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The Celtic Revival: Age of the Peregrini (11)

Now Fursa was of the kindred of the Gaels, but though he was noble in blood he was nobler in spirit; inasmuch as from the time of his infancy he cared for sacred books and for holy disciplines, and, what is most becoming to holy men, doing beautiful deeds, those are what he used to do.

  - Anonymous, Life of Fursa, 17th century, from an earlier ms.

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

  - 2 Timothy 3.14, 15

Fursa was an Irish monk, serving the Lord in the monastery at Killursa. Sometime after 630 AD, he received a vision to leave his monastery and go on peregrinatio to England, preaching the Gospel to any who would listen, and making disciples of all who would follow. He was one of the earliest of the peregrini, and we know precious little about his life or work.

In the brief anonymous account of his ministry, the writer was careful to mention this excerpt concerning Fursa’s childhood. Fursa was from a noble family; like Colum Cille, he was probably a prince, destined one day to be king over his local community.

But early on, someone must have sensed something special about Fursa, or perhaps hoped that something special might come of him for the Kingdom of God. Like many of the other peregrini, Fursa was instructed from a child in the Scriptures – reading, studying, meditating on, and discussing the Word with his teachers. He was also taught the disciplines of the spiritual life so that he practiced those disciplines as a young person. And, perhaps as the result of his time in the Word, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines, Fursa took up the life of good works, seeking to bring the beauty of the Lord to people wherever he could.

All this childhood formation shaped him soul and body for the calling God had prepared for him as a young man.

Something similar to this must have been Timothy’s experience. His mother and grandmother were Christians before him, and they made sure to ground him in the Word of salvation and faith in Jesus Christ. He was well-prepared in his soul to go with the apostle Paul when that opportunity was presented to him.

These examples remind us of the importance of training our children in the nurture and discipline of the Lord (Eph. 6.4; cf. Ps. 78.1-7). What passes for children’s Christian education today is likely to be more frivolous than fervent, designed to entertain more than to shape, and left in the Sunday school classroom rather than worked into daily lives through discipline and good works.

We know that children need discipline – not punishment only, but careful and loving shaping in their ways of thinking, desiring, preferring, and doing. Too often our discipline is merely external: Do this, don’t do that. We’re trying to control their behavior without helping them control their souls. Only as we concentrate on shaping the souls of our children can we expect them to grow up serving the Lord in whatever their life calling may be. Even then there are no guarantees.

But when we have such excellent examples as Fursa, Brendan, Colum, and Timothy, showing us the importance of taking more seriously the training of our children, should we not examine our approach to this endeavor, and bring it more into line with what our forebears pursued?

We notice that Fursa cared for Scripture, discipline, and beautiful works. He desired that time in God’s Word and prayer. He was eager for the challenge of a fast, for singing the praises of God, and for serving others however he could. Those who raised Fursa in the Lord – probably a combination of parents, foster parents and formal educators – knew that it was not enough to fill his head with knowledge. They had to kindle the flame of love for the things of God in his heart and sink the priorities of the Kingdom deep into his conscience, so that he might continue growing in good and beautiful works.

Fursa’s noble spirit ultimately trumped his noble heritage, leading him to forsake worldly pleasures and privileges for the greater challenge of serving Christ in the ministry of the Word. The Fursas and Colums and Brendans of tomorrow’s church could be growing up in Christian homes and churches today. Do we have the vision and resolve to help make this so?

Our parents and Sunday schools are today training those who will be fruitful sheep in God’s flocks in the years to come. Are we rearing them to think of Christianity as just another activity in their lives, one which has to be fun and non-demanding, which abides the Word rather than seeks to have the Word abide in our souls, and which doesn’t get in the way of our passion for sports, friends, and video games?

Or are we teaching them to prepare for lives of peregrinatio pro Christo, beginning right where they are as children in their own Personal Mission Field, delighting in God and His Word, embracing a life of discipline for Christ, and seeking to give and serve and beautify, and not merely to be like all the other children they know?

Look into the faces of the children in your church. Do you see any future Fursas? What can you do to help ensure that the children in your church will be ready to serve Christ and His Kingdom in the years to come?

For Reflection
1. Who are the children in your Personal Mission Field? How can you be more consistent in pointing them to Jesus?

2. Pray for the Christian parents you know, that they would know God’s grace in helping them to raise their children for Him.

Psalm 78.1-7 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Give ear, O my people, attend to my word,
dark sayings and parables sent from the Lord,
things we have before by our fathers been told,
which we would not dare from our children withhold.

The glorious deeds of our God in His might,
and all of the works He has done in our sight,
together with all of the words of His Law,
would we on ourselves and our children bestow.

Lord, let all our children arise and declare
the truth of the Lord every day, everywhere,
and set all their hopes in God’s wonderful Word,
and never forget all the works of the Lord.

Thank You, Lord, that the Fursas and Colums of tomorrow have already been born. Use me to…

Three resources
Think your life is too small to mean much for the Kingdom? You need to read our book, Small Stuff, which can help to renew your perspective. You can order a free copy by clicking here.

Our booklets, The Kingdom of God and Joy to Your World!, can help you in working your Personal Mission Field. You can get them both for free by clicking here. Order copies for your Christian friends and use the last chapter of Joy to Your World! to help them map out their Personal Mission Field.

Thank you
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 160 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.

If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through Anedot or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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