Sunday 9 June 2013

Goffine's Devout Instruction on the Feast of Saint Colum Cille

June 9 is the feast of Saint Colum Cille and this year there is something of an extravaganza taking place in the northern city of Derry (Doire Cholmcille) to honour him. The event, called The Return of Colum Cille, has been designed by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the man behind the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. There are some pictures of the event at this page, I note that the Loch Ness monster will be making an appearance and I can only hope that more serious elements of Columban tradition might also surface. Below is a much more conventional presentation of the saint taken from a nineteenth-century translation of the work of the German Norbertine, Father Leonard Goffine. Father Goffine looked at the liturgical texts for the day and then provided a commentary in a  question and answer format. I was pleased to see that he gave the full treatment to the feasts of Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid, but his treatment of Saint Colum Cille is not quite so comprehensive and later editions of the work omitted him entirely:

[June 9.]

ST. COLUMBKILL or Columba of most noble extraction was born at Garten in the present county of Donegal, on the 7th of December, 521. From his childhood he devoted himself to the love of God with an entire disengagement of his heart from the world, and in perfect purity of mind and body. In the great school of the holy Bishop Aidan he learned the holy Scriptures and the lessons of ascetic life. Being ordained priest in 546, he began to give instruction in piety and sacred science, and soon formed many disciples. In 550 he founded the great monastery of Durrough, and afterwards many others, so that at the time of his death he had founded no less than one hundred monasteries in Ireland and Scotland. To these monasteries he has given a rule composed by himself.

King Dermot being offended at the great zeal of St. Columbkill in reproving public vices, the holy abbot left his native country, and came into Scotland. This happened in 565. There he preached and performed many miracles. The result of his labor was that he converted from idolatry to the faith of Christ the whole northern nation of the Picts. The southern Picts had received the light of faith long before by the preaching of St. Ninyas.

St. Columbkill's manner of living was always most austere. He lay on the bare floor with a stone for his pillow, and never interrupted his fast. His biographers say that despite his austerity his countenance always appeared wonderfully cheerful, showing the constant interior serenity of his holy soul, and the unspeakable joy with which it overflowed from the presence of the Holy Ghost. Every moment of his precious time he employed for the honor of God, either in praying, reading, writing, or preaching. His incomparable mildness and charity towards all men, on all occasions, won the hearts of all who conversed with him, and his virtues, miracles, and extraordinary gift of prophecy, commanded the veneration of all ranks of men. He was of such authority that neither king nor people did anything without his consent. Four years before he died, St. Columbkill had a vision of angels which caused him many tears, because these angels told him that on account of the prayers of the British and Scottish churches his exile on earth would be prolonged yet four years. Having labored in Scotland thirty-four years, he clearly and openly foretold the time of his death, and on Saturday, the ninth of June, kneeling before the altar he received the Viaticum, gave his blessing once more to his disciples, and sweetly slept in the Lord, 597, in his 77th year. He was one of the greatest patriarchs of the monastic order in Ireland, and is justly called “the Apostle of the Picts."

Introit of the Mass: The mouth of the just man shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment: the law of his God is in his heart. (Ps. xxxvi. 30-31.) Be not emulous of evil doers, nor envy them that work iniquity. (Ps. xxxvi. 1.) Glory be to the Father &c.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Let the intercession of the blessed abbot Columba, we beseech Thee, O Lord, commend us unto Thee: that what by our own merits we are unworthy to receive, we may obtain by his patronage. Thro. &c.

Lesson and Explanation, see Feast of St. Anthony, Jan.17th.

Gospel, see Feast of St. Benedict, March 21st.

Rev. L. Goffine, Explanation of the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays, Holydays and Festivals throughout the Ecclesiastical Year, to which are added the Lives of Many Saints (New York and Cincinnati, O., 1880), 775-6.

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