dimanche 23 novembre 2014

Saint COLOMBAN de LUXEUIL et de BOBBIO, abbé bénédictin et confesseur


BENOÎT XVI

AUDIENCE GÉNÉRALE

Mercredi 11 juin 2008
   
Saint Colomban, un saint "européen"


Chers frères et sœurs,

Aujourd'hui, je voudrais parler du saint abbé Colomban, l'Irlandais le plus célèbre du bas Moyen-Age:  il peut à juste titre être appelé un saint "européen", parce que comme moine, missionnaire et écrivain, il a travaillé dans divers pays de l'Europe occidentale. Avec les Irlandais de son époque, il été conscient de l'unité culturelle de l'Europe. Dans une de ses lettres, écrite vers l'an 600 et adressée au Pape Grégoire le Grand, on trouve pour la première fois l'expression "totius Europae - de toute l'Europe", avec une référence à la présence de l'Eglise sur le continent (cf. Epistula I, 1).

Colomban était né vers 543 dans la province de Leinster, dans le sud-est de l'Irlande. Eduqué chez lui par d'excellents maîtres qui l'orientèrent vers l'étude des arts libéraux, il s'en remit ensuite à la conduite de l'abbé Sinell de la communauté de Cluain-Inis, dans le nord de l'Irlande, où il put approfondir l'étude des Saintes Ecritures. A l'âge de vingt ans environ, il entra dans le monastère de Bangor dans le nord-est de l'île, où se trouvait l'abbé Comgall, un moine très célèbre pour sa vertu et sa rigueur ascétique. En pleine harmonie avec son abbé, Colomban pratiqua avec zèle la discipline sévère du monastère, en menant une vie de prière, d'ascèse et d'études. Il y fut également ordonné prêtre. La vie à Bangor et l'exemple de l'abbé influèrent sur la conception du monachisme que Colomban mûrit avec le temps et diffusa ensuite au cours de sa vie.

A l'âge d'environ cinquante ans, suivant l'idéal ascétique typiquement irlandais de la "peregrinatio pro Christo", c'est-à-dire de se faire pèlerin pour le Christ, Colomban quitta l'île pour entreprendre avec douze compagnons une œuvre missionnaire sur le continent européen. En effet, nous devons avoir à l'esprit que la migration de peuples du nord et de l'est avait fait retomber dans le paganisme des régions entières déjà christianisées. Autour de l'an 590, le petit groupe de missionnaires accosta sur la côte bretonne. Accueillis avec bienveillance par le roi des Francs d'Austrasie (la France actuelle), ils demandèrent uniquement une parcelle de terre non-cultivée. Ils obtinrent l'antique forteresse romaine d'Annegray, en ruine et abandonnée, désormais recouverte par la forêt. Habitués à une vie de privation extrême, les moines réussirent en quelques mois à construire sur les ruines le premier monastère. Ainsi, leur réévangélisation commença a avoir lieu tout d'abord à travers le témoignage de leur vie. En même temps que la nouvelle culture de la terre, commença également une nouvelle culture des âmes. La renommée de ces religieux étrangers qui, en vivant de prière et dans une grande austérité, construisaient des maisons et défrichaient la terre, se répandit très rapidement en attirant des pèlerins et des pénitents. Beaucoup de jeunes demandaient à être accueillis dans la communauté monastique pour vivre, à leur manière, cette vie exemplaire qui renouvelle la culture de la terre et des âmes. Très vite la fondation d'un second monastère fut nécessaire. Il fut édifié à quelques kilomètres de distance, sur les ruines d'une antique ville thermale, Luxeuil. Le monastère allait ensuite devenir le centre du rayonnement monastique et missionnaire de tradition irlandaise sur le continent européen. Un troisième monastère fut érigé à Fontaine, à une heure de route plus au nord.

Colomban  vécut  pendant  environ vingt ans à Luxeuil. C'est là que le saint écrivit pour ses disciples la Regula monachorum - qui fut pendant un certain temps plus répandue en Europe que celle de saint Benoît -, qui trace l'image idéale du moine. C'est la seule règle monastique irlandaise ancienne aujourd'hui en notre possession. Il la compléta avec la Regula coenobialis, une sorte de code pénal pour les infractions des moines, avec des punitions assez surprenantes pour la sensibilité moderne, et qui ne s'expliquent que par la mentalité de l'époque et du contexte. Avec une autre œuvre célèbre intitulée De poenitentiarum misura taxanda, écrite également à Luxeuil, Colomban introduisit sur le continent la confession et la pénitence privées et répétées; elle fut appelé la pénitence "tarifée" en raison de la proportion entre la gravité du péché et le type de pénitence imposée par le confesseur. Ces nouveautés éveillèrent le soupçon des évêques de la région, un soupçon qui se transforma en hostilité lorsque Colomban eut le courage de les critiquer ouvertement en raison des mœurs de certains d'entre eux. L'occasion saisie pour manifester ce différend fut la dispute sur la date de Pâques:  l'Irlande suivait en effet la tradition orientale en opposition avec la tradition romaine. Le moine irlandais fut convoqué en 603 à Chalon-sur-Saône pour rendre compte devant un synode de ses habitudes relatives à la pénitence et à la Pâque. Au lieu de se présenter au synode, il envoya une lettre dans laquelle il minimisait la question en invitant les Pères synodaux à discuter non seulement du problème de la date de Pâques, un problème mineur selon lui, "mais également de toutes les règles canoniques nécessaires que beaucoup - chose plus grave - ne respectent pas" (cf. Epistula II, 1). Dans le même temps, il écrivit au Pape Boniface IV - comme quelques années plus tôt, il s'était adressé à Grégoire le Grand (cf. Epistula I) - pour défendre la tradition irlandaise (cf. Epistula III).

Intransigeant comme il l'était sur toute question morale, Colomban entra par la suite en conflit avec la maison royale, parce qu'il avait reproché avec dureté au roi Théodoric ses relations adultérines. Il en naquit un réseau d'intrigues et de manœuvres au niveau personnel, religieux et politique qui, en l'an 610, se traduisit par un décret d'expulsion de Luxeuil contre Colomban et tous les moines d'origine irlandaise, qui furent condamnés à un exil définitif. Ils furent escortés jusqu'à la mer et embarqués aux frais de la cour vers l'Irlande. Mais le navire s'échoua non loin de la plage et le capitaine, y voyant un signe du ciel, renonça à l'entreprise et, de peur d'être maudit par Dieu, ramena les moines sur la terre ferme.  Ceux-ci  au  lieu  de rentrer à Luxeuil, décidèrent d'entamer une nouvelle œuvre d'évangélisation. Ils s'embarquèrent sur le Rhin et remontèrent le fleuve. Après une première étape à Tuggen près du lac de Zurich, ils se rendirent dans la région de Bregenz près du lac de Constance pour évangéliser les Allemands.

Mais peu de temps après, Colomban, à cause d'événements politiques peu favorables à son œuvre, décida de traverser les Alpes avec la plupart de ses disciples. Seul un moine du nom de Gallus demeura; à partir de son monastère se  développera  ensuite  la  célèbre  abbaye de Saint-Gall, en Suisse. Arrivé en Italie, Colomban trouva un accueil bienveillant auprès de la cour royale lombarde, mais il dut immédiatement affronter de grandes difficultés:  la vie de l'Eglise était déchirée par l'hérésie arienne qui prévalait encore chez les Lombards et par un schisme qui avait éloigné la majeure partie des Eglises d'Italie du Nord de la communion avec l'Evêque de Rome. Colomban prit place avec autorité dans ce contexte, en écrivant un libelle contre l'arianisme et une lettre à Boniface IV pour le convaincre d'effectuer certains pas décisifs en vue d'un rétablissement de l'unité (cf. Epistula V). Lorsque le roi des Lombards, en 612 ou 613, lui assigna un terrain à Bobbio, dans la vallée de la Trebbia, Colomban fonda un nouveau monastère qui allait par la suite devenir un centre de culture comparable à celui très célèbre de Montecassino. C'est là qu'il finit ses jours:  il mourut le 23 novembre 615 et c'est à cette date qu'il est fêté dans le rite romain jusqu'à nos jours.

Le message de saint Colomban se concentre en un ferme rappel à la conversion et au détachement des biens terrestres en vue de l'héritage éternel. Avec sa vie ascétique et son comportement sans compromis face à la corruption des puissants, il évoque la figure sévère de saint Jean Baptiste. Son austérité, toutefois, n'est jamais une fin en soi, mais ce n'est que le moyen de s'ouvrir librement à l'amour de Dieu et de répondre avec tout son être aux dons reçus de Lui, en reconstruisant ainsi en lui l'image de Dieu, en défrichant dans le même temps la terre et en renouvelant la société humaine. Je cite de ses Instructiones:  "Si l'homme utilise correctement cette faculté que Dieu a accordée à son âme, alors il sera semblable à Dieu. Rappelons-nous que nous devons lui rendre tous les dons qu'il a déposés en nous lorsque nous étions dans la condition originelle. Il nous a enseigné la manière de le faire avec ses commandements. Le premier d'entre eux est celui d'aimer le Seigneur de tout notre cœur, parce qu'il nous a aimés lui le premier, depuis le commencement des temps, avant même que nous venions à la lumière de ce monde" (cf. Instr. XI). Ces paroles, le saint irlandais les incarna réellement dans sa propre vie. Homme de grande culture - il composa également des poésies en latin et un livre de grammaire -, il se révéla riche de dons de grâce. Il fut un inlassable bâtisseur de monastères ainsi qu'un prédicateur pénitentiel intransigeant, en dépensant toute son énergie pour nourrir les racines chrétiennes de l'Europe en train de naître. Avec son énergie spirituelle, avec sa foi, avec son amour pour Dieu et pour le prochain, il devint réellement un des Pères de l'Europe:  il nous montre encore aujourd'hui où sont les racines desquelles peut renaître notre Europe.

* * *

Je suis heureux de vous saluer, chers pèlerins francophones, notamment vous les jeunes de Noisy-le-Grand et de Bayonne. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



La Vie de Saint Colomban, Abbé. (543 - 615)

I - En même temps que la clarté de l'Evangile commença à paroître dans l'Irlande, Dieu y fit naître un nouvel astre qui fut le B.Colomban, dont nous décrivons la vie. Auparavant qu'il fut au monde, sa Mère vit en songe sortir comme un soleil de son ventre, qui était un heureux pronostique de ce qu'il devoît estre un jour. Il employa ses premières années en la pratique des vertus, & à l'étude des bonnes lettres, profitant également en l'un & en l'autre, à cause de sa bonne inclination naturelle, qui se trouvant heureusement favorisée de la Grace de Dieu, le portoit puissamment au bien. Dequoy le diable envieux, luy dressa de puissans combats, se servant de certaines femmes impudiques qui tâchoient de luy arracher ce beau joyau de chasteté, qui, non seulement estoit enchassé en son coeur, mais encore convenoit à son nom. Du commencement il leur résista avec le glaive de la parole de Dieu, qu'il sçavoit fort bien manier de l'une & l'autre main; mais ayant rencontré une femme Religieuse qui depuis quinze ans vivoit en solitude, & ayant pris avis d'elle de ce qu'il devoit faire en ce rencontre, il se résolut de se retirer hors de son pays, afin d'oster toute occasion de perdre ce qu'il ne pourroit jamais recouvrer. Sa Mère voyant sa résolution fondoit en larmes, et se servant de tous les artifices qu'une Mère intéressée peut inventer, elle tâchoit de le retenir, mais tout cela n'est point capable de gagner un jeune homme, qui a son salut en recommandation & qui veut suivre la vocation de Dieu.


II - Sorti qu'il fut de la maison de ses Parens, il se soûmit à la discipline d'un saint personnage nommé Senil, sous lequel il fit eu peu de temps un tel avancement en toutes sortes de sciences, qu'il donna au public en sa jeunesse, plusieurs doctes ouvrages, & entr'autres une riche exposition sur les Pseaumes. Enfin après, désireux de se retirer, & de s'avancer d'avantage en la vertu, il le quitta pour aller à Bencos ou Bensos, demander l'habit de Religieux, qu'il obtint de l'Abbé Comogel; il se commît à sa direction pour estre formé & instruit à la vie parfaite & Religieuse, à laquelle il fit un tel avan-cement, que c'étoit un vray Prototipe de sainteté & vertu. Il demeura long-temps en ce Monastère à son grand contentement, & édification des autres Religieux; mais Dieu qui vouloit se servir de ce saint comme d'une lumière éclatante, qui devoit éclairer plusieurs, l'inspira de quitter l'Irlande, pour passer en France, afin d'y faire revivre la piété & religion chrétienne, qui y étoit beaucoup refroidie à cause des péchez qui s'y commet-toient. Il conféra ce dessein à son Abbé, qui luy en accorda la permission; & luy donna douze Religieux, tous Doctes, pieux, & capables de l'ayder à poursuivre heureusement ce que le zèle & la piété luy faisoit entreprendre.



III - Par tout où il passoit, il faisoit merveilles, tant par ses doctes Prédications, que par ses bons exemples, & la Sainteté de sa Vie. Il étoit lors âgé de trente ans. Il arrive donc en France, ayant passé par l'Italie sans s'y arrester. Pour lors Sigebert commandoit en toute l'Austrasie, & par toute la Bourgogne; il receut honorablement S.Colomban & ses Religieux, la bonne odeur de leurs vertus étant parvenüe à sa Cour, longtemps aupara-vant qu'ils y fussent arrivez. Dans le dessein que le Saint avoit d'anoncer les Volontez de Dieu dans ce pays, il crut qu'il luy estoit nécessaire de chercher un lieu de retraitte, où après qu'il auroit jetté la semence de la Parole de Dieu dans le coeur des fidels, il se pourroit retirer afin d'atirer du Ciel par ses Prières, la rosée des Graces dans cette terre qu'il venoit de cuttiver. Il obtint du Roy une vaste solitude pour lors apellée Volge ou Vosage, où ils se retirent en un vieil château nommé Anagrata où ses Religieux vécurent quelque temps en une si grande disette de vivre, qu'une fois l'espace de neuf jours ils ne mangèrent que des fueilles d'arbres. Mais Dieu qui a fait pleuvoir la manne au désert pour nourrir son peuple, pourveut aussi à ceux-cy de vivres en abondance, par une Providence tout admirable.



IV - Plusieurs personnes édifiées de la Sainteté de leur Vie, s'adressèrent à S.Colomban, le suppliant de les admettre en sa Compagnie; ce Saint voyant que ce lieu n'était pas commode pour recevoir tant de personnes, en rechercha un autre, qui fut le château de Luxeuil, distant de trois ou quatre lieues de cette première solitude. Là ils dressèrent une Chapelle sous le nom du Prince des Apôtres S.Pierre, avec de petites Celulles en façon de cabanes pour leurs demeures; où jour & nuit ils vacquoirent à la Contemplation des choses célestes, qui leur faisaient oublier celles de la terre. Et de la sorte commença l'Abbaye de Luxueil, où les Miracles ne manquèrent non plus qu'en tout le reste de sa vie; mais je les réserve à la fin de l'Histoire de sa Vie, afin de n'en interrompre la suitte.

V - Saint Colamban voyant que la bénédiction de Dieu se repandoit si sensiblement sur son Monastère, & que le nombre de ses Religieux grossissait, il travailla à bâtir un autre Monastère qu'il nomma Fontaines, pour la grande quantité des sources d'eau vive qu'il y trouva. Cette nouvelle maison se trouva, en peu de temps, peuplée de Saints Habitans, Colomban leur Abbé leur prescrivait des Règles qu'ils observaient ponctuellement. Pendant ce temps la renommée de Colomban voloit par tout, tant à cause de ses Miracles que de la sainteté de sa Vie, & du gouvernement de ses Monastères. Théodoric ou Tierry qui, pour lors, régnait en Bourgogne, en entendit parler. Cette Province luy était tombée en partage après la mort de Sigebert son Père. Théobert son Frère étant en possession de l'Austrasie, Theodoric donc luy portoit beaucoup de respect, conversoit familièrement avec luy, le venoit visiter & recommandoit à ses Prières, & sa personne, et le Gouvernement de son Royaume. Ce Roy étoit un prince voluptueux, qui scandalisoit tout son peuple par ses amours impudiques, tenant en sa Cour des femmes de mauvaise vie, à la honte de sa femme légitime.


VI – Colomban, comme un autre S. Jean-Baptiste, l'en reprenoit & luy reprochoit librement l'infamie de son vice. Il refusa même de donner sa bénédiction aux enfans de ses concubines, & jamais ne voulut accepter les viandes qui luy furent envoyées de Sa part, donnant pour response cette Sentence de l'Escriture: Le très-Haut rejette les offrandes des impies. Disant cela, les plats & les flaccons se brisèrent entre les mains des porteurs, tant le vin que les viandes furent répenduës par terre. Le Roy saisi de crainte à cause de ce-cy, s'en alla de grand matin le trouver pour luy demander pardon, avec promesse de se corriger, et peut-estre il l'eût fait, étant persuadé par les vives raisons de ce Serviteur de Dieu; mais la Reyne Brunehaut, ou autrement Brunechilde, qui était une femme impérieuse, & qui était bien aise de gouverner l'Estat, entretenoit le Roy, qui étoit son petit Fils, en ses mauvaises pratiques, craignant que s'il se voyoît plus que la Reyne sa femme, son autorité ne diminuât, & que le pouvoir qu'elle avait auprès de sa Majesté ne passât à la personne de la Reyne sa compagne. Brunechilde donc mît en l'esprit du Roy, que l'Abbé Colomban étoit un homme fâcheux & de mauvaise humeur, & qu'à la fin il se rendoit insuportable. Elle fist couler ses meschantes persuasions avec tant d'artifices dans l'esprit du Roy, que se dégoûtant de la conversation du Saint, il luy fit commandement de se retirer de ses Estats, après y avoir séjourné vingt ans & avancé le service de Dieu en toute diligence.


VII - Ce bon Religieux se voyant chassé de son Abbaye, se retira à Besançon, où en faveur de plusieurs personnes, il fit voir le pouvoir & autorité que Dieu lui avoit donné; car s'étant transporté en la prison où il exhorta les prisonniers à la Contrition & au repentir de leurs fautes, ces criminels l'écoutèrent, le Saint meu de compassion toucha leurs fers, qui se brisèrent au seul attouchement de ses mains, il leur lava les pieds, les essuya avec toute humilité, les conduit hors de la prison & de là à l'Eglise afin d'implorer la Divine miséricorde pour l'abolition de leurs crimes. Comme ils approchèrent de l'Eglise, ils trouvèrent les portes fermées, & apperçurent une troupe de soldats qui les poursuivoient, pour les reconduire en prison. Ils jettèrent les yeux sur leur Libérateur; qui eut recours à l'Oraison, priant Dieu que puisque par la grace ces pauvres misérables avoient été délivrez, qu'il ne permit pas qu'ils fussent repris. Sa prière fut exaucée, car à l'instant les portes de l'Eglise s'ouvrirent d'elles-mêmes pour introduire ces pauvres fugitifs. Quand ils y furent entrez elles se refermèrent de façon que les soldats qui les poursuivoient, voyans ce miracle, n'osèrent attenter à leur personne, le peuple voyant cette action, loua hautement la Bonté de Dieu, qui se faisoit ainsi paroitre par le moyen de son Serviteur. Le Saint séjourna en ce lieu quelque temps, néanmoins épris d'un saint désir de revoir ses Religieux, & animé d'une sainte confiance, il s'en retourna en son Monastère, espérant que peut-estre le Roy changeroit d'avis & auroit égard à son innocence.



VIII - Brunechilde ayant entendu ce retour, résolut de s'en défaire, & abusant de l'autorité du Roy, envoya des satellites qui se saisirent de sa personne pour le conduire hors du Royaume. Comme ils arrivèrent pour exécuter le dessein de cette Reyne passionnée, le Saint lisoit en un livre à la porte de l'Eglîse; mais comme autrefois les soldats du Roy de Sirie furent aveuglez aux aproches d'Elizée, de même ces soldats ou ezecuteurs des volontés du Roy, ne pûrent jamais appercevoir l'homme de Dieu Colomban, quoy que souvent ils luy marchassent sur les pieds, & lui touchassent su robbe, pendant qu'il rendoit mille actions de graces au Ciel, qui rend les efforts des puissants sans effet, quand il lui plaist. Par ce moyen les officiers de su Majesté s'en allèrent les mains vuides.



IX - Le Saint craignant qu'il ne fùt lu cause de quelque trouble, il céda à son banissement, & se laissa conduire hors la France selon les ordres du Roy. Il partit donc de Luxeuil & vint à Besançon, d'où prenant le chemin par Avalon & par Auxere, il se vint embarquer à Nevers sur la Loire, de là il descendit à Orléans & à Tours, où passant bon-gré mal-gré ses gardes, il luy fut permis de veiller une nuit au Tombeau de saint Martin, & puis enfin ils abordèrent à Nantes, voulant par ce moyen honorer la Bretagne de sa présence, non seulement pendant sa vie, mais encore luy donner ses Reliques après sa mort, comme un gage de l'amour qu'il luy a porté, permettant qu'elles y ayent esté transportées au grand contentement de tout le Pays qui les compte au nombre de ses Thresors les plus précieux, & le met au catalogue de ses Saints, à cause de l'honneur qu'il luy a fait de la visiter dans une des plus fameuses de ses villes. Ce n'a pas esté sans raison que j'ay nommé tous les lieux par où il passa, car il ny en a aucun qu'il n'aye signalé par quelque signe ou prodige. Au partir d'Avalon il délivra douze possédez par un demon enragé, & guérit cinq frénétiques. A Auxere il délivra un autre démoniaque qui avoit couru plusieurs lieux sans se reposer, afin de pouvoir trouver l'homme de Dieu. A Nevers un des gardes ayant donné un coup d'aviron sur le bras d'un de ses Religieux, il l'en reprit sevèrement, le menaçant de la colère de Dieu, qui le punit de mort & fut noyé quelque temps aprês en la même place. A Orléans il donna la clarté à un aveugle, & délivra autant dc possédez qu'on luy en amena.



X - A Tours, où comme nous avons dit, il passa la nuit au Sépulcre de S. Martin, son passage n'y fut pas sans Miracle; car contre le gré des gardes, qui ne luy vouloient pas permettre de poser le pied en cette Ville, la nacelle s'arresta miraculeusement au milieu de l'eau. Un voleur ayant dérobé les ustenciles de Ces Religieux, pendant qu'ils étoient en l'Eglise à prier Dieu, & à leur retour ne les trouvant plus, ils en avertirent leur Abbé, qui s'en retourna promptement au Sépulcre de S. Martin pour luy faire ses plaintes, de ce qu'il n'avoit pas gardé ses hardes, & celles de ses Religieux pendant qu'ils veilloient auprès de ses Reliques. Chose étonnante! aussi-tost le voleur se sentant comme foüetté rudement par tout le corps, il déclara le lieu où il les avoit cachées.



XI - J'en obmets plusieurs autres pour réciter celle qui nous touche plus de près, qui est que s'étant embarqué pour se retirer de Nantes pour aller dans l'Irlande, ce Grand Saint étant un peu éloigné sur la mer, & regrettant de quitter si-tost la Bretagne, ne voulut pas luy dire adieu si promptement & désireux qu'il étoit de luy faire du bien, voulut retourner d'où il avoit parti. Ceux qui le conduisoient en Irlande au lieu de son exil, ne purent jamais faire avancer le vaisseau, & les exécuteurs des arrêts de sa Majesté, voyant tant de prodiges, n'osèrent davantage s'opposer à la volonté de Dieu, qui vouloit que la Bretagne comptât au nombre des graces & bien-faits qu'elle reçoit de luy, la faveur qu'il luy fist de permettre qu'elle fut encore une fois honorée de la présence d'un si Grand Saint. Ces satelittes donc font prendre terre & mettent S. Colomban en liberté d'aller par tout où il luy plairoit. Le Saint tout joyeux prit le chemin vers Nantes, où étant arrivé il y séjourna quelque temps. Je ne trouve point quels Miracles il fist à son retour, soit qu'ils n'ayent pas esté remarquez, ou bien que Dieu les reservât à la vertu de ses Reliques qui reposent en la Bretagne où il s'opère plûtost une continuation de Miracle, qu'un Miracle particulier, comme nous dirons à la fin de cette Histoire.



