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Gaelic CÉLI DÉ
The Céli Dé or, in Scots Gaelic, Keledei, servants of God, hoped to establish an austere communal rule that would awaken Christians from the torpidtude which had engulfed them. The Culdees, as they are also called, seem to have hoped to preserve the practices of the Celtic church, whose influence had diminished after the Synod of Whitby (664). Few records of their practices and theology remain.

Máel-Ruain of Tallacht (d. 792) is believed to have founded the group when he codified a rule for anchoritic life, although some scholars believe that the Scottish group existed before the Irish. The groups are thought to have begun as communities of 13 eremites and to have become groups of secular clergy attached to monasteries. After the XI Century, the Céli Dé were similar to the secular canons and continued in Armagh, alongside the canons regular, until the XVI Century. The group began to decline in the XII Century and ended, many report, in need of the reforms they had hoped to implement.

The Céli Dé used and preserved old Irish rules, penitentials, and service books; they used the vernacular in their worship. The communities believed in extreme poverty and reliance on Providence. Tallacht and Finglass were so poor that the Norse bypassed them. The Culdees began as celibates but ended otherwise. They saw the way of asceticism as white martyrdom.

Karen Rae Keck


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