Saint Brigid Religious Education
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West Hartford, CT 06110

St. Columban

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 France.

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 leaders."

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.

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