Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Saint Columbanus, November 21

November 21 is the feast of Saint Columbanus, one of the most distinguished Irish saints to have left these shores for missionary work in continental Europe. Below is an account of the man and his mission by an English writer, Father John Golden. The work was originally published in 1890 by the Catholic Truth Society in London, presumably as one of its pamphlets, it was collected with a variety of others into a bound volume of CTS Publications issued in 1900. I tried but failed to find out something about the author, only that he was associated with Saint George's Cathedral in Southwark. Golden's account of Saint Columbanus is a typically late-Victorian presentation, complete with poetic quotations and a somewhat defensive tone when dealing with the relationship of the Irish Church to the Holy See. The author quotes some of the miracles associated with Saint Columbanus, I particularly enjoyed how the pagan god Wodan was deprived of his offering of beer when Saint Columbanus breathed upon the container and shattered it:  "The barbarians were surprised and said he had a strong breath." Yes, indeed!


We have here no permanent city, but we seek one to come. — Heb. xiii. 14. 

Ancient in name and in history, the little town of Bangor is situated on the southern shore of Belfast Lough. On the opposite coast of the fine bay is seen Carrickfergus, with its picturesque situation and strong mediaeval castle. Bangor, too, had its ancient stronghold, as the noble ruins thereof clearly testify. Of its far-famed monastery, however, nothing but memory and history remain. "The parish church occupies the site " — that is, dear reader, the Church of the followers of the eighth Henry and his daughter, Elizabeth. Bangor was called "the Valley of the Angels," at the time when its great monastery flourished. The founder and first Abbot of this illustrious institution was St. Comgall, who lived between 516 and 601, was the contemporary of St. Columbkill, and "has justly been considered among the fathers of the Irish Church." 

Bangor Abbey, one of the most distinguished in ancient Ireland, was founded in 559, according to some historians; but Alban Butler places its foundation in 550. The high reputation for sanctity and learning of its Abbot attracted students from Erin, Alba, Britain and the Continent. Its situation, at once convenient,  picturesque, and salubrious, was an additional attraction. This was the age when, according to Camden and others, Ireland was the mart of sacred and secular learning, to which the English Saxons flocked in large numbers. Of Sulgenus, in the 8th century, it is written: — 

With love of learning and example fired, 
To Ireland, famed for wisdom, he retired. 

In 674, Marianus Scotus, quoted by Alban Butler, makes this remark in his Chronicle: — " Ireland was filled with saints or holy men." Among these, and a disciple of St. Comgall at Bangor, St. Columbanus finds an honoured place. One of the noblest sons of France, the great St. Bernard, refers to Bangor in the following terms: " Its disciples not only filled Ireland and Scotia, but swarms of its saints spread themselves through foreign countries, among the number of whom was St. Columbanus, who went to France, where he founded the monastery of Luxen." These are the words of a holy man, whose name and authority all revere, and they afford a light whereby we can read the character of the institution which, for long centuries, adorned " the Valley of Angels." 

The birth of St. Columbanus is assigned to various years, ranging between 539 and 546. That he was born within this limit may be regarded as certain, and the balance of proof points to the year 539. Leinster was his native province, and he sprang from an illustrious family. His first tutor was the great St. Senile, Abbot of Cluain-inis in Lough Erne, one of the broad and romantic expansions of the Shannon. The sequestered and delightful situation of this monastic school exercised a healthy influence on the gifted mind of the youthful Columbanus; it helped to develop his love of contemplation and study. So remarkable was his progress in sacred studies, that he composed some tracts and wrote  an exposition of the Psalms while yet in his youth. The venerable Abbot of Lough Erne, once the disciple of St. Finnian of Clonard, was well qualified to have the moulding of a mind endowed with talents of the highest order; for St. Senile was remarkable for a high degree of sanctity and extensive knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. The classics, too, of Greece and Rome, and the usual course of science, St. Columbanus studied under this venerable master and servant of God. He left Lough Erne in early manhood, and returned to the home of his parents, who sought to divert his mind from the religious to the secular state. But Columbanus, though young, had already formed the cherished design of embracing the monastic life. A mind like his, imbued with the love of holy solitude and of a strong intellectual grasp, was not likely to yield under any pressure. Against his mother's earnest wish, and rejecting brightest prospects, he fled his native province and directed his steps to St. Comgall at Bangor. His vocation was from God, and he must needs obey God rather than father or mother. Bangor received with joy a young man so distinguished for high attainments in virtue and knowledge; and Columbanus was fortunate in having for his master, during many years, the wise, holy, and learned St. Comgall. Here he made his religious profession and received Holy Orders; and here, too, he cheerfully engaged in the religious exercises, the labours and studies, of that great institution, from which "Alfred selected professors, when he founded the university of Oxford."

Manual labour formed, by rule, part of the occupation of the monks of Bangor, as indeed was the case in all the abbeys of the island; but manual labour, whether in the field or in the workshop, was not permitted to interrupt the rule of constant contemplation. While the body was engaged in useful industry, the mind was employed in communing with God; and in this manner did St. Columbanus, one of the brightest luminaries of the Irish Church, spend at Bangor a large portion of his useful and edifying life. To him, as to all the servants of God, " blissful solitude" was very dear —

Reaping immortal fruits of joy and love,
Uninterrupted joy, unrivalled love,
In blissful solitude.

About his fiftieth year, St. Columbanus conceived an invincible desire of following in the wake of other Irish missionaries, who went to evangelize various countries abroad. This longing he regarded as the will of Heaven. His age, wisdom, solid piety, and extensive learning rendered him a most valuable assistant to his venerable master, St. Comgall. Master and disciple were among the great men of that age, so fertile of greatness in the Isle of Saints. They were attached to one another with all the earnestness of saintly and noble minds. Long years of holy friendship had cemented between them a union such as the angels love to contemplate. So we find that St. Columbanus cheerfully obeyed the voice that called him away from his beloved monastery and native soil; and that St. Comgall not only acquiesced in his wish, but even selected twelve companions, who should accompany him on his mission of mercy to nations either wholly pagan, or only partially Christian. Some twenty-six years before this, St. Columbkill set out with an equal number of disciples for the conversion of Caledonia. The fascination which this number had for missionary chiefs going forth from ancient Ireland, arose from the fact that our Lord had chosen twelve disciples to propagate the Gospel. Chief among the disciples of St. Columbanus were St. Gall, St. Dichuil, latinized Deicola, St. Columbanus the younger, St. Cummin, and St. Kilian. It appears certain that this missionary band visited Britain first, and that they established there the rule of St. Comgall, though their sojourn in that country was brief. Their arrival among the Franks of Gaul is set down to 589 or 590.

Toilsome and perilous was the mission upon which St Columbanus now embarked, but he possessed zeal, fortitude, and knowledge equal to the enterprise. To correct abuses of long standing, and to restore discipline among a half-civilized people, is an undertaking as laborious as it is necessary for the well-being of religion. And this, together with the conversion of pagan tribes, was the work which St. Columbanus accomplished. Jonas, Abbot of Bobbio, in the middle of the seventh century, gives a sad account of the state of society and of religion in the Gauls, that is, Burgundy and Austrasia, at the time under consideration. On the dissolution of the Roman Empire, numerous tribes of hardy and cruel barbarians, pagan to boot, came down from the north and the east upon the fair plains of France. Conquest and plunder were their pursuit. In a word, frequent wars, incursions of fierce enemies, and a consequent relaxation of discipline, had all but effaced the virtue of religion. Though faith had survived the rude shock, penance and mortification had become almost unknown. Alzog does not hesitate to say that, "owing to the fury of war and the negligence of the bishops, ecclesiastical discipline had become greatly relaxed, and Christian morality almost unknown." But a great and salutary change is at hand. What Christ said of the house of Zacheus may be applied to Gaul, on the arrival of St. Columbanus and his monks: "This day is salvation come to this house." For several years they traversed the country up and down, preaching the Gospel, exhorting by, word and example, and everywhere diffusing the "good odour of Christ." No labour was deemed arduous in the noble work of reformation and conversion, to which all their endeavours were directed. Bearing well in mind the command of our Lord: " So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven," they furnished in their own lives bright examples of every Christian virtue. God blessed their work, and vouchsafed them a rich and abundant harvest.

In the kingdom of Burgundy, and amidst the wild forest-clad mountains of the Vosges, there was an old Roman castle, now no better than a picturesque ruin. This was the stronghold of Annegray, and, ruined as it was, St. Columbanus was glad to receive it from the king as his first settled residence. Here indeed, there was sweet solitude —

The shadowy desert,
unfrequented wood;

but there was also a lack of all the necessaries of life, St. Columbanus and his numerous disciples being reduced to the hard necessity of subsisting for nine days on grass and the wild produce of the forest trees. But it is from trials and the Cross that the way leads to the throne, and St. Columbanus was too well versed in the science of the saints not to understand the value of trials. Extreme want would be followed by abundance, and by an increase of the blessings of heaven. Caranticus, Abbot of Salix in the neighbourhood, having heard of the distress at Annegray, sent a supply of provisions, and thus did Providence reward the patience of the sufferers. But another reward of a higher order was bestowed on them. The daily increasing fame of their sanctity brought to Annegray multitudes from all quarters, and the name of God was glorified in cures and conversions.

Owing to the abundant influx of disciples, a more commodious residence became a matter of prime necessity, and Goutran, the king, bestowed on St. Columbanus the strong old fortress of Luxeuil, some eight miles from Annegray. According to Jonas, St. Columbanus was the first who established the monastic order among the French, and Luxeuil became a most celebrated monastery and a great centre of perfection. Its foundation is ascribed to the year 591, and its situation was in the deep solitude of the Vosgean mountains. "Luxeuil was in Franche-Comte, in the diocese of Besancon, at the foot of the mountains of the Vosge towards Lorraine." The rapid increase of disciples very soon rendered a third institution necessary and it was from the highest grades of society that candidates chiefly came. The new monastery was named Ad Fontanes, the Fountains, because of the springs which abounded there. St. Comgall and St. Columbkill had several minor houses subject to them; and so St. Columbanus had precedents to follow when he made Annegray and Fountains subordinate to Luxeuil. The celebrated rule he drew up for the government of his monks was founded on that of St. Comgall of Bangor. The instructions which he gave the monks, sixteen of which are preserved in the Library of the Fathers, Mabillon and others highly extol. The discipline of Luxeuil found almost universal favour in the monastic houses of France, and it was followed by several in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. At the Council of Macon, in 627, the French Bishops stamped it with their approval, and, after it had done glorious service in the Church for some centuries, it was finally incorporated with the rule of St. Benedict, in the reign of the Emperor Charlemagne. Alban Butler remarks that "the rule of St. Columban was highly esteemed, was observed in many great monasteries, and is still followed jointly with that of St. Benedict. Both excelled as law-givers, and the nations owe them a debt of gratitude."

What those great Fathers of the cloister taught by wise and enlightened rules, which are a "treasury of invaluable precepts," they had themselves practised for long years; "and hence the sound of truth was mighty on their lips." The regeneration of society, shattered and broken like the Roman Empire, was due to the marvellous self-denial and heroic zeal of the children of Benedict and Columbanus. The sombre forest and the barren desert yielded to the persevering toil of the monks of Luxeuil, and became productive. While manual labour subdued the soil, the eloquent preaching of the Word, supported by angelic holiness of life, softened savage manners and created in them a change truly marvellous. In the secluded shades of the cloister, science and literature were cultivated with eminent success; and the treasures of Greece and Rome were preserved by the persistent multiplication of manuscripts, the loving work of monks. Besides all this, intervals were allotted to the reciting of psalms, anthems, and the canonical hours. Prayer, study, and labour alternated by rule; and of St. Columbanus it is said, that he left his monks a rule of life so admirable as to merit universal eulogium; that he was a man profoundly versed in the science of salvation; and that he was endowed by the Holy Ghost with grace to conduct souls to the highest state of perfection. The Columban Rule was very rigorous in punishing faults, while it allowed but one meal in the day — towards evening— the food being of the roughest and meanest kind. The monks to the letter followed the precepts of St. Columbanus, and what a charm did the fulfilment thereof impart to their sacred characters! In the midst of all their varied duties there was maintained a continual application of the mind to God, and day and night they beheld nothing but our Lord Jesus Christ hanging from the wood.

The mode of computing the Easter time gave rise to a dispute between St. Columbanus and the French bishops. This was the great Paschal question, which regarded discipline only, and touched no dogma of faith. What was the exact time of celebrating Easter became, however, a question that gave rise to many serious difficulties and disturbed the peace of the Church from very early times. The General Council of Nice, held in 325, decreed that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox, i.e. after the spring full moon. This rule, which was the famous Jewish cycle of eighty-four years, was the one which St. Patrick introduced from Rome into Ireland, and the early missionaries into Britain. St. Columba and his monks followed it at Iona and throughout Caledonia and the north of England. But this system of computation was found to contain an error, which the Alexandrians were the first to discover. In 444, a difference of nearly a month was found between the days on which Easter was celebrated at Alexandria and at Rome. The Alexandrian system of calculation — that of nineteen years — was the more correct one; and the adoption of this cycle in Rome, through the exertions of the Abbot Denys the Little, secured uniformity in the Eastern and Western Churches on the vexed Paschal question.

The new system of calculating the Easter festival had been introduced into France not many years prior to the arrival of St. Columbanus in the country. In Ireland, however, it was not adopted till the year 633, when the ambassadors, despatched by the Irish Bishops to Rome, reported on their return, that people from all quarters were of one mind on the question, and that all celebrated Easter on the same day as the great centre of Catholicity. The Irish Bishops, in sending a deputation to the Pope, proved their loyalty to the Holy See, and also to the famous canon of St. Patrick, that "if any questions arise in this island (Ireland), they are to be referred to the Apostolic See." The report of the ambassadors as to the practice in Rome placed the question beyond controversy, and the Irish Church accepted the decision of the Successor of the Apostles. But St. Columbanus had departed from Ireland many years prior to this date, and had taken with him to France the custom handed down from St. Patrick and scrupulously observed, both at home and abroad, by all Irish missionaries. The deep veneration he entertained for St. Comgall, St. Columba of Iona, and all the venerable fathers of the Irish race, made him very reluctant to change at the bidding of the French bishops. As no question of faith was involved, and as Rome had not yet enforced the new cycle in Ireland, Columbanus firmly and religiously adhered to the discipline he had brought from the great monastery of Bangor. This occasioned much irritation between him and the French prelates. A tract which he composed on the Paschal question, defining and defending his own position, he directed to St. Arigius, the first bishop of Gap — in Latin, Vapincum.

In 602, the bishops held a Synod, and St. Columbanus, writing to them, thanked God they had assembled, and expressed his wish that, according to the Canons, they should do so more frequently. He entreats them to examine dispassionately which is the correct tradition, and refers them for explanation to his letter to the Bishop of Gap and to three different communications addressed by him to Pope St. Gregory the Great. For twelve years he had lived in the wilderness for the love of Jesus Christ, and now that a tempest was raised against him, he would say, in the words of Jonas the prophet: "If I am the cause of this tempest, make it cease by casting me into the sea." Yet he was of opinion that, instead of disturbing poor strangers, they should have afforded them comfort. He begged to be allowed to adhere to the traditions of his elders in Ireland, and disclaimed any idea of disturbing others in their observances. In the first Council of Constance, it was decreed that the Churches outside the Roman Empire are to be administered according to the traditions of their fathers. This decree St. Columbanus claimed in his favour, as Ireland, his native country, had never come under the dominion of Rome. And though he maintained, with warmth and vehemence, the traditional customs of his native land, he declared his entire willingness to comply with whatever instructions should arrive from Rome. Indeed, no heart could be truer to Rome than that of St. Columbanus, as is abundantly manifest from his own words. If St. Columbanus in France, the Irish missionaries in Scotland and the North of England, and the Irish Church at home, were so tenacious of what, after all, was a matter of discipline only, but a discipline originally received from Rome, what would they not have been prepared to do and to suffer for the essentials of religion, for the faith of St. Patrick and of the Apostolic See? The great revolt of the 16th century found them ready to shed their blood and lay down their lives for the faith of Rome. Had the occasion arisen, St. Columbanus and his monks at Luxeuil would have cheerfully sacrificed their lives for the faith of St. Peter and his successors. Relative to the Paschal question, his feelings and motives should have won more respect.

The life of the saints is the continual carrying of the Cross. "If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow Me."  So spoke our Divine Lord, the master of the school of tribulation, "who, though exempt from sin Himself, was not exempt from suffering."  The disciple must not seek to be above his master; and as it is with gold refined in a furnace, so with the soul purified by suffering: each comes forth improved in lustre and in value. St. Columbanus was tried in the school of tribulation. We refer to the persecution he suffered from Thierry, King of Burgundy, and his grandmother, the impious Brunchilde. St. John the Baptist lost his liberty and life for reproving the vices of Herod's court. St. Columbanus was banished from Luxeuil for raising his voice against the corruptions of the Burgundian court. The Baptist's worst enemy was the wicked Herodias: the Abbot of Luxeuil experienced the greatest hostility from the ambitious and designing Brunchilde. Fearing to lose power, if the young Thierry engaged in lawful wedlock, the haughty Queen Dowager dissuaded him from marriage and encouraged him to lead a vicious course of life. St. Columbanus remonstrated with the King by letter and by personal interview. The deep and heartfelt interest he took in the monarch's salvation, influenced him powerfully, and would have effected in him a thorough and permanent conversion, had not Brunchilde's relentless hostility and dark intrigues interposed to frustrate the Abbot's charitable endeavours. Filled with holy zeal and fearless of consequences, he inveighed against the scandals in high places; and the hostility of the Court, increasing by lapse of time, culminated in his banishment from the Vosges. "In the world you shall have distress; but have confidence, I have overcome the world." Inspired by the divine example and pro- mise, St. Columbanus wavered not in his character of apostle and reformer. Hence the persecution. "What fellowship has light with darkness?" Later on we shall see how it fared with the man of God, and how with his enemies.

In 610, St. Columbanus was forcibly expelled from his beloved monastery. The monarch himself attempted the ignominious task. The energy of the Abbot's reproving words inspired him with fear and horror. When attempting to invade the enclosure, he was met and driven back by those terrible words of the Saint : "If thou, sire, art, come hither to violate the discipline already established, or to destroy the dwellings of the servants of God, know that in heaven there is a just and avenging power; thy kingdom shall be taken from thee, and both thou and thy royal race shall be cut off and destroyed on the earth." It happened to Thierry and his race according to the Abbot's prophetic words. Courage failed the guilty king and he desisted; but satellites were not wanting to execute his will. Brunchilde, thirsting for vengeance, succeeded in bringing matters to this crisis. And the stormy scene she excited did not abate until St. Columbanus was banished first to Besancon, and then to Nantes on the western coast, whence it was intended to send him a prisoner to Ireland. His Irish monks were permitted to share in his banishment. Grief filled the hearts and tears the eyes of the other monks who were forced to remain behind. The scene was very touching; but St. Columbanus, as far as sympathetic words could effect, relieved the distress of his disciples. "God will be to you a father, and will reward you with mansions where the workers of sacrilege can never enter."

 Long was the way — a via dolorosa — from the neighbourhood of the Rhine to the port of Nantes. Ragamund, the captain of the guard, executed his commission with much severity. When at Auxerre, St. Columbanus uttered these prophetic words to Ragamund, who had spoken disparagingly of Clothaire, King of Soissons, on the north-west of Gaul: "Remember what I tell you. Clotharius, whom you now despise, will be your master in three years." At Nevers on the Loire, when embark- ing for Nantes, one of the guard struck a holy monk named Dua. Here again St. Columbanus uttered a true prophecy — the unfeeling soldier would be struck by God on the very spot where he had committed the wanton deed. On his return journey, the soldier found there a watery grave. Ragamund refused the citizens of Orleans the consolation of ministering to the servants of God, though provisions had now entirely failed them. But the designs of Providence are not to be frustrated. A Syrian woman, having met two of the monks in quest of supplies, became to them a good Samaritan. She invited them to her hospitable abode, and treated them with kindness and generosity. A stranger herself, but in easy circumstances, her sympathies were with those strangers in distress. " Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy."  The miraculous cure of her blind husband, at the prayer of St. Columbanus and his companions, amply rewarded her devotion to the saints. The report of this miracle brought to them large numbers of suffering humanity; and the captain of the guards, willing or not, was obliged to leave the people free in supplying St. Columbanus with the necessaries of life.

At the historic city of Tours, St. Columbanus was refused permission to visit the tomb of St. Martin. By the will of Heaven, however, it happened that the boatmen, unable to row away, were compelled to tarry there over night; and thus an opportunity was afforded the monks of satisfying their pious desires. The good Bishop of Tours, Leuparius by name, extended to them his kind hospitality, and wished them a prosperous voyage. They reached at length the ancient port of Nantes, at the mouth of the Loire. Providence willed this to be the termination of their weary pilgrimage. While some treated them here with coldness and desired to expedite their departure, two pious ladies, Procla and Dola, proved themselves veritable Veronicas. The monks were now embarked out in the harbour, and St. Columbanus was about to rejoin them by sailing down the river in a boat. But lo! a great storm arose: mighty waves rolled in: the ship was driven back ashore and stranded for three days; and the captain, divining the cause, liberated the monks, and was rewarded by the calming of the winds and the waves. St. Columbanus and his monks had yet work to do abroad, and Divine Providence would not permit their enemies to frustrate His purpose.

As the storm abated in the port, as soon as the monks disembarked, so the storm of persecution ceased, the one being a significant prelude to the other. They were prisoners no longer, and the guard offered them no further molestation. Their meekness and patience edified all, and the citizens of Nantes were indignant at the unworthy treatment they had experienced. They were now the victors, and the people rejoiced at being able to render them the services of charity. St. Columbanus, before leaving Nantes, sent written instructions to Attala, whom he had placed over the monks at the Vosges. He was to remain at his post; "but if,"the Saint adds, "you see danger, I mean danger of disunion, which may be caused by the Paschal question, you may come to me: "whence it appears that the Easter Computation was still a probable danger to the peace of the community near the Rhine.

The King of Soissons (or Neustria), Clothaire II., received St. Columbanus with joy and affection. He would have him and his monks establish themselves in his dominions, but this did not seem good to the Saint, whose face was set to other regions more in need of his apostolic labours. But St. Columbanus rendered Clothaire a service of much importance. By his advice, the King abstained from taking part in the dispute, which, at this juncture, disturbed the peace between the brothers Thierry and Theodebert, respecting the boundaries of their kingdoms; and he foretold, as afterwards fell out, that in three years Clothaire would be monarch of the whole of France. The King lent him an escort on his way through Paris and Meux to the dominions of Theodebert. At Paris he cured a man possessed by an evil spirit; and at Meux a generous nobleman, Chameric, took him under his own protection. St. Columbanus gave the nobleman's family his benediction, and devoted to God his youthful daughter, Brugundofora, who afterwards shone as a model of virtue. Though he drank of the cup of bitterness from the Rhine to the sea, his return journey was all a triumph, God vouchsafing to magnify His servant by many striking miracles.

After many vicissitudes of travel, St. Columbanus and his companions arrived in the kingdom of Theodebert. This monarch, always well-disposed, treated them with the utmost courtesy and hospitality. Several of the monks of Luxeuil had now rejoined their dear Abbot, and their arrival cheered his heart. Theodebert offered sites for new monasteries, held out various inducements to the servant of God to fix their abode in his realm. The Bishop of Metz was equally desirous for them to stay, and gave many proofs of his affections for the monks. But the Bishop failed to detain him at Metz, and as he was left free to make his own selection, he directed his steps to the lake region of South Germany, which was a portion of the dominions of Theodebert. Alzog summarises his journey up the Rhine in the following passage: "He ascended the Rhine from a point below Mayence, till he reached the lake of Zurich, made a short stay at Theergau and Arbou, and finally established himself at Bregenz, on the lake of Constance. His chief assistant in these missionary labours was another Irishman by the name of Gall, as daring and resolute as Columbanus himself, well educated and eloquent, and able to preach in the German as well as in the Latin language." The people at Lake Zurich, rude and impious pagans, raised a violent storm of persecution against the monks, and St. Columbanus, seeing that no good could be effected, departed from them. They had conspired to murder St. Gall, whose zeal promoted him to burn down their pagan temples and cast the offerings of idols into the lake. St. Columbanus was to be scourged and banished. The monks, having got notice of hostilities, escaped the hands of the infidels. At Arbon, Willimara, "a worthy priest," cheered them by his hospitality, and procured a boat and trusty rowers to convey them across the lake of Con- stance, to the pleasant valley where stood the old Roman town of Brigantium, now Bregenz, a frontier town of Austria on the lake. The situation was very picturesque at the mouth of the river Bregenz, where it enters the lake between the Swiss and Bavarian territories.

St. Columbanus reaped an abundant harvest on the shores of the beautiful lake of Constance. The people, that is, the ancient Suevi, were little better than those at Zurich, who sought the lives of the monks ; but the courage and address of our Saint disarmed opposition and won them to the Church. At Bregenz, he found an oratory dedicated to St. Aurelia, and also a temple now in the hands of the pagans, but originally Christian. On the walls of this temple were brass images, to which the people, some utter pagans and others lapsed Christians, used to point, saying: "These are our ancient gods and protectors." St. Gall preached with such fiery zeal that they allowed him to break their idols and cast them into the deep lake. Most of them were thoroughly converted. St. Columbanus purified the temple with prayer and holy water, anointed the altar, and, having deposited there the relics of St. Aurelia, celebrated Mass, to the great joy of the new converts. The solemn dedication of this church was an event of great importance, marking a new era of religious life at the lake of Constance. A miracle helped to win the hearts of the people and to bring about most happy results. Wodan was the false god of the Suevi, and to Wodan they were about to make an offering of beer, when St. Columbanus, breathing on the vessel, caused it to be smashed in pieces and the contents to be scattered on the ground. The thirsty god had to do without his beer that day and ever after. "The barbarians were surprised and said he had a strong breath."

 The new monastic institution at Bregenz continued to flourish and grow in usefulness under the rule and guidance of St. Columbanus. Here the Saint would have gladly remained, had not an untoward event decided otherwise. In 612, his friend and benefactor, Theodebert, having suffered defeat first at Toul and next at Tolbiac, was made prisoner at Cologne by his brother Thierry; and at the instigation of the vindictive Brunehilde, her grandson was cruelly put to death. The kingdom of Austrasia, which was Theodebert's, having fallen thus into the hands of Thierry, St. Columbanus resolved to seek safety in flight.

The relentless enemies who banished him and his Irish monks from the sweet solitude of the Vosges, would not fail to banish them from their new abode at Constance also, and from whatever place St. Columbanus might select in their dominions. Old as he now was, and greatly enfeebled in health, he resolved to cross the Alps and extend the sphere of his usefulness to the classic land of Italy. It so happened that St. Gall, his most zealous assistant, was unable to accompany his beloved master owing to a violent fever. Divine Providence had other work for St. Gall amidst the mountains of Switzerland. St. Columbanus saw in this malady an indication of the will of God in his regard, and accordingly he offered no opposition to his remaining behind. The city of St. Gall and a province of the same name, commemorate to this day the labours and the virtues of that great man, who founded the illustrious monastery of St. Gall, and did so much for the propagation of the faith.

In 612, St. Columbanus crossed the Alps and reached the historic city of Milan, the capital of Lombardy. At that time, Agilulf and his virtuous Queen, Theodelinda by name, held their Court at Milan. Devoted children of the Church, the King and Queen rejoiced at the arrival of St. Columbanus and his monks; and the good King of the Lombards offered St. Columbanus his choice of sites to found a Monastery. It was the monarches pleasure that the servants of God should settle wherever they deemed fit. The abbot Jonas, biographer of our Saint, mentions that while at Milan, he confuted the Arians in a very learned tract, which is not extant. From Milan also he wrote his celebrated letter to Pope Boniface IV., and this he did at the urgent request of King Agilulf, who hoped that the Pope might take such action as would confound the heretics of his kingdom, and restore to the Church the peace which they had violently disturbed. " An extract from the letter in question will show how strongly St. Columbanus felt and wrote on the doctrine of Papal Supremacy, and that the faith of the Irish people, and the opening of the seventh century, was the same as that of their posterity at the close of the nineteenth. It runs as follows: "For we, Irish, are disciples of St. Peter and St. Paul, and of all the divinely-inspired canonical writers, adhering constantly to the evangelical and apostolical doctrine. Among us neither Jew, heretic, nor schismatic can be found; but the Catholic faith, entire and unshaken, precisely as we have received it from you, who are the successors of the Apostles. For, as I have already said, we are attached to the Chair of St Peter; and although Rome is great and renowned, yet with us it is great and distinguished only on account of that apostolic chair. Through the two Apostles of Jesus Christ, ye are almost celestial, and Rome is the head of the Churches of the world." Splendid testimony of the faith of our ancestors and of their unshaken fidelity to the See of Peter, from which St. Patrick derived his authority and came to our shores with the benediction of a holy Pope.

In other parts of the famous document referred to, St Columbanus designates the Popes "their Lords and Fathers in Christ;" and "the first Pastors set higher than all mortals;" and again, "the most beautiful Heads of all the Churches of the whole of Europe." He is profuse in the titles and encomiums he bestows on the Apostolic See and its occupants. The Popes are "the Princes of the Leaders;" "the Steersmen and the Pilots of the Spiritual Vessel;" and "no one is to discuss with Rome." "The Pontiffs give the bread of doctrine to those who seek it;" and "the Irish are bound to the Chair of Peter." Elsewhere he tells why Rome is great among the Irish: it is "through this Chair." The Irish " are the servants, scholars, and children of the Popes." "The principal seat of orthodoxy and the head of the Churches of all the world," behold what he calls Rome. These and many other vigorous expressions St. Columbanus employs to show the faith of the Irish in the Papal Supremacy, and with a view to rouse the Pope to greater zeal against the heretics and schismatics. Because the Vicar of Christ was higher than all mortals, he should raise his voice like a trumpet, in order to protect the flock and confound the enemies of the Church. "You are the Prince of the Leaders, and have to endure the perils of the whole of the Lord's army — therefore I strive to stir thee up." Here we have a monk coming forward as the adviser of the head of the Church, and urging him to action. St. Bernard and St. Peter Damian in later periods, and Cardinal Miccara, acted similarly, respecting the Popes of their times. Men of wisdom and holiness of life have used strong but respectful language to the Holy See, when occasion required. So with St. Columbanus, whose heart was ever in Rome and in the interests of holy faith. The heretics and schismatics of that day he would have quickly condemned; and the pretended union they affected with Rome he repelled with all his orthodox soul. "Let the cause of schism be immediately cut off with the sword of St. Peter, that is, by a true confession of the faith in a synod, and the detestation and anathematisation of all heretics." The great and high-souled Abbott is fired to indignation because the heretics had aspersed the character of Boniface, and therefore he urges him to have them condemned in a Synod, and thereby to prove that their heresy precludes the possibility of union with Rome. "The Roman Church," he writes, "admits to its communion none who impugn the Catholic faith" words as true today as when they came from the heart and the pen of St. Columbanus — words whose import all non-Catholics would do well to study.

