Favorite Monks: Columcille (Columba)
(Also known as: Columba, St. Columcille, Saint Columcille, St. Columba, Saint Columba) _______________
Have you received Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
Find out how to do so on our page:
Plan of Salvation _________________
Tell others about Jesus like Columcille did:
Though not all Christians are called to the ministry of an Evangelist, we are all called by God to share our faith (witness) with those who are not Christians. Some Bible verses that you will find helpful for doing this, and that you may want to commit to memory are found on other pages on our web site (see: Memory Verses; 2nd Set: Salvation!, Plan of Salvation, and Statement of Faith). _________________
by Monk Preston
"That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona."
-Dr. Samuel Johnson, during a visit to the Island of Iona in 1773
Missionary to Pagan Scotland
Columcille (521-597 A.D.) was the Irish Celtic Monk who founded the Celtic monastery on the Island of Iona off Scotland where the Book of Kells was created, and converted the pagan Northern Picts (Northern Scots) to Christ. He lived about 60 years after St. Patrick.
Born into the Irish royal family in 521 A.D., his name in Gaelic was "Colum," which means "dove." Columba is the Latin version of the name. His nickname in Ireland was, and is, Columcille. Colum Cille means "dove of the church." At a very young age he was placed in a monastery. He was one of the best scribes (book copyists of illuminated manuscripts) of his age. He is said to have created over 300 books during his lifetime. One of his works is The Book of Durrow, which Monk Linda and I saw with The Book of Kells at Trinity College when we were in Ireland. It is considered one of the best of the illuminated manuscripts which have been preserved down to our time.
Columcille started many monasteries in Ireland (some put the figure as high as 100), including those at Derry, Durrow, and Kells.
At the age of 44, Columcille left Ireland and founded the monastery on Iona (563-5 A.D.). It was a base from which he would bring to Christianity the Northern Picts of Scotland. It became the place where the Scottish Kings received final interment; even MacBeth is buried there. 100 years later Iona's ninth Abbot, Adomnan, would write a book called: Life of St. Columba.
A Desire to Carry the Gospel to a Pagan Nation and Win Souls to God
Why did Columcille leave Ireland? Adomnan says it was because of "a desire to carry the Gospel to a pagan nation and win souls to God."
Other reasons given (but they didn't appear in the records until much later) are because of the Battle of Cooldrevny, at which 3,000 died. One story says that Columcille copied a Psalter without permission and was ordered to give up the copy he had made. When he refused, his relatives backed him up, and Cooldrevny occurred. Another story says that during the battle Columcille prayed against those who fought against his relatives, and these suffered the majority of the casualties. In these stories, Columcille was banished from Ireland (or he banished himself) until he should convert as many pagans to Christ as the number of warriors who were killed in the battle (3,000). ______________________________
The contemplative prayer life of Columcille and other Irish Christian monks included intense missionary activities. Celtic Christians never saw any conflict in this, as some of the later medieval European monks did. After all, they were just imitating Christ and the Apostles. These had prayed; these had preached the Word of God. Where was the conflict? Francis of Assisi would later come to the same conclusions. ______________________________
Columcille and the White Horse
Opposed by Druids
Not long after establishing the monastery on Iona, Columcille was preaching the Gospel on his way to Inverness, to witness to the Pictish King Brude. He was stopped by a group of Druid Priests, who demanded that Columcille and his twelve monks return to Ireland. These pagan priests claimed that Druidism was the true religion, and drew a circle on the ground, saying that Christ conflicted with the nature cycle. Columcille took his staff and drew an intersecting cross within the circle. Columcille said that God could not conflict with nature because God had Himself Created nature, and rather instead complemented it; working with it and through it.
Later, when Iona grew, wherever Columcille preached to the Picts, he would leave behind 12 monks, founding a new monastery that would become a center of Christian teaching, and eventually a Christian town. Though the Druidic Priests opposed him all the way, little by little the light of Christ covered Northern Scotland. Later, Ninian would bring Christ to the Southern Picts, and Scotland would be completely converted. One of Columcille's monks at Iona, an Irishman named Aidan, would be sent out to found a monastery at Lindisfarne, becoming the missionary monk who brought the Angles and Northern England to Christ.
The White Horse
Adomnan records a story about Columcille and a white horse. Columcille was 77 years old, and it is said that he was aware of his quickly approaching death (he died that very week; the year was 597 A.D.). Columcille was weary, and sat down to rest. The loyal work-horse that carried the milk-pails from the booley (cow-pen) to the monastery came over to Columcille and put his head against him. The servant who had been walking with him went to lead him away, but Columcille said to let him alone. Columcille felt that the horse sensed that he (Columcille) was going to die, and wanted to comfort him, or perhaps say good-bye.
Whether this particular story really took place or not, it is an illustration of Columcille's great love for animals, and they for him.
Copyright © 2002 S.G.P. All rights reserved.