Today marks the Feast Day of Columcille (or Columba as he’s more widely known). He’s another one of my favorite Celtic Saints. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, he’s one of the patron saint of Ireland (along with Brigid and Patrick). He’s also one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.
He’s an Irish monk who lived in the 6th century and started the most important monastery in the world -- Iona (Scotland). In my estimation, he’s responsible for the rise of civilization throughout Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire (see the great book How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Cahill).
There’s a story about how he founded a church in Derry (also known as Londonderry) in the midst of a Druidic sacred oak grove. The story goes that he changed to original plans of the oratory so that none of the trees would be cut down. This should not be seen as a sign of fear on Colmcille’s behalf. On the contrary. It should be seen as a sign of respect and tolerance. In fact, in a poem attributed to Columcille, he wrote:
I do not hold to the voice of birds, or any luck on the earthly world, or chance or a son or a woman. Christ the Son of God is my druid; Christ the Son of Mary, the great Abbot; the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. My estates are with the King of Kings; my order is at Cenacles and Moen.
Here we see that Columcille had no trouble recognizing Christ in the Other; adapting and adopting other ways of understanding Christ in his own walk. A lesson that many of us need to learn today.
Another great story is about Columcille and the Loch Ness monster! The story goes that Columcille had to cross the river Ness. When he approached the bank, he saw a group of men burying a man. When Columcille asked about this, he was told that the man was killed by a giant monster that lived in the river. Upon hearing the story, he told one of his companions, Lugne Mocumin, to swim to the other side and get the cable for the ferry. Lugne obeyed at once. While he was swimming, the beast rose to the surface and plunged after Lugne, it’s mouth wide open ready to devour him.
When Columcille saw this, he raised his hand and made the sign of the cross. Invoking the name of Christ, he commanded the monster saying, “You will go no further! Do not touch the man; go back with all speed.” The monster raced away terrified at the voice of the saint.
Lastly, there a great story about the end of his life. This story goes that on his way back from visiting others, the aged Columcille rested beside the road. A white pack horse, who used to carry the milk to the monastery, came up to him and laid his head upon Columcille’s chest. Knowing that the saint was about to die, the horse started crying and neighing plaintively, as huge tears fell upon Columcille’s chest.
When his attendant, Diormit, saw what was happening, he tried to shew the horse away. Columcille said, “Let it be, Diormit. Since it’s so fond of me, let it shed its tears of grief on my chest. Consider this: since you’re human and have a rational soul, you can’t know anything about my departure, except what I have just told you. But to this humble beast, devoid of reason, the Creator has evidently in some way revealed that its master is about to leave it.” Columcille then blessed the horse and it turned away in sorrow.
The last words attributed to St. Columcille are:
These, O my children, are the last words I address to you: be at peace, and have genuine charity among yourselves. If you follow the example of the holy fathers, God, the Comforter of all good, will be your Helper, and I, abiding with Him, will intercede for you. He will not only give you enough to supply the needs of this present life, but will also bestow on you the good and eternal rewards which are laid up for those that keep His commandments.
I now leave you with a simple prayer:
O God, by the example of your blessed servant Columba you caused the light of the Gospel to shine: Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance, we may show our thankfulness to you by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus the Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, the One in Three, the Three in One, unto ages of ages. Amen.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC