07 December 2021

Praying in Advent 2021:
10, Saint Columba

Saint Columba baptisting a child … a fresco in the Baptistery in All Saints’ Church, Blackrock, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

At first this looked like being a busy and stormy day. A planned community project meeting in Rathkeale this morning was postponed last night because of Storm Barra. However, the launch of the ‘Downpatrick Declaration’ is expected to go ahead later this evening.

Before th storm lands in Co Limerick and before the day begins, I am taking some time early this morning (7 December 2021) for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during Advent;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Columba’s Church, Ennis, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Although today is not Columba’s Day, I have chosen Saint Columba this morning because of the launch of the ‘Downpatrick Declaration’ later this evening, as part of the celebrations of the 1,600th anniversary of the birth of Saint Colimba, who is said to be buried at Downpatrick.

Saint Columba, also known Colum or Columcille, is one of the three patrons of Ireland, alongside Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid of Kildare. He is also the patron saint of Derry and is regarded as one of the ‘Twelve Apostles of Ireland’. He was born 1,600 years ago, on 7 December 521, at Gartan in present-day Co Donegal.

He is remembered as the missionary monk who introduced Christianity to Scotland, and who founded the abbey on the island of Iona.

Saint Columba studied under Saint Finnian of Movilla and Saint Finnian of Clonard, was ordained priest ca 551, and founded churches and monasteries in Derry, Durrow and Swords.

In 560, Columba became involved in a quarrel with Saint Finnian of Moville over a psalter. Columba copied the manuscript at the scriptorium under Finnian, intending to keep the copy. Finnian disputed Columba’s right to keep it, and the conflict that ensued eventually resulted in the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in present-day Co Sligo in 561, when many men were killed.

A synod was called, and Columba was threatened with excommunication for these deaths. But Saint Brendan of Birr (29 November) spoke on his behalf. Eventually, Saint Columba set sail from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co Donegal for Scotland, where he and his 12 disciples founded a church and monastery on the island of Iona ca 563.

Iona became the springboard for the conversion of Scotland, and is regarded as the mother house of abbots and bishops in the early history of Christianity in Scotland.

Saint Columba returned with Saint Aidan to Ireland in 575, when he took a leading role in the Synod of Druim Cetta and founded the monastery of Drumcliff in Cairbre, now Co Sligo, near the battlefield.

Saint Columba spent most of his years in Iona. He died there in 597 and was buried in his abbey. he created. The Vikings first attacked Iona in 794, and Saint Columba’s relics were finally removed in 849 and divided between Scotland and Ireland. The parts of the relics that went to Ireland are said to be buried in Downpatrick, Co Down, with Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid.

Three Latin hymns have been attributed to Saint Columba, and he is associated with the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow. Saint Columba’s feast day is 9 June.

On 9 June 1186, 15 bishops, many abbots and church dignitaries and a large number of clergy and laity were present at the reburial of what were now revered as the relics of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and Saint Columba (Columcille) in Downpatrick.

This morning, I am also thinking of and giving thanks for many places I have stayed and prayed, and sometimes preached, including Saint Columba’s House, a retreat house on Maybury Hill in Woking, Surrey; Saint Columba’s Church, Ennis, Co Clare; Saint Columba’s Church, Swords, Co Dublin; Saint Columba’s Church, Kells, Co Meath; and the Church of Saint Columba and Saint Joseph in Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick.

Saint Columba’s Church, Swords, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 18: 12-14 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 12 ‘What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (7 December 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for tea plantation workers across Asia and Africa, who often suffer from poor working conditions and meagre wages.

Yesterday: Saint Nicholas of Myra

Tomorrow: The Virgin Mary

The Round Tower at the South Gate of Saint Columba’s Church, Kells, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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