Abbé d'Iona (✝ 597)
Abbé dans l'île d'Iona au large de l'Écosse. L'un de ses successeurs trace de lui ce portrait: "Nature d'élite, brillant dans ses paroles, grand dans ses conseils, plein d'amour envers tous, rempli au fond du cœur de la sérénité et de la joie du Saint-Esprit."
Il fonda plusieurs monastères en Irlande avant de fonder celui d'Iona en Écosse, monastère célèbre qui fut une pépinière de saints moines et de missionnaires.
Il est vénéré en Irlande à l'égal de saint Patrick et de sainte Brigitte de Kildare, cette Irlande qu'il chantait: "Sur chaque branche de chêne, je vois posé un ange du ciel... tout y respire la paix, tout n'y est que délice."
Ascèse, prière contemplative et charité sont les grandes réalités de sa vie comme de sa règle; celle-ci franchira la mer et sera suivie par les ermites et les moines bretons. (diocèse de Quimper et Léon - saint Colomba)
Dans l’île d’Iona, en Écosse, vers 597, saint Colomba ou Colum Cille, prêtre et abbé. Né en Irlande et formé aux préceptes de la vie monastique, il établit son monastère dans cette île, qu’il rendit célèbre par la discipline de vie et le culte des lettres. Enfin, recru de vieillesse et prévoyant son dernier jour, il mourut devant l’autel du Seigneur.
Saint Colomba d’Iona (521-597) est un irlandais qui participa à l’évangélisation de l’Irlande, de l’Écosse et du Nord de l’Angleterre. Considéré comme l’un des saint patron des irlandais, Saint Colomba mena tout au long de sa vie un combat en faveur de la conversion complète de peuples n’ayant pas encore été évangélisés par le christianisme en Irlande, en Écosse et en Angleterre.
Biographie de Saint Colomba d’Iona
Un irlandais qui participe à la christianisation de l’Irlande
Saint Colomba naît le 7 décembre 521, au sein d’un riche clan irlandais : les O’Neill de Tyrconnel, une famille royale régnant à cette époque sur le Donegal. Son père, Feidlimid mac Fergus Cendfota mac Conall Gulban est le fondateur même du clan, et fils du roi suprême (Ard ri Érenn) Niall Noigiallach (399-432).
Durant sa jeunesse, Saint Colomba découvre le christianisme et entre à l’Abbaye de Clonard, et travaille sous l’influence de son mentor, Saint Finian de Clonard. Très vite, Saint Colomba crée plusieurs monastères et écoles dans toute l’Irlande, dont :
un monastère à Derry en 545,
un monastère à Durrow en 553,
un monastère à Kells en 554
Egalement très impliqué dans le domaine politique, Saint Colomba est parfois au centre de conflits et rivalités au sein même de sa famille. Son engagement est tel, qu’il devient alors dérangeant, et se voit forcé à l’exil en Écosse. Selon la légende, il partit donc avec 12 compagnons (en analogie au Christ est ses apôtres), pour l’île d’Iona en 563, et bénéficie dès lors de la protection du roi d’Écosse Conall mac Comgaill de Dalriada.
Il fait alors de l’île de Iona son QG pour participer à la christianisation de l’Écosse et du Nord de l’Angleterre. Il convertit le peuple Picte, étend le christianisme sur l’ensemble de l’Écosse, et devient une figure emblématique religieuse.
Saint Colomba décède le 9 juin 597, et est rapatrié en Irlande, à Downpatrick où il est enterré au cimetière du village aux côtés de 2 autres saints : Saint Patrick (385-461) et Sainte Brigitte (451-525).
De nos jours, les irlandais commémorent Saint Colomba le 9 juin de chaque année au travers de cérémonies religieuses.
SOURCE : http://www.guide-irlande.com/culture-irlandaise/personnalites-irlandaises/religieux-irlandais/saint-colomba-de-iona/
Le pèlerin du Christ
Né dans le comté de Donegal, de la famille royale irlandaise des Tirconaill, Colomba reçut son éducation à Moville (où il devint diacre), à Leinster et à l’école monastique de Clonard sous l’autorité de saint Finnian. Il fut probablement ordonné prêtre avant de partir pour Glasnevin. Quand la peste ravagea le pays en 543, les moines furent dispersés et Colomba passa les quinze années qui suivirent à voyager à travers l’Irlande : il fondait des monastères (Derry en 546), prêchait et convertissait la population. Un jour, une dispute survint entre Colomba et saint Finnian : le premier avait copié un psautier appartenant au second, lequel, soucieux de réserver ses droits de reproduction, revendiqua la copie en question. Colomba en appela au roi Diarmaid qui lui donna tort. Ce fut la première ébauche de la législation sur le copyright. L’affaire n’en resta pas là. Colomba incita sa famille à se battre contre les troupes de Diarmaid. Ses hommes gagnèrent la bataille mais ce fut un massacre. Certains racontent que ce fut le remords qui poussa Colomba à partir en Écosse.
Colomba s’embarqua pour Iona en 563 avec douze compagnons. Il y fonda un monastère très célèbre, centre de la Chrétienté celtique. Iona fut une base pour les missions chez les Pictes du Nord. Il fit grande impression sur le roi Brude en faisant sortir le monstre du Loch Ness. On lui attribue aussi la conversion du roi irlandais Aidan de Dalriada. Colomba resta à Iona jusqu’à la fin de sa vie, mais il visita l’Irlande à plusieurs reprises. Il fonda tant d’églises dans les Hébrides qu’on lui attribua le nom gaélique Colmcille (colombe des églises). Les traditions monastiques d’Iona furent suivies dans l’Europe entière, l’ordre bénédictin finit par s’imposer à quelques-unes. Colomba passa beaucoup de temps à la fin de sa vie, à transcrire des livres. Il mourut à Iona le 9 juin 597.
Le portrait du saint
« Il avait, dit saint Adamman, une figure angélique : c’était une nature d’élite ; il était brillant dans ses paroles, saint dans ses actions, grand dans ses conseils. Il ne perdait pas un moment, toujours à prier, à lire ou à écrire ; il supportait le poids des jeûnes et des veilles sans répit. »
Faits et gestes
Toute sa vie porte l’empreinte d’une ardente et spéciale sympathie pour les travailleurs des champs. Pendant un des derniers étés, en revenant de moissonner les maigres récoltes de leur île, les religieux s’arrêtèrent émus et charmés. Baïthen, l’économe du monastère, ami et successeur de Colomba, leur demanda : « N’éprouvez-vous ici rien de particulier ? - Oui, vraiment, répondit le plus ancien, tous les jours à cette heure, je respire un parfum délicieux, comme si toutes les fleurs du monde étaient ici réunies ; je sens aussi comme la flamme d’un foyer qui ne me brûle pas, mais me réchauffe doucement ; j’éprouve enfin, dans mon cœur, une joie si inaccoutumée, si incomparable, que je ne sens plus ni chagrin ni fatigue. Les gerbes que je porte sur le dos ne pèsent plus rien, il me semble qu’on me les enlève des épaules.