XII - Après son séjour de Nantes, il alla trouver Clotaire second fils de Chilperic, qui pour lors régnoit en Loraine, qui le reçut honorablement, & luy promit de le favoriser en tout ce qu'il seroit possible, à cause des Vertus qui paroissoient en luy avec éclat. Ce Saint craignant que s'il séjournoit plus long-temps en France cela ne fût cause de quelque dîfférent entre luy & Théodoric Roy de Bourgogne, il voulut se retirer de son Royaume, se contentant, qu'après luy avoir prédit que dans trois ans il jouiroit des Estats de ses deux cousins : sçavoîr, Théodoric & Théodebert, il le pria de luy moyenner le passage par les terres du même Théodebert, pour passer en Italie. Clotaire n'y manqua pas, & luy donnant des gens pour le conduire en Italie, ils prirent le chemin vers Paris. A la porte de la Ville il chassa un démon fort furieux du corps d'un pauvre homme, luy commandant avec autorité de ne pas rester davantage dans ce corps qui avoit esté lavé par le Baptesme de Jésus-Christ. De là ils allèrent jusques à Meaux, où le Comte Agneric renvoya les officiers de Clotaire, & se chargea de conduire le Saint au Roy Théodebert, cependant il le retint chez soy afin de joüir quelque temps de sa présence, & qu'il benît toute sa famille, particulièrement sa Fille Fare que quelques-uns ont nommée Bourgon-dofore, qui n'étoît encore qu'un Enfant, & qui depuis a esté une sainte Religieuse & Abbesse. Il visita aussi le Seigneur Authaire en sa maison de Vulsi sur Marne, où il donna sa bénédiction à trois de ses Enfans, l'un desquels étoit saint Ouen, depuis Chancelier de France, & Archevesque de Rouen.



XIII - Enfin, il alla au Palais de Théodebert, qui l'accueillit avec toute la courtoisie possible, le conjurant de ne point passer outre, mais de demeurer dans les terres de son Royaume, où il trouveroit des campagnes assez amples pour semer la Parole de l'Evangile. Le Saint voyant l'occasion d'augmenter la Gloire de Dieu, y consentit, à condition que le Roy suiveroit ses conseils. Il choisit sa demeure près la ville de Brigents, le long du Rhin. Il se mit à prescher l'Evangile par tout ces Pays, où des personnes à milliers se rendirent au giron de l'Eglise, tant idolâtres que d'autres, qui après le Baptesme s'étoient laissez infecter du venin de l'hérésie. Il employa trois ans en ce pieux Exercice; & Nostre Seigneur confirma par tout la parole de son Saint par des miracles, jusques à ce que la guerre s'allumant entre les deux Frères Théodebert & Théodoric, celuy là fut vaincu en une bataille prés Toul en Loraine; d'où s'étant échappé il eut recours à saint Colomban, pour apprendre de luy ce qu'il devoit faire. Le Saint luy donna avis que s'il ne vouloît pas perdre le Royaume Eternel avec le temporel, qu'il se fist Religieux, & qu'aussi-bien s'il ne le faisoit de bon gré, maintenant qu'il étoit libre, il y seroit bientost contraint par la force des armes. Théodebert rejetta ce conseil comme l'avis d'un Hermite, qui ne void pas plus loin que sa Cellule, & s'appuyant sur la force de son bras, leva une nouvelle armée, qu'il bazarde de nouveau contre Théodorie près Tolbiac; mais avec une issuë encore plus malheureuse que la première, parce que non seulement il perdit la bataille, mais il y fut pris & livré à Brunechilde, laquelle le fist raser & rendre Moyne à Châlons, & peu de temps après par un horrible sacrilège, puis qu'elle l'avoit fait Clerc, elle le fit massacrer, ainsi qu'il est porté dans la Chronique de Saint Benigne à Dijon. Où il est à remarquer que ce saint Abbé étoit assis sous un chesne où il lisoit dans un livre, & appellant le Religieux qui luy assistoit, il luy commanda de prier Dieu pour les deux Roys qui étoient aux prises, avec beaucoup de sang humain répandu. A quoy le Religieux repart: Mon Père, employez vous même vos prières, pour le Roy Théodebert vôtre Ami, afin qu'il emporte le dessus sur Théodoric vôtre ennemi. Ce que le Saint qui étoit vrayemcnt une colombe sans fiel, rejetta comme une tentation, luy disant que ce conseil n'étoit pas de Dieu, qui commandoit de prier pour les ennemis, & qu'au reste il étoit en la disposition du Souverain Juge de donner la victoire à qui il luy plairoit.



XIV - Après cela, Saint Colomban voyant le Roy Théodebert trépassé, il se résolut de quitter la France & l'Allemagne, pour passer en Italie, où il fut très-bien receu par Aigulphe Roy des Lombards, qui luy donna option de choisir en ses terres, telle demeure qu'il luy plairoit. Il s'arresta donc à Milan, pour s'opposer aux héritiques Arriens, qui infectoient alors cette Ville, contre lesquels il écrivit un excellent livre rempli de la doctrine qu'il avoit puisée du Ciel. A quelques jours de là on luy donna avis que dans un rocher coupé de l’Apennin, qui est une Montagne, qui divise l'Italie, il y avoit une vieille Eglise dédiée à Dieu sous le titre du Prince des Apôtres Saint Pierre, où se faisoient de grands Miracles, & que ce lieu qui se nonimoit Boby seroit fort propre à son dessein, parce qu'il y avoit des eaux en abondance. Il se retira un ce lieu par le consentement du Roy Aigulphe. Il fit premièrement rétablir l'Eglise, & y bâtir un fort beau Monastère où il passa un an qui luy restoit à vivre en ce monde, il s'y prépara par la méditation de sa fin, à la gloire qui l'attendoit au Ciel.



XV - Cependant le Roy Clotaire qui selon la prédiction du Saint vivoît paisiblement dans tous les Estats de Théodebert & Théodoric, menda l'Abbé Eustache qui étoit demeuré à Luxueil, & luy donna commission d'aller trouver le B. Colomban, pour le prier de sa part de revenir un France, où tous ses ennemis étoient morts, mesme l'impie Brunechilde, afin de joüir avec luy du bon-heur de la paix. Mais ce grand Saint qui ne pensoit plus qu'au voyage qu'il avoit à faire au Ciel & à la gloire qui l'y attendoit, remercia le Roy de sa bonne volonté, & luy renvoya par le mesme messager & Abbé Eustache, des Lettres pleines de bons avis, & salutaires corrections pour les vices passez, l'exhortant à une vraye pénitence. Ce que Clotaire prît en bonne part, en faisant paroître les reconnaissances par plusieurs beaux Privilèges & faveurs qu'il accorda à l'Abbaye de Luxueil, pour le respect qu'il portoit à son Prophète saint Colomban. Lequel ayant passé un an à Boby en Italie, il y décéda chargé d'années & de merites, & tout illustre de Miracles. Le jour de sa mort arriva le vingt et un de Novembre environ l'an six cens.



XVI - Les Miracles de ce Saint sont quasi sans nombre, je me contenteray d'en raconter quelques-uns pour m'acquiter de la promesse que j'avois faite cy-devant. Comme il étoit encore à Luxueil, un jour comme il se promenoit par la montagne tout seul pensant à l'explication de quelques passages de l'Escriture Sainte, il luy vint en pensée, lequel des deux seroit le plus facile, ou de souffrir les injures des hommes, ou la cruauté des bestes, en une chose où on n'a point péché, attendu que les hommes perdent leurs Ames se persecutant les uns les autres. Il se trouva incontinent environné de douze loups, qui commencèrent a le tirer à sa robbe. Le Saint demeura ferme & constant, faisant le signe de la Croix, il pria Dieu de le favoriser en ce rencontre; Ces animaux ne l'ayant pû ébranler prirent eux-mesmes la fuite, & luy il continua son chemin. Incontinent il entendit comme un bruit de voleurs qui le ponrsuivoient, mais le Saint qui sçavoit fort bien que personne ne luy pouvoit nuire, si Dieu ne luy permettoit, & s'il le permettoit, se résignant à sa volonté, il ne s'avança pas plus viste, & se trouva incontinent en seureté. Après quoy il ne peut connoître véritablement si c'étoit une ruse de Sathan qui le vouloit épouventer, ou si ce qu'il avoit veu étoit vray & réel. Un de ses Religieux étant travaillé d'une grosse fièvre, & se voyant reduit en une grande necessité, n'ayant de quoy luy donner aucun rafraichissement dans le désert, il mit ses Religieux en Prières afin d'obtenir de Dieu quelque consolation en leur disette, & trois jours après il arriva dans ce désert un homme qui conduisoit des chevaux chargez de pain, & autres provisions, qui leur dist que Dieu l'avoit intérieurement excité à venir soûlager ses Serviteurs qui le servaient dans le désert. Cét homme avoit une femme qui étoit affligée depuis un an de fièvres, hors d'espérance de pouvoir recouvrer sa santé; le Saint pria pour elle & elle fut guérie.



XVII - Une autre fois comme luy & ses Religieux se trouvèrent réduits à une telle nécessité, que pendant neuf jours n'avoient mangé que des herbes; Dieu révéla à un autre Abbé d'envoyer à saint Colomban ce qui luy étoit necessaire, il le fist, faisant vitement charger des chevaux pour leur porter de quoy soûlager leur pauvreté. Le Religieux à qui il avoît donné charge de conduire ces chevaux, ne sçachant de quel côté il devoit aller, ils se trouvèrent miraculeusement au Couvent du Saint, dont ils remercierent Dieu tous ensemble. Une autre fois se trouvant en une grande nécessité; les greniers qui estoient vuides se trouvèrent remplis de bleds. Un jour comme il avoit soixante de ses Religieux employez à semer du bled, il les rassasia tous de deux pains & un peu de bière, après qu'il eut prié Dieu de les multiplier. On ramassa beaucoup de fragments qui restoient, & demeura deux fois autant de bière qu'il n'y en avoit du commencement. Un jour il commanda à un de ses Religieux d'aller pescher en un certain ruisseau, & de luy apporter tous les poissons qu'il prendroit; ce Religieux pensant abréger son chemin alla à un autre, où ayant travaillé pendant le jour, il fut obligé de s'en retourner les mains vuides, quoy qu'il y vît une grande quantité de poissons. L'Abbé le reprît de ta désobéissance & le renvoya à l'autre ruisseau où il prît autant de poisson qu'il en pût aporter Cecy montre quelle doit estre l'obéissance que Dieu demande dans un inférieur au regard de son Supérieur. Comme le dépencier du Couvent tîroit de la bière d'un tonneau, il fut apellé par le Saint, il courut aussi-tost, s'oubliant de tourner la canelle; mais la liqueur s'arresta de soy-mesme sans en répandre une seule goutte. Il commanda un jour à un de ses Religieux de fraper un rocher pour en tirer de l'eau, & aussi-tost la pierre se changea en une fontaine, qui coule encore aujourd'huy. Il commanda une autre fois à ses Religieux par obéissance d'aller sier du bled par un temps de grosse pluye, ils s'y en allèrent & Dieu empescha qu'il ne tombast une seule goutte d'eau en ce champ, quoy que les terres voisines fussent toutes innondées. Une autre fois que tous ses Religieux de Luxueil étoient malades au lit, excepté les infirmiers, le saint Abbé leur commanda à tous de se lever, d'aller battre du bled dans l'aire; ceux qui obéirent se trouverent guéris le mesme jour, & les désobéissans furent travaillez de leur fièvre toute l'année.



XVIII - Un corbeau luy prît un certain instrument avec lequel il travailloît & l'emporta, le Saint luy commanda de le luy rapporter, ce qu'il fist, & le mit au pied du Saint en présence de ses Religieux, s'arrestant comme pour attendre la punition qu'il en voudroit prendre; le Saint luy commanda de s'en aller, après quoy il prist incontinent le vol. Un jour une rivière nommée Bosie se déborda tellement, que le moulin du Convent étoit en péril d'estre emporté, le Saint averti de cecy, envoya un de ses Religieux qui étoit Diacre, & se nommoit Sincald, auquel il donna son bâton, avec commission de commander au torrent de prendre un autre chemin, l'eau obéit à la voix de ce serviteur de Dieu qui faisoit le commandement de son saint Abbé. Un de ses Religieux se trouva travaillé d'une grosse maladie qui le menoît au tombeau; ce bon Religieux qui se nommoit Colomban, du nom de son Abbé, priant continuellement Dieu qu'il luy pleust le délivrer de la prison de son corps, il apperçut auprès de luy un homme revêtu d'une éclatante lumière qui luy dist, que cela ne se pouvoît faire, attendu que son Abbé s'y opposoît par ses prières & par ses larmes. Ce pauvre malade pria le Saint de n'empescher point un bonheur qu'il souhaittoit avec tant de passion; le Saint changea ses prières, & après luy avoir donné le Saint Viatique, & sa bénédiction, il s'en alla au Ciel.



XIX - Comme il faisoît bâtir son Monastère de Boby, on avoit coupé des poutres dans la forest prochaine qu'on ne pouvoit charroyer à cause de la difficulté du chemin, qui étoit trop raboteux. Il commanda à deux ou à trois de ses Religieux de les prendre, & de les apporter sur leurs épaules; ils obéïrent & apportèrent tout ce qu'il en fut nécessaire, jusques à la perfection de son ouvrage, trois hommes soûtenant facilement ce que quatre boeufs n'auroîent à peine pû traîner. Un de ses Religieux s'étant fait une grande playe avec une coignée, comme il coupoît du bois, il le rétablit en pleine santé à la mesme heure.


Le Duc Valdon qui commandoit dans les Alpes, vînt avec sa femme Flavia trouver le Saint à Besançon, pour le prier d'intercéder pour eux afin que Dieu leur donnât des enfans; il leur promît, à condition qu'ils consacreroient le premier qu'il leur donneroit au service de Dieu. Ils acceptent cette condition, le Saint fit sa prière qui fut exaucée, car la Duchesse accoucha au bout de neuf mois d'un fils qui fut nommé Donat, & étant en âge fut donné au Saint pour l'instruire à la piété & aux sciences, où il fist un tel progrès, qu'il mérita d'estre éleu Archevêque de Besançon après saint Claude, où il se comporta tellement, qu'il y éclata comme un grand Saint.



XX - Les Reliques de saint Colomban ont esté apportées en Bretagne, au grand contentement de toute la province; car longtemps après sa mort, un de nos Ducs revenant de Rome, passa à Boby, & ayant trouvé tout ce beau Monastère désert de Religieux, emporta avec luy ce sacré dépost, & le plaça avec beaucoup de respect dans la ville de Locminech, vulgairement dite Locminé au Diocèse de Vennes; on célèbre sa Feste avec beaucoup de solemnité en la dite Ville, avec un office propre, dont l'Hymne de Laudes commence de la sorte:
Nascitur nobis Columbane Carmen

Locmini Custos vigil, atque Rector

Tu quibus laudes animis petisti

Suffire vires.
Ses Reliques sont un thrésor que la Bretagne possède, & peut mettre au nombre d'un de ses plus précieux, tant à cause de la dévotion qu'elle porte à ce grand Saint, qu'à cause du bien qu'elle en reçoit, par les Miracles continuels qui s'y font en la personne des phrénétiques, qui y viennent rendre leurs voeux, non seulement de la Province, mais encore des Païs voisins, où après leurs voyages accomplis, & leur neufvaines finies, ils se trouvent soûlagez dans leur affliction, avec l'admiration de tous.


Frère Albert le Grand

Les Vies des Saints de la Bretagne Armorique. Quimper, 1901


Retable de Saint Colomban dans l'église de Pezzolo Valle Uzzone

Saint Colomban

Abbé de Luxeuil et de Bobbio ( 615)

Vers 580, il quitta l'Irlande en compagnie du futur saint Gall et parcourut l'Europe Occidentale, entre Meuse et Rhin et jusqu'en Germanie, accepté, refusé, repoussé, mais toujours fondateur d'abbayes dont le rayonnement sera l'un des éléments les plus dynamiques de l'évangélisation durant l'ère mérovingienne. Il menait la vie dure à ses moines par une règle austère, mais grâce à cela bien des saints y ont trouvé le chemin de leur sainteté : saint Donat de Besançon, saint Faron de Meaux, saint Babolin de l'abbaye de Saint Maur des Fossés près de Paris, saint Omer de Thérouanne, saint Desle de Lure, saint Romaric de Remiremont, saint Wandrille, saint Achaire, saint Amand, saint Philibert, saint Valéry, etc… Le plus célèbre de ses monastères est sans aucun doute celui de Luxeuil dans la Franche-Comté où affluèrent des moines francs, gaulois et burgondes. Un monastère qui, pendant deux siècles, fut le plus grand centre de la vie monastique en Occident. En 610, il dut fuir la Gaule où la cruelle reine Brunehaut le poursuivait parce qu'il lui reprochait ses vices et ses crimes. Il avait envisagé de retourner en Irlande et, pour cette raison, nous le trouvons à Nantes. Obligé de revenir sur ses pas, il traverse les Alpes et se réfugia à Bobbio en Emilie-Romagne où il fonda son dernier monastère. Il y mourut. La règle monastique originale qu'il avait donnée à ses monastères fut très influente dans l'Europe pendant deux siècles. 

Plusieurs localités se sont placées sous son patronage : Saint-Colomban-des-Villards-73130, Saint Colomban-44310. Un internaute nous signale: Saint Coulomb (35) tire son nom de Colomban.



Aux racines chrétiennes de l'Europe



Lors de l'audience générale du 11 juin 2008, Benoît XVI a dressé un portrait de saint Colomban, le célèbre moine irlandais du VI siècle qui "peut être considéré comme un saint européen". Né dans le Leinster en 543, il entra vers ses 20 ans au monastère de Bangor. La vie monastique qu'il y suivit et l'exemple de l'abbé Comgall forgèrent la conception du monachisme qu'il fixa et diffusa plus tard.



Puis le Pape a rappelé qu'à l'âge de 50 ans environ Colomban quitta l'Irlande "pour entreprendre avec douze compagnons une mission sur le continent, où les grandes migrations germaniques avaient fait retomber des régions entières dans le paganisme". Leur re-évangélisation était basée sur l'exemple de vie, "nombre de jeunes demandèrent à entrer dans la communauté, rendant nécessaire la constitution d'un second monastère" à Luxeuil, qui devint centre monastique et missionnaire de tradition irlandaise en Europe. Bientôt fut fondée une troisième maison, à Fontaine, tandis que saint Colomban allait vivre une vingtaine d'années à Luxeuil. Il y rédigea sa Regula Monachorum, la seule des anciennes règles irlandaises parvenue jusqu'à nous, a précisé le Saint-Père. Il introduisit notamment "sur le continent la confession personnelle et régulière, ainsi que la pénitence proportionnée à la gravité du péché commis".

"A cause de sa sévérité sur les questions morales, il entra en conflit avec la famille royale, ayant vivement admonesté le roi Thierry pour ses relations adultérines... En 610 il fut expulsé de Luxeuil avec ses moines irlandais, condamnés définitivement à l'exil". Rapatriés par mer, leur bateau échoua près du rivage" et, plutôt que de rentrer à Luxeuil, le groupe "décida d'entreprendre une nouvelle aventure d'évangélisation" d'abord à Tuggen, sur le lac de Zurich, puis près de Bregenz, sur le lac de Constance, en vue d'évangéliser les Alamans. Ayant ensuite passé les Alpes, Colomban fut favorablement accueilli par la cour lombarde. "Il dut immédiatement faire face à de graves difficultés. La vie de l'Eglise était empoisonnée par l'arianisme dominant chez les lombards, et un schisme avait détaché de la communion avec l'Evêque de Rome la plus grande partie de l'Eglise d'Italie du nord". Le saint irlandais "rédigea alors un libelle contre cette hérésie et une lettre au Pape Boniface IV l'encourageant à œuvrer activement au rétablissement de l'unité ecclésiale".

Colomban fonda à Bobbio un nouveau monastère qui devint un centre culturel comparable au Mont Cassin de saint Benoît de Nursie. Il y acheva sa vie le 23 novembre 615, qui est sa fête liturgique jusqu'à nos jours. Le message de Colomban, a souligné Benoît XVI, "se résume dans un vif appel à la conversion et au détachement des biens terrestres en vue de l'héritage éternel. Par sa vie d'ascèse et son engagement total contre la corruption des puissants, il rappelle la sévère figure du Baptiste. Mais cette austérité...est surtout le moyen de s'ouvrir librement à l'amour de Dieu, de répondre de tout son être aux dons reçus en reflétant en soi l'image de Dieu, tout en travaillant la terre et en réformant la société".

Le Saint-Père a conclu en rappelant combien saint Colomban fut "un homme de grande culture, riche de grâces, un formidable constructeur de monastères et un vif prêcheur de la pénitence. Il mit toutes ses énergies dans l'alimentation des racines chrétiennes de l'Europe naissante. Par son énergie spirituelle et sa foi, avec son amour de Dieu et du prochain, il est devenu l'un des Pères de l'Europe qui continue de nous montrer ce que sont les racines d'où le continent peut renaître". Source: VIS 080611 (600)

A lire aussi: Saint Colomban (Colombanus) (vers 540 – 615) Moine Irlandais, fondateur des monastères d’Annegray, Luxeuil, Fontaine (Haute-Saône), Bobbio (Province de Piacenza – Italie) - Rédacteur d’une règle monastique. (amis de saint Colomban)

Moine de Bangor en Irlande sous l’abbé saint Comgal, il se fit pèlerin pour le Christ et chercha à former à l’école de l’Évangile les peuples de la Gaule. Il fonda, parmi beaucoup d’autres, le monastère de Luxeuil en Bourgogne, qu’il gouverna lui-même sous une règle sévère. Forcé à l’exil, il franchit les Alpes et fonda en Emilie le monastère de Bobbio, célèbre par sa discipline et ses études, et c’est là qu’il mourut en paix, l’an 615, ayant bien mérité de l’Église.


Martyrologe romain


VIE DE SAINT COLOMBAN DE LUXEUIL

d'après le Synaxaire byzantin (édition FR épuisée)


Récemment convertie au Christianisme par saint Patrick et ses disciples, l'Irlande connut au 6ieme siècle une floraison abondante de sainteté : les moines se réunissaient par milliers pour s'offrir au martyre volontaire de l'ascèse dans de grands regroupements monastiques semblables aux vastes concentrations de moines d'Égypte, de Syrie et de Palestine. Leur amour ardent de Dieu lié à un caractère fougueux leur faisait accomplir d'extraordinaires exploits dans la mortification mais attirait aussi sur eux la Grâce de Dieu et le pouvoir d'accomplir des miracles. Ces moines intrépides formaient le coeur de l'Église d'Irlande et contribuèrent grandement à la diffusion et à l'approfondissement de la vie chrétienne dans tout l'Occident d'alors. Parmi eux, la figure la plus attachante est certainement celle de saint Colomban, l'infatigable zélateur des commandements de Dieu.



