Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter (1)

Easter Day Breaks
Easter day breaks
Christs rises! Mercy every way is infinite-
Earth breaks up; time drops away;
In flows heaven with it's new day
Of endless life-
What is left for us save in growth
Of soul to rise up...
For the gift looking to the giver,
And the cistern to the river,
And from finite to infinity,
And from man's dust to God's divinity

Robert Browning

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday (1)

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon--
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Anam Cara (Part 4) lives of the Celts

Anam Cara (Part 4)
Seven Charateristics of Soul Friendship gleaned from the lives of the Celtic Saints

1st. soul friendship is associated with great affection, intimacy and depth

As we learn in a passage from the eighth-century Liber Angeli (Book of the Angel): "Between holy Patrick and Brigit, pillars of the Irish, there existed so great a friendship of charity that they were of one heart and one mind." Soul friends share what the Greeks and Romans, as well as early church Fathers and Mothers, equate with true friendship itself: one soul in two bodies, two hearts united as one. In the hagiographies, this intimacy is manifest in ordinary emotions and simple gestures. Saint Brendan, for example, smiles warmly when he thinks of Ita, his foster-mother, and Ita, in turn, experiences the slow passage of time when Brendan is away; Finnian calls his student Ciaran "O little heart" and "dear one" and blesses him before Ciaran leaves the monastery of Clonard; Brendan and Ruadan build their cells near one another so that they can hear the ringing of each other's bells.

2nd. Soul friend relationships are characterised by mutuality:

A profound respect for each other's wisdom, despite any age or gender difference, and the awareness that the other person is a source of many blessingstipify these relationships. This quality of mutuality is expressed symbolically in the stories by an exchange of gifts. Brigit gives Finnian a ring. Columcille sends the holy virgin Maugina a little pine box that helps cure her. David of Wales gives Findbarr his horse. Mutuality is also manifest in Brigit's and Brendan's confession to each other. In a story from the Life of Saint Ciaran as he prepares for death we see this quality vivdly displayed:

When the time of his death at the age of thirty-three drew near to the holy Ciaran in his little church, he said: "Let me be carried to a small height." When he looked up at the sky and the vast open air above his head, he said, "Terrible is the way of dying." Then angels went to meet his soul, filling as they did all the space between heaven and earth. He was carried back into the little church, and raising his hands, he blessed his people. Then he told the brethren to shut him up in the church until Kevin should come from Glendalough. After three days, Kevin arrived... At once Ciaran's spirit returned from heaven and reentered his body so that he could commune with Kevin and welcome him. The two friends stayed together from the one watch to another, engaged in mutual conversation, and strengthened their friendship. Then Ciaran blessed Kevin, and Kevin blessed water and administered the Eucharist to Ciaran. Ciaran gave his bell to Kevin as a sign of their lasting unity, which today is called Coimgen's Boban [Kevin's Bell].

3rd Soul friends share common values, A common vision of reality and a common intuition

Both vision and intuition are referred to in the story of Ciaran and his spiritual mentor, Enda:

After that Ciaran went to the island of Aran to commune with Enda. Both of them saw the same vision of a great fruitful tree growing beside a stream in the middle of Ireland. This tree protected the entire island, and its fruit crossed the sea that surrounded Ireland, and the birds of the world came to carry off some of that fruit. Ciaran turned to Enda and told him what he had seen, and Enda, in turn, said to him: "The great tree that you saw is you, Ciaran, for you are great in the eyes of God and of men. All of Ireland will be sheltered by the grace that is in you, and many people will be fed by your fasting and prayers. So, go in the name of the God to the centre of Ireland, and found your church on the banks of a stream."

4th Soul friendships include not only affirmation, but the ability of each to challenge the other when necessary.

This facility is sometimes the most difficult aspect of any intimate relationship, but without it the friendship can soon become superficial, stunted, and eventually lost. The story of a holy woman's courage in confronting someone whom she admires provides a good example of this aspect of soul friendship as does the willingness of Senan, an older man, to change:

Canair the Pious, a holy woman living in the south of Ireland, set up a hermitage in her own territory. One night, while she was praying, all the churches of Ireland appeared to her in a vision. It seemed as if a tower of fire rose up to heaven from each of the churches. The highest of the towers of fire, and the straightest towards heaven was that which rose from Inis Cathaig [Scattery Island]. "Fair is Senan's cell," Canair said. "I will go there, that my resurrection may be near it."... Senan knew that she was coming, and he went to the harbour to meet and welcome her. "Yes, I have come," Canair told him. "Go," said Senan, "to your sister who lives on the island to the east of this one, so that you may be her guest."