Qu’est-ce donc que cette merveille ? Et tous de raconter une impression identique. « Je vais vous le dire, reprit l’économe, ce qu’il en est. C’est notre vieux maître Colomba, toujours plein d’anxiété pour nous, qui s’inquiète de notre retard, qui se tourmente de notre fatigue et qui ne pouvant plus venir au-devant de nous avec son corps, nous envoie son souffle pour nous rafraîchir, nous réjouir et nous consoler. »
Saint Colomba est fêté le 9 juin
Les Saints, Alison Jones ; éd. Bordas, 1995.
Saint Columba (également connu sous le nom Columcille, qui signifie "Colombe de l'Église") est né à Donegal sur le7 Décembre 521 de nobles parents irlandais. Il devint moine et fut bientôt ordonné prêtre. La Tradition affirme qu'aux environs de 560, il y eut un litige sur le droit de copier une édition du Psautier Le différend a finalement conduit à la bataille de Cul Dremhe en 561, au cours de laquelle beaucoup d'hommes furent tués. Comme pénitence pour ces morts, il fut ordonné à Columba de faire le même nombre de nouveaux convertis que d'hommes qui avaient été tués dans la bataille. Il lui fut aussi ordonné de quitter l'Irlande et d'être assez éloigné pas ne pas voir son pays natal.
Il alla en Écosse, où il est réputé, il débarqua à la pointe sud de la péninsule de Kintyre, près de Southend. Toutefois, étant encore en vue de sa terre natale il déménagea plus au nord jusqu'à la côte ouest de l'Écosse. En 563, il fonda un monastère sur l'île de Iona au large de la côte ouest de l'Écosse, lieu qui devint le centre de sa mission évangélisatrice vers l'Ecosse.
Il y a beaucoup d'histoires de miracles qu'il accomplit au cours de sa mission pour convertir les Pictes, peuple qui vivait en Écosse à cette époque. Dans une histoire de sa vie, en 565 le saint rencontra un groupe de Pictes qui enterraient un homme tué par un monstre qui vivait dans les eaux du Loch Ness, et il fit revenir l'homme à la vie. Dans une autre version, il aurait sauvé l'homme alors qu'il était attaqué, chassant le monstre avec le signe de la Croix.
La principale source de la vie de saint Columba est la Vie de saint Columba, hagiographie de saint Adamnan d'Iona.
Saint Columba est censé être enterré avec saint Patrick et Saint-Brigitte de Kildare, à Downpatrick dans le comté de Down, au fond de la célèbre colline de Down.
Sa fête est au 9 juin.
Version française Claude Lopez-Ginisty
Abbot of Iona, b. at Garten, County Donegal, Ireland, 7 December, 521; d. 9 June, 597. He belonged to the ClanO'Donnell, and was of royal descent. His father's name was Fedhlimdh and that of his mother Eithne. On hisfather's side he was great-great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish king of the fourth century. Hisbaptismal name was Colum, which signifies a dove, hence the latinized form Columba. It assumes another formin Colum-cille, the suffix meaning "of the Churches". He was baptized at Tulach-Dubhglaise, now Temple-Douglas, by a priest named Cruithnechan, who afterwards became his tutor or foster-father. When sufficiently advanced in letters he entered the monastic school of Movilla under St. Finnian who had studied at St. Ninian's"Magnum Monasterium" on the shores of Galloway. Columba at Movilla monastic life and received the diaconate. In the same place his sanctity first manifested itself by miracles. By his prayers, tradition says, he convertedwater into wine for the Holy Sacrifice (Adam., II, i). Having completed his training at Movilla, he travelled southwards into Leinster, where he became a pupil of an aged bard named Gemman. On leaving him, Columbaentered the monastery of Clonard, governed at that time by Finnian, a remarkable, like his namesake of Movilla, for sanctity and learning. Here he imbibed the traditions of the Welsh Church, for Finnian had been trained in theschools of St. David. Here also he became one those twelve Clonard disciples known in subsequent history as theTwelve Apostles of Ireland. About this same time he was promoted to the priesthood by Bishop Etchen of Clonfad. The story that St. Finnian wished Columba to be consecrated bishop, but through a mistake only priest'sorders were conferred, is regarded by competent authorities as the invention of a later age (Reeves, Adam., 226).
Edmonds, Columba. "St. Columba." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 15 Mar. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04136a.htm>.
SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04136a.htm
Another preceptor of Columba was St. Mobhi, whose monastery at Glasnevin was frequented by such famous men as St. Canice, St. Comgall, and St. Ciaran. A pestilence which devastated Ireland in 544 caused the dispersion of Mobhi's disciples, and Columba returned to Ulster, the land of his kindred. The following years were marked by the foundation of several important monasteries, Derry, Durrow, and Kells. Derry and Durrow were always specially dear to Columba. While at Derry it is said that he planned a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem, but did not proceed farther than Tours. Thence he brought a copy of those gospels that had lain on the bosom ofSt. Martin for the space of 100 years. This relic was deposited in Derry (Skene, Celtic Scotland, II, 483). Columbaleft Ireland and passed over into Scotland in 563. The motives for this migration have been frequently discussed.Bede simply says: "Venit de Hibernia . . . praedicaturus verbum Dei" (H. E., III, iv); Adarnnan: "pro Christo perigrinari volens enavigavit" (Praef., II). Later writers state that his departure was due to the fact that he had induced the clan Neill to rise and engage in battle against King Diarmait at Cooldrevny in 561. The reasons alleged for this action of Columba are: (1) The king's violation of the right of sanctuary belonging to Columba'sperson as a monk on the occasion of the murder of Prince Curnan, the saint's kinsman; (2) Diarmait's adversejudgment concerning the copy Columba had secretly made of St. Finnian's psalter. Columba is said to have supported by his prayers the men of the North who were fighting while Finnian did the same for Diarmait's men. The latter were defeated with a loss of three thousand. Columba's conscience smote him, and he had recourse to his confessor, St. Molaise, who imposed this severe penance: to leave Ireland and preach the Gospel so as to gain as many souls to Christ as lives lost at Cooldrevny, and never more to look upon his native land. Some writers hold that these are legends invented by the bards and romancers of a later age, because there is no mention of them by the earliest authorities (O'Hanlon, Lives of the Ir. Saints, VI, 353). Cardinal Moran accepts no other motive than that assigned by Adamnan, "a desire to carry the Gospel to a pagan nation and to win souls toGod". (Lives of Irish Saints in Great Britain, 67). Archbishop Healy, on the contrary, considers that the saint did incite to battle, and exclaims: "O felix culpa . . . which produced so much good both for Erin and Alba (Schools and Scholars, 311).
Columba was in his forty-fourth year when he departed from Ireland. He and his twelve companions crossed the sea in a currach of wickerwork covered with hides. They landed at Iona on the eve of Pentecost, 12 May, 563. The island, according to Irish authorities, was granted to the monastic colonists by King Conall of Dalriada,Columba's kinsman. Bede attributes the gift to the Picts (Fowler, p. lxv). It was a convenient situation, being midway between his countrymen along the western coast and the Picts of Caledonia. He and his brethren proceeded at once to erect their humble dwellings, consisting of a church, refectory, and cells, constructed of wattles and rough planks. After spending some years among the Scots of Dalriada, Columba began the great work of his life, the conversion of the Northern Picts. Together with St. Comgall and St. Canice (Kenneth) he visited King Brude in his royal residence near Inverness. Admittance was refused to the missionaries, and the gates were closed and bolted, but before the sign of the cross the bolts flew back, the doors stood open, and themonks entered the castle. Awe-struck by so evident a miracle, the king listened to Columba with reverence; and was baptized. The people soon followed the example set them, and thus was inaugurated a movement that extended itself to the whole of Caledonia. Opposition was not wanting, and it came chiefly from the Druids, who officially represented the paganism of the nation.
