St Columban is the patron of the Missionary Society of St Columban. He is recognised as one of the great pioneers in western European civilization.
Columban was born in Leinster in 543. He left Ireland to proclaim Jesus Christ and His Gospel to Western Europe, where people had fallen into barbarism.
Amid hardship and persecution, Columban and his followers founded monasteries throughout France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
His mission was noted for his remarkable zeal, having once been described as “traveling through Europe like a flaming torch enkindling the fire of God’s love in the hearts of men.”
Columban’s great contribution to the Catholic Church was the new spirit in European monasticism he had instilled, a spirit of total commitment to Christ and to the values of the Gospels.
His denunciations of the immoral practices of the royal court and the general populace led to his exile from France and Switzerland.
He founded his last monastery at Bobbio in Italy where he died on 23 November 615. In the words of Pope Pius XI, “Columban is to be reckoned among those exceptional people whom Divine Providence is wont to raise up in the most difficult periods of human history to restore causes almost lost.”
Hymn to St Columban
Man with a mission, pilgrim for Christ,
Fanning to flame Europe’s embers of faith,
May our call to mission be ever renewed,
Let Christ paint his portrait, Christ paint his portrait,
deep with-i-n our hearts.
To Cleenish and Bangor he followed the Lord,
In silence and study, in work and in prayer.
Soul-friend to many who searched for The Way,
And the depth of his prayer brought him clo-ser to God.
Called deep within to be pilgrim for Christ,
He sailed with twelve brothers, with God as their guide.
To Brittany and to the East he would go,
To fair Annegray, to Luxeuil, and Fontaine.
He loved solitude but crowds called his name,
the rich and the poor, the sick and the lame.
Inspired by the truth, he was fearless of power,
And exile and loss, were the price that he paid.
Led on by zeal where he’d rather not go,
In old age he scaled the high Alpine snows
From Bregenz to Milan and then Bobbio,
Where at last he commended his spir-it to God.