An Irishman in exile, on Iona

Celtic Cross at Iona

Celtic Cross at Iona

Today is the anniversary of the death of St. Columba (also known as Columbkille) in 597 on the island of Iona, Scotland.

He loved learned and may have transcribed over 300 copies of the Bible.

He also seemed to have a deep love of nature. When he founded a monastery at Derry, he revised his original plans so that no trees would be cut down.

This Irish monk, like many others, left his homeland and became a missionary. But unlike some who left on their own accord, Columba left under pressure.

The story is complicated but it seems as if an action of his led to a major battle between his clansmen and another clan, which left 3,000 dead.

Columba lamented his role in this massacre:“Ill have I served the heavenly kingdom and ill have I served Ireland in that I have caused the men of Ireland to shed one another’s blood. Men lie dead through the pride of a man of peace.”

He left Ireland with twelve men, possibly relatives, and founded a monastery on the Scottish island of Iona. Iona became a center of evangelization, not only in Scotland but throughout western Europe.

Today Iona is the center of a community that promotes peace and reconciliation, founded by a pacifist Presbyterian minister, George MacLeod, in 1938.

There is a prayer of Columba, translated by W. Muir, in Celtic Daily Prayer, pages 620-1, which expresses the humility of Columba as well as his great desire for God:

Almighty Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
eternal, ever-blessed, gracious God,
to me, the least of saints,
to me allow that I may keep a door in Paradise,
that I may keep even the smallest door,
the farthest door, the darkest, coldest door,
the door that is least used, the stiffest door,
if so it be but in Thy house, O God;
if so it be that I may see The Glory,
even afar, and hear Thy voice, O God
and know that I am with Thee, Thee, O God.


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