Life of St. Columb

July 17, 2011

Dear Friends,

Fr. Damian ZuerlienI recently began reading some ancient writings about the life of Columbkille. They were reprints of an 1800’s addition of Adomnan’s Life of St. Columb written around 690. The small book is filled with stories of the miracles that happened during Columb’s life and other miracles that were attributed to him after his death. I bought the book in order to rewrite the brief history of St. Columbkille that appears on our website and in our printed material. The problem is going to be reducing the story down to something that will easily fit into those materials. I thought, over these next few summer Sundays, I would give you a sample of what I am learning about Columb.

Columb was the son of Feidlimid mac Fergus and his wife Aethnia. He was born about 521. His father was a close cousin of the rulers of Cenel Conaill of Donegal (the extreme northwest corner of Ireland), who were among the most powerful kings of sixth century Ireland. At the time, the country was controlled by a number of powerful dynasties divided between the north and south. Whichever king held sway over the dynasties at the moment would be called the king of Tara. Columb’s family played an important role in the battles for control of Ireland, but it is uncertain whether Columb was involved in any of the battles. We do know that he left two years aSt. Columbfter the battle of Cul Drebene to live and work in Scotland; it was that battle which allowed the kings of the north to take control of the country – some would say thanks to Columb’s prayers. Some say he left Ireland for Scotland because he was too emotionally involved in the politics and needed to leave so he could focus on the work of the Gospel.

Here is how Adomnan begins his story and tells about the name: “There was a man of reverend life and blessed memory, the father and founder of monasteries having the same name as Jonah the prophet; for though its sound is different in different languages, its significance is the same in all: what in Hebrew is Jonah, in the Latin is Columba (and in Gaelic is Colm or Columb and it means in all these languages, dove). This remarkable name was not given, it is believed, to the man of God, without a special providence. For according to the inspired record of the Gospel, the Holy Ghost is known to have descended on the only begotten Son of the Eternal Father, in the form of that little bird called the dove; and hence, very frequently in the sacred scriptures the dove is known to designate in a mystical sense the Holy Ghost. Hence, also our Savior, in his Gospel has ordered his disciples to preserve the simplicity of the dove, for the dove is a simple and innocent bird.

By that name therefore, it was meet that the simple and innocent man should be called, who gave the Holy Ghost a dwelling place in his dove-like affections…from his boyhood he had been instructed in the love of Christ, and by the grace of God, and his zeal for wisdom had so preserved the integrity of his body and purity of his soul, that though dwelling on earth, he lived like the saints in heaven. He could never spend even one hour without study or prayer or writing or other holy occupation.”

So begins the story. Looking forward to the highlights.


Fr. Damian

Printable PDF Document
Printable PDF Document

A series of writings from his biography by Fr Damian Zuerlein: