence and solitude
•    A love of nature and the physical environment.
•    A love of learning.
•    A yearning to explore the unknown and to travel.
•    A valuing of kinship and of “soul friendship”

The eremitical (hermit) way of life fosters communion, the desire to venture into the unknown mysteries of contemplation, and the love of learning.


During the late golden age of Irish history when monastic settlements became very busy, the choice for desert, a place of solitude and silence, became common, often a cell on an island, always a place apart. Romantic though it sounds, a life of solitude demanded commitment and endurance as Ireland was a harsh wilderness of dangers .

Let me bless almighty God,
whose power extends over sea and land,
whose angels watch over all.

Let me study sacred books to calm my soul:                       
I pray for peace,
kneeling at heaven’s gates.

Let me do my daily work,
gathering seaweed, catching fish,
giving food to the poor.

Let me say my daily prayers,
sometimes chanting, sometimes quiet,
always thanking God.

Delightful it is to live
on a peaceful isle, in a quiet cell,
serving the King of kings.
The Prayer of St. Columba


From the Rule of the Spiritual Life Institute


“The key events of the Bible—the great conversions and revelations—took place in the wilderness.”

“But the desert or wilderness is not a place of refuge from reality and responsibility; it is the atmosphere in which Reality manifests itself, in which God speaks to and transforms his human servants.”

“The heart of our life is the desert experience…The desert teaches us the difference between essentials and nonessentials. It deals a flaming violent death blow to mediocrity. It is no place for diversions, distractions, luxuries, or trivia. The desert offers the clearest light in the world for seeing things as they really are: the act of contemplation”

“One day each week is designated a ‘Desert Day,’ during which nothing is scheduled, not even the community Mass and Liturgy of the Hours.  Each monk is encouraged to rest, pray longer and more deeply, adventure freely in the environs of nature, or in the realm of ideas through reading and writing. ”


“True communion and community is never self-conscious.  Rather, it is the ecstasy of moving out of a dead space and looking self-obliviously together, beyond ourselves, toward the face of the Father.”

“A lively human atmosphere creates the ideal climate for contemplation… It puts us perceptively and lovingly in touch with the innermost reality of everything because it is a simple intuition of the truth.”

“We eliminate all unnecessary talk in order to hear the Word and to promote deep, significant communion between each other. ”

”Having such towering men and women as Elijah and Our lady of Mt Carmel, St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, St. Colm and St. Bridget as our fathers and mothers, we recognize and celebrate the contributions of  both men and women to our communal life.”


“Our vocation is to dwell at the radiant sacred center, where the infinitely attractive Fire is.  From this vantage point we receive wisdom to discern what God requires of us.”
“What is important is not vast achievement or triumphant victory, but endless effort.  St. Teresa said: “Strive and strive and strive; we were meant for nothing else.”


“We need the arts. Souls come to a deeper intuition of the glory of God through the arts, and all great art is born out of the leisure that ought to dominate the monastic atmosphere.”

“By nature human beings are artists. The arts are not mere entertainment but an arena of wonder and awe. We are led into adoration through these transperent, iconic means.”