Né vers 540 dans la province de Leinster, Colomban fut élevé dans l'étude des sciences profanes, fort en honneur parmi les chrétiens irlandais, et montra de grandes capacités. Mais, tourmenté par les ardeurs de la volupté et comprenant la vanité des espoirs terrestres, il alla se mettre sous la conduite d'un saint vieillard qui l'initia à la connaissance des saintes Écritures et à la vie ascétique. Il devint moine ensuite à Bangor, la plus célèbre abbaye d'Irlande, qui comprenait près de trois cents moines, et compléta sa formation monastique sous la conduite de saint Comgal. Vers 590, Colomban ressentit en lui, comme nombre de ses compagnons d'ascèse, un appel particulier de Dieu à quitter sa patrie et les siens pour se soumettre à un exil volontaire et servir à l'évangélisation des peuples étrangers. Il s'embarqua donc pour la Gaule avec douze disciples, comme le Christ, et, guidé par la Providence, partit proclamer l'Évangile et la voie du repentir.



Averti de sa renommée, le roi de Burgondie, Gontran, l'invita dans les Vosges et lui offrit un terrain désert, où fut fondé le monastère d'Annegray. Les vertus de Colomban attirèrent bientôt autour de lui un grand nombre de disciples, qui voulaient, eux aussi, travailler à leur salut par les rudes travaux de l'ascèse. Il fut donc contraint de fonder à proximité un second monastère, Luxeuil; puis, un peu plus tard, un troisième, Fontaine. Le saint se trouvait à la tête de plusieurs centaines de moines. Fixé à Luxeuil, il supervisait ses trois communautés en s'appuyant sur l'autorité d'un prévôt dans chacune d'elle; mais par sa prière, il était le père de chaque moine et son intercesseur auprès de Dieu. Comme dans les laures orientales, l'organisation du monastère restait souple et soumise au caractère charismatique de la paternité spirituelle. On insistait fort sur l'ascèse corporelle, les jeûnes sévères, les fustigations et les séjours dans l'eau glacée pour soumettre le tempérament ardent des moines. Mais le monastère n'était pas seulement un lieu de combats violents contre les passions, il était aussi une image anticipée du ciel, et les moines, semblables aux anges, y célébraient une louange perpétuelle du Seigneur de Gloire. Colomban avait organisé la vie de ses trois communautés de manière à ce que les moines célèbrent sans cesse, nuit et jour, l'office divin, en se relayant par groupes (Laus perennis). (Cet usage se trouvait aussi au fameux monastère des Acémètes à Constantinople et connut une grande diffusion dans de nombreux monastères d'Occident au Moyen-âge). On observait ainsi à la lettre la recommandation de l'Apôtre : «Priez sans cesse !» (1 Thess 5,17).



Au bout de vingt ans cependant, Colomban fut chassé de Luxeuil sur l'ordre du roi Thierry, sollicité par sa grand-mère Brunehaut, dont il avait condamné énergiquement les dérèglements moraux. Il fut conduit jusqu'à Nantes pour prendre la route de l'Irlande. Mais, par la Volonté de Dieu, le navire sur lequel il s'était embarqué fut repoussé vers la côte. Le saint moine rentra donc en France et poursuivit sa sainte pérégrination, en marquant de son influence de nombreuses fondations monastiques. Il prit ensuite le chemin de Rome par la Germanie et prêcha l'Évangile aux peuples barbares qui habitaient sur les rives du lac de Constance. Il continuait aussi d'instruire ses disciples de Luxeuil et d'ailleurs par ses écrits; mais, poursuivi par la rancune de Thierry, il dut reprendre son périple vers l'Italie et s'établit en 612 au monastère de Bobbio dans l'Apennin, où il s'illustra dans ses combats contre l'arianisme jusqu'à son bienheureux trépas, en 615

Figure réaliste de Colomban de Luxeuil, moine irlandais du VIè siècle, au musée de Navan. Cette représentation réaliste est typique du moine celtique irlandais avec sa robe blanche, sa canne de pasteur et sa tonsure dégageant la partie antérieure du crâne. Colomban a souvent été décrit comme un homme de forte stature. Moine voyageur, il lui fallut une constitution robuste et vigoureuse pour parcourir à pied les chemins de l'Europe.


Cette photo a été prise en 2002 au musée Awarness de la communauté Saint-Columban's Dalgan Park à Navan en Irlande, par Alain Chauffaut.

Medieval Sourcebook:
The Life of St. Columban,
by the Monk Jonas, (7th Century)


[D.C. Munro: Introduction:]
During the sixth and seventh centuries the greatest missionary activity was shown by the Scots who dwelt in Ireland. In that country religion was cherished with greater zeal than elsewhere, and learning was fostered for the sake of the Cchurch. But not content with the flourishing state of Christianity in their own island, the most zealous monks often passed over to the continent. There even the nominal Christians were little inclined to follow the precepts of the religion which they professed. Gaul especially attracted the attention of the bold missionaries from Ireland,. and the Irish usages became well established in some parts of lie country. Unfortunately almost all the accounts of the missionaries from Ireland have been lost; consequently this biography of Columban is of great value.

Jonas, the author of' this life, became a monk at Bobbio, in northern Italy, three years after Columban's death. He was soon employed on this biography, for which he obtained material, as he himself said, from the stories told by the saint's companions. Living as be did, among the, latter, his account reflects their feelings faithfully, and we may be certain that he has recorded the events accurately, and s often reproduced the saint's own words. As is usual in such biographies, the miracles are numerous; for the contemporaries these formed the most valuable portions; for modern students they are full of instruction, and throw much light on the daily life of the monks.

The language of Jonas is somewhat bombastic and difficult to put into English. In some cases, the translator has been unable to determine the exact connection of certain clauses with the context. In such sentences he has translated literally hoping that others might see a connection which he missed. In general, where he suspected any mistake, he has followed the Latin closely. A new and careful collation and transcription of the manuscripts would undoubtedly remove any of the difficulties. There has been no translation of this life into any modern language before, except a very imperfect rendering of selected passages by Abel in the "Geschichtschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit." In this translation the preface, which has little or no importance for the life of the saint, has been omitted from lack of space. All the rest is translated in full. The names of places have generally been modernized, because readers who live far from large libraries, might otherwise lose the geographical information given here.

SAINT DATA: Columban, abbot and missioner, Born in Leinster (Ireland), c. 540; d. at Bobbio, Italy, 640; feast day 23 November. [*Note that, despite Jonas' assertion that Columban was also known as "Columba", he is distinct from St. Columba, founder of Iona, born in 521, d. 597, and whose feast day is June 9.]
THE LIFE OF ST. COLUMBAN
BY THE MONK JONAS.
Mabillon: Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti, Vol. I, Venice, 1733, pp. 3-26. Latin.

6.
Columban, who is also called Columba, was born on the island of Ireland. This is situated in the extreme ocean and, according to common report, is charming, productive of various nations, and free from the wars which trouble other nations, Here lives the race of the Scots, who, although they lack the laws of the other nations, flourish in the doctrine of Christian strength, and exceed in faith all the neighboring tribes. Columban was born amid the beginnings of that race's faith, in order that the religion, which that race cherished uncompromisingly, might be increased by his own fruitful toil and the protecting care of his associates.

But what happened before his birth, before be saw the light of this world, must not be passed over in silence. For when his mother, after having conceived, was bearing him in her womb, suddenly in a tempestuous night, while she was buried in sleep, she saw the sun rise from her bosom and issuing forth resplendent, furnish great light to the world. After she had arisen from sleep and Aurora rising had driven away the dark shadows from the world, she began to think earnestly of these matters, joyfully and wisely weighing the import of so great a vision ; and she sought an increase of consolation from such of her neighbors as were learned, asking that with wise hearts they should examine carefully the meaning of so great a vision. At length she was told by those who had wisely considered the matter, that she was carrying in her womb a man of remarkable genius, who would provide what would be useful for her own salvation and for that of her neighbors.

After the mother learned this she watched over him with so great care that she would scarcely entrust him even to his nearest relatives. So the life of the boy aspired to the cultivation of good works under the leadership of Christ, without whom no good work is done. Nor without reason had the mother seen the shining sun proceed from her bosom, the sun which shines brightly in the members of the Church, the mother of all, like a glowing Phoebus. As the Lord says: ct Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." So Deborah, with the voice of prayer, formerly spoke to the Lord, by the admonition of the Holy Spirit, saying: But let them love Thee be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might."

For the milky way in the heavens, although it is itself bright, is rendered more beautiful by the presence of the other stars ; just as the daylight, increased by the splendor of Phoebus, shines more benignantly on the world. So the body of the Church, enriched by the splendor its Founder, is augmented by the hosts of saints and is made resplendent by religion and learning, so that those who come after draw profit from the concourse of the learned. And just as the sun or moon and all the stars ennoble the day and night by their refulgence, so the merits of the holy priests increase the glory of the Church.

7.
When Columban's childhood was over and he became older, he began to devote himself enthusiastically to the pursuit of grammar and ;he sciences, and studied with fruitful zeal all through his boyhood and youth, until he became a man. But, as his fine figure, his splendid color, and his noble manliness made him beloved by all, the old enemy, began finally to turn his deadly weapons upon him, in order to catch in his nets this youth, whom he saw growing so rapidly in grace. And he aroused against him the lust of lascivious maidens, especially of those whose fine figure and superficial beauty are wont to enkindle mad desires in the minds of wretched men.

But when that excellent soldier saw that he was surrounded on all sides by so deadly weapons, and perceived the cunning and shrewdness of the enemy who was fighting against him, and that by an act of human frailty, he might quickly fall over a precipice and be destroyed,-as Livy says, "No one is rendered so sacred by religion, no one is so guarded, that lust is unable to prevail against him," - holding in his left hand the shield of the Gospel and bearing in his right hand the two-edged sword, he prepared to advance and attack the hostile lines threatening him. He feared lest, ensnared by the lusts of the world, he should in vain have spent so much labor on grammar, rhetoric, geometry and the Holy Scriptures. And in these perils he was strengthened by a particular aid.

8.
When he was already meditating upon this purpose, he came to the dwelling of a holy and devout woman. He at first addressed her humbly, afterwards he began to exhort her, as far as lay in his power. As she saw the increasing strength of the youth she said: "I have gone , forth to the strife as far as it lay in my power. Lo, twelve years have passed by, since I have been far from my home and have sought out this place of pilgrimage. With the aid of Christ, never since then have I engaged in secular matters ; after putting my hand to the plough, I have not turned backward. And if the weakness of my sex had not prevented me, I would have crossed the sea and chosen a better place among strangers as my home. But you, glowing with the fire of youth, stay quietly on your native soil; out of weakness you lend your ear even against your own will, to the voice of the flesh, and think you can associate with the female sex without sin. But do you recall the wiles of Eve, Adam's fall, how Samson was deceived by Delilah, bow David was led to injustice by the beauty of Bathsheba, how the wise Solomon was ensnared by the love of a woman? Away, 0 youth I away! flee from corruption, into which, as you know, many have fallen. Forsake the path which leads to the gates of hell."

The youth, trembling at these words, which were such as to terrify a youth, thanked her for her reproaches, took leave of his companions and set out. His mother in anguish begged him not to leave her. But he said: "Hast thou not beard, 'He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me?"' He begged his mother, who placed herself in his way and held the door, to let him go. Weeping and stretched upon the floor, she said she would not permit it. Then leaping over both threshold and mother he asked his mother not to give way to her grief ; she would never see him again in this life, but wherever the way of salvation led him, there he would go.

9.
When he left his birthplace, called by the inhabitants, Lagener-land, (Leinster, in Ireland) he betook himself to a holy man named Sinell, who at this time was distinguished among his countrymen for his unusual piety and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. And when the holy man saw that St. Columban had great ability, be instructed him in the knowledge of all the Holy Scriptures. Nevertheless, as was usual, the master attempted to draw out the pupils under false pretences, in order that be might learn their dispositions, either the glowing excess of the senses, or the torpor induced by slothfulness. He began to inquire into Columban's disposition by difficult questions. But the latter tremblingly, nevertheless wisely, in order not to appear disobedient, nor touched by the vice of the love of vainglory, obeyed his master, and explained in turn all the objections that were made, mindful of that saying of the Psalmist, "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill its, Thus Columban collected such treasures of holy wisdom in his breast that he could, even as a youth, expound the Psalter in fitting language and could make many other extracts worthy to be sung, and instructive to read.

Then he endeavored to enter a society of monks, and went to the monastery of Bangor. [*In Ulster, Ireland] The abbot, the holy Congall, renowned for his virtues, was a faithful father to his monks and was held in high esteem for the fervor of his faith and the order and discipline which he preserved. Here Columban gave himself entirely to fasting and prayer, to bearing the easy yoke of Christ, to mortifying the flesh, to taking the cross upon himself and following Christ, in order that he who was to be a teacher of others might show the learning which he taught teacher more fruitfully by his own example in mortifying his own body ; and that he who was to instruct others might first his own instruct himself.

After he had been many years in the cloister he longed to go into strange lands, in obedience to the command which the Lord gave Abraham: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, into a land that I will shew thee." Accordingly he confessed to the venerable father, Congall, the burning desire of his heart and the longing enkindled by the fire of the Lord, concerning which the Lord says: "I am come to send fire on the earth ; and what will I, if it be already kindled?"' [*King James Version translation of Luke 12:49, The Vulgate, which is quoted here, reads "quem volo ut ardeat"]. But he did not receive the answer which he wished, for it was hard for Congall to bear the loss of so great a comfort. At length, however, the latter began to conquer himself and to think that he ought not to consider his own need more than the necessities of others. Nor was it done without the will of the Almighty, who had educated His novice for future strifes, in order that He might win glorious triumphs from his victory and secure joyful victories from the phalanxes of slaughtered enemies.

The abbot accordingly called St. Columban and although sorrowful, he considered the good of others before his own good, and bestowed upon him the bond of peace, the strength of solace and companions who were known for their piety.

10.
Having collected a band of brethren, St. Columban asked the prayers of all, that he might be assisted in his coming journey, and that he might have their pious aid. So he started out in the twentieth [*or thirtieth, MSS differ] year of his life, and under the guidance of Christ went to the seashore with twelve companions. Here they waited to see if the mercy of the Almighty would allow their purpose to succeed, and learned that the spirit of the all-merciful Judge was with them. So they embarked, and began the dangerous journey across the channel and sailed quickly with a smooth sea and favorable wind to the coast of Brittany. Here they rested for a while to recover their strength and discussed their plans anxiously, until finally they decided to enter the land of Gaul. They wanted zealously and shrewdly to inquire into the disposition of the inhabitants in order to remain longer if they found they could sow the seeds of salvation; or in case they found the hearts of the people in darkness, go on to the nearest nations.

11.
Accordingly, they left Brittany and proceeded into the Gallic lands. At that time, either because of the numerous enemies from without, or on account of the carelessness of the bishops, the Christian faith had almost departed from that country. The creed alone remained. But the saving grace of penance and the longing to root out the lusts of the flesh were to be found only in a few. Everywhere that he went the noble man preached the Gospel. And it pleased the people because his teaching was adorned by eloquence and enforced by examples of virtue.

So great was his humility and that of his followers, that just as the children of this world seek honor and authority, so they, on the contrary vied with one another in the practice of humility, mindful of that saying: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted," and of the text in Isaiah: "But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." Such piety and love dwelt in them all, that for them there was only one will and one renunciation.

Modesty and moderation, meekness and mildness adorned them all in equal measure. The evils of sloth and dissension were banished. Pride and haughtiness were expiated by severe punishments. Scorn and envy were driven out by faithful diligence. So great was the might of their patience, love and mildness that no one could doubt that the God of mercy dwelt among them. If they found that one among them was in error, they strove in common, with equal right, to restrain the sinner by their reproaches. They had everything in common. If anyone claimed anything as his own, he was shut out from association with the others and punished by penances. No one dared to return evil for evil, or to let fall a harsh word; so that people must have believed that an angelic life was being lived by mortal men. The holy man was reverenced with so great gratitude that where he remained or a time in a house, all hearts were resolved to practice the faith more strictly.

12.
Finally, the reports about Columban spread to the court of king Sigibert, who at this time ruled with honor over the two Frankish 'kingdoms of Austrasia and Burgundy. [*Sigibert died in 575 and was king only of Austrasia] The name of the Franks was held in honor above that of any of the other inhabitants of Gaul. When the holy man with his companions appeared before the king, the greatness of his learning caused him to stand high in the favor of the king and court Finally, the king begged him to remain in Gallic territory, not to go to other peoples and leave him ; everything that he wished should be done. Then he replied to the king that be did not wish to be enriched with the treasures of others, but as far as he was not hindered by the weakness of the flesh to follow the command of the Gospel "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Then the king answered and said: "If you wish to take the cross Christ upon you and follow Him, seek the quiet of a hermitage. Only Of be careful, for the increase of your own reward and for our spiritual good, to remain in our kingdom and not to go to the neighboring peoples." As the choice was left to him in this manner, he followed the king's advice and chose for himself a hermitage. At that time there was a great wilderness called Vosagus, [*the Vosages] in which there was a castle, which had long been in ruins, and which had been called for ages, Anagrates.[Anegray]. When the holy man came to that place, he settled there with his followers in spite of the entire loneliness, the wilderness and the rocks, mindful of the proverb that, "Man shall not live by bread alone," but shall have sufficient food from the bread of life and shall never hunger.

13.
While the man of God was in that place with his companions, one of the brethren, either as a test or because of some sin, began to he chastised by a violent fever. Since they had no food except such as the barks and herbs furnished, they began with one mind to desire that all should give themselves up to prayer and fasting for the sake of the welfare of their sick brother. Having now fasted for three days and having nothing to refresh their wearied bodies, suddenly they saw a certain man standing before their gate with horses loaded with a supply of bread and condiments. He said that he had been led by a sudden impulse of his heart to bear aid from his own substance to those who were, for Christ's sake, suffering from so great poverty in the wilderness. Therefore, having presented to the man of God what he had brought he began to ask earnestly that the holy man should pray to God in behalf of his wife, who for a whole year bad been burning with so violent a fever that it now seemed impossible that she could be restored to health. As be made his request with an humble and contrite heart, the man of God was unwilling to deny him any comfort, and having called together the brethren he invoked the mercy of God in behalf of that woman. When he and his companions had completed their prayer, the woman who had been in such imminent peril of death, was immediately restored to her health. When her husband had received the benediction from the man of God and had returned home, he found his wife sitting there. He questioned her as to the time when the fever left her and learned that she had been healed at the very hour when the man of God had prayed to the Lord in her behalf.

14.
Therefore, after a brief space of time in which they piously endeavored to propitiate Christ and to atone for their evil thoughts, through mortification of the flesh and extreme fasting, they mortified their members to the glory of God, and desired to preserve the inviolate state of their religion. By their extreme severities every lust of the flesh was expelled, so that the plunderer and robber of all virtues fled. Nine days had already passed in which the man of God and his companions had taken no other food than the bark of trees and the roots of herbs. But the compassion of the divine virtue tempered the bitterness of the food. A certain abbot, named Caramtoc, who ruled over a monastery of which the name was Salicis, was warned by a vision, that be should bear the necessities of life to God's servant Columban, dwelling in the wilderness. Therefore, Caramtoc rising called his cellarer, Marculf by name, and told him what bad happened. The latter replied, "Do as you have been told." Caramtoc therefore ordered Marculf to go and prepare everything that be could, to carry to St. Columban. Marculf accordingly, having loaded his wagons started out. But when the hour of darkness came on, he sought in vain for a way to continue his journey. Nevertheless, he thought that if the command was from God, the power of the Commander would show the way to the horses, if they were left to their own guidance. Wonderful power! The horses, advancing, followed an unknown road and in a direct course proceeded to Anegray to the doors of St. Columban. Marculf amazed followed the tracks of the horses, came to the man of God and presented what he had brought. The latter returned thanks to his Creator because He did not neglect to prepare a table for His servants in the wilderness. Therefore, having received a benediction from him, Marculf returned by the path by which he bad come and disclosed to all what had happened. Then crowds of people and throngs of the infirm began to crowd about St. Columban in order that they might recover their health and in order to seek aid in all their infirmities. When he was unable to rid himself of their importunities, obeying the petitions and prayers of all, through his prayers and relying upon the divine aid, he healed the infirmities of all who came to him.

15.
While the holy man was wandering through the dark woods and was carrying on his shoulder a book of the Holy Scripture, he happened to be meditating. And suddenly the thought came into his mind, to which he would prefer, to suffer injuries from men or to be exposed the rage of wild beasts. While he thought earnestly, frequently signing his forehead with the sign of the cross and praying, he decided that it was better to suffer from the ferocity of wild beasts, without any sin on their part, than from the madness of men who would lose their souls. And while he was turning this over in his mind he perceived twelve wolves approaching and standing on the right and on the left, while he was in the middle. He stood still and said: "Oh, God, come to my aid. Oh, Lord, hasten to aid me!" They came nearer and seized his clothing. As he stood firm they left him unterrified and wandered off into the woods. Having passed through this temptation in safety, he continued his course through the woods. And before he had gone far he heard the voices of many Suevi, wandering in the hidden paths. At this time they were robbing in those places. And so at length by his firmness, having dismissed the temptation, he escaped the misfortune. But he did not know clearly whether this was some of the devil's deceit or whether it had actually happened. At another time he withdrew from his cell and entering the wilderness by a longer road he found an immense cliff with precipitous There he perceived a hollow sides and rocky paths difficult for men. in the rock. Entering to explore its hidden recesses he found in the interior of the cave the home of a bear, and the bear itself. He ordered the beast to depart and not to return to that place again. The beast mercifully went, nor did she dare to return again. The place was distant from Anegray seven miles more or less.

16.
At one time be was living alone in that hollow rock, separated from the society of others and, as was his custom, dwelling in bidden places or more remotely in the wilderness, so that when the feasts of the Lord or saints' days came, he might, with his mind wholly free from disquieting cares, devote himself to prayer, and might be ready for every religious thought. He was so attenuated by fasting that he scarcely seemed alive - Nor did he eat anything except a small measure of the herbs of the field, or of the little apples which that wilderness produces and which are commonly called bolluca. His drink was water. And as he was always occupied with other cares, he could not get this regularly ; at least during the time when he was performing his vows.

A little boy named Domoalis was in his service. This boy went alone to tell the father when certain events happened at the monastery and to carry back his directions to the brethren. When this boy h ad remained for several days in the hollow of this lofty rock, which was difficult of approach from all directions, be began to complain because he could not get water quickly. It tired his knees to bring it with so great labor through the difficult mountain paths. Columban said to him : "My son, get to work ; make a little bole in the back of the rock- Remember the Lord produced streams of water from a rock for the people of Israel." He obeyed and attempted to make a hole in the rock. The holy man immediately fell upon his knees and prayed to God that He would aid him in his need. At length his prayers were heard; great power came to him, piously praying. And soon the fountain of water began to flow regularly and it remains to this day.

And not undeservedly has the merciful Lord granted the prayers of His saints, who on account of His commands have crucified their own wills, and who have so great faith that they do not doubt that they will obtain what they demand from His mercy. Because He has promised. If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place ; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." And elsewhere: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye will receive them, and ye shall have them."