The thirty-two remaining years of Columba's life were mainly spent in preaching the Christian Faith to the inhabitants of the glens and wooded straths of Northern Scotland. His steps can be followed not only through the Great Glen, but eastwards also, into Aberdeenshire. The "Book of Deer" (p. 91) tells us how he and Drostancame, as God had shown them to Aberdour in Buchan, and how Bede, a Pict, who was high steward of Buchan, gave them the town in freedom forever. The preaching of the saint was confirmed by many miracles, and he provided for the instruction of his converts by the erection of numerous churches and monasteries. One of his journeys brought him to Glasgow, where he met St. Mungo, the apostle of Strathclyde. He frequently visitedIreland; in 570 he attended the synod of Drumceatt, in company with the Scottish King Aidan, whom shortly before he had inaugurated successor of Conall of Dalriada. When not engaged in missionary journeys, he always resided at Iona. Numerous strangers sought him there, and they received help for soul and body. From Iona he governed those numerous communities in Ireland and Caledonia, which regarded him as their father and founder. This accounts for the unique position occupied by the successors of Columba, who governed the entireprovince of the Northern Picts although they had received priest's orders only. It was considered unbecoming that any successor in the office of Abbot of Iona should possess a dignity higher than of the founder. The bishopswere regarded as being of a superior order, but subject nevertheless to the jurisdiction of the abbot. AtLindisfarne the monks reverted to the ordinary law and were subject to a bishop (Bede, H.E., xxvii).
Columba is said never to have spent an hour without study, prayer, or similar occupations. When at home he was frequently engaged in transcribing. On the eve of his death he was engaged in the work of transcription. It is stated that he wrote 300 books with his own hand, two of which, "The Book of Durrow" and the psalter called "The Cathach", have been preserved to the present time. The psalter enclosed in a shrine, was originally carried into battle by the O'Donnells as a pledge of victory. Several of his compositions in Latin and Irish have come down to us, the best known being the poem "Altus Prosator", published in the "Liber Hymnorum", and also in another form by the late Marquess of Bute. There is not sufficient evidence to prove that the rule attributed to him was really his work.
In the spring of 597 he knew that his end was approaching. On Saturday, 8 June, he ascended the hill overlooking his monastery and blessed for the last time the home so dear to him. That afternoon he was present at Vespers, and later, when the bell summoned the community to the midnight service, he forestalled the others and entered the church without assistance. But he sank before the altar, and in that place breathed forth his soulto God, surrounded by his disciples. This happened a little after midnight between the 8th and 9th of June, 597. He was in the seventy-seventh year of his age. The monks buried him within the monastic enclosure. After the lapse of a century or more his bones were disinterred and placed within a suitable shrine. But as Northmen andDanes more than once invaded the island, the relics of St. Columba were carried for purposes of safety intoIreland and deposited in the church of Downpatrick. Since the twelfth century history is silent regarding them. His books and garments were held in veneration at Iona, they were exposed and carried in procession, and were the means of working miracles (Adam., II, xlv). His feast is kept in Scotland and Ireland on the 9th of June. In the Scottish Province of st Andrews and Edinburgh there is a Mass and Office proper to the festival, which ranks as a double of the second class with an octave. He is patron of two Scottish dioceses Argyle and the Isles andDunkeld. According to tradition St. Columba was tall and of dignified mien. Adamnan says: "He was angelic in appearance, graceful in speech, holy in work" (Praef., II). His voice was strong, sweet, and sonorous capable at times of being heard at a great distance. He inherited the ardent temperament and strong passions of his race. It has been sometimes said that he was of an angry and vindictive spirit not only because of his supposed part in the battle of Cooldrevny but also because of irritant related by Adamnan (II, xxiii sq.) But the deeds that roused his indignation were wrongs done to others, and the retribution that overtook the perpetrators was rather predicted than actually invoked. Whatever faults were inherent in his nature he overcame and he stands before the world conspicuous for humility and charity not only towards has brethren, but towards strangers also. He was generous and warm-hearted, tender and kind even to dumb creatures. He was ever ready to sympathize with thejoys and sorrows of others. His fasts and vigils were carried to a great extent. The stone pillow on which he slept is said to be still preserved in Iona. His chastity of body and purity of mind are extolled by all his biographers. Notwithstanding his wonderful austerities, Adamnan assures us he was beloved by all, "for a holy joyousness that ever beamed from his countenance revealed the gladness with which the Holy Spirit filled his soul". (Praef., II.)
He was not only a great missionary saint who won a whole kingdom to Christ, but he was a statesman, a scholar, a poet, and the founder of numerous churches and monasteries. His name is dear to Scotsmen and Irishmenalike. And because of his great and noble work even non-Catholics hold his memory in veneration. For the purposes of controversy it has been maintained some that St. Columba ignored papal supremacy, because he entered upon his mission without the pope's authorization. Adamnan is silent on the subject; but his work is neither exhaustive as to Columba's life, nor does it pretend to catalogue the implicit and explicit belief of hispatron. Indeed, in those days a mandate from the pope was not deemed essential for the work which St. Columba undertook. This may be gathered from the words of St. Gregory the Great, relative to the neglect of theBritish clergy towards the pagan Saxons (Haddan and Stubbs, III, 10). Columba was a son of the Irish Church, which taught from the days of St. Patrick that matters of greater moment should be referred to the Holy See for settlement. St. Columbanus, Columba's fellow-countryman and fellow-churchman, asked for papal judgment(judicium) on the Easter question; so did the bishops and abbots of Ireland. There is not the slightest evidence toprove that St. Columba differed on this point from his fellow-countrymen. Moreover, the Stowe Missal, which, according to the best authority, represents the Mass of the Celtic Church during the early part of the seventh century, contains in its Canon prayers for the pope more emphatic than even those of the Roman Liturgy. To the further objection as to the supposed absence of the cultus of Our Lady, it may be pointed out that the same Stowe Missal contains before its Canon the invocation "Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis", which epitomizes all Catholicdevotion to the Blessed Virgin. As to the Easter difficulty Bede thus sums up the reasons for the discrepancy: "He [Columba] left successors distinguished for great charity, Divine love, and strict attention to the rules ofdiscipline following indeed uncertain cycles in the computation of the great festival of Easter, because, far away as they were out of the world, no one had supplied them with the synodal decrees relating to the Paschalobservance" (H.E., III, iv). As far as can be ascertained no proper symbolical representation of St. Columba exists. The few attempts that have been made are for the most part mistaken. A suitable pictorial representation would exhibit him, clothed in the habit and cowl usually worn by the Basilian or Benedictine monks, with Celtictonsure and crosier. His identity could be best determined by showing him standing near the shell-strewn shore, with currach hard by, and the Celtic cross and ruins of Iona in the background.
