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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Saint Columba

Saint Columba was born to Fedlimid and Eithne of the Cenel Conaill in Gartan, near Lough Gartan, in modern County Donegal, in Ireland on December 7, 521.

Columba left his homeland in 563 in his small rowing boat with twelve companions in order to evangelize the northern tribes in Britain. He landed on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland and buried his craft so he would not be tempted to return home.

At Iona Columba founded a monastery, which consisted of a cluster of stone beehive huts, an oratory and a stone cross. These few humble buildings were to become both a base for missionaries to spread the faith in Scotland and Northern England and a renowned center of learning.

The following year after landing at Iona, Columba baptized as a Christian Brude, the King of the Picts. The stone travelling altar he used in this and many other ceremonies is said to be the Stone of Scone, the stone on which Scottish monarchs were seated during their coronation ceremony for many centuries and part of the coronation chair for today’s British monarchy.

Columba visited the pagan King Bridei, King of Fortriu, at his base in Inverness, winning the monarch's respect, although not his conversion.

Columba banging on the gate of Bridei, son of Maelchon, King of Fortriu.

There are many stories of miracles which Columba performed during his work to convert the Picts, the most famous being his encounter with an unidentified animal that some have equated with the Loch Ness Monster. On August 22, 565, the saint came across a group of Picts burying a man who had been killed by the monster while swimming. One of his followers, Lugne, then dived into the lock to bring back a boat, and was attacked by the beast. Columba immediately made a sign of the cross and in the name of God commanded the monster to go. At this the monster fled as if terrified.

On June 9,  597 Columba was found dying on his monastery altar steps. It was said his eyes were radiant with joy at the thought of soon being with his heavenly Father. He was buried by his monks in the abbey he created.

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