in cornwall i came across the tale of saint piran. the story goes that this irish missionary was tied to a mill stone and thrown off a cliff in ireland into a stormy sea that became calm when he landed and he then floated across the ocean and was washed up at perranporth (perranzabuloe) in cornwall. alternative versions say it was a curragh rather than a millstone. this reminded me of the tale of saint brendan, which mark berry and community have been inspired by in telford, who set sail trusting god to guide his boat (curragh) where the spirit led. it turns out that perran is thought to have been a friend of brendan as relics of brendan were at perranzabuloe (though this depends on a connection between st kieron of saighir and st piran whom some people think was one and the same person).
perran built an oratory on the cliffs above perranporth that is now buried under the sand. it seems this was one of the earliest places of worship dating from 5th/6th century. due to the sand a new church was built in the 10th century about a quarter of a mile away. it lasted until the 1800s but now lies in ruin. st piran's trust have worked hard to preserve the oratory and the old church site. st piran's day (5 march) sees re-enactments of the tale of st piran in perranporth.
jen and i cycled out of perranporth and followed the trail to see the oratory and old church which was great and harry and i paid a visit later in the afternoon. fortunately this was a few hours of our time in cornwall when it didn't rain! at the site there is also an old celtic cross with 3 holes in it. apparently it is one of only two known 3 holed crosses in cornwall and is referred to as the cross of st piran. i tried to find a bit more out about this unsuccessfully so if anyone knows more about its origins let me know. photos are on flickr.
it was fun and interesting to encounter the story of the gospel coming to the cornish through saint piran. st piran's trust and the stories i found seemed quite focused on the buildings and history of those sites (understandably) but i couldn't trace much of the spirituality associated with saint piran - though there is a tale of st piran's mass in the book in the shadow of saint piran (the book that got me started on this trail as it was on the bookshelf in the house we stayed in). again if anyone knows of prayers or rituals or tales of the spirituality of this saint i'd be interested.
the notion of setting sail and trusting god seems a good thought and prayer for the new year.
i was also thinking about creative strategies and saint piran's creative quest seems to have stemmed from disaster - being thrown off a cliff. learning to receive things thrown into our path however disastrous they seem can lead to amazing adventures as they inevitably throw us off our usual track...