Edmonds, Columba. "St. Columba." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 15 Mar. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04136a.htm>.
(also known as Colum, Columbus, Combs, Columkill, Columcille, Colmcille)
Born in Garton, County Donegal, Ireland, c. 521; died June 9, 597.
"Alone with none but Thee, my God,
I journey on my way;
What need I fear when Thou art near,
Oh King of night and day?
More safe am I within Thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand."
--Attributed to Saint Columba.
"We know for certain that Columba left successors distinguished for their purity of life, their love of God, and their loyalty to the rules of the monastic life." --The Venerable Bede.
Ireland has many saints and three great ones: Patrick, Brigid, and Columba. Columba outshines the others for his pure Irishness. He loved Ireland with all his might and hated to leave it for Scotland. But he did leave it and laid the groundwork for the conversion of Britain. He had a quick temper but was very kind, especially to animals and children. He was a poet and an artist who did illumination, perhaps some of those in the Book of Kells itself. His skill as a scribe can be seen in the Cathach of Columba at the Irish Academy, which is the oldest surviving example of Irish majuscule writing. It was latter enshrined in silver and bronze and venerated in churches.
About the time that Patrick was taken to Ireland as a slave, Columba was born. He came from a race of kings who had ruled in Ireland for six centuries, directly descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, and was himself in close succession to the throne. From an early age he was destined for the priesthood; he was given in fosterage to a priest. After studying at Moville under Saint Finnian and then at Clonard with another Saint Finnian, he surrendered his princely claims, he became a monk at Glasnevin under Mobhi and was ordained.
He spent the next 15 years preaching and teaching in Ireland. As was the custom in those days, he combined study and prayer with manual labor. By his own natural gifts as well as by the good fortune of his birth, he soon gained ascendancy as a monk of unusual distinction. By the time he was 25, he had founded no less than 27 Irish monasteries, including those at Derry (546), Durrow (c. 556), and probably Kells, as well as some 40 churches.
Columba was a poet, who had learned Irish history and poetry from a bard named Gemman. He is believed to have penned the Latin poem Altus Prosator and two other extant poems. He also loved fine books and manuscripts. One of the famous books associated with Columbia is the Psaltair, which was traditionally the Battle Book of the O'Donnells, his kinsmen, who carried it into battle. The Psaltair is the basis for one of the most famous legends of Saint Columba.
It is said that on one occasion, so anxious was Columba to have a copy of the Psalter that he shut himself up for a whole night in the church that contained it, transcribing it laboriously by hand. He was discovered by a monk who watched him through the keyhole and reported it to his superior, Finnian of Moville. The Scriptures were so scarce in those days that the abbot claimed the copy, refusing to allow it to leave the monastery. Columba refused to surrender it, until he was obliged to do so, under protest, on the abbot's appeal to the High King Diarmaid, who said: "Le gach buin a laogh" or "To every cow her own calf," meaning to every book its copy.
An unfortunate period followed, during which, owing to Columba's protection of a refugee and his impassioned denunciation of an injustice by King Diarmaid, war broke out between the clans of Ireland, and Columba became an exile of his own accord. Filled with remorse on account of those who had been slain in the battle of Cooldrevne, and condemned by many of his own friends, he experienced a profound conversion and an irresistible call to preach to the heathen. Although there are questions regarding Columba's real motivation, in 563, at the age of 42, he crossed the Irish Sea with 12 companions in a coracle and landed on a desert island now known as Iona (Holy Island) on Whitsun Eve. Here on this desolate rock, only three miles long and two miles wide, in the grey northern sea off the southwest corner of Mull, he began his work; and, like Lindisfarne, Iona became a center of Christian enterprise. It was the heart of Celtic Christianity and the most potent factor in the conversion of the Picts, Scots, and Northern English.
Columba built a monastery consisting of huts with roofs of branches set upon wooden props. It was a rough and primitive settlement. For over 30 years he slept on the hard ground with no pillow but a stone. But the work spread and soon the island was too small to contain it. From Iona numerous other settlements were founded, and Columba himself penetrated the wildest glens of Scotland and the farthest Hebrides, and established the Caledonian Church. It is reputed that he anointed King Aidan of Argyll upon the famous stone of Scone, which is now in Westminster Abbey. The Pictish King Brude and his people were also converted by Columba's many miracles, including driving away a water "monster" from the River Ness with the Sign of the Cross. Columba is said to have built two churches at Inverness.
Just one year before Columba's migration to Iona, Saint Moluag established his mission at Lismore on the west coast of Scotland. There are constant references to a rivalry between the two saints over spheres of influence, which are probably without foundation. Columba was primarily interested in Gaelic life in Scotland, while Moluag was drawn to the conversion of the Picts.
While leading the Irish in Scotland, Columba appears to have retained some sort of overlordship over his monasteries in Ireland. About 580, he participated in the assembly of Druim-Cetta in Ulster, where he mediated about the obligations of the Irish in Scotland to those in Ireland. It was decided that they should furnish a fleet, but not an army, for the Irish high-king. During the same assembly, Columba, who was a bard himself, intervened to effectively swing the nation away from its declared intention of suppressing the Bardic Order. Columba persuaded them that the whole future of Gaelic culture demanded that the scholarship of the bards be preserved. His prestige was such that his views prevailed and assured the presence of educated laity in Irish Christian society.
He is personally described as "A man well-formed, with powerful frame; his skin was white, his face broad and fair and radiant, lit up with large, gray, luminous eyes. . . ." (Curtayne). Saint Adamnan, his biographer wrote of him: "He had the face of an angel; he was of an excellent nature, polished in speech, holy in deed, great in counsel . . . loving unto all." It is clear that Columba's temperament changed dramatically during his life. In his early years he was intemperate and probably inclined to violence. He was extremely stern and harsh with his monks, but towards the end he seems to have softened. Columba had great qualities and was gay and lovable, but his chief virtue lay in the conquest of his own passionate nature and in the love and sympathy that flowed from his eager and radiant spirit.
On June 8, 597, Columba was copying out the psalms once again. At the verse, "They that love the Lord shall lack no good thing," he stopped, and said that his cousin, Saint Baithin must do the rest. Columba died the next day at the foot of the altar. He was first buried at Iona, but 200 years later the Danes destroyed the monastery. His relics were translated to Dunkeld in 849, where they were visited by pilgrims, including Anglo-Saxons of the 11th century.
The year Columba died was the same year in which Saint Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine of Canterbury to convert England. Perhaps because the Roman party gained ascendancy at the Synod of Whitby, much of the credit that belongs to Saint Columba and his followers for the conversion of Britain has been attributed to Augustine. It should not be forgotten that both saints played important roles.
Saint Columba is also important as patron of the Knights of Saint Columba, known in the United States as the Knights of Columbus and by other names in various parts of the world. Like Saint Malachy, whose apocryphal prophecies concerning the succession of popes are universally known, Saint Columba left a series of predictions about the future of Ireland. These were published in 1969 by Peter Blander under the title, The Prophecies of Saint Malachy and Saint Columbkille (4th ed. 1979, Colin Smythe, Gerrards Cross Buckshire).