"That is not why I came," said Canair, "but that I may find hospitality with you on this island. "Women cannot enter on this island," Senan replied. "How can you say that?" asked Canair. "Christ is no worse than you. Christ came to redeem women no less than to redeem men. He suffered for the sake of women as much as for the sake of men. Women as well as men can enter the heavenly kingdom. Why, then, should you not allow women to live on this island?"

"You are persistent," said Senan."Well then," Canair replied, "will I get what I ask for? Will you give me a place to live on this island and the holy sacrament of Eucharist?"

"Yes, Canair, a place of resurrection will be given you here," said Senan. She came on shore then, and received the Sacrament from Senan, and immediately went to heaven.

5th Soul friendship is centred on God, the soul friend in whom all other friendships are united.

True soul friends do not depend on each other alone, but root their relationship in God. All the stories of the saints refer to this spiritual dimension, but one story in the Life of Findbarr is symbolically the most explicit. In it we find intimations not only of this need for reliance on God, but also of those qualities earlier identified: affirmation, mutuality, and deep love:

After the death of Bishop MacCuirv, Findbarr was much concerned at being without a soul friend. So he went to visit Eolang, and God revealed to Eolang that Findbarr was coming to see him. Eolang immediately knelt before Findbarr, and said the following, "I offer to you my church, my body, and my soul." Findbarr wept openly, and said, "This was not my thought, but that it would be I who would offer my church to you." Eolang said, "Let it be as I have said, for this is the will of God. You are dear to God, and you are greater than myself. One thing only I ask, that our resurrection will be in the same place." Findbarr replied, "Your wish will be fulfilled, but I am still troubled about the soul friendship." Eolang told him, " You shall receive today a soul friend worthy of yourself." This was done as he said, for Eolang in the presence of the angels and archangels placed Findbarr's hand in the hand of the Lord.

6th soul friendship survives geographical separation, the passage of time, and death itself.

In the early stories, even after Columcille moves to Iona to bring Christianity to the Scots, he continues to long for Derry and his friends in Ireland and they for him; Brendan consistently returns to Ita for advice after his journeys to foreign lands; Lasrianus and Maedoc, in response to God, separate and go their own ways but never forget what each has meant to the other. In the latter's Life, in particular, we find reference not only to the lasting ties of friendship with Lasrianus, despite the geographical distance between them, but to the continuity of another soul friendship, despite death:

Sometime later Maedoc was teaching a student by a high cross at the monastery of Ferns. The student saw him mount a golden ladder reaching from earth to heaven. Maedoc climbed the ladder, and when he returned sometime later, the student could not look in his face because of the brilliance that transfused his countenance... "Columcille has died," Maedoc told him, "and I went to meet him with the family of heaven. He was my own soul friend in this world, so I wanted to pay him my respects." The student told this story only after Maedoc's death, when he had become an adult and a holy man himself.

7th Soulfreindship facilitates the lifelong process of reconciliation, of making peace with oneself, with others, and with all of creation in preparation for one's death.

As the stories of Kevin and Ciaran, and of Maedoc and Columcille, have already intimated, soul friends help each other make this transition, through death, to God. A story about Saint Declan of Ardmore, a fourth-century Irish missionary-bishop to whom, we are told, "thousands of men and women" came for spiritual guidance, clearly reflects a spirituality that values both friendship and solitude, being active in ministry and having a cell:

When Declan realised that his last days were at hand and that the time remaining to him was very short, he summoned to him his own spiritual son, MacLiag who was residing in the monastery which is on the eastern side of the Decies close to the Leinstermen. MacLiag was summoned in order that, at the hour of death, Declan might receive the Body and Blood of Christ and the sacraments of the church from his hands. Declan then foretold to his disciples the day of his death and he commanded them to bring him to his own city, for it was not there he dwelt at the time but in a small venerable cell that he had ordered to be built for him between the hill called Ardmore Declain and the ocean. That narrow place at the brink of the sea is called Disert Declain, and a small shining stream, surrounded by trees and bushes, flows down from the hill above. From there to the city is only a short mile. The reason Declan used to go there was to avoid turmoil and noise so that he might be able to read and pray and fast. Indeed, it was not easy for him to stay even there because of the multitude of disciples, paupers, pilgrims, and beggars who followed him. Declan, however, was generous and very compassionate, and on that account it is recorded by tradition that a great following of poor people generally accompanied him. The little cell that was his was very dear to him for the reason we have given, and many devout people have made it their practice to dwell within it.