17.
As the number of monks increased greatly, he sought in the same wilderness a better location for a convent. He found a place formerly strongly fortified, which was situated about eight miles from the first abode, and which had formerly been called Luxovium [*Luxeuil, in the department of Haute Saône]. Here were baths constructed with unusual skill. A great number of stone, idols, which in the old heathen times had been worshipped with horrible rites, stood in the forest near at hand. Here then the excellent man began to build a monastery. At the news of this people streamed in from all directions in order to consecrate themselves to the practice of , religion, so that the large number of monks scarcely had sufficient m. The children of the nobles from all directions strove to come ,thither ; despising the spurned trappings of the world and the pomp of present wealth, they sought eternal rewards. Columban perceived that the people were rushing in from all directions to the remedy of penance and that the walls of one monastery could with difficulty hold of so great a throng of converts. Although they were of one purpose and heart, yet one monastery was insufficient for the abode of so great a number. Accordingly be sought out another spot especially remarkable for its bountiful supply of water and founded a second convent to which he gave the name of Fontanas. [*Fonataines]. In this he placed men whose piety could not be doubted. After he had settled the bands of monks in these places, he stayed alternately at the two convents, and full of the Holy Ghost, he established the rule which they were to follow. From this rule the prudent reader or listener may learn the extent and character of the holy man's learning. [*The rule can be found in Migne, PL, 80]

18.
At that time a brother, named Autierin, asked to be allowed to make a pilgrimage into Ireland. Columban said, "Let us go into the wilderness and try to learn the will of God, whether you ought to go on the journey as you desire or remain in the assembly of the bretheren." Accordingly they went forth and took with them a third youth, named Somarius, who is still alive. They went to the place in the wilderness that had been fixed upon, taking with them only a single loaf. When twelve days had passed, and nothing remained from the fragments of bread, and the time for breaking their fast was approaching, they were commanded by the father to go through the rocky cliffs and down to the bottom of the valleys and to bring back whatever they found that was suitable for food.

They went joyfully through the sloping valleys, down to the Moselle and found some fishes which had been caught previously by fishermen and were floating about on the water. Approaching, they found five large fishes, and taking three, which were alive, they carried them back to the father. But he said, "Why did you not bring five?" They replied, "We found two dead, so we left them." But he said, " You shall not eat of these until you bring those which you left." They, struck with wonder at the fullness of the divine grace, traversed again their dangerous path and chid themselves for leaving the manna which they had found. Afterwards they were ordered to cook the food. For, filled with the Holy Ghost, the father knew that the food had been prepared for himself by God.

19.
At another time he was staying in the same wilderness, but not in the same place. Fifty days had already elapsed and only one of the brethren named Gall was with him. Columban commanded Gall to go to the Brusch and catch fish. The latter went, took his boat and went to the Loignon river. After he had gotten there, and had thrown his net into the water he saw a great number of fishes coming. But they were not caught in the net, and went off again as if they had struck a wall. After working there all day and not being able to catch a fish, he returned and told the father that his labor bad been in vain. The latter chid him for his disobedience in not going to the right place. Finally he said, "Go quickly to the place that you were ordered to try." Gall went accordingly, placed his net in the water, and it was filled with so great a number of fishes, that he could scarcely draw it.

20.
At another time he was staying in the hollow of the rock mentioned above, from which he bad expelled the bear, and for a long time he had been mortifying the flesh with prayer and fasting. By a revelation he learned that the brethren, who were near Luxeuil, were suffering from various diseases and only enough remained to care for the sick. Leaving his den, he went to Luxeuil. When he saw the afflicted, he commanded them all to rise and to thresh out the harvest on the threshing ground. Then those whose consciences were 'kindled by the fire of obedience arose and going to the threshing-place, attempted, full of faith to thresh out the grain on the ground. The father seeing that they were full of faith and the grace of obedience, said, "Cease and rest your limbs, weakened by sickness." They ,obeyed, wondering at their recovery, for no trace of the diseases remained and they prepared the tables as he commanded, that all might be strengthened by a joyful banquet. Then Columban chid the disobedient, showed them the inadequacy of their faith and announced The long continuance of their illness. Wonderful revenge! For the disobedient were so ill for an entire year that they barely escaped death. They accomplished the full measure of penance, from the time :when they were disobedient.

21.
Meanwhile the time had come for gathering the crops into the storehouses, but the violent winds did not cease to pile up clouds ; nevertheless it was urgently necessary to gather the crops so that the ears of grain should not rot upon the stalks. The man of God was at the monastery of Fontaines, where a new field had yielded a very rich crop. Violent blasts piled up the rain-clouds, and the heavens did not cease to pour down the rain upon the earth. The man of God considered anxiously what he ought to do. Faith strengthened his mind and taught him how to command the fitting thing. He summoned all and ordered them to reap the crop. They wondered at the father's command and no one understood his purpose. All came with their reaping-hoods to cut the grain in the midst of the rain and watched to see what the father would do. He placed at the four corners of the field, four very religious men, Comininus, Eunocus and Equanacus, who were Scots, and the fourth Gurganus, a Briton. Having arranged them, he himself with the others cut the grain in the middle. Wonderful virtue! The shower fled from the grain and the rain was scattered in every direction. The warm sun poured down upon those who were reaping in the middle and a strong warm wind blew as long as they heaped up the grain. Faith and prayer were of so great merit that the rain was driven off and they had sunshine in the midst of the storms.

22.
At that time there was a duke named Waldelen, who ruled over the people between the Alps and the Jura. He had no children; in order that, as Juvencus says of Zachariah and Elizabeth, "the gift might be more welcome to those who bad already given up hope." He with his wife Flavia, who was noble both by her family and by her disposition, came from the town of Besançon to St. Columban. Both of them begged of him that he would pray to the Lord on their behalf, for they had great wealth, but no son to whom they could leave it after their death. The holy man said to them: If you will promise to consecrate His gift to the Lord and will give me the child so that I can raise him from the baptismal font, I will invoke the Lord's mercy for you that you may have not only the one whom you consecrate to the Lord, but as many more as you desire." Joyfully they promised what he wished, asking only that he would not cease to implore God to have mercy upon them. The man of God promised that they should soon have what they wished, only they must not desire to break the compact.

Wonderful to relate! hardly had they returned home when the wife felt that she had conceived. When she had borne a son, she brought him to the holy man and returned thanks to God, who had heard the prayers of His servants. Columban consecrated the child to the Lord, raised him from the font and, naming him Donatus, gave him back to his mother to be nursed. Later on, the child was educated in the monastery and taught wisdom. He became Bishop of Besançon, which he still is. Out of love for St. Columban he founded a monastery under Columbarn's rule. From an ancient structure there it was named Palatium.

God fulfilled the promise made by His servant and gave to Waldelen a second son named Ramelen, distinguished for his nobility and wisdom. This son, after Waldelen's death, succeeded to his office, and although a layman be was truly filled with the fear of God. For he, too, out of love for the holy man, founded under his rule a monastery in the Jura Mountains on the Movisana River, and placed Siagrius there as abbot. The Lord added to His previous gifts two daughters, who were noble and perfect in the fear of Christ. After the death of her husband Flavia founded a nunnery in Besançon, gave it full protection and collected many nuns together. The grace of the man of God was so strong in them, that despising all the vain pomp of this life, they were zealous in the service of God.

23.
If we try to include some things which may seem of little importance, the goodness of the Creator, who is equally merciful in very small matters and in great, who does not delay to turn His pitying ear to trifling details, just as in the very important matters He grants the desires of the suppliant, will be manifest to those who bawl envious detractions. For on a certain day when the excellent man of God had gone with the brethren to cut the harvest near Calmem, which is called Baniaritia, and they were cutting the crop, while the south wind blew, one of them, named Theudegisil, happened to cut his finger with a sickle, and the finger hung by only a small strip of skin. The man of God seeing Theudegisil standing apart, commanded him to continue the work with his companions. But the latter told the reason for his actions. Columban hastened to him, and with his own saliva restored the wounded finger to its former health. Then he ordered Theudegisil to make haste and put forth more strength. The latter who had grieved for a long time over his cut finger, joyfully began to work doubly bard and to press on before the others in cutting the grain. Theudegisil himself told us of this and showed his finger. A similar thing happened on another occasion at the monastery of Luxeuil.

24.
For a parish priest, named Winnoc, the father of Babolen, who is now abbot of Bobbio, went to St. Columban. The latter was in the forest with the brethren, getting a supply of wood. When Winnoc arrived, and was watching with wonder how they split the trunk of an oak so easily with their mallet and wedges, one of the latter flying from the trunk cut him in the middle of his forehead, so that great waves of blood ran from his veins. Columban, the man of God, seeing the blood flowing, and the bone uncovered, immediately fell on the ground in prayer, then rising healed the wound with his saliva, so that hardly a sign of a scar remained.

25.
On another occasion when St. Columban had come to dine at the monastery of Luxeuil, he laid his gloves, which the Gauls [*should be Franks, i.e. German, who used this word] call Wanti and which he was accustomed to wear when working, on a stone before the door of the refectory. Soon, in the quiet, a thievish raven flew up and carried off one of the gloves in its beak. After the meal, the man of God went out and looked for his gloves. When all were enquiring who had taken them, the holy man said, "There is no one who would venture to touch anything without permission, except the bird which was sent out by Noah and did not return to the ark." And, he added, that the raven would not be able to feed its young if it did not quickly bring back the stolen object. While the brethren were looking, the raven flew into their midst and brought back in its beak the object which it had basely stolen. Nor did it attempt to fly away, but forgetful of its wild nature, humbly in the sight of all, awaited its punishment. The holy man commanded it to go. Oh, wonderful power of the eternal Judge who grants such power to His servants that they are glorified both by honors from men and by the obedience of birds! [*Grote says this miracle "is exactly in the character of the Homeric and Hesiodic age." See his interesting remarks in History of Greece. Vol I. p. 473, note, (Ed. New York, 1865]

26.
Another miracle was wrought by St. Columban and his cellarer, which I shall relate. When the meal-time came, and the latter was ready to serve out the beer (which is boiled down from the juice of corn or barley, and which is used in preference to other beverages by, all the nations in the world-except the Scotch and barbarous nations who inhabit the ocean-that is, in Gaul, Britain , Ireland, Germany and the other nations who do not deviate from the customs of the above) he carried to the cellar ajar, called a tybrum, and placed it before the vat in which the beer was - Having drawn the plug, he permitted the beer to flow into the jar. Another brother called him suddenly by the father's command. He, burning with the fire of obedience, forgot to put in the plug, called a daciculum, and, carrying it in his hand, hastened to the blessed man. After he had done what the man of God wished, he returned quickly to the cellar, thinking that nothing would be left in the vat from which the beer was running. But he saw the beer had run into the jar and not the least drop had fallen outside, so that you would have believed that the jar had doubled in size. Great was the merit of Columban commanding great the obedience of the cellarer, that the Lord thus wished to avert sadness from both of them, lest, if the either had diminished the substance of the brethren al of without needful food ; so the just Judge hastened to wash away the faults of both which had been committed by accident and with the Lord's permission, but which each would have asserted was due to his own remissness.

27.
At that time the man of God, a lover of solitude, happened to be walking through the dense thickets of fruit -trees and found a bear ready to devour the body of a stag which wolves had killed, and the bear was licking up the blood. The man of God approached be fore it had eaten any of the flesh, and ordered it not to injure the hide which was needed for shoes. Then the beast, forgetting its ferocity, became gentle, and fawning and drooping its head left the body without a murmur, contrary to its custom. The man of God returning told this to the brethren, and ordered them to go and strip the hide from the body of the stag. When the brethren found the body they saw in the distance a great flock of birds of prey approaching, but these did not dare to touch the body, on account of Columban's command. The brethren waited at a distance for a time to see whether any bease or bird would attempt to take the forbidden food. They saw them come, attracted by the smell, stop at a distance, and , turning as if it was something deadly, and fatal, fly swiftly away.

28.
While Columban on another occasion was staying at Luxeuil, Winnoc, the priest whom we mentioned before, came to him and followed him wherever he went. They came to the storehouse in which the grain was kept. Winnoc, seeing and despising the smallness of the supply, said there was not enough to feed such a multitude, and chid him for his slothfulness in procuring food. St. Columban replied, "If men serve their Creator truly they will never feel need, for as the voice of the Psalmist makes known, "have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging their bread." He, who satisfied five thousand men with five loaves, can very easily fill the storehouse with grain." While Winnoc stayed there that night, the storehouse was filled by the faith and prayers of the man of God. Winnoc, rising in the morning and passing by, unexpectedly saw the storehouse open and the custodian was standing what beasts of burden had brought this grain an before the door. He asked who had ordered this or . The custodian replied, "It is not as you suppose. For see if the tracks of any animals are imprinted on the ground. The keys did not leave my person last night, but while the door was closed, the storehouse was filled with grain by the divine aid." Winnoc began to search carefully, with his eyes fixed on the ground, and to seek for traces of pack-animals. When he found nothing at all resembling these, he said, "The Lord is able to furnish a table for His servants in the wilderness."

A while after, Columban went to the monastery of Fontaines and found sixty brethren hoeing the ground and preparing the fields for the future crop. When he saw them breaking up the clods with great labor, he said, "May the Lord prepare for you a feast, my brethren." Hearing this the attendant said, "Father, believe me, we have only two loaves and a very little beer." Columban answered, "Go and bring those." The attendant went quickly and brought the two loaves and a little beer. Columban, raising his eyes to heaven, said, "Christ Jesus, only hope of the world, do Thou, who from five loaves satisfied five thousand men in the wilderness, multiply these loaves and this drink." Wonderful faith! All were satisfied and each one drank as much as he wished. The servant carried back twice as much in fragments and twice the amount of drink. And so he knew that faith is more deserving of the divine gifts than despair, which is wont to diminish even what one has.

29.
When at one time the man of God was staying at Luxeuil. one of the brethren, who was also named Columban, was stricken with a fever and, lying at the point of death, was awaiting instantly a happy release. When he wanted to draw his last breath, confident of the eternal reward which he had sought in his long service, he saw a man clothed in light coming to him, and saying, "I am not able now to free you from your body, because I am hindered by the prayers and of your father Columban". When the sick man heard this, sorrowfully as if he had been awakened from sleep, be began to call his attendant Theudegisel whom 'we mentioned above, and said, , Go quickly and summon our father Columban to me." The attendant went swiftly to Columban weeping in the church, asked him to hasten to the sick man. Columban came quickly and asked him what he wanted. The latter told him, saying, " Why do you detain me by your prayers in this sorrowful world? For those are present, who would lead me away if they were not hindered by your tears and prayers. I beseech you, remove the obstacles which retain me that the celestial kingdom may open for me." Columban, struck with fear, made a signal that all should come. His joy lessened his grief at the loss Of his holy companion- He gave the dying man the body of Christ as a viaticum, and after the last kiss began the death-song. For they were of the same race and name and had left Ireland in the same company.

30.
And do not wonder that the beasts and birds thus obeyed command of the man of God. the For we have learned from Chamnoald, royal chaplain at Laon, who was his attendant and disciple, that he has often seen Columban wandering about in the wilderness fasting and praying, and calling the wild beasts and birds. These came immediately at his command and he stroked them with his hand. The beasts and birds joyfully played, frisking about him, just as cats frisk about their misstresses. Chamnoald said he had often seen him call the little animal, which men commonly name a squiruis from the tops of a tree and take it in his hand and put it on his neck and let it go into and come out from his bosom.

31.
The fame of Columban had already penetrated into all parts of Gaul and Germany, and everyone was praising the venerable man. Theuderich too came often to hi m and humbly begged his prayers. For Theuderich had succeeded to the kingdom in the following manner: Sigibert had been murdered in the royal estate of Vitry, which is not far from Arras, at the instigation of his brother Chilperich, who was then living in Tournay and was being hunted to death by Sigibert. After the death of the latter, through the influence of his wife Brunhilda, the kingdom passed to his son Childebert (II). When the latter died in his youth, [*AD 596] he was succeeded by his two sons, Theudebert and Theuderich, who ruled together with their grandmother Brunhilda. Austrasia went to Theudebert, Burgundy, to Theuderich, who thought that he was fortunate in having St. Columban in his kingdom.

As he very often visited Columban, the holy man began to reprove him because he sinned with concubine and did not satisfy himself with the comforts of a lawful wife, in order to beget royal children from an honored queen, and not bastards by his concubines. After this reproof from Columban, the king promised to abstain from such sinful conduct. But the old serpent came to his grandmother Brunhilda, who was a from a second Jezebel, and aroused her pride against the holy man, because she saw that Theuderich was obedient to him. For she feared that her power and honor would be lessened if, after the expulsion of the concubines, a queen should rule the court.

32.
St. Columban happened one day to go to Brunhilda, who was then on the estate of Brocarica.[*near Autun]. As she saw him enter the court, she led to him the illegitimate sons of Theuderich. When St. Columban saw her, he asked what she wanted of him. Brunhilda answered, "These are the king's sons ; give them thy blessing." He replied, "Know that these boys will never bear the royal sceptre, for they were begotten in sin." Enraged, she told the boys to go. When after this Columban left the court, a loud cracking noise was heard, the whole house trembled and everyone shook with fear. But that did not avail to check the wrath of the wretched woman.

From that time she began to persecute the neighboring monasteries. She issued an order that none of the monks should be allowed to leave the lands of the monasteries, no one should receive them into other houses or give them any aid. When Columban saw that at the court all were arrayed against him, be hastened to Spissia, where the king was then staying, in order to subdue such defiance by his warnings. When he reached that place, about sunset, and it was announced to the king that Columban was there but would not enter the palace, Theuderich said it would be better with due reverence to offer the needful services to the man of God, than to arouse the wrath of the Lord, by insulting His servant. Accordingly be ordered suitable food to be prepared in the royal kitchen and sent to the servant of God.

When the attendants came to Columban and, in accordance with the king's command, offered him food and drink prepared with royal magnificence, he asked what they meant by it. When they told him that it was sent by the king, he pushed it from him and said It is written, "The Most High is not pleased with the offerings of the wicked." For it is not meet that the mouth of the servant of the Lord should be defiled by the food of him who shuts out the servant of God, not only from his own dwelling, but also from the dwellings of others." At these words all of the dishes broke into pieces, so that the wine and liquor ran out on the ground and the food was scattered here and there. Terrified, the servants announced this to the king. Full of anxiety, he, together with his grandmother, hastened to Columban early in the morning. Both begged him to forgive their past sins and promised amendment. With his fears quieted by this, Columban returned to his convent. But they failed to keep their promises, and very soon the persecutions were renewed With increased bitterness by the king, who continued in his former sinful course. Then Columban sent him a letter full of reproaches, and threatened him with the ban if he did not amend his conduct.

33.
Now Brunhilda began again to incite the king against Columban in every way ; urged all the nobles and others at court to do the same, and influenced the bishops to attack Columban's faith and to abolish his monastic rule. She succeeded so fully that the holy man was obliged to answer for his faith or leave the country. The king, incited by Brunhilda, went to Luxeuil and accused Columban of violating the customs of the country and of not allowing all Christians to enter the interior of the monastery. To these accusations Columban answered, for he was unterrified and full of courage, that it was not his custom to allow laymen to enter the dwelling of the servant of God, but he had prepared a suitable place where all who came would be received. The king replied : "If you wish to enjoy any longer the gifts of our grace and favor, everyone in the future must be allowed free entrance everywhere." Columban answered : "If you dare to violate the monastic rule in any particular, I will not accept any gift or aid from you in the future. But if you come here to destroy the monasteries of the servant of God and to undermine their discipline and regulations, I tell you that your kingdom will be destroyed together with all your royal family." This the king afterward found to be true. In his audacity, he had already stepped into the refectory ; terrified by these words, be withdrew hastily.
But when Columban attacked him with bitter insults, Theuderich said: "You want me to honor you with the crown of martyrdom ; do not believe that I am foolish enough to commit such a crime. But I will follow a wiser and more useful plan. Since you depart from the common customs, I will send you back to the home from which you came." At the same time the members of the court resolved unanimously that they would not put up with anyone who was unwilling to associate with everyone. But Columban said that he would not leave his monastery unless he was dragged out by force.

34.
The king now withdrew, but left behind a nobleman named Baudulf. The latter drove the holy man out of his monastery and carried him to Besançon into banishment, until the king had determined what further action to take. While there Columban heard that the prison was full of condemned men awaiting the death penalty. The man of God hastened to them and, having entered the gate without opposition, be preached the word of God to the condemned. They promised him that if they were liberated they would amend their lives and would do penance for the crimes which they had committed. After this Columban commanded his attendant, whom we have mentioned above [8ch. 16], to take in his hand the iron to which their feet were fettered, and to pull it. When the boy took hold of it and pulled, it broke into bits like the rotten trunk of a tree. Columban ordered the condemned to leave the prison now that their feet were free and, after preaching the Gospel to them, he washed their feet and dried them with a linen towel. Then he commanded them to go to the church and do penance for the crimes they bad committed and to wash away their faults by their tears. They hastened thither and found the doors of the church-fastened.

When the captain of the soldiers saw the fetters of the condemned broken by Columban, through the power of God, and that only the empty prison remained, he started, although aroused from sleep, to follow the tracks of the condemned. The latter, seeing that the soldiers were coming after them and that the doors of the church were shut, hemmed in by the two-fold difficulty, reproached the man of God for having released them. But he, breathing anxiously, raised his face to heaven and prayed to the Lord that He would not permit those whom He had released from the iron by His strength, to be again delivered into the hands of the soldiers. Without delay, the goodness of the Creator opened the doors, which had been securely fastened, and disclosed a way of escape to those in peril. The condemned quickly entered the church. After their entrance the doors were shut without human hands, before the eyes of the soldiers, just as if a custodian with a key had quickly unlocked them and then locked them again. Columban arriving with his followers and the captain coming up at the same time with his soldiers, found the doors shut. They sought the janitor, Aspasius by name, to get the key. When he came with the key and tried to open the doors he said he had never found them more tightly closed. Nor did anyone, after that, dare to do any injury to the condemned, whom the divine grace had liberated.

35.
As Columban now saw that be was not watched at all and that no one did him any injury, (for all saw that he was strong in the strength of the Lord and therefore all refrained from injuring him, in order not to be associated in guilt) one Sunday he climbed to the top of the mountain. For the city is so situated that the houses are clustered together on the side of a steep mountain. Above, the lofty cliffs rise perpendicularly into the heavens. The mountain cut off on all sides by the river Dou, which surrounds it, leaves no path open for travelers. Columban waited till noon to see whether anyone would prevent his returning to his monastery. Then he took the road leading directly through the city.
When they heard of this, Brunhilda and Theuderich were embittered still more. They again ordered a band of soldiers to carry off the man of God by violence and to take him again to his former place of exile. Accordingly the soldiers went with their captain and wandered through the precincts of the monastery seeking the man of God. He was then in the vestibule of the church reading a book. They came repeatedly and passed near him, so that some struck against him with their feet and touched his garments with their garments, but did not see him because their eyes were blinded. And it was a most beautiful sight. He, exulting, perceived that he was sought and was not found. While he saw them, they did not see him sitting in the midst of them. The captain came and, looking through the window, saw the man of God sitting joyfully amid them and reading. Perceiving the power of God, he said: "Why do you go wandering about the vestibule of the church and do not find him? Your hearts are wholly filled with the madness of insanity; for you will not be able to find him whom the divine power conceals. Leave this undertaking and we will hasten to announce to the king that you could not find him." By this it was clearly shown that the captain of the soldiers had not come willingly to do injury, to the man of God, and therefore had merited to see him.

36.
They told the king. He, impelled by the madness of his wretched purpose, sent Count Bertarius, with the men of his guard, to :seek more diligently for Columban, and at the same time Baudulf whom he had formerly sent. They finding the holy man in the church praying and singing psalms with all the brethren, said to him: "Oh man of God, we beg you to obey the king's orders and our own, and to return to the place whence you came to this land." But Columban answered, "I do not think it would be pleasing to my Creator if I should go back to the home which I left because of my love for Christ." When they saw that Columban would not obey them they withdrew. But they left behind several men of rough disposition and character.

Those who remained urged the man of God to have pity on them, Since they had been perfidiously left behind to perform such a task, and to think of their peril. If they did not violently eject him they would be in danger of death. But he, as he had very often asserted, said he would not withdraw unless he was compelled to by violence. The men impelled by fear, since they were in imminent peril in either event, clung to the robe which he wore; others upon their knees besought him not to impute to them the guilt of so great a crime, since they were not following their own wishes, but obeying the commands of the king.