Unsurprisingly, devotion to Columba is especially strong in Derry. On April 13, the king signed the Catholic Emancipation Act in London. On that same day in Derry, the statue of a Protestant leader of the siege of Derry, which stood on the city walls was smashed apart of its own accord. The destruction of this symbol of dominion was attributed to the intercession of Saint Columba (Anderson, Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Menzies, Montague, Simpson).
The following legends about Saint Columba are the gentlest things recorded about the heroic and tempestuous abbot who founded Iona. The countryside where he was fathered is Gartan in Donegal, at the ingoing of the mountains and the great lake; a gentle countryside, and more apt a birthplace for the bird than the saint. The life written about 690 by Saint Adamnan, himself an Irishman and an abbot of Iona, is a rugged piece of work: but the deathdays of Saint Columba, and the crowding torches that discovered him dying in the dark before the high altar at midnight on June 9, are one of the tidemarks in medieval prose. The work itself owes much to Adamnan's imagination and more to unreliable sources, but it is a primarily a narrative of the miracles worked through Columba.
In the first story Columba bids his brother monk to go in three days to a far hilltop and wait, "'For when the third hour before sunset is past, there shall come flying from the northern coasts of Ireland a stranger guest, a crane, wind tossed and driven far from her course in the high air; tired out and weary she will fall upon the beach at thy feet and lie there, her strength nigh gone. Tenderly lift her and carry her to the steading near by; make her welcome there and cherish her with all care for three days and nights; and when the three days are ended, refreshed and loath to tarry longer with us in our exile, she shall take flight again towards that old sweet land of Ireland whence she came, in pride of strength once more. And if I commend her so earnestly to thy charge, it is that in the countryside where thou and I were reared, she too was nested.'"
The brother obeyed and all happened as Columba had foretold. "And on his return that evening to the monastery the Saint spoke to him, not as one questioning but as one speaks of a thing past. 'May God bless thee, my son,' said he, 'for thy kind tending of this pilgrim guest; that shall make no long stay in her exile, but when three suns have set shall turn back to her own land.'" And so it happened (Adamnan; also in Curtayne).
The second story recalls how Columba's heart would be touched when he saw a sad child. From time to time he would leave Iona to preach to the Picts of Scotland. "Once he visited a Pictish ruler who was also a druid, or pagan priest. When he was there he noticed a thin little girl with a face like a ghost. He asked who she was and was told that she was just a slave from Ireland. The way it was said seemed to mean: 'Why do you ask such silly questions? Who cares who she is, as long as she brushes and scrubs and does what she is told?'
"Columcille was troubled; he could see plainly that the little girl was miserable. So he asked the druid to give her freedom and he would get her home to Ireland. The druid refused. Columcille went away with a picture of an unhappy little girl in his mind.
"Shortly afterward, the important druid became ill; there was nobody near to tell him what to do to get well so he sent for the Abbot of Iona, who had a great reputation for curing people. Columcille did not leave Iona but sent a message back that he would cure the druid if he let the little girl free.
"The druid was angry and again refused. 'What on earth is he troubling himself for about that little bit of a good-for-nothing?' grumbled the druid as he tossed about in bed. But the messenger had hardly left for Iona with the refusal when the druid got worse; he had much pain and he thought he would die. So he sent off another message to Columcille: 'Yes, you can have the slave-girl, only come and do something for me. I am very bad and will die if you don't come soon.'" Columcille, however, did not trust the priest, so he sent two of his monks to bring the girl back. When the girl was safe, Columcille set out for the druid's house and cured him of his sickness (Curtayne).
Anther story occurs in May, when Columba set out in a cart to visit the brethren at their work. He found them busy in the western fields and said, 'I had a great longing on me this April just now past, in the high days of the Easter feast, to go to the Lord Christ; and it was granted me by Him, if I so willed. But I would not have the joy of your feast turned into mourning, and so I willed to put off the day of my going from the world a little longer.' The monks were saddened to hear this and Columba tried to cheer them. He blessed the island and islanders and returned in his cart to the monastery.
On that Saturday, the venerable old saint and his faithful Diarmid went to bless a barn and two heaps of grain stored therein. Then with a gesture of thanksgiving, he spoke, 'Truly, I give my brethren at home joy that this year, if so be I might have to go somewhere away from you, you will have what provision will last you the year.'
Diarmid was grieved to hear this again and the saint promised to share his secret. "'In the Holy Book this day is called the Sabbath, which is, being interpreted, rest. And truly is this day my Sabbath, for it is the last day for me of this present toilsome life, when from all weariness of travail I shall take my rest, and at midnight of this Lord's Day that draws n, I shall, as the Scripture saith, go the way of my fathers. For now my Lord Jesus Christ hath deigned to invite me; and to Him, I say, at this very midnight and at His own desiring, I shall go. For so it was revealed to me by the Lord Himself.' At this sad hearing his man began bitterly to weep, and the Saint tried to comfort him as best he might.
"And so the Saint left the barn, and took the road back to the monastery; and halfway there sat down to rest. Afterwards on that spot they set a cross, planted upon a millstone, and it is to be seen by the roadside to this day. And as the Saint sat there, a tired old man taking his rest awhile, up runs the white horse, his faithful servitor that used to carry the milk pails, and coming up to the Saint he leaned his head against his breast and began to mourn, knowing as I believe from God Himself--for to God every animal is wise in the instinct his Maker hath given him--that his master was soon to go from him, and that he would see his face no more. And his tears ran down as a man's might into the lap of the Saint, and he foamed as he wept.
"Seeing it, Diarmid would have driven the sorrowing creature away, but the Saint prevented him, saying, 'Let be, let be, suffer this lover of mine to shed on my breast the tears of his most bitter weeping. Behold, you that are a man and have a reasonable soul could in no way have known of my departing if I had not but now told you; yet to this dumb and irrational beast, his Creator in such fashion as pleased Him has revealed that his master is to go from him.' And so saying, he blessed the sad horse that had served him, and it turned again to its way" (Adamnan; also in Curtayne).
In art, Saint Columba is depicted with a basket of bread and an orb of the world in a ray of light. He might also be pictured with an old, white horse (Roeder). He is venerated in Dunkeld and as the Apostle of Scotland (Roeder).
SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0609.shtml#feli
SAINT COLUMBA, ABBOT, CONFESSOR—521-597
Feast: June 6
Columba, the most famous of the saints associated with Scotland, was actually an Irishman of the O'Neill or O'Donnell clan, born about the year 521 at Garton, County Donegal, in north Ireland. Of royal lineage on both sides, his father, Fedhlimidh, or Phelim, was great-grandson to Niall of the Nine Hostages, Overlord of Ireland, and connected with the Dalriada princes of southwest Scotland; his mother, Eithne, was descended from a king of Leinster. The child was baptized Colum, or Columba. In later life he was given the name of Columcille or Clumkill, that is, Colum of the Cell or Church, an appropriate title for one who became the founder of so many monastic cells and religious establishments.