adapted from material by Edward Snellar

Ed Sellner is a professor of pastoral theology and spirituality. He is director of the Master of Arts in Theology at the College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, Minnesota. He has written numerous articles on Celtic Spirituality, and is the author of Mentoring: the Ministry of Spiritual Kinship; Soul-Making, Wisdom of the Celtic Saints , and most recently, Father and Son.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Saint Patrick's Creed

There is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be,than God the Father unbegotten,without beginning,from whom is all beginning,the Lord of the universe,as we have been taught;

and His son Jesus Christ,whom we declare to have alwaysbeen with the Father, spiritually andineffably begotten by the Fatherbefore the beginning of the world,before all beginning;

and by Him are made all thingsvisible and invisible.He was made man, and,having defeated death,was received into heaven by the Father;

and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven,on earth, and under the earth,and every tongue shall confessto Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God,in whom we believe, and whose adventwe expect soon to be,judge of the living and of the dead,who will render to every manaccording to his deeds; and

He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit,the gift and pledge of immortality,who makes those who believeand obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ;and Him do we confess and adore,one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name.

from St Patricks Confession

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Also known as St. Patrick's LORICA this beautiful prayer is found in the ancient Book of Armagh written in the early ninth century( more info below) Notice the similarities to Ephesians 6:10-18

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the UnityThe Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself todayThe virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself todayThe power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself todayGod's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ within me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ at my right,
Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort, [i.e., at home]
Christ in the chariot seat, [i.e., travelling by land]
Christ in the poop. [i.e., travelling by water]

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself todayThe strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the UnityThe Creator of the Universe.

This rather literal version is found in Philip Schaff's, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 4, §14. Schaff, notes that this Irish hymn is found in the Book of Armagh , and is "called S. Patricii Canticum Scotticum, which Patrick is said to have written when he was about to confront and convert the chief monarch of the island, Laoghaire /Loegaire.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Patrick of Ireland (389-460 AD)March 17th

Patrick never chased snakes out of Ireland and we don't really know whether he used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. What he did accomplish over shadows any legends or myths of the man.

Patrick left Confession and Letter to Coroticus in his own hand. These Two documents are the basis for all we know of the historical Patrick. Confession was aimed at an apparently unsympathetic audience in Britain to defend his call and mission to the people of Ireland.. It is not a traditional biography.

He was born Patricius somewhere in Roman Britain to a relatively wealthy family. He was not religious as a youth and, in fact, claims to have practically renounced the faith of his family. While in his teens, Patrick was kidnapped in a raid and transported to Ireland. He was enslaved to a local warlord and worked as a shepherd until he escaped six years later.

Patrick returned home and eventually undertook studies for the priesthood with the intention of returning to Ireland as a missionary to his former captors. It is not clear when he actually made it back to Ireland or how long he ministered there. We know it was definitely for a number of years.

