Saint Columba

June 9

c. 521-97

Also known as Colm, Colum, and Colmcille, he was probably born in Donegal, Ireland, the son of nobility. There are a number of Saints with the name of Columba, including a Spanish female; two are from Ireland. To avoid confusion when seeing a Saint's name of Columba, look for the date of birth or death, Feast Day, etc., as a distinguishing feature. This St. Columba was baptized with one of the names above and educated at Moville, where he became a deacon and was ordained at Clonard, then went to Glasnevin under St. Mobhi. When plague caused Glasnevin to be disbanded, he returned to Ulster, spending the next 15 years preaching and founding monasteries all over Ireland, among them Derry, Durrow, and Kells. He became involved in a dispute with St. Finnian when he copied the first copy of St. Jerome's psalter [owned by Finnian] to reach Ireland, and Finnian claimed his copy; King Diarmaid ruled that Columba's copy must go to Finnian. Columba again crossed swords with Diarmaid, this time literally, when Curnan of Connaught, a kinsman who had sought sanctuary with Columba, was murdered by Diarmaid's men. In the family feud that followed, between Diarmaid's men and Columba's clan, some 3,000 men were killed at the Battle of Cuil Dremne. A synod at Telltown held Columba to be responsible and he was censured.

In remorse, Columba decided to leave Ireland and do penance for the deaths by converting a like number of pagans. In 563, with twelve relatives, he went to Iona off the coast of Scotland, where he built a monastery that grew into the greatest monastery in Christendom. Columba devoted himself to evangelizing the Picts of Scotland, converting King Brude at Inverness, and in time evangelized all of the Picts. He attended the Synod of Drumceat in Meath, Ireland in 575, where he was successful in exempting women from military service, visited Ireland again in 585, and is believed responsible for the Battle of Cuil Feda near Clonard, a part of Celtic history CT knows nothing about, but we include it here because the biographer considered it important enough to include. Because Columba had repented of an earlier battle, we presume this later one was of a different nature.

In the meanwhile, Iona had become famous all over Europe, and the Saint's holiness, austerity, and reputation for miracles attracted all manner of visitors to the monastery, where he dies on June 9. Columba's influence on Western Christianity was enormous: Monks from Iona went all over Europe, and the monastic rule that Columba developed was practiced widely until the Rule of St. Benedict became almost universal. Columba's practices dominated the churches of Scotland, Ireland, and Northumbria, though in time, the Celtic liturgical practices, which had come into conflict with the Roman liturgy, gave way to the latter.



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