June 9

Columba of Iona

(d. 597)



Shortly after midnight on June 9, 597, Columba of Iona, a monk, man of culture and pilgrim for Christ, died in the church of his monastery.
He was born into a powerful Irish family of Donegal County, but at a young age he understood that he was called to monastic life rather than to a life as chief and leader of his clan.
Educated at the school of several of the best-known Irish monks, he was nicknamed Columcille, "dove of the Church" - in Latin, Columba. Well versed in the riches of his culture and skilled in the Celtic monastic arts, he founded the monasteries of Derry and Durrow, and perhaps Kells. It was in these monasteries that the greatest masterpieces of Irish manuscript illustration were produced. Columba also appreciated the secular arts, and defended the bards and musicians of his time against those monks who wanted to suppress their activity.
At a certain point in his life he decided, following the example of many of his fellow monks, to make himself a pilgrim for Christ and an itinerant preacher. He travelled with several companions, and everywhere he went he left lasting memories. His role as peacemaker in political and ecclesial controversies was appreciated by all.
At the close of his life, his home was the island of Iona off the southwest coast of Scotland, where he had founded a monastery. He dedicated much of his time there to guiding the community, and composed hymns and songs that are poetically and spiritually rich.
Columba is considered the most important saint of the Celtic church, together with Patrick of Armagh and Brigitte of Kildare.

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