As soon as he was old enough, Columba was taken from the care of his priest-guardian at Tulach-Dugblaise, or Temple Douglas, to St. Finnian's training school at Moville, at the head of Strangford lough. He was about twenty, and a deacon, when he left to study in the school of Leinster under an aged theologian and bard called Gemman. With their songs of heroes, the bards were the preservers of Irish lore, and Columba himself became a poet. Still later he attended the famous monastic school of Clonard, presided over by another Finnian, who in later times was known as the "tutor of Erin's saints." At one time three thousand students were gathered here from all over Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and even from Gaul and Germany. It was probably at Clonard that Columba was ordained priest, although it may have been later, when he was living with his friends, Comgall, Kieran, and Kenneth, under the most gifted of all his teachers, St. Mobhi, by a ford in the river Tolca, called Dub Linn, the site of the future city of Dublin. In 543 an outbreak of plague compelled Mobhi to close his school, and Columba, now twenty-five years old and fully trained, returned to Ulster. He was a striking figure of great stature and powerful build, with a loud, melodious voice which could be heard from one hilltop to another. For the next fifteen years Columba went about Ireland preaching and founding monasteries, the chief of which were those at Derry, Durrow, and Kells.
The powerful stimulus given to Irish learning by St. Patrick in the previous century was now beginning to burgeon. Columba himself dearly loved books, and spared no pains to obtain or make copies of Psalters, Bibles, and other valuable manuscripts for his monks. His former master Finnian had brought back from Rome the first copy of St. Jerome's Psalter to reach Ireland. Finnian guarded this precious volume jealously, but Columba got permission to look at it, and surreptitiously made a copy for his own use. Finnian, on being told of this, laid claim to the copy. Columba refused to give it up, and the question of ownership was put before Ring Diarmaid, Overlord of Ireland. His curious decision in this early "copyright" case went against Columba. "To every cow her calf," reasoned the King, "and to every book its son-book. Therefore the copy you made, O Colum Cille, belongs to Finnian." Columba was soon to have a more serious grievance against the King. Prince Curnan of Connaught, who had fatally injured a rival in a hurling match and had taken refuge with Columba, was dragged from his protector's arms and slain by Diarmaid's men, in defiance of the rights of sanctuary.
The war which soon broke out between Columba's clan and the clans loyal to Diarmaid was instigated, it is said, by Columba. At the battle of Cuil Dremne his cause was victorious, but Columba was accused of being morally responsible for driving three thousand unprepared souls into eternity. A church synod was held at Tailltiu (Telltown) in County Meath, which passed a vote of censure and would have followed it by excommunication but for the intervention of St. Brendan. Columba's own conscience was uneasy, and on the advice of an aged hermit, Molaise, he resolved to expiate his offense by exiling himself and trying to win for Christ in another land as many souls as had perished in the terrible battle of Cuil Dremne.
This traditional account of the events which led to Columba's departure from Ireland may well be correct, although missionary zeal and love of Christ are the motives mentioned for his going by the earliest biographers and by Adamnan, our chief authority for his subsequent history. Whatever the impulse that prompted him, in the year 563, Columba embarked with twelve companions in a wicker coracle covered with leather, and on the eve of Pentecost landed on the island of Hi, or Iona. The first thing he did there was to erect a high stone cross; then he built a monastery, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. The island itself was made over to him by his kinsman Conall, king of the British Dalriada, who perhaps had invited him to come to Scotland in the first place. Lying across from the border country between the Picts of the north and the Scots of the south, Iona made an ideal center for missionary work. Columba seems to have first devoted himself to teaching the imperfectly instructed Christians of Dalriada, most of whom were of Irish descent, but after some two years he turned to the work of converting the Scottish Picts. With his old comrades, Comgall and Kenneth, both of them Irish Picts, he made his way through Loch Ness northward to the castle of the redoubtable King Brude, near modern Inverness. That pagan monarch had given strict orders that they were not to be admitted, but when Columba raised his arm and made the sign of the cross, it was said that bolts fell out and gates swung open, permitting the strangers to enter. Impressed by such powers, the King listened to them and ever after held Columba in high regard. As Overlord of Scotland he confirmed him in possession of Iona. We know from Adamnan that on several occasions Columba crossed the mountain chain which divides Scotland and that his travels also took him far north, and through the Western Isles. He is said to have planted churches as far east as Aberdeenshire and to have evangelized nearly the whole of the country of the Picts. When the descendants of the Dalriada kings became the rulers of Scotland, they were naturally eager to magnify the achievements of their hero and distant kinsman, Columba, and may have attributed to him victories won by others.
Columba never lost touch with Ireland. In 575 he was at the synod of Drumceatt in County Meath in company with King Conall's successor, Aidan, whom he had helped to place on the throne and had crowned at Iona, in his role as chief ecclesiastical ruler. His immense influence is shown by his veto of a proposal to abolish the order of bards and his securing for women exemption from all military service. When not on missionary journeys, Columba was to be found in his cell on Iona, where persons of all conditions visited him, some in want of spiritual or material help, some drawn by his miracles and sanctity. His biographer gives us a picture of a serene old age. His manner of life was austere; he slept on a bare slab of rock and ate barley or oat cakes, drinking only water. When he became too weak to travel, he spent long hours copying manuscripts, as he had done in his youth. On the day before his death he was at work on a Psalter, and had just traced the words, "They that love the Lord shall lack no good thing," when he paused and said, "Here I must stop; let Baithin do the rest." Baithin was his cousin. whom he had already nominated as his successor. When the monks entered the church for Matins, they found their beloved abbot lying helpless and dying before the altar. As his faithful attendant Diarmaid gently upraised him, he made a feeble effort to bless his brethren and then expired.
Iona was for centuries one of the famous centers of Christian learning For a long time afterwards, Scotland, Ireland, and Northumbria followed the observances Columba had set for the monastic life, in distinction to those that were brought from Rome by later missionaries. His rule, based on the Eastern Rule of St. Basil, was that of many monasteries of Western Europe until superseded by the milder ordinance of St. Benedict. Adamnan, who must have bee n brought up on memories and recollections of Columba, writes eloquently of him: "He had the face of an angel; he was of excellent nature, polished in speech, holy in deed, great in council. He never let a single hour pass without engaging in prayer or reading or writing or some other occupation. He endured the hardships of fasting and vigils without intermission by day and night; the burden of a single one of his labors would have seemed beyond the powers of man. And, in the midst of all his toils, he appeared loving unto all, serene and holy, rejoicing in the joy of the Holy Spirit in his inmost heart."
Alone am I upon the mountain;
O Royal Sun, be the way prosperous;
I have no more fear of aught
Than if there were six thousand with me.
If there were six thousand with me
Of people, though they might defend my body,
When the appointed moment of my death shall come,
There is no fortress that can resist it.
They that are ill-fated are slain even in a church,
Even on an island in the middle of a lake;
They that are well-fated are preserved in life,
Though they were in the first rank of battle, . . .
Whatever God destines for one,
He shall not go from the world till it befall him;
Though a Prince should seek anything more
Not as much as a mite shall he obtain....
O Living God, O Living God!
Woe to him who for any reason does evil.
What thou seest not come to thee,
What thou seest escapes from thy grasp.
Our fortune does not depend on sneezing.
Nor on a bird on the point of a twig,
Nor on the trunk of a crooked tree,
Nor on a sordan hand in hand,
Better is He on whom we depend,
The Father,—the One,—and the Son....
I reverence not the voices of birds,
Nor sneezing, nor any charm in the wide world,
Nor a child of chance, nor a woman;
My Druid is Christ, the Son of God.
