Tobit 11.5-17; Psalm 145; Mark 12.35-37
Columba, or Colmcille (in Gaelic, literally, ‘church dove’; legendarily this title supplanted his given birth name, Adomnan, which means ‘fox’), was born around 521 in Gartan, County Donegal. On his father’s side he is claimed to be the great-great grandson of Niall, a 5th Century Irish high King. Columba entered the monastery at Clonard, then governed by Finnian, himself a disciple of St David. Columba was a striking figure of great stature and powerful build, with a loud, melodious voice which could be heard from one hilltop to another. He founded monasteries at Derry, Durrow and Kells but felt compelled to leave Ireland as an act of penance around 563. With twelve companions he travelled in a wicker currach covered with leather. They settled on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull, and from this base they spread Celtic Christianity throughout the northern Pictish kingdoms. The monastery on Iona became a significant school for missionaries. Most of the notable personages of the 7th Century Anglo-Saxon explosion of spirituality were products of this remarkable Christian centre. Columba himself was renowned as a man of letters. Three Medieval Latin hymns are attributed to him, and he is credited with transcribing over 300 books. According to traditional sources he died on Sunday 9 June 597 and was buried by his monks in the Abbey he had founded on Iona. In 849, after the abbey had suffered numerous pagan raids, his relics were removed and divided between Ireland and Scotland.