37.
He finally decided to yield, in order not to imperil others, and departed amid universal sorrow and grief. Escorts were furnished him who were not to leave his side until they had conducted him to the boundary of the kingdom at Nantes. Ragamund was their leader. All the brethren followed, as if it was a funeral ; for grief filled the hearts of all. The father in anxiety for the loss of so many members, raised his eyes to heaven, and said, "Oh Creator of the world, prepare for us a place where Thy people may worship Thee." Then he comforted the brethren, telling them to put their trust in the Lord and to give great praise to omnipotent God. This was not an injury to him or his followers, but an opportunity to increase the number of monks. Those who wished to follow him and had courage to bear all his sufferings might come. The others who wanted to remain in the monastery should do so, knowing that God would quickly avenge their injuries. But since the monks did not want to be deprived of the guardianship of their shepherd all resolved to go. But the king's servants declared that only those would be allowed to follow him who were his countrymen or who had come to him from Brittany ; the others, by the king's me command, were to remain in that place. When the father perceived that his followers were violently torn from him, his grief and that of his followers was increased. But he prayed to the Lord, the Comforter of all men, to take those into His own keeping, whom the king's violence tore from him. Among these was Eustasius, the scholar and servant of Columban, who was afterward abbot in this very convent, of which his uncle, Mietius, bishop of Langres, had charge.

38.
So, twenty years after he had come to this place the holy man departed and went by the way of Besançon and Autun to the fortress Cavalo. On the way the king's master of horse wanted to kill him with a lance. But the hand of God hindered it and lamed the mail's hand, so that the lance fell on the ground at his feet and be himself seized by a supernatural power fell prone before Columban. The latter, however, cared for him till the next morning and then sent him home healed.

39.
From Cavalo he went to the river Chora [*Probably the Cure, a branch of the Jonne (Abel)] where he stayed in the house of a noble and pious lady, named Theudemanda, and healed twelve demoniacs who came to him. On the same day be went to the village of Chora where he healed five mad men. In Auxerre, which he next went to, he said to his companion, Ragamund, "Know that within three years Chlotar, whom you now despise, will be your lord." But he answered, "Why do you tell me such things, my lord?" The latter replied, "You will see what I have announced if you are still alive."

40.
Then leaving Auxerre, Columban saw a youth possessed by a demon running swiftly toward him. This youth had run twenty miles with all his might. Seeing him, Columban waited until the man, wounded by the devil's art, should come. The latter fell at the feet of the man of God and was immediately cured by his prayers and visibly restored to health. Then with guards preceding and following, Columban came to the city of Nevers in order to go in a boat on the Loire to the coast of Brittany. When they had reached this point and bad gotten into the boat with difficulty, one of the guards, taking an oar, struck one of them, who was named Lua, a most holy and devout man.

The man of God, seeing that one of his followers was struck in his presence, said: " Why, cruel man, do you add to my grief? Is not the guilt of the crime which you have committed sufficient for your destruction ? Why do you appear merciless against the merciful ? Why do you strike a wearied member of Christ? Why do you vent your, wrath on the gentle? Remember that you will be punished by God in this place, where in your rage you have struck a member of Christ." The vengeance, soon following, executed the penalty inflicted by that sentence. For as the man was returning again and came to the same place to cross the river, struck by the divine vengeance, he was drowned. Why was it that the just Judge delayed the vengeance a little, unless it was that His saint might not be troubled by the sight of the man's punishment?

41.
From that place they went to the city of Orleans, where sorrowfully they rested for a time on the banks of the Loire in tents, for by order of the king, they were forbidden to enter the churches. When finally their provisions gave out, they sent two men into the city to get food. One of these was Potentinus, who later on founded a convent in Brittany, near the city of Coutances, [*in the department of La Manches] and who is still alive. When these men entered the city they found nothing, because the inhabitants, from fear of the king, did not dare to sell or give them anything, and they went back on the road by which they had entered the city. They met a Syrian woman in the street. When she saw them, she asked who they were. They explained the state of the case, and said that they were seeking food but had found nothing. She replied, "Come, my lords, to the house of your servant and take whatever you need. For I, too, am a stranger from the distant land of the Orient." They joyfully followed her to her house and sat down to rest until she brought what they sought. Her husband, who had long been blind, was sitting near them. When they asked him who he was, his wife replied, "My husband is from the same race of the Syrians that I am. As be is blind, I have led him about for many years." They said, "If he should go to Columban, the servant of Christ, he would receive his sight through the holy man's prayers." The man having faith in the promised gift, regained his courage, rose and, led by his wife, followed them. They told Columban of the hospitality given to pilgrims. They bad not finished their story before the blind man came and prayed the man of God to restore his sight by prayer. Columban, seeing the man's faith, asked all to pray for the blind man, and after lying for a long time prone on the ground, he rose, touched the man's eyes with his hand and made the sign of the cross. The man received his longed-for sight. He rejoiced in his recovered sight, because it was fitting that he, whose soul had been lighted internally by hospitality, should not lack the external vision.

After that a band of mad men, whom demons tortured with savage fury, hastened to the man of God to be cured. Health was granted them by the Lord ; for all were healed by the man of God. The people of the city moved by these miracles supplied Columban with gifts secretly, because they did not dare to furnish anything openly on account of the guards, lest they should incur the wrath of the king. Thence Columban and his followers continued on their way.

42.
And proceeding on the Loire, they came to the city of Tours. There the holy man begged the guards to stop and permit him to visit the grave of St. Martin. The guards refused, strove to go on quickly, urged the oarsmen to put forth their strength and pass swiftly by the harbor, and commanded the helmsman to keep the boat in mid-stream. St. Columban seeing this, raised his eyes sadly to heaven, grieving at being subjected to great sorrow, and that he was not permitted to see the graves of the saints. In spite of all their efforts the boat stopped as if anchored, as soon as it got opposite the harbor, and turned its bow to the landing-place. The guards seeing that they could not prevail, unwillingly allowed the boat to go where it would. In a wonderful manner it sped, as if winged, from mid-stream to the harbor, and entering this accomplished the wish of the man of God.

He, truly, gave thanks to the eternal King, who does not disdain to comply with the wishes of His servants. Landing, Columban went to the grave of St. Martin and spent the whole night there in prayer. In the morning he was invited by Leoparius, the bishop of the city, to break his fast. He accepted, especially for the sake of refreshing his brethren, and spent that day with the bishop. When he sat down at table with the bishop, at the hour of refection, and was asked why he was returning to his native land, he replied, " That dog Theuderich has driven me away from the brethren."

43.
Then one of the guests, named Chrodowald, who was married to one of Theudebert's cousins, but who was a follower of Theuderich, replied in a humble voice to the man of God, "It is pleasanter to drink milk than wormwood," and declared that be would be faithful to king Theuderich, as be had sworn, so long as it was in his power. Columban said to him, "I know that you want to keep your oath of fidelity to king Theuderich, and you will be glad to take my message to your lord and friend. if you serve king Theuderich. Announce, therefore, to Theuderich that he and his children will die within three years, and his entire family will be exterminated by the Lord." "Why," said the man, "do you announce such tidings, O servant of God?" "I dare no t conceal what the Lord has ordered me to reveal." All the inhabitants of Gaul saw this fulfilled later, and this confirmed what had been announced previously to Ragamund.

44.
After the repast, the man of God returned to the boat and found his companions very sorrowful. On enquiring what had happened, be learned that what they had in the boat had been stolen in the night, and also the gold which he bad not given to the poor. Having heard this, be returned to the grave of the holy confessor and complained that he had not watched by the relics of the saint in order that the latter should allow him and his followers to suffer loss. Immediately be who had stolen the bag of gold began to be tormented and tortured, and cried out that be had concealed the pieces of gold in this place and that. All his associates rushed to return all that had been stolen and prayed the man of God to pardon the great crime. This miracle struck such terror into all, that those who heard of it did not dare to touch any thing which belonged to the man of God, believing that all was consecrated. After supplying him with food Leoparius said farewell to St. Columban.

45.
Joyfully then they went in the boat to the city of Nantes and there stopped for a short time. One day a beggar cried out before the door of the cell in which the man of God was meditating. Calling an attendant, Columban said: ,Give the beggar some food." The attendant replied: "We have nothing except a very little meal." He asked: "How much have you?" The attendant replied that he thought he did not have more than a measure of meal. ,Then give it all," he said, "and save nothing for the morrow." The servant obeyed and gave all to the beggar, reserving nothing for the common need.

Already the third day had dawned since they had been fasting, and had had scarcely anything except the grace of hope and faith, by which to refresh their exhausted limbs. Suddenly they beard the door open ; when the doorkeeper asked why the ears of the brethren were troubled by the din, he who bad opened the door said he had been sent by his mistress Procula. She said she had been divinely warned to send food to the man of God, Columban, and to his companions, who were staying near the city of Nantes. The man said the food would come immediately, and that he had been sent ahead to tell them to prepare receptacles to receive it. There were a hundred measures of wine, two hundred of grain, and a hundred of barley. The doorkeeper hastened to announce this to the father. But the latter said, very well, he knew it, and ordered that the brethren should come together to pray to the Lord in behalf of their benefactress, and at the same time to return thanks to their Creator who never fails to comfort His servants in every need ; and after that they would receive the gifts.

Wonderful compassion of the Creator! He permits us to be in need, that He may show His mercy by giving to the needy. He permits us to be tempted, that by aiding us in our temptations He may turn the hearts of His servants more fully to Himself. He permits His followers to be cruelly tortured that they may delight more fully in restored health.

46.
Another equally noble and pious woman, named Doda, sent two hundred measures of corn, and a hundred of mixed grain. This caused very great shame to the bishop of that city, named Suffronius, from whom nothing could be obtained as a gift or even by exchange. While Columban remained there, a certain woman tormented by a demon came to him, together with her daughter who was also suffering from a severe disease. When be saw them, he prayed to the Lord for them ; after they had been healed, he commanded them to return home.

47.
After this Suffronius, bishop of Nantes, and count Theudebald made preparations to send St. Columban to Ireland, in accordance with the king's orders. But the man of God said: "If there is a ship here which is returning-to Ireland, put my effects and my companions on it. In the meantime I will go in my skiff down the Loire to the ocean." They found a vessel which had brought Scottish wares and embarked all Columban's effects and companions. When with a favorable wind the oarsmen were now rowing the vessel down to the ocean, a huge wave came and drove the vessel on shore. It stuck fast on the land, and the water receding, remained quietly in the channel. The bark remained high and dry for three days. Then the captain of the vessel understood that he was detained in this manner on account of the effects and companions of the man of God, that be had taken on board. He decided to disembark from the vessel all that belonged to Columban. Immediately a wave came and bore the vessel out to the ocean. Then all, filled with amazement, understood that God did not wish Columban to return home. Accordingly he returned to the house in which he bad formerly dwelt and no one opposed him; nay, rather, all aided the man of God with gifts and food, as far as lay in their power. Nor did he lack defence, because in all things he had the aid of the Creator, and He who keeps Israel under the shadow of His wings never slumbers. Thus truly He shows by granting all things to all men, that He wishes to be glorified by all in proportion to the greatness of his gifts.

48.
Not long after this Columban went to Chlotar, Chilperich's son, who ruled in Neustria over the Franks who lived on the coast. Chlotar had already heard how the man of God had been persecuted by Brunhilda and Theuderich. He now received Columban as a veritable gift from heaven, and begged that he would remain in Neustria, Columban refused and said he did not wish to remain there, either for the sake of inereasing the extent of his pilgrimage of avoiding enmities. But he remained some time with the king, and called his attention to several abuses, such as could hardly fail to exist at a king's court. Chlotar cording to Columban's command, for he promised to correct everything ac zealously loved wisdom, and rejoiced in the blessing which he had secured.

In the meantime a strife arose between Theudebert and Theuderich over the boundaries of their kingdoms, and both sent to Chlotar to beg aid. The latter was disposed to aid one against the other, and asked Columban's advice. He, filled with the spirit of prophecy, answered that Chlotar ought not to unite with either, for within three years he would receive both kingdoms. Chlotar seeing that such things were prophesied by the man of God, aided neither, but full of faith awaited the promised time. Afterwards be triumphed victoriously.

49.
Afterwards Columban asked Chlotar to aid him to go through Theudebert's territory, if possible, and over the Alps to Italy. He received escorts who were to conduct him to Theudebert, and entering upon his journey went to the city of Paris. When he arrived there, he met at the gate a man having an unclean spirit, who was raving and rending his garments, while babbling. The latter addressed the man of God complainingly: "What are you doing in this place, O man of God?" From afar he had been crying out for a long time with his growling voice as he saw Columban, the man of God, approaching. When the latter saw him, he said: "Depart, evil one, depart! Do not dare to possess any longer the body washed by Christ. Yield to the power of God, and invoked by the name of Christ." But when the devil resisted for a long time with savage and cruel strength, the man of God placed his hand on the man's ear and struck the man's tongue and by the power of God commanded the devil to depart. Then rending the man with cruel violence so that bonds could scarcely restrain him, the devil, issuing forth amid great purging and vomiting made such a stench that those who stood by believed that they could endure the fumes of sulphur more easily.

50.
Then Columban went to the city of Meaux. There he was received with great joy by a nobleman Hagneric, who was a friend of Theudebert, a wise man, and a counsellor grateful to the king, and was fortified by nobility and wisdom. The latter promised that be would take care of Columban until the latter reached the court of Theudebert, and said it was not necessary to have the other companions who were sent by the king. He declined the aid of the others in order to keep the man of God with himself as long as he could, and in order that his house might be ennobled by the learning of the latter. Columban blessed his house and consecrated to the Lord his daughter Burgundofara, who was still a child, and of whom we shall speak later.

Thence he proceeded to Eussy on the river Marne. There he was received by a man named Autharius, whose wife was named Aiga. They bad sons under ten years of age, whom the mother brought to the man of God to be blessed. He, seeing the faith of the mother, consecrated the little children with his blessing. They later, when they grew up, were held in high esteem, first by king Chlotar, afterwards by Dagobert. After they had obtained great glory in the world, they made haste, lest in the glory of this world they should lose the eternal. The elder, Ado, withdrew of his own accord and founded, under the rule of St. Columban, a monastery near Mt. Jura. [*The monastery Jouarre, near Meaux] The younger, Dado, founded, under the rule of the blessed man, a monastery near Brieg, on the little river Rébais.

So greatly did the man of God abound in faith, that whomsoever he consecrated, the last day found persevering in good works. And those whom he warned, rejoiced afterward that they bad merited immunity. Nor did he, endued with so great strength, undeservedly obtain an increase of grace, who guided by his learning, was unwilling to deviate from the path of a just life.

51.
From that place Columban proceeded to Theudebert, who received him joyfully. Many brethren had already come to him from Luxeuil, whom he received as if they had been snatched from the enemy. Now the king promised to seek out beautiful places, suitable for God's servants, where they could preach to the neighboring people. Columban declared, that if the king was in earnest and would actively support him, he would gladly remain there longer and try to sow the seeds of faith in the hearts of the neighboring peoples. Theudebert commissioned him to choose a suitable place, and, with the approval of all, he decided upon a long-ruined city, which was in the German land commission not far from the Rhine, and which was called Brigantia [* Bregnenz] But what the man of God did, as he was ascending the Rhine in his boat, must not be passed over in silence.

52.
As they journeyed, they came to the city which was formerly called Maguntiacum. [*Mainz] The oarsmen who bad been sent by the king to aid the man of God, told him they had friends in the city, who would supply needful food ; for already they had long been fasting. The man of God told them to go ; but they did not find any. They returned, and in reply to the questions of the man of God said they had been unable to obtain anything from their friends. Then he said "Let me go for a short time to my friend." They wondered how he had a friend there, where he had never been before. But he wen to the church and, entering, threw himself on the pavement, and in a long prayer sought the protection of God, the source of all mercy. Immediately the bishop of the city went from his home to the church and, finding Columban, asked who be was. The latter said he was a pilgrim. The bishop answered "If you need food, go to my house and take what you need." After thanking him and also the Creator who had inspired him, Columban hastened to the boat and directed that all the men, except one guard, should go and bring what they wished. But lest this should seem to anyone mere chance, that bishop was accustomed to protest that he had never before given food with so little thought. And he testified that he went to the church that day by divine admonition, on account of the merit of the blessed Columban.

53.
At length they arrived at the place designated, which did not wholly please Columban ; but he decided to remain, in order to spread the faith among the people, who were Swabians. Once as he was going through this country, he discovered that the natives were going to make a heathen offering. They had a large cask that they called a cupa, and that held about twenty-six measures, filled with beer and set in their midst. On Columban's asking what they intended to do with it, they answered that they were making an offering to their God Wodan (whom others call Mercury). When he heard of this abomination, he breathed on the cask, and lo! it broke with a crash and fell in pieces so that all the beer ran out. Then it was clear that the devil had been concealed in the cask, and that through the earthly drink he had proposed to ensnare the souls of the participants. As the heathens saw that, they were amazed and said Columban had a strong breath, to split a wellbound cask in that manner. But he reproved them in the words of the Gospel, and commanded them to cease from such offerings and to go home. Many were converted then, by the preaching of the holy man, and turning to the learning and faith of Christ, were baptized by him. Others, who were already baptized but still lived in the heathenish unbelief, like a good shepherd, he again led by his words to the faith and into the bosom of the church.

54.
At that time Theuderich and Brunhilda were venting their wrath not only on Columban, but also on the holy Desiderius, bishop of Vienne. After they had driven the latter into banishment and had done him much evil, they crowned him at last with a glorious martyr's death. By his deeds, which have been narrated, and by his great adversities he deserved to have a glorious triumph near the Lord.

In the meantime Columban and his companions experienced a time of great need near the city of Bregenz. But although they were without food, they were bold and unterrified in their faith, so that they obtained food from the Lord. After their bodies had been exhausted by three days of fasting, they found so great an abundance of birds,-just as the quails formerly covered the camp of the children of Israel, that the whole country near there was filled with birds. The man of God knew that this food had been scattered on the ground for his own safety and that of his brethren, and that the birds bad come only because be was there. He ordered his followers first to render grateful praises to the Creator, and then to take the birds as food. And it was a wonderful and stupendous miracle ; for the birds were seized according to the father's commands and did not attempt to fly away. The manna of birds remained for three days. On the fourth day, a priest from an adjacent city, warned by divine inspiration, sent a supply of grain to St. Columban. When the supply of grain arrived, the Omnipotent, who had furnished the winged food to those in want, immediately commanded the phalanxes of birds to depart. We learned this from Eustasius, who was present with the others, under the command of the servant of God. He said that no one of them remembered ever having seen birds of such a kind before; and the food was of so pleasant savor that it surpassed royal viands. Oh, wonderful gift of divine mercy! When earthly food was wanting to the servants of Christ, celestial was furnished; as was said of Israel: " He gave to them of the corn of heaven;" when earthly food was brought, the celestial which had been mercifully granted was taken away.

55.
Then Columban was weakening his body by fasting, under a cliff in the wilderness, and he had no food except the apples of the country, which we have mentioned above. A fierce bear of great voracity came and began to lick off the necessary food and carry the apples away in its mouth. When the meal-time came, Columban directed Chagnoald, his servant, to bring the usual quantity of apples. The latter went and saw the bear wandering about among the fruit-trees and bushes and licking off the apples. He returned hastily and told the father, who commanded him to go and set aside a part of the fruit-trees for food for the bear and order it to leave the others for himself Chagnoald went in obedience to the command, and dividing with his staff the trees and bushes which bore the apples, he, in accordance with Columban's command, set aside the part that the bear should eat, and the other part that it should leave for the use of the man of God. Wonderful obedience, .of the bear! . It, did not venture at all to take food from the prohibited part, but as long as the man of God remained in that place, sought, food only, from the trees that had been assigned to it.

56.
Once Columban though going to the land of the Wends, who are also called Slavs, in order to illuminate their darkened minds with the light of the Gospel and to open the way of truth to those who had always wandered in error. When he proposed to make his vows, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a vision, and showed him in a little circle the structure of the world, just as the circle of the universe is usually, drawn with a pen in a book. "You perceive," the angel said, "how much remains set apart of the whole world. Go to the right or the left where you will, that you may enjoy the fruits of your labors." Therefore Columban remained where he was, until the way to Italy opened before him.

57.
In the meantime the compact of peace which Theuderich and Theudebert had made was broken, and each one, priding himself on the strength of his followers, endeavored to kill the other. Then Columban went to king Theudebert and demanded that he should resign his kingdom and enter a monastery, in order not to lose both earthly crown and everlasting life. The king and his companions laughed; they had never heard of a Merovingian on the throne, who had voluntarily given up everything and become a monk. But Columban said, if the king was not willing voluntarily to undertake the honor of the priestly office, be would soon be compelled to do it against his will. After these words the holy man returned to his cell ; but his prophecy was soon verified by events. Theuderich immediately advanced against Theudebert, defeated him near Zülpich, and pursued him with a great army. Theudebert gathered new forces and a second battle was fought near Zülpich. Many fell on both sides, but Theudebert was finally defeated and fled.

At that time the man of God was staying in the wilderness, having only one attendant, Chagnoald. At the hour when the battle near Zülpich began, Columban was sitting on the trunk of a rotten oak, reading a book. Suddenly he was overcome by sleep and saw what was taking place between the two kings. Soon after be aroused, and calling his attendant, told him of the bloody battle, grieving at the loss of so much human blood. His attendant said with rash presumption: "My father, aid Theudebert with your prayers, so that be may defeat the common enemy, Theuderich." Columban answered: "Your advice is foolish and irreligious, for God, who commanded us to pray for our enemies has not so willed.. The just Judge has already determined what He wills concerning them." The attendant afterwards enquired and found that the battle had, taken place on that day and at that hour, just as the man of God had revealed to him.

Theuderich pursued Theudebert, and the latter was captured by the treachery of his followers-and ent to his grandmother, Brunhilda. She, in her fury, because she was on Theuderich's side, shut him up in a monastery, but after a few days she mercilessly had him murdered.

58.
Not long after this Theuderich, struck by the hand of the Lord, perished in a conflagration in the city of Metz. Branhilda then placed the crown on the head of his son Sigibert. But Chlotar thought of Columban's prophecy and gathered together an army to reconquer the land which belonged to him. Sigibert with his troops advanced to attack him, but was captured, together with his five brothers and great-grandmother Brunhilda, by Chlotar. The latter had the boys killed, one by one, but Brunhilda he had placed first on a camel in mockery and so exhibited to all her enemies round about then she was bound to the tails of wild horses and thus perished wretchedly. As the whole family of Theuderich was now exterminated, Chlotar ruled alone over the three kingdoms, [*Neustria, Austrasia and Burgundy] and Columban's prophecy had been literally fulfilled. For one of the kings and his whole family had been entirely exterminated within three years; the second had been made a clerk by violence ; the third was the possessor and ruler of all the kingdoms.

59.
When Columban saw that Theudbert had been conquered by Theuderich, as we said above, he left Gaul and Germany and went to Italy. There he was received with honor by Agilulf, king of the Lombards. The latter granted him the privilege of settling in Italy wherever be pleased; and be did so, by God's direction. During his stay in Milan, he resolved to attack the errors of the heretics, that is, the Arian perfidy, which he wanted to cut out and exterminate with the cauterizing knife of the Scriptures. And he composed an excellent and learned work against them.

60.
At that time a man named Jocundus appeared before the king and announced that he knew of a church of the holy Apostle Peter, in a lonely spot in the Apennines ; the place had many advantages, it was unusually fertile, the water was full of fishes ; it had long been called Bobium [*Bobbio] from the brook that flowed by it. There was another river in the neighbourhood, by which Hannibal bad once passed a winter and suffered the loss of a very great number of men, horses and elephants. Thither Columban now went, and with all diligence restored to its old beauty the church which was already half in ruins.

