In the year 432 AD (a disputed date but generally accepted as a starting point)Saint Patrick returned to Ireland where he had been held captive as a slave for 6 years. His mission was to preach the word of Christ to the "heathen" celts. In spite of his captivity and poor treatment, Patrick had been given a dream that told him to return and minister to these people. Patrick did not feel he could ignore this calling and so did not. Therefore he set out to Ireland to convert the Pagan Celts. It is important to note that Christianity was not new to the Emerald Isle. Many missions had been made to that area and Bishop Palladius was the Bishop of that area until Patrick assumed the responsibilities. There was much concern for Patrick's mission as he was considered uneducated and ignorant of the ways of the church. There is much wispering that this is precisely why they allowed Patrick to go as a church representative - quite honestly the Church higherarchy believed Patrick would fail proving Palladius' claims that the Celts could not be converted.
So Patrick arrived at the Island and went to work. As history shows us, Patrick under the guidance of the Holy Spirit was more than a little successful in his mission. Patrick approached the Celts in a far different manner than previous Roman Catholic Missionaries had: He related to them. Patrick had a more than basic understanding of Celtic Culture and therefore he was able to illustrate to the Celts how they were so close but missing the main ingredient - Christ. Patrick is famous for having plucked a Clover from the ground and used it to demonstrate how the Holy Trinity could exist in one being. Each leaf of the clover representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all attached to the single stem of the blossom. Whether he actually performed this lesson is not known but it sure makes a great example of how Patrick would use the things familiar to the Celts to explain Christianity to them.
Patrick was a firm believer in Monastic life but with his own twist: He expected his Monks to have "day jobs" and where possible - families. His supposition was that anyone could stay faithful if they were locked away from the world, he expected that his Monks and Priests should perform their Monastic Rule in addition to living a "normal" life too. St. Mael Ordained St. Brigid a Bishop however, this was strictly against Roman Catholic Doctrine. St. Brigid while cannonized as a Saint, is not listed as anything more than an Abbess. Patrick began a form of Christianity that accepted some of the Celts views on Nature and Life. This also did not sit well with the Romans but they were certain this aspect could be "educated" out of the converted Celts. They were very nearly correct...
From Patrick stemmed a whole "brand" of Christianity, blending the Celtic beliefs that Nature is sacred and we are not Lords of the earth but instead protectors of it. He believed (as did Saint Francis of Asisi hundreds of years later!) that Animals - also God's Creatures, were not here as our servants but as our bretheren to assist us in stewarding the Earth. It was this belief that began several traditions amongst Celtic Christians: 1) Referring to animals as Brother or Sister and 2) Celtic Monks were given Animal or plant names (used in private amongst other members of the order) to describe their personality or visible traits. i.e. Brother Bear, Sister Lilly, etc. The celts believed that when nature is cared for and respected, Humans are blessed by the fruits that come forth, and the enviornment yields a clean and safe home for the habitants. One could safely say Celts were some of the original Enviornmentalists and Animal rights advocates. Many parallels are drawn in this day between Celts and American Indians - naturally there are no coincidences in God's universe!
Another belief the Celts held was that there is a Material World and a spiritual world. Again, this is not a new concept - The Holy Bible tells us repeatedly that very thing. The Celts did believe that there were times when the veil between the two worlds was "thin" and things can bleed over from each world. Widely viewed today in mainstream religions as a "Pagan Superstition" the Celts did not let go of this belief and we find hints of this philosophy in Holy Writ. To this day many parapsycologists have discovered that the majority of "hauntings" occur on Thursdays - a day the celts believed to be the "Thinnest" of days. Celts believed in family and community as an agrarian culture, they were most dependent upon each other to survive the seasons. In this compartmentalized age of information, we find this philosophy uncommon at best. Pagan Celts worshipped nature - Christian Celts viewed Nature as the gift that it truly is. Celts were not surprised in the least to discover that the world was created.
Patrick worked very hard at study. He felt very inadequate when it came to Scriptural knowledge and dogmatic doctrine, no doubt because his shortfalls were so often pointed out to him by the religious scholars and clergy of his era. There are even some modern day historians that have whispered Patrick suffered from a low IQ. Regardless of his failings, Patrick preached that study was vital to a firm faith, and that a learned man would have an easier time serving the Lord. Therefore, he required his Clergy to study as much as they could, and learn all that they were able. Patrick also believed that prayer was a most valuable weapon and tool for maintaining a fervent Christian existance. Patrick believed wholeheartedly that it was his constant prayer that caused him to survive his captivity and that without a regular prayer regimen, the faithful would not succeed at staying on the path of truth.
While Patrick never named his "brand" of Christianity "Celtic Christianity" he formed the basis for it, and the concepts he instilled were continued and further developed by Celtic Saints such as Columba, Columbanus, Brigid, Cuthbert, Canice and Brendon the Navigator as well as a host of others too numerous to mention here without reciting the Litany of Celtic Saints.
So what are you saying in all of this Brother Kenneth? Let's review: Celtic Christians believe in Spirituality, Keeping God's Creations Holy, Respect of thier neighbors and family, Gathering as a community, The Holy Trinity, that Salvation comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Women are also Holy and can be called to ministry, and that Prayer and Study are vital to keeping a "proper" life. Doesn't sound much different than most any other denomination or Christian path...it isn't.