‘Peregrinatio’ is a Latin term used by St. Augustine Of Hippo urging Christians of the 4th and 5th centuries to adopt a life of peregrinatio in the temporal world while waiting for the Kingdom of God to ascend. The Celtic Christians embraced this concept which eventually became central to their faith and practice.
Esther de Waal writes about ‘peregrinatio’ as a journey that involves the elements of “seeking, quest, adventure, wandering, exile…” The purpose of this journey,” explains de Waal, is, “to find the place of (one’s) resurrection, the resurrected self…the true self in Christ.” (The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination, p. ix).
The Celts referred to this type of journey as “Peregrinatio Pro Amore Christi,” a journey for the love of Christ. Such travel would commence with a ‘call,’ a deep desire within oneself to leave home and family to wander beyond to unknown regions with Christ as guide and companion. It was an insatiable love for Christ that drove hundreds to go forth.
To the Celtic Saints, the pilgrimage was as much an inner journey as an outer one. The outer journey was a vehicle for seeking a mystical and transforming encounter with the risen Christ. In addition, there was hope that pilgrims would find opportunities to share the love of Christ with those met along the road. Some traveled alone seeking to encounter Christ in silence and solitude. Others traveled with comrades setting sail in small currachs, leather lined boats, upon the wild sea. This required absolute trust that God would protect and lead their craft to His intended destination.
Evidence of the centrality of Peregrinatio to Celtic Christianity lies in the countless prayers composed to accompany these stalwart pilgrims.