In this restoration the wonderful power of the Lord was visible. For, when beams of fir were cut amid the precipitous cliffs or in the dense woods, or those cut elsewhere, fell into such places by accident, so that beasts of burden could not approach, the man of God going with two or three companions, as many as the steep paths furnished footing for, placed, in a wonderful manner, on his own and his companions' shoulders beams of immense weight, which thirty or forty men could scarcely carry on level ground ; and where they had hardly been able to walk before, on account of the steepness of the paths, and had moved as if weighed down with burdens, they now walked easily and joyfully, bearing their burden. The man of God, seeing that be was receiving so great aid, urged his companions to finish joyfully the work which they had begun, and to remain in the wilderness with renewed courage, affirming that this was God's will. Therefore he restored the roof of .the church and the ruined walls, and provided whatever else was necessary for a monastery.

61.
During this time king Chlotar, when he saw that the words of Columban had been fulfilled, summoned Eustasius, who was then abbot of Luxeuil, and urged him to go with an escort of noblemen, whom Eustasius himself should select, to the holy Columban and beg the latter, wherever he might be, to come to Chlotar. Then the venerable disciple went to seek his master, and when he found the latter, he repeated Chlotar's words. But Columban declared, when he heard Chlotar's request, that he could not undertake the journey again. Eustasius he kept with himself for some time, warned him -not to forget his own labors and work, to keep the band of brethren learned and obedient to increase their numbers and educate them according to his own instructions.

To the king he sent a letter full of good advice, and begged him to extend his royal protection and aid to the brethren at Luxeuil. The king received the letter joyfully, as a most pleasing gift and as a pledge of his compact with the man of God. Nor did he forget the latter's request, but showed his favor in every way to the cloister, gave it yearly revenues, increased its territory in every direction, where the venerable Eustasius desired, and aided its inmates in every way that he could After a single year in his monastery of Bobbio, Columban the man of God, ended his devout life on the XI. day before the Kalends of December. [*November 21st, probably in 615] If anyone wishes to learn of his activity, let him seek it in the saints writings. [*these are printed in Migne Patrologia Latinae, Vol 80] His remains are buried there, [*in Bobbio] where they have proved their virtues, by the aid of Christ. To Him be glory for ever and ever, world without end. Amen.

END
Edited Dana C. Munro in University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, published for the Dept. of History of the University of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1897?-1907?]. Vol. II. No. 7

See also:
G. Metlake, Life and Writings of St. Columban (1914)

F, MacManus, St. Columban (1963)


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© Paul Halsall June 1997 

halsall@murray.fordham.edu
St. Columbanus
Abbot of Luxeuil and Bobbio, born in West Leinster, Ireland, in 543; died at Bobbio, Italy, 21 November, 615.

His life was written by Jonas, an Italian monk of the Columban community, at Bobbio, c. 643. This author lived during the abbacy of Attala, Columbanus's immediate successor, and his informants had been companions of the saint. Mabillon in the second volume of his "Acta Sanctorum O.S.B." gives the life in full, together with an appendix on the miracles of the saint, written by an anonymous member of the Bobbio community.

Columbanus, whose birth took place the year St. Benedict died, was from childhood well instructed. He was handsome and prepossessing in appearance, and this exposed him to the shameless temptations of several of his countrywomen. He also had to struggle with his own temptations. At last he betook himself to a religious woman, who advised him thus:

Twelve years ago I fled from the world, and shut myself up in this cell. Hast thou forgotten Samson, David and Solomon, all led astray by the love of women? There is no safety for thee, young man, except in flight.

He thereupon decided to act on this advice and retire from the world. He encountered opposition, especially from his mother, who strove to detain him by casting herself before him on the threshhold of the door. But, conquering the feelings of natures he passed over the prostrate form and left his home forever. His first master was Sinell Abbot of Cluaninis in Lough Erne. Under his tuition he composed a commentary on the Psalms. He then betook himself to the celebrated monastery of Bangor on the coast of Down, which at that time had for its abbot St. Comgall. There he embraced the monastic state, and for many years led a life conspicuous for fervour, regularity, and learning. At about the age of forty he seemed to hear incessantly the voice of God bidding him preach the Gospel in foreign lands. At first his abbot declined to let him go, but at length he gave consent.

Columbanus set sail with twelve companions; their names have thus come down to us: St. Attala, Columbanus the Younger, Cummain, Domgal, Eogain, Eunan, St. Gall, Gurgano, Libran, Lua, Sigisbert and Waldoleno (Strokes, "Apennines", p. 112). The little band passed over to Britain, landing probably on the Scottish coast. They remained but a short time in England, and then crossed over to France, where they arrived probably in 585. At once they began their apostolic mission. Wherever they went the people, were struck by their modesty, patience, and humility. France at that period needed such a band of monks and preachers. Owing partly to the incursions of barbarians, and partly due to the remissness of the clergy, vice and impiety were prevalent. Columbanus, by his holiness, zeal, and learning, was eminently fitted for the work that lay before him. He and his followers soon made their way to the court of Gontram, King of Burgundy. Jonas calls it the court of Sigisbert, King of Austrasia and Burgundy, but this is manifestly a blunder, for Sigisbert had been slain in 575. The fame of Columbanus had preceded him. Gontram gave him a gracious reception, inviting him to remain in his kingdom. The saint complied, and selected for his abode the half-ruined Roman fortress of Annegray in the solitudes of the Vosges Mountains. Here the abbot and his monks led the simplest of lives, their food oftentimes consisting of nothing but forest herbs, berries, and the bark of young trees. The fame of Columbanus's sanctity drew crowds to his monastery. Many, both nobles and rustics, asked to be admitted into the community. Sick persons came to be cured through their prayers. But Columbanus loved solitude. Often he would withdrew to a cave seven miles distant, with a single companion, who acted as messenger between himself and his brethren. After a few years the ever-increasing number of his disciples oblige him to build another monastery. Columbanus accordingly obtained from King Gontram the Gallo-Roman castle named Luxeuil, some eight miles distant from Annegray. It was in a wild district, thickly covered with pine forests and brushwood. This foundation of the celebrated Abbey of Luxueil, took place in 590. But these two monasteries did not suffice for the numbers who came, and a third had to be erected at Fontaines. The superiors of these houses always remained subordinate to Columbanus. It is said this time, he was able to institute a perpetual service of praise, known as Laus perennis, by which choir succeeded choir, both day and night (Montalembert, Monks of the West II, 405). For these flourishing communities he wrote his rule, which embodies the customs of Bangor and other Celtic monasteries.
For wellnigh twenty years Columbanus resided in France and during that time observed the unreformed paschal computation. But a dispute arose. The Frankish bishops were not too well disposed towards this stranger abbot, because of his ever-increasing influence, and at last they showed their hostility. They objected to his Celtic Easter and his exclusion of men as well as women from the precincts of his monasteries. The councils of Gaul held in the first half of the sixth century had given to bishops absolute authority over religious communities, even going so far as to order the abbots to appear periodically before their respective bishops to receive reproof or advice, as might be considered necessary. These enactments, being contrary to the custom of the Celtic monasteries, were readily accepted by Columbanus. In 602 the bishops assembled to judge him. He did not appear, lest, as he tells us, "he might contend in words", but instead addressed a letter to the prelates in which he speaks with a strange mixture of freedom, reverence, and charity. In it he admonishes them to hold synods more frequently, and advises that they pay attention to matters equally important with that of the date of Easter. As to his paschal cycle he says: "I am not the author of this divergence. I came as a poor stranger into these parts for the cause of Christ, Our Saviour. One thing alone I ask of you, holy Fathers, permit me to live in silence in these forests, near the bones of seventeen of my brethren now dead." When the Frankish bishops still insisted that the abbot was wrong, then, in obedience to St. Patrick's canon, he laid the question before Pope St. Gregory. He dispatched two letters to that pontiff, but they never reached him, "through Satan's intervention". The third letter is extant, but no trace of an answer appears in St. Gregory's correspondence, owing probably to the fact that the pope died in 604, about the time it reached Rome. In this letter he defends the Celtic custom with considerable freedom, but the tone is affectionate. He prays "the holy Pope, his Father", to direct towards him "the strong support of his authority, to transmit the verdict of his favour". Moreover, he apologizes "for presuming to argue as it were, with him who sits in the chair of Peter, Apostle and Bearer of the Keys". He directed another epistle to Pope Boniface IV, in which he prays that, if it be not contrary to the Faith, he confirm the tradition of his elders, so that by the papal decision (judicium) he and his monks may be enabled to follow the rites of their ancestors. Before Pope Bonifice's answer (which has been lost) was given, Columbanus was outside the jurisdiction of the Frankish bishops. As we hear no further accusation on the Easter question — not even in those brought against his successor, Eustasius of Luxeuil in 624 — it would appear that after Columbanus had removed into Italy he gave up the Celtic Easter (cf. Acta SS. O.S.B., II, p. 7).

In addition to the Easter question Columbanus had to wage war against vice in the royal household. The young King Thierry, to whose kingdom Luxeuil belonged, was living a life of debauchery. He was completely in the hands of his grandmother, Queen Brunehault (Brunehild). On the death of King Gontram the succession passed to his nephew, Childebert II, son of Brunehault. At his death the latter left two sons, Theodebert II and Thierry II, both minors. Theodebert succeeded to Austrasia, Thierry to Burgundy, but Brunehault constituted herself their guardian, and held in her own power the governments of the two kingdoms. As she advanced in years she sacrificed everything to the passion of sovereignty, hence she encouraged Thierry in the practice concubinage in order that there might be no rival queen. Thierry, however, had a veneration for Columbanus, and often visited him. On these occasions the saint admonished and rebuked him, but in vain. Brunehault became enraged with Columbanus, stirred up the bishops and nobles to find fault with his rules regarding monastic enclosure. Finally, Thierry and his party went to Luxeuil and ordered the abbot to conform to the usages of the country. Columbanus refused, whereupon he was taken prisoner to Besançon to await further orders. Taking advantage of the absence of restraint he speedily returned to his monastery. On hearing this, Thierry and Brunehault sent soldiers to drive him back to Ireland. None but Irish monks were to accompany him. Accordingly, he was hurried to Nevers, made to embark on the Loire, and thus proceed to Nantes. At Tours he visited the tomb of St. Martin and sent a message to Thierry that within three years he and his children would perish. At Nantes, before the embarkation, he addressed a letter to his monks, full of affection. It is a memorial of the love and tenderness which existed in that otherwise austere and passionate soul. In it he desires all to obey Attala, whom he requests to abide with the community unless strife should arise on the Easter question. His letter concludes thus "They come to tell me the ship is ready. The end of my parchment compels me to finish my letter. Love is not orderly; it is this which has made it confused. Farewell, dear hearts of mine; pray for me that I may live in God." As soon as they set sail, such a storm arose that ship was driven ashore. The captain would have nothing more to do with these holy men; they were thus free to go where they pleased. Columbanus made his way to the friendly King Clothaire at Soissons in Neustria where he was gladly welcomed. Clothaire in vain pressed him to remain in his territory. Columbanus left Neustria in 611 for the court of King Theodebert of Austrasia. At Metz he received an honourable welcome, and then proceeding to Mainz, he embarked upon the Rhine in order to reach the Suevi and Alamanni, to whom he wished to preach the Gospel. Ascending the river and its tributaries, the Aar and the Limmat, he came to the Lake of Zurich. Tuggen was chosen as a centre from which to evangelize, but the work was not successful. Instead of producing fruit, the zeal of Columbanus only excited persecution. In despair he resolved to pass on by way of Arbon to Bregenz on Lake Constance, where there were still some traces of Christianity. Here the saint found an oratory dedicated to St. Aurelia, into which the people had brought three brass images of their tutelary deities. He commanded St. Gall, who knew the language, to preach to the inhabitants, and many were converted. The images were destroyed, and Columbanus blessed the little church, placing the relics of St. Aurelia beneath the altar. A monastery was erected, and the brethren forthwith observed their regular life. After about a year, in consequence of another rising against the community, Columbanus resolved to cross the Alps into Italy. An additional reason for his departure was the fact that the arms of Thierry had prevailed against Theodebert, and thus the country on the banks of the Upper Rhine had become the property of his enemy.

On his arrival at Milan in 612, Columbanus met with a kindly welcome from King Agilulf and Queen Theodelinda. He immediately began to confute the Arians and wrote a treatise against their teaching, which has been lost. At the request of the king, he wrote a letter to Pope Boniface on the debated subject of "The Three Chapters". These writings were considered to favour Nestorianism. Pope St. Gregory, however, tolerated in Lombardy those persons who defended them, among whom was King Agilulf. Columbanus would probably have taken no active part in this matter had not the king pressed him so to do. But on this occasion his zeal certainly outran his knowledge. The letter opens with all apology that a "foolish Scot" should be charged to write for a Lombard king. He acquaints the pope with the imputations brought against him, and he is particularly severe with the memory of Pope Vigilius. He entreats the pontiff to prove his orthodoxy and assemble a council. He says that his freedom of speech accords with the usage of his country. "Doubtless", Montalembert remarks, "some of the expressions which he employs should be now regarded as disrespectful and justly rejected But in those young and vigorous times, faith and austerity could be more indulgent" (II, 440). On the other hand, the letter expresses the most affectionate and impassioned devotion to the Holy See. The whole, however, may be judged from this fragment: "We Irish, though dwelling at the far ends of the earth, are all disciples of St. Peter and St. Paul . . . Neither heretic, nor Jew, nor schismatic has ever been among us; but the Catholic Faith, Just as it was first delivered to us by yourselves, the successors of the Apostles, is held by us unchanged . . . we are bound [devincti] to the Chair of Peter, and although Rome is great and renowned, through that Chair alone is she looked on as great and illustrious among us . . .On account of the two Apostles of Christ, you [the pope] are almost celestial, and Rome is the head of the whole world, and of the Churches". If zeal for orthodoxy caused him to overstep the limits of discretion, his real attitude towards Rome is sufficiently clear. He declares the pope to be: "his Lord and Father in Christ", "The Chosen Watchman", "The Prelate most dear to all the Faithful", "The most beautiful Head of all the Churches of the whole of Europe", "Pastor of Pastors", "The Highest", "The First", "The First Pastor, set higher than all mortals", "Raised near into all the Celestial Beings", "Prince of the Leaders", "His Father", "His immediate Patron", "The Steersman", "The Pilot of the Spiritual Ship" (Allnatt, "Cathedra Petri", 106).

But it was necessary that, in Italy, Columbanus should have a settled abode, so the king gave him a tract of land called Bobbio, between Milan and Genoa, near the River Trebbia, situated in a defile of the Apennines. On his way thither he taught the Faith in the town of Mombrione, which is called San Colombano to this day. Padre della Torre considers that the saint made two journeys into Italy, and that these have been confounded by Jonas. On the first occasion he went to Rome and received from Pope Gregory many sacred relics (Stokes, Apennines, 132). This may possibly explain the traditional spot in St. Peter's, where St. Gregory and St. Columba are supposed to have met (Moran, Irish SS. in Great Britain,105). At Bobbio the saint repaired the half-ruined church of St. Peter, and erected his celebrated abbey, which for centuries was stronghold of orthodoxy in Northern Italy. Thither came Clothaire's messengers inviting the aged abbot to return, now that his enemies were dead. But he could not go. He sent a request that the king would always protect his dear monks at Luxeuil. He prepared for death by retiring to his cave on the mountain-side overlooking the Trebbia, where, according to a tradition, he had dedicated an oratory to Our Lady (Montalembert, "Monks of the West", II, 444). His body has been preserved in the abbey church at Bobbio, and many miracles are said to have been wrought there through his intercession. In 1482 the relics were placed in a new shrine and laid beneath the altar of the crypt, where they are still venerated. But the altar and shrine are once more to be restored, and for this end in 1907 all appeal was made by Cardinal Logue, and there is every prospect of the work being speedily accomplished. The sacristy at Bobbio possesses a portion of the skull of the saint, his knife, wooden cup, bell, and an ancient water vessel, formerly containing sacred relics and said to have been given him by St. Gregory. According to certain authorities, twelve teeth of the saint were taken from the tomb in the fifteenth century and kept in the treasury, but these have now disappeared (Stokes, Apennines, p. 183). St. Columbanus is named in the Roman Martyrology on 21 November, but his feast is kept by the Benedictines and throughout Ireland on 24 November. Among his principal miracles are: (1) procuring of food for a sick monk and curing the wife of his benefactor; (2) escape from hurt when surrounded by wolves; (3) obedience of a bear which evacuated a cave at his biddings; (4) producing a spring of water near his cave; (5) repletion of the Luxeuil granary when empty; (6) multiplication of bread and beer for his community; (7) curing of the sick monks, who rose from their beds at his request to reap the harvest; (8) giving sight to a blind man at Orléans; (9) destruction by his breath of a cauldron of beer prepared for a pagan festival; (10) taming a bear, and yoking it to a plough.

Like other men, Columbanus was not faultless. In the cause of God he was impetuous and even head-strong, for by nature he was eager, passionate, and dauntless. These qualities were both the source of his power and the cause of mistakes. But his virtues were very remarkable. He shared with other saints a great love for God's creatures. As he walked in the woods, the birds would alight upon his shoulder that he might caress them and the squirrels would run down from the trees and nestle in the folds of his cowl. The fascination of his saintly personality drew numerous communities around him. That he possessed real affection for others is abundantly manifest in his letter to his brethren. Archbishop Healy eulogises him thus: "A man more holy, more chaste, more self-denying, a man with loftier aims and purer heart than Columbanus was never born in the Island of Saints" (Ireland's Ancient Schools, 378). Regarding his attitude towards the Holy See, although with Celtic warmth and flow of words he could defend mere custom, there is nothing in his strongest expressions which implies that, in matters of faith, he for a moment doubted Rome's supreme authority. His influence in Europe was due to the conversions he effected and to the rule that he composed. What gave rise to his apostolate? Possibly the restless energy of the Celtic character, which, not finding sufficient scope in Ireland, directed itself in the cause of Christ to foreign lands. It may be that the example and success of St. Columba in Caledonia stimulated him to similar exertions. The example, however, of Columbanus in the sixth century stands out as the prototype of missionary enterprise towards the countries of Europe, so eagerly follows up from England and Ireland by such men as Killian, Virgilius, Donatus, Wilfrid, Willibrord, Swithbert, and Boniface. If Columbanus abbey in Italy became a citadel of faith and learning, Luxeuil in France became the nursery of saints and apostles. From its walls went forth men who carried his rule, together with the Gospel, into France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. There are said to have been sixty-three such apostles (Stokes, Forests of France, 254). These disciples of Columbanus are accredited with founding over one hundred different monasteries (ib., 74). The canton and town still bearing the name of St. Gall testify how well one disciple succeeded.

Columbanus has left us his own writings. They demonstrate that his attainments were of no mean order. He continued his literary studies till the very eve of his death. His works (Migne P.L. LXXX) include: (1) "Penitencial" which prescribes penances according to guilt, a useful guide in the absence of elaborate treatises on moral theology; (2) "Seventeen short Sermons"; (3) "Six Epistles"; (4) "Latin Poems"; (5) "A Monastic Rule". This Last is much shorter than that of St. Benedict, consisting of only ten chapters. The first six of these treat of obedience, silence, food, poverty, humility, and chastity. In these there is much in common with the Benedictine code, except that the fasting is more rigorous. Chapter vii deals with the choir Offices. Sunday Martins in winter consisted of sevent-five psalms and twenty-five antiphone--three psalms to each antiphone. In spring and autumn these were reduced to thirty-six, and in summer to twenty-four, Fewer were said on week days. The day hours consisted of Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers. Three psalms were said at each of these Offices, except Vespers, when twelve psalms were said. Chapter x regulates penances for offences, and it is here that the Rule of St. Columbanus differs so widely from that of St. Benedict. Stripes or fasts were enjoined for the smallest faults. The habit of the monks consisted of a tunic of undyed wool, over which was worn the cuculla, or cowl, of the same material. A great deal of time was devoted to various kinds of manual labour. The Rule of St. Columbanus was approved of by the Council of Mâcon in 627, but it was destined before the close of the century to be superseded by that of St. Benedict. For several centuries in some of the greater monasteries the two rules were observed conjointly. In art St. Columbanus is represented bearded bearing the monastic cowl, he holds in his hand a book with an Irish satchel, and stands in the midst of wolves. Sometimes he is depicted in the attitude of taming a bear, or with sunbeams over his head (Husenheth, "Emblems", p. 33).


Edmonds, Columba. "St. Columbanus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 22 Nov. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04137a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04137a.htm



Columbanus of Luxeuil, OSB Abbot (RM)

Born in West Leinster, Ireland, 530-543; died November 23, 615; feast day formerly November 21.



The life of St. Columbanus teaches the benefits of trusting obedience to God and those who are placed in authority over us. Whenever events turned seemingly bad, they led Columbanus to a new adventure, to doing even greater work for the Kingdom of God. When God closes one door, He always opens another--even closer to His inner sanctum--if we obediently follow where He leads us.

There are few extant manuscripts about the life of Columbanus, but the Abbot Jonas wrote his biography about 30 years after the saint's death. While the current view of Columbanus is one of a stern man who hurled anathemas and often flew into a rage (for example, felling a 50-year-old tree with a single blow), his biographer shows a gentle, devout, rigorous, yet soft-spoken man. If Columbanus blazed with the strength of God, he also shone with the love of Christ.

The good abbot Jonas tells us that St. Columbanus was born of a noble Leinster family and received a classical education at Clonard, the great mother-school of Ireland, which Saint Finnian had founded with a rare Gaelic blending of sanctity and scholarship.

Jonas reports that Columbanus was handsome of appearance with a fair complexion, and soon crossed swords with the devil in the form of lascivae puellae, wanton girls. Somewhere about this time the king of Cualann sent his daughter to St. Finnian at Clonard to read her Psalter in Latin. It would hardly be unreasonable to say that Clonard housed some girl students under conditions akin to modern universities.

Jonas writes of this time:

Whilst he was turning these things over within him he came to the cell of a religious woman dedicated to God. After having greeted her with lowly voice, he made as bold as he could to seek her counsel with the forwardness of youth.

When she saw him in the budding strength of youth, she said: "I, going forward with all my strength, began the battle. For 12 years I have had no home. Since I sought this place of exile--Christ being my leader--I have never followed the world; having set my hand to the plough I have never looked back. Had I not been of the weaker sex I would have crossed the seas and sought an even more hidden place of pilgrimage.

"You are aflame with the fires of youth, yet you dwell in the land of your birth. You lend your ear willy nilly to weak voices, your own weakness bending you. Yet you think you can freely avoid women. Do you remember Eve coaxing, Adam yielding, Samson weakened by Delilah, David lured from his old righteousness by Bethsheba's beauty, Solomon the Wise deceived by the love of women?

"Go," she said, "go, child, and turn aside from the ruin into which so many have fallen. Leave the path that leads to the gates of hell." Frightened by these words and--beyond what you would believe of an invincible youth--terror-stricken, he returns thanks to his chastener, and bidding farewell to his companions he sets out. His mother beseeches him not to leave her. . . . Casting herself on the ground she refuses him leave to go. But he crossing the threshold and his mother, implores her not to be broken with grief, saying that she shall see him no more in this life, but that whither soever lies the path of holiness, there will he go.

Columbanus did as he later wrote in his On Mortification regarding seeking and obeying counsel: "Nothing is sweeter than calm of conscience, nothing safer than purity of soul, which yet no one can bestow on himself because it is properly the gift of another." For a time Columbanus withdrew from the battle living with another holy man, Sinnel, on Cluain Inis, one of the hundred islands of Lough Erne. The counsel of the holy woman did not mean that he should decline battle with his enemy, but that he should decline to do so on the enemy's own battle field. Like his Master, he accepted battle on the field chosen for him by the Spirit of God.

During his time on the island he became so well-versed in Sacred Scripture that he wrote a commentary on the Psalms.

