Feast of St. Columba of Iona means pilgrims are streaming to Scotland

TUESDAY, JUNE 9—Are you among the thousands of pilgrims who have journeyed to the island of Iona off the western coast of Scotland? Are you hoping to visit the Iona community in the future? Here’s an important reminder: This week is the Feast of St. Columba of Iona and that means the summer-through-autumn retreat season on the island is in full swing.

At ReadTheSpirit magazine and publishing house, we cooperate with the Iona community in various ways. For example, five columns on our own pilgrimage to Iona comprised one of the first series published in our magazine, years ago. We occasionally cover news from Iona. This year, our columnist and author Benjamin Pratt is contributing a short section to a new book on peacemaking that is planned by Iona’s Wild Goose Publications.

St. Columba was a brilliant 6th-century Irish monk who still is inspiring pilgrims around the world.

Columba studied at Clonard Abbey as a youth, amid others who would become some of the most influential figures in Irish Christian history. Of the thousands who studied at Clonard during the 6th century, 12 stood out in the crowd and became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland; Columba was one of them. (Wikipedia has details.) However, Columba also was accused of committing a crime that led to many deaths—and, in his efforts to “right a wrong,” cemented his name in history.

According to tradition, St. Columba copied the Book of Psalms while studying at Clonard Abbey, intending to keep his copy. When his instructor demanded the copy be handed over, Columba refused—and battle broke out. In response to this tragedy, St. Columba suggested he become a missionary in Scotland to spread Christianity there. With 12 men in tow, Columba traveled to Scotland and didn’t stop until he reached a place where he could no longer see his native country: the island of Iona. Great success ensued, and soon, the man who had once been on the brink of excommunication was converting hundreds, eventually winning the affections of the pagan King Bridei and playing a role in Scottish politics. (Historic UK has more.)

Care to go? If you’ve heard about retreats to Iona and want to know more—visit the Iona website. That website’s bookings page still lists many retreat weeks through the balance of 2015.


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