Thomas Cahill author of How the Irish Saved Civilization says, "The Patrick who came back to Ireland with the gospel was a real tough guy. He couldn't have been anything else—only a very tough man could have hoped to survive those people. I don't mean to say he wasn't a saint—he was a great saint—but he was a very rough, vigorous man."
Not surprisingly Patrick's own experience in captivity left him with a distaste of slavery. He would later become one of the first voices to speak out unequivocally against it. "The papacy did not condemn slavery as immoral until the end of the 19th century," Cahill says, "but here is Patrick in the fifth century seeing it for what it is. I think that shows enormous insight and courage and a tremendous 'fellow feeling. The ability to suffer with other people. To understand what other people's suffering is like." Cahill adds "He really is one of the great saints of the downtrodden and excluded—people that no one else wants anything to do with,".
Women find a great advocate in Patrick. His Confession speaks of women as individuals. Cahill points to Patrick's account of "a blessed woman, Irish by birth, noble, extraordinarily beautiful—a true adult—whom I baptized." In another passages he speaks highly of the strength and courage of Irish women: "But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most—and who keep their spirits up despite the menacing and terrorizing they must endure. The Lord gives grace to his many handmaids; and though they are forbidden to do so, they follow him with backbone." He is actually one of the first male Christian's since Jesus to speak well of women observes Cahill.
Cahill points out around the time of Patrick's death "the Irish stopped slave trading and they never took it up again. Human sacrifice had become unthinkable. Although the Irish never stopped warring on one another, violence became much more confined and limited by what we might call the 'rules of warfare."
"I think that though he probably died knowing that he had succeeded [in his mission]," Cahill adds, "he also died hoping that success would be permanent and not temporary." The fact is Patrick's success couldn't have been more permanent. Not only had he accomplished what he'd set out to do—convert the nation to Christ—but in the process he'd retrieved from obscurity the primary objective set by Christ for his apostles: the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Cahill makes the strong case in How the Irish Saved Civilization, that it is Patrick's conversion of Ireland that sets in motion the preservation of Western thought through the early Dark Ages by the Irish monasteries founded by Patrick's successors. When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick.
By converting the Irish pagans to Christianity without making any attempt to romanize them he founded a new kind of Church. One that was both Catholic and primitive.
Of Patrick's introduction of Christianity to Ireland, Cahill says, the faith was introduced for the first time into a culture free of the sociopolitical baggage of Greco-Roman civilization. Prior to Patrick's gift of the faith to Ireland, to be Christian was to be Roman, or at least to be a product of Roman civilization.
The conversion of Ireland sees the faith thrive in an entirely different enviorment. A culture in which, according to Cahill, there is a "sense of the world as holy, as the Book of God—as a healing mystery, fraught with divine messages." In this tradition, Cahill explains, "there is a trust in the objects of sensory perception, which are seen as signposts from God. But there is also a sensuous reveling in the splendors of the created world, which would have made Roman Christians exceedingly uncomfortable."As a result, Cahill says, "The early Irish Christianity planted in Ireland by Patrick is much more joyful and celebratory in the way it approaches the natural world. It is really not a theology of sin but of the goodness of creation, and intensely incarnational."
Since it was the Irish monks who served as the bridge between classical Christianity and the Middle Ages, medieval Christianity tends to reflect the celebratory nature of Irish spirituality rather than the gloom and sin-centeredness of its classical predecessor.
Finally. Patrick gave the Irish himself, willingly, joyfully, proudly. He did this despite the fact that, even at the end of his life, "after aproximatly30 years of missionary activity," Cahill says, "he knows he's still living in a very scary place. You don't change people who offer human sacrifice and who war on one another constantly, overnight."
But change they eventually did. The example of his life—his courage, his intelligence, his compassion and his incredible, indomitable faith still lives on.

Cahill writes, "Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before." Because of Patrick, a warrior people "lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Anam Cara (Part 3) Observations

Observations on Friendship

Friendship is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.

Of all the gifts a wise providence grants us to make a life full and happy, friendship is the most beautiful. Epicurus

Two friends one soul

A faithful friend is the medicine of life
Ecclesiasticus 6:16

Some friends are more loyal than brothers
Proverbs 18:24

Sexes make no Difference; since in Souls there is none: And they are the Subjects of
friendship.” William Penn

I can only truly know myself through the other
Jean-Paul Sartre 20th cent. philosopher

True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable.”
David Tyson Gentry

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” Elisabeth Foley

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
Walter Winchell
One measure of friendship consists not in the number of things friends can discuss, but in the number of things they need no longer mention.”
Clifton Fadiman (American radio Host, Author and Editor 1904-1999)
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
Dr. Seuss

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Anam Cara
(part 2) the Celtic connection

For more than six hundred years from 400 to 1200 C.E., monastic biographers in the Celtic churches of Ireland, Northern England, Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and Brittany composed the Lives of literally hundreds of Celtic saints. These records leave a wealth of information about soul friendship and its immersion in the everyday life and spirituality of Celtic Christianity. Also revealed is how common soul-friend relationships were between men and men, women and women, and women and men and the importance of everyone having a soul friend even among non clerics.

Records tell us within a hundred years after the missionary activities of Saint Patrick in the fifth century, saint after saint were involved in soul friend relationships.

