Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Feast day: November 23
Columban, the most famous of the Irish missionary-monks, lived in the
seventh century. He had a good education as a boy. When he was a
teenager, he decided to become a monk. His mother could not bear the
thought of him leaving her. However, Columban felt the call to serve God
in the quiet of a monastery.
After many years as a monk in Ireland, Columban and twelve other
monks set sail for France. There was a shortage of priests there at that
time. The French people were inspired by the lives of the monks. These
holy men performed penance, practiced devotion and lived in charity.
Many young men were attracted to this holy way of life. They came and
asked to join the monks. Soon the monks were building other monasteries
to house all the disciples of St. Columban.
There were some people, however, who thought the rules of these monks
were too strict. St. Columban also faced danger when he confronted the
king about his sins. As a result, he and his Irish monks had to leave
After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul
(modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide
respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their
commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by
clerical slackness and civil strife. Columban established several
monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture
St. Columban, though fairly old, still tried to preach to unbelievers
in Switzerland. When he was seventy, he went into Italy and defended the
faith against the Arian heretics. In his letters to Pope St. Boniface
IV, St. Columban proclaims his great devotion to the Holy Father. "All
we Irish, living in the most distant parts of the earth," he says, "are
bound to the Chair of St. Peter." He calls the pope the "leader of
In his last years, St. Columban built the great monastery of Bobbio
in Italy. He died there on November 23, 615. After his death, both the
Irish and the Italians were very devoted to this wonderful missionary.
His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism,
sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.