Totally Devoted – Extract Four

I’m blogging short extracts from Totally Devoted, an exploration of new monasticism, up until the book is launched on September 10th.

Today we’ve got a short extract about one of the heroes of monastic legend. In fact I spend a bit of time in the book looking at some of these ancient ones, looking back into the Bible and then in more recent history to the early part of the first millennium AD.

So of course I touch on the ‘Celts’ and their various hagiographies – one of my favourites being what we’re talking about now – the story of Brendan of Clonfert, who most of us will know for the tale of his perilous voyage across the world in a pimped up coracle.

Adventurousness is an important lesson we can take from the stories of the lives of many of the Celtic saints, a reckless willingness to follow Christ wherever he leads us.

The classic picture of this is to be found in the scarcely credible story of Brendan, who set off with a small group of brother monks, and apparently sailed off across the Atlantic in a little boat.

Again, questions are raised over the literal veracity of this legend, and it can never be answered for sure, although experiments have shown that it might have been technically possible.

However, in many ways factual veracity is not the point; it is the moral of the story that counts, and one can draw many lessons from it, whether relating to the monastic withdrawal from the world, or the constancy of God to those who devote themselves to him. These points, rather than the factual accuracy of the hagiography are surely what matters…

Extract taken from ‘Totally Devoted, the challenge of new monasticism’ by Simon Cross. Copyright 2010 Authentic Media.  ISBN-13: 978-1850788683  Available Online via or

See the first extract here, the second here, and the third here.

If you are interested in Saint Brendan, you may like to read some of the other things I’ve written about him in the past: Perhaps this one, which I wrote for his feast day, and where I propose him as a patron saint of extreme sports, or if you’re looking for a way of incorporating the Brendan story into a corporate worship setting, have a look at this.  Someone else who has a lot to say about Brendan, all of which is worth reading/listening to – is Mark Berry (who coincidentally, also features in the book.)


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