The dove, a symbol of Peace and of the Holy Spirit.
Columba was born in County Donegal in 521 AD into the ruling O’Neill clan. Before his birth an angel revealed to his mother Eithne in a dream the great work her son would do in God’s name. From an early age Columba stood out as angelic in looks and in nature. He studied under Saint Finnian of Moville and Saint Finnian of Clonard. He founded a number of monasteries in Derry, Durrow, Iona and possibly Kells. He died on the island of Iona in 597.
Known far and wide for his gifts of good counsel and reconciliation he also wrote many beautiful prayers and poems. Columba’s voice when speaking or singing had a unique quality and power.
Adamnan in his Life of Colmcille tells of the many healings, miracles, visions, dreams and prophecies associated with Columba. Renowned for his kindness and compassion to friend and stranger alike he went out of his way to help all God’s creatures in their time of need. The first miracle mentioned in Adamnan’s book took place in Ireland where as a young deacon Columba was studying Holy Scripture under St Findbarr. One day on hearing that they had no wine for the Eucharist, Columba took pure water from the nearby spring, blessed it, calling on the name of the Lord who in His first miracle had turned water into wine at Cana. The spring water became wine. Returning to the Church Columba said to them
“Here is wine, which the Lord Jesus has sent, for the celebration of His Mysteries”
During his time on Iona Columba foresaw a cloud of deadly pestilence which would fall like rain on Delvin in Meath as far as Dublin and spread across Ireland. Columba, knowing the death and suffering which would be wrought and wanting to help, blessed some bread and sent it with Silnan by boat to the region instructing him to dip the bread in water and sprinkle it over all infected both man and beast alike. As a result many were healed of the deadly ulcers immediately and speedily returned to good health.
A kinswoman of Colmcille on his mother’s side in Ireland was in grave danger of dying during childbirth. She trusted in the intercession of Columba who made earnest prayers to Christ on her behalf and she was safely delivered of her child and restored to perfect health.
Prayer: May we not be afraid in times of sickness, trouble and danger to put our faith hope and trust in God and place our hands on the shoulder or head of a loved one and pray God’s healing and blessing on them in Jesus’ name.….. and if we cannot be near them in their time of need let our prayers to God bless them from a distance, for God’s healing love, as many of us have witnessed over the years, knows no boundaries. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.“ Psalm 124:8
The replica cell in the Celtic Garden at Iosas Centre with its one window and one door reflects the simplicity of Columba’s lifestyle on Iona. The oak tree planted there in 2012 reminds us of Saint Columba’s love for building near oak groves because of their strength and natural beauty.
His contribution to making Ireland the Island of Saints and Scholars is immense.
May we, like him, reverence The Word of God and the Bread of Life. May we show respect for nature and God’s creation and through our listening prayer ‘know how to reply to the weary.’ Isaiah 50:4. May we stand up and speak out for justice and peace in the world and may our love be sincere and our actions reflect that.
Prayer Poem: Columba
By Ann McCay
Your grace filled presence lingers still
In this great walled city
Dove of the church,
A voice for peace in turbulent times
Symbol of all that is good
Child of Royal Blood
Like your Saviour
you learned the psalms in childhood.
Patron of the bards
You carried God’s word in your heart throughout your life
At home with silence
Finding space within your heart
To let God’s Spirit dwell
Listening to what the Spirit taught
Man of wisdom and good counsel.
Last written words of Saint Columba
‘Those who seek the Lord shall want for no manner of good thing’ Ps 34:11
“Have unfeigned love for one another with peace.If you keep this course according to the example of the holy men and women of old,
God, who strengthens the good, will help you,
And I, dwelling with Him shall intercede for you.”
Ann McCay is a member of the Columba Community, Derry and Donegal