Early Romano-Christianity, with its sense of duty, order and diplomacy, and early Celtic Christianity, with
its fiery independence, austerity and love of the desert places, seem unlikely bed-fellows. But thrown together
as they were by the invasion of the Saxons, these two very different strands of Christianity entwined in their
mutual love of a saving Lord Jesus. Together they flourished. In Ireland, Wales and Scotland, with the valleys
of Wales in particular becoming the heart of this fusion of Christian strands, monasteries and places of
learning were quickly established. The Scriptures were studied and young men were trained as missionaries, and
for the next two centuries the Celtic Christian Church in western Britain was a powerful and organised entity,
disciplined yet enthusiastic.
Following in the footsteps of the great founders, Ninian in Scotland, Patrick in Ireland, Dyfed in Wales and
Columba on Iona, there arose among them three orders of saints or holy men and women. First there were the
bishops, who possessed a roving commission rather than a territorial one, then the abbots, who were in charge
of the monastic houses, and, finally, the peregrini, or wandering saints, who roamed the lands and seas in
search of a desert place where they could live and spend their lives in prayer, praise and meditation. For
these Celtic Christians their lives were ones of martyrdom: a green martyrdom for the Christian who denied him-
or herself the comforts of life, a white martyrdom for those who left home and family behind, and a red
martyrdom for those who gave their lives for their faith.
For the peregrini travelling in small coracles across treacherous seas, carrying only their staff, bell and
altar stone, the white martyrdom was theirs. The white cross of Christ blazoned against the blackness of the
world's evil became their emblem. Wherever they stopped and stayed for a while they would set up one or two
beehive cells and possibly a wooden preaching cross. In time the saint would move on, but the place would
remain holy and a small wattle-and-daub church would be built retaining the name of its founder. These
wandering holy men criss-crossed the western lands of Britain and France, so that today villages, towns and
churches can be found bearing the same name in Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland and Wales - all pointing to the
intrepid voyaging of these fervent missionary saints.
The county of Cornwall has made the White Cross its own emblem. It is known locally as the flag of St Piran.
The Cornish people wave the flag with pride at rugby matches or in protest marches. They put stickers on their
cars and fly the flag from all Cornwall's important buildings.
When we decided to set off for Romania we painted the White Cross on our vehicles and wore patch badges on
our arms. And when we arrived in Romania, experienced the horror of thin, vacant eyed children locked in dirty,
cold buildings, and met a people who had lived in fear for so many years we realised just how appropriate our
emblem was. Over the years we have become more and more proud of being the White Cross Mission, taking the
light of Christ into a dark and fear ridden land, and, as time has passed, we have enjoyed the delight of
seeing that light grow.
Truly it takes only a small flame to bring light to a darkened room.
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