Happy St Patrick's Day! Especially to all my Irish and Celtic descendent readers. Attached an extract from my new book about the great Celtic gift to the world - Confession!
From the 6th century onwards, for reasons which commentators find hard to explain, in the Celtic lands of Britain and Ireland a new form of penance and confession arose. Various commentators have presented theories as to why from this period onwards individual personalised confession and absolution took hold amongst these peoples. As Dallen points out, however, there were significant differences between monastic confession as it arose in the British Isles during these early centuries and what would later be accepted by the Western Church at the Fourth Lateran Council as the universal practice of personal confession. Both held in common that there was a ‘tariff’ by which the ‘amount of sin’ could be measured out and penance given. However the Celts had no ritual in their system to mark the penitent’s return to grace within the church (Dallen 1991:103). For Dallen, the Celts and Anglo-Saxons had ‘a fear and anxiety regarding the supernatural’ which ‘expressed itself in a preoccupation with demons and fairies and the like’ (Dallen 1991:103). Which, to this (Celtic origin) reader at least, seems a bit far-fetched. A little more convincing, as Dallen concurs, is the suggestion of the influence of the desert tradition of spiritual direction, which we examined in the previous chapter, on the practices and shape of the Celtic church.
Accepting that the Celtic church was focussed largely upon monastic foundations and that the desert form of individual spiritual direction was prevalent there it is accordingly not so difficult to explain the origins of this form of confession as an outgrowth of spiritual direction as practised amongst these monastic communities. The clear links between the Celtic and Eastern churches, not least geographical through shared sea routes, and the ongoing tradition of the East to allow Christian leaders other than Bishops, in some cases lay-people and monks, to give forgiveness to sins (See Rahner 1969: 394), suggests that something of this Eastern spirit was clearly abroad in the Celtic church. This new Celtic form of forgiveness of sins, or absolution, was not confined to one specific occasion, or indeed one specific season such as Lent, and could be uttered by a priest or monk using a simple verbal formula (Rahner 1983:14). By the eighth century it is clear that this new form of ‘private’ confession with its accompanying tariff of penances had spread throughout the whole of Western Europe slowly replacing the more public penances of the older tradition.
 Within a generation of Augustine’s death St Patrick will write an influential confessio, thus attesting to the early love of the form in the Celtic lands. I am indebted to Bernard McGinn to drawing this to my attention.