On a nearby island Saint Comgall was preparing for his life's work by living as an anchorite. He and Columbanus may have met while living as hermits, for once Comgall began the monastery at Bangor on the southern shores of Belfast Lough, we soon find Columbanus in a wattle-hut there--one of the first monks of Bangor.

After many years at Bangor the Holy Spirit prompted Columbanus to become a missionary. Still mistrustful of interpreting the movement of the Spirit within him, Columbanus sought Comgall's permission and was refused until Comgall recognized in Columbanus's obedience the mark of a divine call.

Around 580-585 (about age 45), emulating Jesus and the Apostles, he left Ireland with a band of twelve monks and worked in Wales, where he collected more monks to go with them. Saint Gall, who evangelized the Swiss and founded a famous monastery, was one of his disciples who accompanied him. (One source says that they preached in England.)

Upon arriving in Gaul, the Irish monks preached to the people both in words and deeds of charity, penance, and devotion. Their reputation so impressed the Burgundian King Guntramnus (Gontran; a grandson of Clovis) that, about 590, he offered Columbanus ground for their first place of exile at Annegray in the mountains of the Vosges. It provided Columbanus the two things he desired most: quiet contemplation of God and work among souls. The dark mountain forests with their darker caves gave him constant isolation from the world which God's love was teaching him to fly. The simple, untaught pagans of these forests needed his teaching of the faith.

For some time the monks dwelt in a ruined castle-hamlet at Annegray in Haute-Saone, content to bivouac among the ruins. Columbanus had soon collected such a vast number of disciples that a new home had to be sought some miles distant at Luxeuil. There, built from the stones of a ruined Roman bath and temple, stands a monastery that has made Luxeuil famous not only in France but throughout the Church. Columbanus governed Luxeuil for 25 happy years.

Abbot Jonas records here that Columbanus and the community prayed for the wife of a man and she was instantly cured, though she had been ill for over a year. But he incidentally tells us how this man had brought a wagon of bread and vegetables most opportunely because the monastery was so poor that they could give a sick brother only roots and bark.

Walking through the woods one day carrying the Holy Scriptures, Columbanus debated with himself whether he would prefer to fall in with wild beasts or wicked men. He blessed himself many times as he pondered the question, going deeper and deeper into the forest. His question was answered by the appearance of twelve wolves coming toward him. Standing motionless as they surrounded him, he prayed, "God, look to my help: Lord, make haste to help me." They came nearer and nuzzled his clothes as he stood unshaken. Then they turned and went wandering again in the woods.

When he thought his question answered, he continued on his way. He had not gone far when he heard the voices of Swabian robbers who haunted the countryside. Again, his constancy was tested but they left him untouched.

Another time, diving further into the forest he saw to his ascetic delight a dark cave that he made his own by instantly taming the fierce bear to whom it belonged. (Another story says he killed the bear with his bare hands--a feat indeed!)

Yet Bishop Chamnoald, once Columbanus's disciple, says we should not marvel that bird and beast should obey the command of a man of God. Chamnoald tells that Columbanus would call to the wild creatures when he went into the woods to fast or pray, and that they would come to him at once. He would stroke them with his hand and caress them: and the wild things and the birds would leap and frisk about him for sheer joy as pups jump on their masters. The bishop said that he himself had seen this, and that even the squirrels would answer his call, climb into the hands and shoulder of Columbanus and run in and out of the folds of his cowl.

Throughout his life his chief concern was to discern the Will of God and do it. When the love he always enkindled by his gifts of soul and even of body was obvious even to himself, he fled to his bear cave to be alone with God. He seems afraid of attracting the love of others and distracting them from the love of God.

Once when he was praying in his cave, he received a divine revelation that many of his beloved monks were ill. At once he hastened home to Luxeuil. He bade the sick brethren rise and thrash the corn on the thrashing-floor. The obedient brethren, according to Jonas, were instantly cured; the disobedient stayed ill for the better part of a year and came near dying.

One day before dinner, the cellarer was drawing beer from the hogshead, when he was summoned elsewhere by Columbanus. In the hurry of the moment he forgot to put the cork in the tap. It is needless to say that on his return to the cellar the cellarer found not a drop spilled! Jonas writes of it, "O how great was the merit of him who commanded; and how great the obedience of him who did as he was bid."

The growth of Luxeuil led to the creation of a second monastery at Fountains (Fontaines). Soon his followers spread all over Europe, building monasteries in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

With this growth in numbers and influence came the inevitable opposition. Columbanus aroused hostility, especially from the Frankish bishops, by the Celtic usages he installed in his monasteries and for refusing to acknowledge the bishops' jurisdiction over them. He defended his practices in letters to the Holy See and refused to attend a Gallican synod at Chalons in 603 when summoned to explain his Celtic usages.

His outspoken protest against the disorders of the Frankish court led in 610 to King Theoderic exiling Columbanus and all his monks who were not of French blood. The quarrel recorded by Abbot Jonas is verified by history. The young king of Burgundy, Theoderic (Thierry) II, had given shelter to his grandmother Queen Brunhilda when she was driven out of her homeland by the Austrasian nobles. Brunhilda was resentful that Columbanus denied her entrance into his monastery, contrary to the Frankish custom, although Columbanus banned all women and even lay men.

Thierry and Columbanus argued over sexual morality and, of course, the saint found no support from the local episcopacy, who were dependent upon the crown. Pope Saint Gregory's letters to Queen 0903Brunhilda and her grandson on the need of ending simony, especially from the episcopate, lead us to believe that the bishops of Burgundy and Austrasia were not the men to correct Merovingian morals. If things came to a breaking point between Luxeuil and Theoderic these prelates might be expected to find their consciences coincided with the king's.

Unmarried Theoderic was already the father of four children, whom Brunhilda in the midst of her court asked Columbanus to bless. The saint replied, "Bless them! Bless the fruit of adultery, the children of shame, the testimony of all the debaucheries of their father! In the name of the Lord who chastises sinners, I curse them!"

Now this was probably a little harsh, but could these barbarian peoples understand any other? The only argument that could convince these beasts of prey, these German invaders who 150 years earlier had installed themselves in the ruins of the Roman Empire, was fear. Fear of hell, fear of eternal torment, fear of the God of vengeance--there was no other way of holding in check the violence that was ready to break loose.

But a break with such a man as the widely revered Columbanus has to be done diplomatically. A favorable opening seemed to be in the question of the keeping of Easter. It was and still is a question so obscure that some writers have accused the British and Irish Churches of being "Quartodecimans," by keeping Easter as the Jews keep their Pasch (probably as they had originally been taught by Rome), on a day determined by the full moon, even if that day were not a Sunday.

A synod of Merovingian bishops was summoned by King Theoderic on the advice of Pope Gregory to reform several matters, but not the celebration of Easter. The synod's chief concern was to indict Luxeuil for its Easter observance, so Columbanus appealed in writing to the pope as did Saint Patrick before him. He also wrote eloquently and politely to the synod, but to no avail. He and his brethren were exiled. Apparently, his letter to St. Gregory never reached its destination. (It seems that the mail in those days was as unreliable as now, or that a courtier intercepted it.)

That Columbanus bore no malice is evident when he had a vision of battle and Theoderic's violent death. He awoke in grief and was counselled to pray for the victor against Theoderic. But the old saint replied, "Your counsel is foolish and unholy. Nor is it the will of God, Who bade us pray for our enemies."

The monks were escorted by the military down the Loire through Orleans and Tours to the port of Nantes, where he wrote a famous letter to the Frankish monks left at Luxeuil. There they were put on a ship bound for Ireland. The ship, however, was driven up upon rocks where it was stranded. Thus, they never made it back to Ireland. Instead, they made their way through Paris and Meaux to the court of Theodebert II of Neustria (Austrasia), where they were offered refuge at Metz. From Metz the monks began to preach the Gospel among the pagan Alemanni around Bregenz on Lake Constanz amidst the ruins of the Roman town, where they stayed for three years and two of the monks were slain by hostile natives. In their wanderings, these Irish monks founded over 100 monasteries in France and Switzerland.

It is said that his preaching converted many, including Saint Ouen, who founded Jouarre, and Saint Fare, the daughter of a noble family who founded Faremoutiers. His influence was extensive.

Theoderic, after conquering the area of Bregenz and becoming king of Austrasia, again drove Columbanus, 70 or 80 years old, into exile with only one companion. But Columbanus found his reward of peace at the end of his life.

The province of Lombardy, which he entered when he had crossed the Alps, was ruled by Agilulph, an Arian. His wife was the wise, noble, saintly Theodelinda to whom St. Gregory dedicated his Dialogues. The fame of Columbanus seems to have already reached the court. King Agilulph, who a few years before was besieging Rome and creating a desert of the Campagna, welcomed the exiled saint almost as a national asset.

Within the Apennines between Milan and Genoa, at a spot now famous under the name of Bobbio, there was a ruined basilica dedicated to St. Peter. If, as is not unlikely, the ruins were the handiwork of these ruthless Arian Lombards, there was a quality of penance and restitution in Agilulph the Arian's gift of it to Columbanus.

One incident throws light on the undaunted worker. To restore the basilica the little group of monks cut and dragged timber from the neighboring wood. Sometimes the great trees were felled where no timber-wain could go. The monks were forced to carry the great beams on their shoulders. Yet God seemed so manifestly to help these men to help themselves that heavy logs which, on the word of Jonas, 30 or 40 men could barely have carried over level ground, were carried over rocks on the shoulders of ancient Columbanus and two or three monks. With a touch of poetry Jonas adds that the abbot and his monks carried their load "with such unfaltering feet as if moving in play and with joy."
This abbey flourished for 12 centuries until Napoleon closed it in 1802. Its library was divided among various libraries in Europe. Pope Pius XI stated that the collection from Bobbio accounted for much of the prestige enjoyed among scholars by the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

Queen Theodelinda's prayer and plan for the conversion of her Arian husband and the Lombards received sudden reinforcement by the illustrious exile from Luxeuil. The anger of one queen, Brunhilda, was the opportunity for a greater good--God works all things to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Although 10 years had elapsed since Agilulph had begun a friendship with Pope St. Gregory the Great, which might soon have born fruit in the king's conversion, St. Gregory's death had withdrawn the main clerical influence over the king's Arian mind. With the coming of Columbanus, Theodelinda saw the possibility of Gregory's influence being renewed.

But in Lombardy Columbanus met for the first time the subtle atmosphere of the two great Eastern heresies: the king and most of his subjects were Arians. The rest of his people, even the clergy, were Nestorians enmeshed in the famous controversy of the Three Chapters. Columbanus could find his peace-nurtured believing mind only bewildered by these Oriental disputations and phrase-weavings- -historians wrong both him and the original sources of his history when they see descending the slopes of the Alps only a dogmatic sleuth-hound yearning for controversial blood. Faced with such heresies, Columbanus wrote a treatise and became involved in opposing the Three Chapters, which were condemned by the fifth general council of Constantinople. The bishops of Istria and some of Lombardy defended these writings with such warmth as to break off communion with Rome.

But Queen Theodelinda saw that this undaunted lover of truth and peace was God-sent to bring peace to her king and people through the truth. Though his life was now measured only by months, he could not stint himself when Theodelinda requested help in bringing Arian and Nestorian Lombardy to faith guaranteed by the see of Rome.

At Agilulph's request St. Columbanus wrote a letter to the reigning Pope Boniface IV regarding the need to summon a synod to bring dogmatic peace. In it he says:

". . . the schism of the people is a grief to [Agilulph] on account of the queen and her son and perhaps for his own sake too; seeing that he is believed to have said that if he knew the truth he would believe. . . . The king asks you, the queen asks you, all ask you, that all things may become one as soon as possible, so that as there is peace in the fatherland there may be peace in the faith and the whole flock of Christ may henceforth be one. Rex regum! tu Petrum, te tota sequetur ecclesia (O king of kings, follow thou Peter, and the whole Church will follow thee)."

Columbanus wrote a defense of Rome and of the orthodox faith to an anonymous person, who was probably an Arian bishop of northern Italy: "Thereupon I made such reply as I could . . . for I believe that the Pillar of the Church is always unmoved in Rome."

Abbot Jonas assures us that, no doubt by the wish of King Agilulph and Queen Theodelinda, he took up his abode near Milan, that "by the weapon of the Scriptures" he might rend and destroy the deceits of the heretics, that is, of the Arian heresy, against whom he wrote a scholarly book.

He continued to preach to large crowds who were deeply moved at the sight of his long white hair and beard, and of his face which though deeply lined with age and fatigue still shone with the zeal for Christ and was able to move souls.

His loyalty to Rome was so great that he sent this book to the pope for approval or condemnation. It is the same Columbanus who appealed to Pope Gregory for a ruling on the Easter question: "This [book] I have sent to you that you may read it and correct it where it is contrary to the truth; for I dare not count myself to be beyond correction."

He witnesses that the Irish Church acknowledges the authority of the Roman Pontiff, not because of Rome but because of St. Peter:

All we Irish dwelling on the edge of the world are disciples of Saints Peter and Paul and of the disciples who, under the Holy Spirit, wrote the Sacred Canon. We accept nothing outside this evangelical and apostolic teaching. There was no heretic, no Jew, no schismatic, but the Catholic Faith, as first delivered to us by you, the successor of the apostles, is kept unshaken. . . . We, indeed, are, as I have said, chained to the Chair of St. Peter; for although Rome is great and known afar, it is great and honored with us only by this Chair.

In writing this last witness of an Irish saint, Columbanus was refuting beforehand the argument current since the 16th century, that the See of Rome set up by St. Peter obtained its supremacy not because of Peter but because of Rome. Two Churches, Persia and Ireland, by their witness to the Chair of Peter, are the refutation of this argument; because Persia in the East and Ireland in the West were unconquered by Rome.

Thus it was that God converted both Agilulph and his people through Columbanus. For centuries Bobbio was the citadel of scientific defense which owed its existence to the man who united culture and sanctity in one mind and heart. When ruin overtook it centuries later, the gathered treasures of its library enriched the libraries that still enrich the scholarship of the world.

Columbanus's prophecy about the death of Theodoric, the rise of Clotaire, and the brutal murder of Brunhilda lead Clotaire to invite Columbanus back to France. He would not go back asked the king to look kindly on the monks of Luxeuil.

The Church also has St. Columbanus to thank for two contributions of great worth--his Rule and his Penitential.

His rule is not original but merely embodies the stern asceticism of his fellow-countrymen and especially his fellow monks at Bangor. In the end it was found that the less exacting Rule of Saint Benedict was more acceptable to the would-be monks of the West. While the sterner rule everywhere yielded to the milder, every movement towards a reform of the Rule of St. Benedict has been a movement towards the ideal of St. Columbanus.

Even greater than his Rule is his penitential, containing the prescriptions of penances to be imposed upon the monks for every fault, however light. Of the penitential Oscar Watkins writes:

"The fact of outstanding importance with respect to the Penitential of Columbanus is that while it corresponds to no existing practice to be found anywhere in force from former times on the continent of Europe, it reproduces all the main features of the peculiar system which has been seen at work in the Celtic churches . . . As in the British and Irish systems, the penance and the reconciliation are alike private" (p. 615).

"It is not a little remarkable that by the end of the seventh century the Rule of St. Columbanus, for whatsoever reason, practically disappears, and the Rule of St. Benedict becomes supreme. But his Penitential system no only survived in the monasteries which were now being founded, but was destined in time, after the later English influence, to become the general penitential system of Western Europe" (Watkins, p. 124).

Few customs are so characteristic of the Latin Church, which is officially distinguished from the Eastern Church, as the very frequent and humble practice of confession. It is to the credit of sinful human nature that this Sacrament, which our Redeemer made not so much an obligation as a privilege, should yet be frequented almost as an obligation. Perhaps we are close to the motive of this humble practice in thinking of its connection, by way of cleansing, with the great Banquet of the Body and Blood. One of the chief glories of the fellow-countrymen of Columbanus will be that to him more than to any other individual in the Church this lowly practice seems due.

Columbanus's last literary testament is a letter to Pope Boniface IV, which would lead the reader to believe that he was an unwearied warrior for the faith, rather than bowed with ailment and age. He also wrote a charming poem in Adonic verse to his young friend Fedolius, which showed him to be less like Tertullian and more like Gregory Nazianzen or Prudentius.

The only certain date in his life is that of his dies natalis, though we don't know how he died. We do know that the exile finally made it home to his Father and was welcomed there. His body was laid to rest in the heart of the Apennines, where it remains.

His somewhat intemperate defense of the Celtic over the Roman liturgical customs and the austerity of his rule, make him a rather forbidding personality; but on the other hand, through the numerous abbeys, founded by himself and by his disciples, especially after they had become Benedictines, he exerted a determining and lasting influence on Western civilization. His submission to Rome at a time when there was a real fear that the center of Christendom might pass into the hands of the Celts, is one of the most significant events in the history of the Church. He dedicated Ireland to the Universal Church and laid that fear to rest.

In 1916, the American Bishop Edward J. Galvin, born on the feast of Columbanus in 1882, founded the Columban Missionary Society and, in 1922, the Missionary Sisters of Saint Columban. Thus, the heritage of this evangelizer continues in yet another land and time (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, MacManus, MacNabb, Metlake, Montague, Waddell, Walsh, Watkins).

St. Columbanus is represented as a Benedictine with a missioner's cross and a bear near him. Sometimes he carries an abbatial staff, a missioner's cross, and wears a sun on his chest; or he is shown in a bear's den with a fountain springing up at his prayers (Roeder).


SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/1123.shtml


November 21

St. Columban of Ireland, Abbot and Confessor

HE was a native of Leinster, one of the four principal provinces of Ireland, and was born about the middle of the sixth century. The monastic institute received at that time the greatest lustre in that country, from the eminent sanctity and great learning of those who professed it, who rendered it an Island of Saints, and the mart of sacred literature. It abounded in monasteries, which were so many great schools of sacred learning, and in which many fervent persons, by a special call of God, led an abstracted life, devoted to retirement, contemplation, and the practice of penance, sequestered not only from the distraction of secular business, but also from ordinary conversation with the world, that they might more freely converse with God and his heavenly spirits. The most numerous and most celebrated of these monasteries was that of Benchor, in the county of Down, founded by St. Comgal, about the year 550; and under his direction a great number of fervent servants of God, seemed to lead an angelical life in mortal flesh. They tilled the ground with their own hands, and followed other manual labour which did not interrupt their prayer and heavenly contemplation. They also applied themselves to sacred studies, in which St. Comgal was himself an excellent master. 1 Their rule was originally borrowed from those of St. Basil, and other orientals.

St. Columban, after having learned the first elements of the sciences under St. Sinellus at Cluain-Inys, took the religious habit at Benchor, and lived there several years, inuring himself to the most austere practices of mortification. Such was the progress he made in the sacred sciences as to be esteemed a kind of oracle in them; and, when very young, he composed a commentary on the Psalms, to be a help to devotion to himself and others in reciting those divine prayers: but this work is long since lost. To disengage himself more perfectly from the world and all earthly ties, he desired, like Abraham, to travel into some foreign country; and having communicated his design to St. Comgal, obtained his leave and blessing, though with some difficulty. For the holy abbot was sorry to be deprived of such an assistant, and only consented because he was satisfied that the desire of Columban was an inspiration of God for the advancement of his honour. Our saint departed from Benchor with twelve other monks, being about thirty years of age. He passed into Britain, and thence into Gaul, where he arrived about the year 585. Ecclesiastical discipline was there much neglected, partly by the incursions of the barbarians, and partly through the remissness of some of the prelates. There were few places where penance was observed, or mortification practised. Columban preached in all places through which he passed, and the sanctity of his life added great weight to his instructions. He was so humble that he always contended with his twelve companions for the lowest place. They were all of one mind; their modesty, sobriety, gentleness, patience and charity made them universally admired. If any one was guilty of the least fault, they all joined in reforming his error. Every thing was in common; nor was ever any contradiction or harsh word heard among them. In whatever place they abode, their example inspired a universal piety.

Columban’s reputation reached the court of the king of Burgundy. This was Gontran, (not Sigebert, as some have mistaken,) who entreated him to stay in his kingdom, and offered him whatever spot of ground he should choose in all his dominions for building a monastery. Columban pitched upon the ruinous old castle of Anegrai, situate in the desert of Voge, in the mountainous part of what is now called Lorrain. Here he erected his first monastery, which is long ago extinct. This house became soon too small to contain the great numbers that desired to live under the discipline of the saint. He therefore built a second monastery called Luxeu, eight miles from the former. This became the chief house of his Order, and still subsists. A third monastery was built by St. Columban, about three miles from Luxeu, which, on account of the abundance of springs in that place, was called Fountains. It is now no more than a priory dependent on Luxeu. St. Columban appointed superiors, who were persons of approved piety, over each of these monasteries, and resided himself in each by turns. Sixteen discourses or instructions which he made to his monks, out of many others which he appears by some of these to have written, are published in the Library of the Fathers. 2 In them we discern the author’s great penetration and light in spiritual things, and admire his affective piety and unction, and a doctrine above what is human, to use the expression of a contemporary writer. 3 Speaking of the contempt of the world the saint cries out: “O transitory life, how many hast thou deceived, seduced, and blinded! If I consider the rapidity of thy flight, thou seemest a nothing: thy existence is little more than a shadow. They who set their hearts on thee, know thee not; they only understand thee who despise thy enjoyments. When thou showest thyself, thou art again withdrawn as if thou wert no more than a phantom. What art thou but a swift course on a road, passing as a bird on the wing, uncertain as a cloud, frail as a vapour, vanishing as a shadow.”

The short poems of St. Columban on moral and pious subjects, show him to have been a good poet for the age in which he lived, and to have been acquainted with profane history and mythology. 4 Among the works of St. Columban, nothing was so much admired as his Rule, which St. Benedict Anian has inserted in his collection of monastic rules, and which is full of wisdom and spiritual instruction. The author lays down for the foundation of his rule, the love of God and of our neighbour, as a general precept, upon which the superstructure of all the rest is to be raised. He inculcates obedience, poverty, disinterestedness, humility, chastity, mortification both external (or of the senses) and internal, or of the will, in doing nothing according to self-will; silence and prudence to discern between good and evil: each of these he enforces and grounds upon some text of scripture or principle of morality. He appoints, that monks shall eat only towards the evening, and only the meanest food, herbs, pulse, or meal moistened in water, with a little bread: the food to be proportioned to their labour. He will have them to eat every day that they may be able to perform all duties! and he prescribes every day to be spent in fasting, prayer, reading, and, except on festivals, manual labour. In prescribing the office which was called The Course, he mentions the number of psalms and verses to be recited at every hour. St. Columban adds, that he received these rules from his fathers, that is, the monks of Ireland. He says, that it was customary to kneel down at the end of each psalm, and mentions the obligation of every one’s praying also privately in his own chamber; and adds, that the essential parts are prayer of the heart, and the continual application of the mind to God. 5 After the rule follows the saint’s penitential, containing prescriptions of penances to be imposed upon monks for every fault, how light soever. He that shall not answer Amen at grace, before and after meals, shall have six lashes; he that shall talk in the refectory, as many; he that shall not forbear coughing at the beginning of a psalm, shall be treated after the same manner; likewise he that shall touch the chalice with his teeth, or shall smile in the time of divine service. They that have spoken roughly or frowardly, shall receive fifty lashes, as well as they that shall have answered again to their superior. Six lashes were the chastisement of small faults: for greater, especially relating to neglects in the holy mass, sometimes two hundred, but never more than twenty-five at a time. Penance was enjoined a monk who, after finishing his task of work, did not ask for more; or did any thing without orders. Other penances were prescribed besides the discipline, as extraordinary fasts, silence, separation from the table, and humiliations. St. Columban distinguishes two sorts of sins: mortal sins, which were to be confessed to the priest; and lesser sins, which might often be confessed to the abbot, or others who were not priests, before they sat down to table, or went to bed. 6 Confession preceded the penance. Fleury 7 and Ceillier 8 observe from this penitential, that the monks, at going out or coming into the house, asked the blessing of the superior, and presented themselves before the cross; and that they made the sign of the cross upon a spoon, lamp, or whatever else they used, before they touched it: an omission of which was chastised with six lashes. There is another penitential of St. Columban, which contains canonical punishments for all kinds of sins, and all sorts of persons. The rule of St. Columban was highly esteemed, was observed in many great monasteries, and is still followed in some jointly with that of St. Bennet. The monks of St. Columban in the beginning lived on herbs and the bark of trees: and were sometimes reduced to extreme necessity, and relieved by God in a miraculous manner. It was the saint’s custom to pass some time before all great festivals in a closer solitude; for which purpose he retired to a secret cavern some miles from his monastery.