Christ the Son of Mary, the great Abbot,
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;
My Possession is the King of Kings;
My Order is in Kells and Moone.
Alone am I.
(D. Macgregor, Saint Columba, Edinburgh, 1897.)
1 Some records say he was baptized Crimthan, meaning the Fox, but that hisgentleness and goodness as a child so won all hearts that he was rechristened Colum, or Columba, Latin for dove.
2 The historian Adamnan was born in Donegal about 624. He became abbot of Iona, being ninth in succession after Columba. His
is a rich mine of anecdote.
3 The original form of the word was Hy or I, which is Irish for island. Iona is one of the Inner Hebrides, just off the west coast of Scotland. It became known also as Icolmkill, "the island of Columba of the Cell." It had been a sacred place to the Druids before Columba landed there, and was to become the center of Celtic Christianity.
4 Columba sang this song as he walked alone, it was thought to be a protection to anyone who sang it on a journey, like the "Lorica" of St. Patrick.
Saint Columba, Abbot, Confessor. Celebration of Feast Day is June 6.
Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.
Provided Courtesy of: Eternal Word Television Network, 5817 Old Leeds Road, Irondale, AL 35210
Columba (Colum, Colm, Columkill, Columcille, Colmcille, Combs, Columbus), the most famous of the saints associated with Scotland, was actually born in Ireland, of the O'Neill or O'Donnell clan, at Garton, County Donegal. Some say his birth date was December 7; most sources agree that the year of his birth was 521. His father, Fedhlimidh, or Phelim, was great-grandson to Niall of the Nine Hostages, Overlord of Ireland, and connected with the Dalriada princes of southwest Scotland; his mother, Eithne, was descended from a king of Leinster. He was of the blood royal on both sides, and might indeed have become High King of Ireland had he not chosen to be a priest.
A few records say his original name was Crimthan, meaning "fox", but his gentleness and goodness as a child so won all hearts that he was rechristened Colum, Latin for dove. Later he was commonly known as Colum-kill or Colum-cille, the suffix "kill" or "cill" meaning "of the cell" or "of the church" -- an appropriate title for the founder of so many religious establishments.
Like many children destined for a holy life, as an infant he was given into the foster care of a priest named Cruithnechan, who also served as his tutor. He was baptized by Cruithnechan at Tulach-Dubhglaise, now Temple-Douglas, and his early life education began. When sufficiently advanced in letters Columba was taken from the care of his priest-guardian and sent to the school of Moville (County Down), where he began his training in the monastic life under a St. Finnian who had studied with St. Colman of Dromore. He was ordained to the diaconate before the age of twenty, and, after completing his training at Moville, he travelled southwards to Leinster, the land of his mother's ancestors, to study under an aged theologian and bard named Gemman. The bards were the preservers of Irish lore, and Columba himself was inspired to become a poet. He is believed to have penned the Latin poem Altus Prosator and two other extant poems.
Following some years with Gemman, Columba finally entered the famous monastic school of Clonard, presided over by the more famous St. Finnian who was known as the "tutor of Erin's saints." At one time three thousand students were gathered here from all over Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and even from Gaul and Germany. By his own natural gifts as well as by the good fortune of his birth, he soon gained ascendancy as a monk of unusual distinction. He became one those Clonard disciples known in subsequent history as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. It was probably at Clonard that Columba was ordained priest, although it may have been later, when he was living with his friends, Comgall, Kieran, and Kenneth, under the most gifted of all his teachers, St. Mobhi. St. Mobhi's monastery at Glasnevin was located by a ford in the river Tolca at a place called Dub Linn, the site of the future city of Dublin. In 543 an outbreak of plague devastated Ireland and in 544 Mobhi was compelled to close his school. Columba returned to Ulster, the land of his kindred.
He was fully trained by the time he was twenty-five years old, and he was a striking figure of great stature and powerful build. His loud, melodious voice could be heard from one hilltop to another. As was the custom in those days, he combined study and prayer with manual labor. Amongst many other accomplishments, Columba was a splendid sailor. With his imposing presence, holy personality and self-denying discipline, Columba went about Ireland for the next fifteen years preaching and founding monasteries, including those at Derry, Durrow, and Kells.
The powerful stimulus given to Irish learning by St. Patrick in the previous century was rapidly spreading and growing. Columba himself dearly loved books, and spared no pains to obtain or make copies of Psalters, Bibles, and other valuable manuscripts for his monks. In 540 his first master Finnian brought back from Rome the first copy of St. Jerome's Vulgate to reach Ireland. Finnian guarded this precious volume jealously, but Columba got permission to look at it, and surreptitiously made a copy of the Psalter for his own use. Finnian, on being told of this, laid claim not only to the original but to the copy made by Columba's own hand. Columba refused to give it up, and the question of ownership was put before King Diarmaid, Overlord of Ireland. Columba lost this early "copyright" case when the King said: "To every cow her calf, and to every book its son-book. Therefore the copy you made, O Colum Cille, belongs to Finnian."
Columba was soon to have a more serious grievance against King Diarmaid, when a prince had fatally injured a rival and had taken refuge with Columba was dragged from his protector's arms and slain by Diarmaid's men, in defiance of the sacred rights of sanctuary. The resulting war which broke out between Columba's clan and the clans loyal to Diarmaid was instigated, it is said, by Columba. At the battle of Cuil Dremne Columba's cause was victorious, but he was accused of being morally responsible for driving three thousand unprepared souls into eternity. A synod was held at Tailltiu (Telltown) in County Meath, which passed a vote of censure. Were it not for the intervention of St. Brendan, Columba would have been excommunicated. Though he still felt he was in the right, his conscience remained uneasy, and at last he made his confession to an aged hermit, Molaise. As penance, he resolved to exile himself and win for Christ in another land as many souls as had perished in the battle of Cuil Dremne.
Whatever the impulse that prompted him, in 563 Columba embarked with twelve companions in a wicker coracle covered with leather, and on the eve of Pentecost landed on one of the Inner Hebrides, just off the west coast of Scotland, at the place we now know as Iona. The first thing he did there was to erect a high stone cross; then he built a monastery, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. Iona was a desolate rock originally known only as Hy or I, Irish for "island". Years later it also became known also as Icolmkill, "the island of Columba of the Cell." It had been a sacred place to the Druids long before Columba landed there, and was to become the center of Celtic Christianity.
Columba and his Celtic monks at Iona combined contemplative life with extensive missionary activity. Lying across from the border country between the Picts of the north and the Scots of the south, Iona made an ideal center for missionary work. Columba seems to have first devoted himself to teaching the imperfectly instructed Christians of Dalriada, most of whom were of Irish descent, but after two years he turned to the work of converting the Scottish Picts. With his old comrades, Comgall and Kenneth, Columba made his way through Loch Ness northward to the castle of the redoubtable King Brude, near modern Inverness. The pagan monarch had given strict orders that they were not to be admitted, but when Columba raised his arm and made the sign of the cross, it was said that bolts fell out and gates swung open, permitting the strangers to enter. Impressed by such powers, the King listened to them and ever after held Columba in high regard. As Overlord of Scotland he confirmed him in possession of Iona. Columba is said to have planted churches as far east as Aberdeenshire and to have evangelized nearly the whole of the country of the Picts.
Columba never lost touch with Ireland. In 575 he was at the synod of Drumceatt in County Meath in company with King Conall's successor, Aidan, whom he had helped to place on the throne and had crowned at Iona, in his role as chief ecclesiastical ruler. His immense influence is shown by his veto of a proposal to abolish the order of bards, and his success at securing for women exemption from all military service. When not on missionary journeys, Columba was to be found in his cell on Iona, where persons of all conditions visited him, some in want of spiritual or material help, some drawn by his miracles and sanctity. Iona was for centuries one of the famous centers of Christian learning. For a long time afterwards, Scotland, Ireland, and Northumbria followed the observances Columba had set for the monastic life, in distinction to those that were brought from Rome by later missionaries. His rule, based on the Eastern Rule of St. Basil, was that of many monasteries of Western Europe until superseded by the milder ordinance of St. Benedict.
It is clear that Columba's temperament changed dramatically during his life. In his early years he was intemperate and probably inclined to violence. He was extremely stern and harsh with his monks, but towards the end he seems to have softened. Columba had great qualities and was quite lovable, but his chief virtue lay in the conquest of his own passionate nature and in the resulting love and sympathy that flowed from his eager and radiant spirit. Columba was generous and warm-hearted, tender and kind to dumb creatures and children. He was ever ready to sympathize with the joys and sorrows of others. His chastity of body and purity of mind are extolled by all his biographers. His manner of life was austere; he slept on a bare slab of rock and his stone pillow today stands as a memorial beside his grave. He ate mostly barley or oat cakes, and drank only water. Notwithstanding his wonderful austerities, he was beloved by all, "for a holy joyousness that ever beamed from his countenance revealed the gladness with which the Holy Spirit filled his soul", according to Adamnan, the source of our best biographical information about Columba. Adamnan also describes Columba thus: "He had the face of an angel; he was of excellent nature, polished in speech, holy in deed, great in council. He never let a single hour pass without engaging in prayer or reading or writing or some other occupation. He endured the hardships of fasting and vigils without intermission by day and night; the burden of a single one of his labors would have seemed beyond the powers of man. And, in the midst of all his toils, he appeared loving unto all, serene and holy, rejoicing in the joy of the Holy Spirit in his inmost heart."
Adamnan gives us a picture of a serene old age for Columba. When he became too weak to travel, he spent long hours copying manuscripts, as he had done in his youth. On the day before his death he was at work on a Psalter, and had just traced the words, "They that love the Lord shall lack no good thing," when he paused and said, "Here I must stop; let Baithin do the rest." Baithin was his cousin, whom he had already nominated as his successor. Later that night when vespers was ended, Columba returned to his bed. There he gave his last commands to the brethren, with only his servant to hear: I commend to you, my little children, these my last words: Love one another unfeignedly. Peace. If you keep this course according to the example of the holy fathers, God, who strengthens the good, will help you, and I dwelling with him shall intercede for you. He will supply not only enough for the needs of this present life, but also the eternal things that are prepared as a reward for those who keep the Lord's commandments."
As the bell rang out for the midnight office, Columba rose and went in haste to reach the church before the others. As he knelt alone in prayer before the altar, his servant Diarmait following behind from a distance saw the whole church filled inside with angelic light around the saint, but as he reached the door, the light vanished. The lamps of the brethren had not yet been brought, but feeling his way in the dark Diarmait found Columba lying before the altar. Rising him up a little and sitting down at his side, he cradled the holy head on his bosom. As the other monks gathered with their lamps, they began to lament at the sight of their father dying. Some of those who were present related how, before his soul left him, Columba opened his eyes and looked about him with a wonderful joy and gladness in his face as he could see the angels coming to meet him. Diarmait held up the saint's right hand to bless the choir of monks, and, shortly after midnight, Columba was promoted to glory.
Ireland has many saints and three great ones: Patrick, Brigid, and Columba. Columba outshines the others for his pure Irishness. He loved Ireland with all his might and hated to leave it for Scotland. But he did leave it, and laid the groundwork for the conversion of Britain. He was a renowned artist and some of his illumination may be recorded in the Book of Kells itself. His skill as a scribe can be seen in the Cathach of St. Columba at the Irish Academy, the oldest surviving example of Irish majuscule writing and the earliest existing example of a Celtic illuminated manuscript. It was later enshrined in silver and bronze and venerated in churches.
As far as can be ascertained no proper symbolical representation of St. Columba exists. A suitable pictorial representation would exhibit him, clothed in the habit and cowl usually worn by the Basilian or Benedictine monks, with Celtic tonsure and crosier. His identity could be best determined by showing him standing near the shell-strewn shore, with the Celtic cross and ruins of lona in the background. Columba is the patron saint of poets and bookbinders, and is also invoked against floods. He is the patron of the Knights of Saint Columba, known in the United States as the Knights of Columbus and by other names in various parts of the world. He is also the patron saint of Ireland and Scotland, and his feast is kept with equal distinction in both places. He is a still prominent figure in the Scottish Episcopal Church today, and many Episcopal churches in the United States are named for him.
St. Columba died shortly after midnight on June 9, 597.
SOURCE : http://www.allsaintsbrookline.org/celtic_saints/columba.html
5. The Scots
settled first in Ireland, which from them obtained the name of Scotia. They
were a colony from Spain, who invaded that island in an early age, and probably
were of Scythian origin; for their name seems to be of the same original with
that of the Scythians, derived perhaps from the Teutonic or Saxon word Scytan,
to shoot; in which martial exercise all the northern nations excelled. Bede
tells us the Picts were Scythians; but probably applied to them what belonged
to the Scots; for the Picts seem to have been Britons, and were perhaps the
original inhabitants of that country. At least they were established there long
before the Scots, who, according to their annals, invaded them from Ireland;
but were at first repulsed. Some time after, the Picts or Northern Britons,
seeing themselves threatened by the English-Saxons who had conquered the
southern part of the island, seem to have invited over the Scots from Ireland
to their assistance. At least these under King Fergus, about the year 503,
erected their kingdom in part of Scotland, called Dalriada, from Dal, a word in
their language, signifying a part, and Reuda, their leader, as Bede informs us.
Bishop Usher gives to the kingdom of the Dalriadens, or Scots in Dalriada, the
provinces of Kintire, Knapdale, Lorn, Argyll, Braid-Albin, and some of the
isles. The Scots and Picts lived good neighbours till about the year 840, when
Kenneth II. king of these Scots, in a great battle, slew Drusken, king of the
Picts, with a good part of his nobility, and conquered the whole country north
of Graham’s Dyke. About the year 900, the Scots became masters of the rest of
the country, which from that time took the name of Scotland, the distinction of
Picts being extinct with their kingdom. Some modern critics reject as fabulous
the list of thirty-nine Scottish kings from Fergus I. who was said to have
reigned contemporary to Alexander the Great, three hundred and thirty years
before Christ. Consequently they reckon Fergus, son of Erch, commonly called
Fergus II. the first king of the Scots in that country; and whereas he was
placed by some in 403, they fix the beginning of his reign in 503, which the
chronology of his immediate successors seems to point out. Among the Picts in
Cæsar’s time it was the fashion to paint their bodies.
St. Columba, or Columkille, Abbot in Ireland