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St.Columbanus, also known as St. Columban, was born around the year 543 in Clonegal at the foot of Mount Leinster. At a young age he left his home to join a monastery at Cleenish, Co. Fermanagh and later joined a monastery at Bangor, Co. Down. After a number of years at Bangor he left Ireland for good and arrived in France where he founded a number of monasteries, most notably Luxeuil Abbey where he was Abbot for twenty years. Columbanus was involved in a dispute with the local king and when Columbanus denounced his lifestyle, the King banished him and his monks back to Ireland. They left from Nantes but became shipwrecked further up the cast of France before they made their way to preach in Switzerland. When Burgandy captured Switzerland, he fled to northern Italy, where he established a monastery at Bobbio in present-day Italy in 613. His monasteries were known for the strictness of their rules. In addition to his rule for monks, Columbanus wrote letters, instructions, a penitentiary and poems. The monastery at Bobbio became a great centre of prayer and learning in central Europe and helped restore civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire. St Columbanus died at Bobbio in 615. 2015 was celebrated as the 14th century of the Irish saint’s death. His rule was approved by the Council of Mâcon in 627, but it was superseded by that of St Benedict.

Speaking at a concelebrated Mass to mark the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columbanus, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said "Columbanus did not call people to conversion and penance just to make them feel uncomfortable! He wanted them to experience the tremendous love and joy of being with God, partially in this world, but fully in the next world".

"Fourteen hundred years is a long time. It is difficult for any of us to imagine what life was like even one hundred years ago. But we can be certain that when Saint Columbanus set out to be a 'pilgrim for Christ' he was literally surrendering his future, his whole life, into the hands of God. Without the aid of modern maps, or compasses or navigational equipment, he relied totally on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to point him in the direction that God wanted of him and his band of disciples. What courage! What faith! Praise God for his marvellous deeds! "

Reflection on the life of St.Columbanus

Speaking about the life of St.Columbanus, Archbishop Eamon Martin invites us to reflect on three questions:

* How can I be more missionary, like Columbanus, in my personal life, in my family and in my community?

*Who are the people around me who are thirsting to hear and experience the joy of the Gospel?

*Is there some one thing that I can let go in order to give God more room to work in and through my life?

The Missionary Society of St Columba works in more than 20 countries around the world today. For more information see:

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