WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9: Today is the feast day of one of ReadTheSpirit’s favorite saints: St. Columba of Iona! Although born in Ireland, St. Columba banished himself to Scotland after a tragic conflict in Ireland left hundreds dead. In penance, Columba sailed eastward until he could no longer see Ireland—and wound up on the famed isle of Iona off the western coast of Scotland.
St. Columba’s beginnings were innocent enough—he was born of royal lineage and put under the care of a priest when he was young. As soon as he was old enough, St. Columba began study under St. Finian. Among the estimated 3,000 pupils St. Finian had through the years, 12—including St. Columba—became known as the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland.” (Wikipedia has details.)
In Scotland—on Iona—Columba was given a piece of land, which he converted into a monastery and school for missionaries. (The BBC has a page on Scottish history through St. Columba.) Throughout his life he wrote extensively, served as a diplomat among the Pict tribes, opened the only literacy center in his region of Scotland, and is noted for having performed miracles while preaching. (One of the most unique miracles attributed to St. Columba is his scaring a “sea beast who had been swimming in the River Ness,” and saving an endangered swimmer with the Sign of the Cross. This is sometimes interpreted as the first reference to the Loch Ness Monster.)
Care to read more about Columba and the legacy of Iona?
- Here’s our popular “Pilgrimage to Iona” series, the story, photos and videos all produced during a ReadTheSpirit journey to Iona.
- Meet John Bell, the world-famous Iona hymn writer, featured in a ReadTheSpirit interview in 2009.
- Meet J. Philip Newell, the most popular writer from the Iona Community whose Celtic reflections are enjoyed around the world.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)