St. Columban kept the feast of Easter on the 14th day of the first moon after the spring equinox, though it fell on a Sunday, according to the custom he had learned in Ireland. Being reproved on this account by the French bishops, he consulted the holy pope St. Gregory, insisting upon the authority of Anatolius, bishop of Laodicea, in 280, and the practice of the Western, that is, the Irish Church. 9 Though he wrote twice to St. Gregory he received no answer, and probably his letters were never delivered. He wrote about the same time, twelve years after his arrival in France, to certain French bishops assembled in a council. He presses their own duties upon them, and gives them lessons of humility and charitableness, begging, that as to the time of celebrating Easter, every one might keep his own custom. After the death of St. Gregory in 604, Sabanian held the apostolic see five months and nineteen days, and Boniface III. eight months and twenty-three days. To this pope, or to his successor, Boniface IV., St. Columban again applied himself for leave to observe the tradition of his own country in the celebration of Easter. 10 But a storm was raised against him which drove him out of the kingdom of Burgundy. Childebert dying in 596, left two sons, Theodebert the elder, king of Austrasia, and Theodoric, king of Burgundy, both under the care of their grandmother, Brunehault. Theodoric had a great respect for St. Columban, who lived in his dominions; and he often visited him. The abbot reproved him for keeping concubines instead of marrying a queen, and the king promised to reform his manners according to his advice. Brunehault, fearing lest a queen should ruin her credit with her grandson, was much provoked against the holy man. Her resentment was much increased by his refusing to bless, at her desire, the king’s four natural children, saying: “They shall not inherit the kingdom; they are the fruit of debauchery.” St. Columban also denied her entrance into his monastery, when she came to visit him: for this he did to all women, and even to all seculars. At this, however, her wrath against him was rekindled. 11 The abbot, seeing the king did not keep his word with him about dismissing his concubines, wrote him a severe letter, with threats of excommunication if he altered not his course of life. Brunehault took that opportunity to stir up the king against him, who banished him, first to Besançon and afterwards ordered two noblemen to conduct him to Nantes, and there see him shipped off for Ireland, in 610, after he had sanctified the desert of Voge for twenty-five years. It seems to have been at Nantes that he wrote a letter to his monks at Luxeu, full of discretion and charity, exhorting them to patience and union. He put to sea, but the vessel being driven back by contrary winds, he went to Clotaire II. who then reigned in Neustria. To him he foretold that the whole French monarchy would come into his power in less than three years: the same he had confidently affirmed on two other occasions on his road. He returned through Paris and Meaux, and repaired to the court of Theodebert, by whom he was well received. Under his protection he went with some of his disciples who had joined him, to preach to the infidels near the lake of Zurich. He took up his dwelling in a solitude there, near Zug. The inhabitants were cruel, and impious worshippers of idols. 12 St. Columban, having begun to preach the true God to them, found them one day making ready a sacrifice, and a large tub filled with beer being placed in the midst of the people, he asked them what they intended to do with it. They answered, it was to offer to their god Wodan. 13 St. Columban blew upon it, and immediately the vessel burst into splinters with a great noise, and all the beer was spilt. The barbarians were surprised, and said he had a strong breath. He exhorted them to forsake their superstitions, and retire home. Many were converted and baptized: others, who had been formerly baptized, and had apostatized, returned to the obedience of the gospel. St. Gall, 14 who accompanied the saint from Ireland, prompted by zeal, set fire to the pagan temples, and threw all the offerings which he found there into the lake; which he could only do upon the presumptive approbation of the people. But some that remained obstinate in their idolatry, were enraged at this action, and resolved to murder him, and to scourge St. Columban, and banish him from their country. The holy men, having notice of their design, retired to Arbone, upon the lake of Constance, where a virtuous priest, named Villemar, received them courteously, and showed them a fruitful and pleasant valley amidst the mountains, where stood the ruins of a little city called Brigantium, now Bregentz. In this place St. Columban and his companions found an oratory dedicated in honour of St. Aurelia, near which they built themselves cells. The people had been formerly instructed slightly in the faith, and had again relapsed into idolatry, and set up in this very oratory three brass images gilt, which they called the tutelar gods of the country. St. Columban ordered St. Gall, who understood the language of the country, to preach to the people. He did so, and afterwards broke the idols in pieces with stones, and threw the metal into the lake. St. Columban blessed the church, sprinkled it with holy water, and, together with his disciples, went round it singing psalms. After having thus solemnized the dedication, he anointed the altar, deposited the relics of St. Aurelia under it, and said mass upon it. The people showed great satisfaction; and returned to the worship of the true God. St. Columban continued at Bregentz near three years, and built there a small monastery. Some of his disciples worked in the kitchen-garden, others cultivated fruit-trees, others were fishermen, and he himself made nets. In the mean time, Theodoric and Theodebert were at variance, and Thoedebert, being defeated, was treacherously delivered up by his own men, and sent by his brother to their grandmother Brunehault, who, having sided with Theodoric, obliged the vanquished prince to receive holy orders, and not many days after put him to death.

St. Columban, seeing Theodoric, his enemy, was become master of the country where he lived, and perceiving that he could no longer remain there with safety, went with many of his disciples into Italy. St. Gall, hindered by a fever, staid behind, and afterwards built, not far from thence, the monastery which bears his name. St. Columban met with a kind reception from Agilulph, king of the Lombards, and under his protection erected the famous monastery of Bobio, in a desert amidst the Appenine mountains, near the river Trebia. He also built an oratory in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary, near which he lived himself in a cave, in strict fasting and retirement all Lent, and at several other seasons of the year: at which times he visited his monastery only on Sundays and festivals. The affair of the Three Chapters, or writings which were condemned in the East by the fifth council at Constantinople, and by Pope Vigilius, as favouring Nestorianism, made at that time a great noise in Italy. The bishops of Istria, and some in Africa, defended these writings with such warmth as to break off communion with the pope and the whole Catholic Church, and to set up an open schism. Several among the Lombards harboured mistaken prejudices in favour of the three chapters grounded upon misinformations, imagining that by their condemnation the council of Chalcedon was condemned, with many other mistakes about the remote transactions of the Orientals in that controversy; which mistakes were very easy, the greater part of the West being, for want of commerce, and through their ignorance of the Greek tongue, strangers to the affairs of the East, except as to what they learned by vague and often false and imperfect relations. Pope Gregory the Great tolerated the conduct of those in the West, chiefly in Lombardy, who, upon mistakes concerning facts which passed in the East, defended the three chapters, but did not on that account break off communion, till they could be better informed, as their faith was in all respects orthodox. Hence he constantly communicated with them, and honoured the warmest sticklers among them with frequent kind letters and presents. Of this number were king Agilulph and his queen Theodelinda, who were persons of singular zeal and piety, had converted their subjects from the Arian heresy, and founded many monasteries and churches. St. Columban, coming into Lombardy, received his informations concerning this debate from these mistaken informations, and declared himself in favour of the three chapters. At the solicitation of King Agilulph and Queen Theodelinda, his patrons, and the founders of his monastery, he wrote to Pope Boniface IV. a strong letter in defence of the three chapters, and against Pope Vigilius, imagining he had condemned in the East the council of Chalcedon, as Liberius had signed a confession of faith favourable to the Arians. Dr. Cave takes notice that, “It is evident from this very epistle of Columban, that he was not rightly informed in the affair of the three chapters.” 15 In the same letter the author expresses great zeal for the honour of the Roman see, and professes himself inviolably attached to it. 16 He continued to his dying day in its communion, and never joined the schismatics in Istria.

In France King Theodoric died some months after the murder of his brother Theodebert, in 613, and was succeeded by his son Sigebert, an infant, under the government of his great-grandmother, Brunehault. King Clotaire made war upon them, took Sigebert and two of his brothers prisoners, and put Brunehault to a cruel death. Thus he remained sole king of the Franks in the same manner as his grandfather Clotaire had been, in the year 511, the thirty-first of his reign. Seeing the prophecy of St. Columban so fully accomplished, he sent Eustasius, whom the holy man had left abbot of Luxeu, to invite him back into France. The saint alleged he could not then abandon Italy, but he wrote to the king earnestly exhorting him to reform his present course of life. Clotaire, for his sake, powerfully protected his monastery of Luxeu, enriched it with considerable revenues, and enlarged its limits. Luxeu is still in a flourishing condition, and the chief monastery of those which the reformed congregation of St. Vanne possesses in the Franche-compté. 17 The abbot Jonas, in the life of St. Columban, informs us, that he had confuted the Arians among the Lombards with great strength and success, particularly at Milan, and that he composed a very learned work against that heresy, though it is long since lost. St. Columban lived to govern his new monastery of Bobio only about a year, and died on the 21st of November, in 615. In his poem on Fedolius, which he seems to have written a little before his death, he says he was then arrived at his eighteenth Olympiad; he was, consequently, at that time at least seventy-two years old. The breviary of the French Benedictins styles him one of the chief patriarchs of the monastic institute, especially in France, where many of the principal monasteries followed his rule, till, in the reign of Charlemagne, for the sake of uniformity, they all received that of St. Bennet. St. Columban is honoured in many churches of France, Italy, and other countries, and is named in the Roman Martyrology. See his life well written by Jonas, abbot of Luxeu, in 650. 18 Rivet, Hist. Lit. de la France, t. 3, p. 505. Helyot, t. 5, p. 65. Ceillier, t. 17, p. 462. Fleming’s Collectanea, &c.

Note 1. See his Life on the 10th of May. [back]

Note 2. Bibl. Patrum, t. 12, p. 9, 21. [back]

Note 3. Ap. Mabil. Act. Ben. t. 2. p. 80, n. 11. [back]

Note 4. See these poems in Goldast’s Paræneticorum veterum; in Patrick Fleming’s Collectanea Sacra; and in the Library of the Fathers, printed Lyons. [back]

Note 5. Pœnit. c. 19. [back]

Note 6. Prolong. in Pœnit. [back]

Note 7. Fleury, l. 35, n. 10. [back]

Note 8. Ceillier, t. 17. [back]

Note 9. S. Columban, ep 1, Bibl. Patr. Lugd. t. 12. [back]

Note 10. Mabill. Act. Bened. t. 2, p. 21. [back]

Note 11. See Mabill. Act. Bened. t. 2, pp. 18, 20. Fredeg. Chron. n. 36. [back]

Note 12. The learned professor Mallet, Introduction à l’Histoire Danoise, (Copenhague, pp. 30, 54, &c.) shows that Odin or Wodan was a Scythian who came from the Palus Mœotis into Scandinavia about seventy years before Christ, and was a great conqueror. Frigga or Freia was his wife: and Thor the most valiant of his sons. On these three chief deities of the Norwegians, Germans, and Celts, see Mallet, On the Edda, or Book of the Mythology of the Islanders, written in the eleventh century. Also Verstegane, Sammes, &c. [back]

Note 13. See Mallet, Mythologie des Celtes, ou Remarques sur l’Edda des Islandois, pp. 47, 81. [back]

Note 14. See the Life of St. Gall, on the 16th of October. [back]

Note 15. Cave, Hist. Liter, t. 1, p. 543. [back]

Note 16. From this letter Bower pretends to infer that the Irish were not disabused of their mistake in defending the three chapters by the letter which St. Gregory the Great wrote to them on that subject in 592. But this letter of St. Columban was written in 613, the year before the death of Boniface IV., and he had left Ireland about the year 585. See Mabillon, Annal. Bened. t. 2. Rivet shows from this very letter, and from the silence of all parties, that St. Columban then conformed to the Nicene decree concerning the celebration of Easter, and that the monks of Luxeu did the same. This is clear from the silence of the seditious monks in Italy, who make the most trifling objections to his rule and tonsure, in the council of Maçon, and would never have passed over the keeping Easter at an undue time, had he then done it. See Helyot, t. 5, p. 70. [back]

Note 17. See Martenne and Durand, Voyage Liter, p. 170. [back]

Note 18. That this Jonas was a native of Ireland, is asserted by Trithemius, Surius, Coccius Sabellicus, Arnold Wion, Molanus, and others: and they ground their assertion upon what Jonas himself has written in his preface to the life of St. Columban. He is not to be confounded with Jonas, a Frenchman and monk of Fontenelle, who, in 731, wrote the life of St. Wulfran, archbishop of Sens. See Ware’s Irish Writers, p. 29. ed. Har. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.


SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/11/212.html

San Colombano Abate


- Memoria Facoltativa

Irlanda c. 525-530 - Bobbio, Piacenza, 23 novembre 615

Colombano è uno dei rappresentanti del mondo monastico che danno origine a quella 'peregrinatio pro Domino', che costituì uno dei fattori dell'evangelizzazione e del rinnovamento culturale dell'Europa. Dall'Irlanda passò (c. 590) in Francia, Svizzera e Italia Settentrionale, creando e organizzando comunità ecclesiastiche e fondando vari monasteri, alcuni dei quali, per esempio Luxeuil e Bobbio, celebri per gli omonimi libri liturgici. La regola monastica che codifica la sua spiritualità è improntata a grande rigore e intende associare i monaci al sacrificio di Cristo. La sua prassi monastica ha influito sulla nuova disciplina penitenziale dell'Occidente. (Mess. Rom.)

Patronato: Motociclisti

Etimologia: Colombano = dolce, delicato

Emblema: Bastone pastorale

Martirologio Romano: San Colombano, abate, che di origine irlandese, fattosi pellegrino per Cristo per istruire nel Vangelo le genti della Francia, fondò insieme a molti altri monasteri quello di Luxeuil, che egli stesso governò in una stretta osservanza della regola; costretto all’esilio, attraversò le Alpi e fondò in Emilia il monastero di Bobbio, celebre per la disciplina e gli studi, dove, benemerito della Chiesa, morì in pace e il suo corpo fu deposto in questo giorno.

Il santo abate Colombano è l’irlandese più noto del primo Medioevo: con buona ragione egli può essere chiamato un santo «europeo», perché come monaco, missionario e scrittore ha lavorato in vari Paesi dell’Europa occidentale. Insieme agli irlandesi del suo tempo, egli era consapevole dell’unità culturale dell’Europa. In una sua lettera, scritta intorno all’anno 600 e indirizzata a Papa Gregorio Magno, si trova per la prima volta l’espressione «totius Europae, di tutta l’Europa», con riferimento alla presenza della Chiesa nel Continente (cfr Epistula I,1).

Colombano era nato intorno all’anno 543 nella provincia di Leinster, nel sud-est dell’Irlanda.

Educato nella propria casa da ottimi maestri che lo avviarono allo studio delle arti liberali, si affidò poi alla guida dell’abate Sinell della comunità di Cluain-Inis, nell’Irlanda settentrionale, ove poté approfondire lo studio delle Sacre Scritture. All’età di circa vent’anni entrò nel monastero di Bangor nel nord- est dell’isola, ove era abate Comgall, un monaco ben noto per la sua virtù e il suo rigore ascetico. In piena sintonia col suo abate, Colombano praticò con zelo la severa disciplina del monastero, conducendo una vita di preghiera, di ascesi e di studio. Lì fu anche ordinato sacerdote. La vita a Bangor e l’esempio dell’abate influirono sulla concezione del monachesimo che Colombano maturò col tempo e diffuse poi nel corso della sua vita.

All’età di circa cinquant’anni, seguendo l’ideale ascetico tipicamente irlandese della «peregrinatio pro Christo», del farsi cioè pellegrino per Cristo, Colombano lasciò l’isola per intraprendere con dodici compagni un’opera missionaria sul continente europeo. Dobbiamo infatti tener presente che la migrazione di popoli dal nord e dall’est aveva fatto ricadere nel paganesimo intere Regioni già cristianizzate. Intorno all’anno 590 questo piccolo drappello di missionari approdò sulla costa bretone. Accolti con benevolenza dal re dei Franchi d’Austrasia (l’attuale Francia), chiesero solo un pezzo di terra incolta. Ottennero l’antica fortezza romana di Anne-gray, tutta diroccata ed abbandonata, ormai coperta dalla foresta. Abituati ad una vita di estrema rinuncia, i monaci riuscirono entro pochi mesi a costruire sulle rovine il primo eremo. Così, la loro rievangelizzazione iniziò a svolgersi innanzitutto mediante la testimonianza della vita. Con la nuova coltivazione della terra cominciarono anche una nuova coltivazione delle anime. La fama di quei religiosi stranieri che, vivendo di preghiera e in grande austerità, costruivano case e dissodavano la terra, si diffuse celermente attraendo pellegrini e penitenti. Soprattutto molti giovani chiedevano di essere accolti nella comunità monastica per vivere, come loro, questa vita esemplare che rinnovava la coltura della terra e delle anime. Ben presto si rese necessaria la fondazione di un secondo monastero. Fu edificato a pochi chilometri di distanza, sulle rovine di un’antica città termale, Luxeuil. Il monastero sarebbe poi diventato il centro dell’irradiazione monastica e missionaria di tradizione irlandese sul continente europeo. Un terzo monastero fu eretto a Fontaine, un’ora di cammino più a nord.

A Luxeuil Colombano visse per quasi vent’anni. Qui il santo scrisse per i suoi seguaci la Regula monachorum per un certo tempo più diffusa in Europa di quella di san Benedetto disegnando l’immagine ideale del monaco. È l’unica antica regola monastica irlandese che oggi possediamo. Come integrazione egli elaborò la Regula coenobialis, una sorta di codice penale per le infrazioni dei monaci, con punizioni piuttosto sorprendenti per la sensibilità moderna, spiegabili soltanto con la mentalità del tempo e dell’ambiente. Con un’altra opera famosa intitolata De poenitentiarum misura taxanda, scritta pure a Luxeuil, Colombano introdusse nel continente la confessione e la penitenza private e reiterate; fu detta penitenza «tariffata» per la proporzione stabilita tra gravità del peccato e tipo di penitenza imposta dal confessore. Queste novità destarono il sospetto dei vescovi della regione, un sospetto che si tramutò in ostilità quando Colombano ebbe il coraggio di rimproverarli apertamente per i costumi di alcuni di loro. Occasione per il manifestarsi del contrasto fu la disputa circa la data della Pasqua: l’Irlanda seguiva infatti la tradizione orientale in contrasto con la tradizione romana. Il monaco irlandese fu convocato nel 603 a Châlon-sur-Saôn per rendere conto davanti a un sinodo delle sue consuetudini relative alla penitenza e alla Pasqua. Invece di presentarsi al sinodo, egli mandò una lettera in cui minimizzava la questione invitando i Padri sinodali a discutere non solo del problema della data della Pasqua, problema piccolo secondo lui, «ma anche di tutte le necessarie normative canoniche che da molti cosa più grave sono disattese» (cfr Epistula II,1).
Contemporaneamente scrisse a Papa Bonifacio IV come qualche anno prima già si era rivolto a Papa Gregorio Magno (cfr Epistula I) per difendere la tradizione irlandese (cfr Epistula III).

Intransigente come era in ogni questione morale, Colombano entrò poi in conflitto anche con la Casa reale, perché aveva rimproverato aspramente il re Teodorico per le sue relazioni adulterine. Ne nacque una rete di intrighi e manovre a livello personale, religioso e politico che, nell’anno 610, si tradusse in un decreto di espulsione da Luxeuil di Colombano e di tutti i monaci di origine irlandese, che furono condannati ad un definitivo esilio. Furono scortati fino al mare e imbarcati a spese della corte verso l’Irlanda. Ma la nave si incagliò a poca distanza dalla spiaggia e il capitano, vedendo in ciò un segno del cielo, rinunciò all’impresa e, per paura di essere maledetto da Dio, riportò i ed entusiasmo ai coetanei. monaci sulla terra ferma. Essi, invece di tornare a Luxeuil, decisero di cominciare una nuova opera di evangelizzazione. Si imbarcarono sul Reno e risalirono il fiume. Dopo una prima tappa a Tuggen presso il lago di Zurigo, andarono nella regione di Bregenz presso il lago di Costanza per evangelizzare gli Alemanni.
Poco dopo però Colombano, a causa di vicende politiche poco favorevoli alla sua opera, decise di attraversare le Alpi con la maggior parte dei suoi discepoli. Rimase solo un monaco di nome Gallus; dal suo eremo si sarebbe poi sviluppata la famosa abbazia di Sankt Gallen, in Svizzera. Giunto in Italia, Colombano trovò un’accoglienza benevola presso la corte reale longobarda, ma dovette affrontare subito difficoltà notevoli: la vita della Chiesa era lacerata dall’eresia ariana ancora prevalente tra i longobardi e da uno scisma che aveva staccato la maggior parte delle Chiese dell’Italia settentrionale dalla comunione col Vescovo di Roma. Colombano si inserì con autorevolezza in questo contesto, scrivendo un libello contro l’arianesimo e una lettera a Bonifacio IV per convincerlo a fare alcuni passi decisi in vista di un ristabilimento dell’unità (cfr Epistula V). Quando il re dei longobardi, nel 612 o 613, gli assegnò un terreno a Bobbio, nella valle del Trebbia, Colombano fondò un nuovo monastero che sarebbe poi diventato un centro di cultura paragonabile a quello famoso di Montecassino. Qui giunse al termine dei suoi giorni: morì il 23 novembre 615 e in tale data è commemorato nel rito romano fino ad oggi.

Il messaggio di san Colombano si concentra in un fermo richiamo alla conversione e al distacco dai beni terreni in vista dell’eredità eterna. Con la sua vita ascetica e il suo comportamento senza compromessi di fronte alla corruzione dei potenti, egli evoca la figura severa di san Giovanni Battista. La sua austerità, tuttavia, non è mai fine a se stessa, ma è solo il mezzo per aprirsi liberamente all’amore di Dio e corrispondere con tutto l’essere ai doni da lui ricevuti, ricostruendo così in sé l’immagine di Dio e al tempo stesso dissodando la terra e rinnovando la società umana. Cito dalle sue Instructiones: «Se l’uomo userà rettamente di quelle facoltà che Dio ha concesso alla sua anima allora sarà simile a Dio. Ricordiamoci che gli dobbiamo restituire tutti quei doni che egli ha depositato in noi quando eravamo nella condizione originaria. Ce ne ha insegnato il modo con i suoi comandamenti. Il primo di essi è quello di amare il Signore con tutto il cuore, perché egli per primo ci ha amato, fin dall’inizio dei tempi, prima ancora che noi venissimo alla luce di questo mondo» (cfr Instr. XI). Queste parole, il santo irlandese le incarnò realmente nella propria vita. Uomo di grande cultura scrisse anche poesie in latino e un libro di grammatica si rivelò ricco di doni di grazia. Fu un instancabile costruttore di monasteri come anche intransigente predicatore penitenziale, spendendo ogni sua energia per alimentare le radici cristiane dell’Europa che stava nascendo. Con la sua energia spirituale, con la sua fede, con il suo amore per Dio e per il prossimo divenne realmente uno dei Padri dell’Europa: egli mostra anche oggi a noi dove stanno le radici dalle quali può rinascere questa nostra Europa.

SOURCE : http://www.santiebeati.it/Detailed/30200.html


Autore: Papa Benedetto XVI (udienza generale 11.06.2008)