Finnian, who around 520 established the great monastery of Clonard, is considered the patriarch of early Irish monasticism. He tutored and acted as a spiritual guide to so many of the early founders of the other large monastic communities, Columcille of Iona and Ciaran of Clonmacnoise among that number. Finnian, himself had been mentored from boyhood by Foirtchernn of Britain. As an adult he had a number of soul friends: Caemon of Tours in Gaul, and David, Gildas, and Cathmael.

Ita as Finan evidently acted in a similar capacity. She taught so many young men who later became leaders in the early Celtic church that she became known as the "Fostermother of the Saints of Erin." One of these is Brendan of Clonfert. Famous for his voyages, he frequently turned to Ita for advice throughout his life.

A person may have a number of mentors and soul friends through out their lifetime. Often starting from an early age. Kevin of Glendalough is typical of this model. According to an early hagiography, he had "three elders to whom he was handed over as a child, so that he might learn Christ."

As Anam Caram, these early saints engaged in a great variety of ministries and roles. Some, like Patrick, Brigit, and Columcille, are clearly portrayed in their Lives as healers and spiritual guides to the tribes, as the druids and druidesses had once been before them.

Others such as Finnian, Ita, and Aidan, functioned as teachers and tutors both to younger and older students alike. Many of them, including Findbarr of Cork, David of Wales, and Hild of Whitby, were powerful founders of monasteries, a role that definatley involved good communication and administrative skills.

As in the case of Brendan and Columbanus, a large number were missionaries and pilgrims. They willing to lived extremely harsh lifestyles, far from friends and kin, to bringing the gospel to pagan lands.

Many of these soul friends were mystics and visionaries, like Samthann of Clonbroney and Maedoc of Ferns, who prayed intensely and had seer, intuitive abilities to read the future and, more important, the heart. All of them were pioneers, reconcilers, and confessors who, despite a very active life, valued deep freindships and solitude.

We know from the few hagiographies of female "saints" as well as the stories in the men's Lives that refer to women in the early Celtic church, that some of the greatest and most competent of the soul friends were Irish women. Brigit, Ita, Samthann, Moninna, and in Northumbria. The anglo-saxon Hild of Whitby, who, through Aidan's mentoring, was thoroughly immersed in Celtic spirituality. These woman funtioned as teachers, administrators, guides, preachers, and confessors in the Celtic tradition.

Whether female or male saints, it is interesting to note how often they are pictured, like the desert Christians, sitting, praying, studying, writing, or teaching in their cells. The scholar Charles Plummer says that in addition to the common buildings of each monastic community (that is, the chapel, the oratories, refectory, school, and guest-house), cells were constructed for individuals or small groups of monks.

Older members, ascetics, and anchorites would probably have had their own separate cells. Many of these cells were of the beehive type still visible today in all their terrible beauty on Skellig Michael, off the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. This type of cell definitely had room for more than one inhabitant.

In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the Venerable Bede tells us that during the early days of the Celtic church large numbers of people from England "left their own country and retired to Ireland either for the sake of religious studies or to live a more ascetic life. In course of time some of these devoted themselves faithfully to the monastic life. Others preferred to travel round to the cells of various teachers and apply themselves to study." Cells were frequently shared between teachers and students, confessors and those seeking forgiveness, and anam caram.

adapted from material by Edward Sneller

Saturday, March 1, 2008

David of Wales (500-589)

A renowned teacher, Dewi Sant better known as David of Whales was the founder of 10 monastic communities. His main monestary was at Meneiva in Pembrokeshire. He looked to the model of the desert fathers and took a very austere approach. He lived a simple life, practiced asceticism and taught his followers to refrain from eating meat or drinking beer.

The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks pull the plough themselves without the aid of beasts; drink only water; eat only bread and vegetables with salt and herbs; spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed: to say "my book" was an offence.

" They should work so hard that they want only to love one another" he would say. David taught that someone wanting to become a monk should be made to wait out side for 10 days. After being treatedwith hostility if the candidate is patient through this ordeal he should be welcomed warmly.

He was annointed as a bishop by Patrick, presided over two synods and went on a number of pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. His biographer, Rhygyfarch relates these 'Be joyful, keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard I've done. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.'

'Do the little things in life' ('Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd') is today a very well-known phrase in Welsh