Saint Columban

Saint Columban, [born c. 543, Leinster [Ireland]—died Nov. 23, 615, Bobbio [Italy]; feast day November 23), abbot and writer, one of the greatest missionaries of the Celtic church, who initiated a revival of spirituality on the European continent.

Educated in the monastery of Bangor, County Down, Columban left Ireland about 590 with 12 monks (including Saints Attala, Gall, and Columbanus the Younger) and established himself in the Vosges Mountains at Annegray, then in Gaul.

As a young student, Columban was so impressed by the dedicated Irish monks who introduced him to religion and literature that he decided to join their ranks. He entered a monastery at Bangor, County Down, not far from his home, and placed himself under the spiritual guidance of its founder, Comgall. For some 30 years he lived quietly in prayer, work, and study. Desiring greater self-sacrifice, Columban asked his abbot if he could go into voluntary exile, leaving his native Ireland to start a monastery on the Continent. Twelve other monks set out with him in 590 for the land of the Franks.

They settled for a while in Burgundy at the invitation of King Childebert, founding three monasteries. So many young men were inspired by their religious zeal that soon more than 200 monasteries were formed, looking to Columban as their spiritual father. The Irish monks with their new, forceful kind of Christianity, stressing self-discipline and purity of life, presented a striking contrast to the complacent churchmen already living among the Franks. Columban spoke out repeatedly against the cruelty and self-indulgence of the kings and royal families, stressing the necessity of penance and introducing a new custom of frequent personal confession.Read More »