521-597, Feast Day June 9
St. Columcille (also know as St. Columba) was born in Donegal Ireland and was of royal blood, and might have become high king of Ireland had he not chosen to become a priest. He studied at Moville under St. Finnian then in Leinster at the monastery of Clonard under another St. Finnian. He was ordained before he was twenty-five and spent the next 15 years preaching and setting up foundations at Derry, Durrow, and Kells. Possibly because of a family feud, which ended up in the death of 3000, which Columcille felt responsible for, he left Ireland in penance. He ended up in the colony of Dalriada, Scotland, on the west coast. With 12 companions he founded a monastery on Iona in the year 563. He spread the gospel to the Picts and also developed a monastic rule, which many followed until the introduction of St. Benedicts.
In Iona of my heart, Iona of my love,
Instead of monks’ voices shall be lowing of cattle,
But ere the world come to an end
Iona shall be as it was
It seems he was right form later Iona became the site of Benedictine Abbey and of a little Cathedral. These were both dismantled by the Scottish reformers in 1561.
Columcille was not only a man of the cloth but he was also a poet:
On some island
I long to be,
a rocky promontory; looking on
the coiling surface of the sea
To see the waves
, crest on crest
of the great shining ocean
to the creator, without rest.
To see without sadness the strand
lined with bright shells
, and birds
lamenting overhead, a lovely sound.
To hear the whisper of small waves
against the rocks, that endless sea-
sound, like keening over graves
To watch the sea-birds sailing
in flocks, and most marvelous
of monsters, the turning whale.
To see the shift from ebbtide
to flood and tell my secret name:
'He who set his back on Ireland.'
Clamour of the wind making music
in the elms
Gurgle of the startled blackbird
clapping its wings.
I have lost the three settled places
I loved best:
Durrow, Derry's ledge of angels
my native parish.
I have loved the land of Ireland
almost beyond speech;
to sleep at Comgall's, to visit Canice,
it would be pleasant!