At the time when St. Columbanus came to Lombardy, the North of Italy was in a state of great agitation relative to the affair of the "Three Chapters " or writings condemned in the East. The famous Three Chapters were publications which favoured the heresy of the Nestorians, who sought to undermine the belief in the mystery of the Incarnation; and were the productions of three Oriental bishops, Theodoret of Cyrus, Ibas of Edessa, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. At the General Council of Chalcedon, celebrated in 451, the authors of these mischievous writings retracted their errors, by making a profession of Catholic faith. Later on. Pope Vigilius, in hope of promoting peace, condemned the Three Chapters himself, with this reservation: "In accordance with the authority of the Council of Chalcedon." But this did not restore peace, and another General Council, that of Constantinople, convened in 550, opened the whole question afresh and condemned the Three Chapters. Though the action of this Council established comparative tranquillity in the East, there still prevailed considerable commotion in Africa and Italy. The want of more frequent communication with the East and ignorance of its language caused the question to be misunderstood in Italy. Alban Butler, in his life of St. Columbanus, remarks that "Pope Gregory the Great tolerated the conduct of those in the West, chiefly in Lombardy, who, upon mistakes concerning facts which passed in the East, defended the Three Chapters, but did not on that account break off communion, till they could be better informed, as their faith was in all respects orthodox." St. Columbanus deeply felt the unsatisfactory position of affairs and hence his letter to Pope Boniface IV.,  in which "the author expresses great zeal for the honour of the Roman See, and professes himself inviolably attached to it." The Saint may be taken as a type of the race from which he sprang; for, "the Irish, though far removed from other nations, excelled all their neighbours by the fervour of their faith."

Their attachment to the Holy See, then, as ever since, corresponded with "the fervour of their faith." In 610, St. Columbanus foretold that Thierry and his race would "be cut off and destroyed on the earth;" and he also predicted that, in three years, Clothaire, king of the small territory of Soissons, would become monarch of all France. Let us see how these two predictions were verified. In 612, by the defeat and assassination of his brother Theodebert, Thierry became ruler of the whole nation, except Soissons. That portion, too, he coveted; but in 613 he died at Metz, when on the point of waging war with Clothaire, who, thereupon became sovereign of the whole French monarchy. As for the illegitimate offspring of Thierry, some were put to death, while others fled, no more to appear on the scene of political action. As for the old sinner, Brunchilde or Brunhant, the cause of many wars and misfortunes to France, she was found guilty of putting to death several Kings, besides the saintly Desiderius, Bishop of Vienna, because he had reproved her public scandals; and according to Alban Butler, "she was put to the rack for three days, and afterwards dragged to death, being tied to the tail of a wild mare."

Now firmly established on the French throne, and seeing the prophecies literally fulfilled, Clothaire became most anxious for the return of St. Columbanus. Eustasius, Abbot of Luxeuil, was dispatched as ambassador to invite the man of God to the Court. This was in 614. The Saint excused himself on the plea of age and infirmities, but sent messages of wisdom to the King, and instructions for the government of the institutions he had founded on French soil. Never had he coveted worldly honours; much less had they any charms for him now. "St. Columbanus from Ireland sung the shame and folly of avarice." Of him might it well be said:

Full of zeal and faith, esteemed light
All worldly honour, empire, treasure, might.

 At Bobbio it was that Eustasius delivered the royal message to St. Columbanus. Bovium, or Bobbio, a site at once romantic and retired, lies in a deep gorge of the Apennines, between Genoa and Milan, but nearer to the former city. Agilulf, the Lombard King, bestowed on him this picturesque site as his choice, and here, on the banks of the rapid Trebia, he founded, in 613, one of the most celebrated monasteries of Christendom. An old church, dedicated to St. Peter, and sadly in need of repairs, he found in the wild but beautiful gorge. This he caused to be renovated, and by its side he laid the foundation of the great Abbey. Bobbio has to-day a Cathedral Church and episcopal palace, and a population of about 4,000 souls. But St. Columbanus, sighing for complete solitude, built himself a little oratory, apart from the Church, and in the cavern of a large rock. This became to him a kind of Bethlehem, and he dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin. In this secluded dwelling he spent the residue of his days in the practice of prayer and mortification, and close communion with his God. Remembering that "man shall go into the house of his eternity," he shut himself in from the world and found in his sweet grotto that deep repose which he loved so well, and in which he employed all his time in preparing his soul to meet the great Judge. Others he had served during many long years, and now he felt the force of the great truth —

What to thee is other's good.
 If thou neglect thy own ?

 And so, in his lonely grotto, he resolved

To finish the short pilgrimage of life,
Still speeding to its close on restless wing.

 In this beloved retirement he closed a most eventful and brilliant career on the 21st of November, A.D. 615, about three years after he had left Bregentz on the lake of Constance. His sacred remains found an honoured resting place at Bobbio, where, with some of his companions, he lies buried in the crypt of the Cathedral. Jonas mentions that many miracles were performed at his tomb, and Jonas, first and chief among his biographers, published his life in 650.

The town of San Columbano, in Northern Italy, derives its name from our Saint, and he is honoured in many churches in France, Italy, and other countries. St. Columbanus was chief among the long roll of Irish saints and missionaries, who in the French, German, and Helvetian nations converted various tribes, founded numerous churches and monasteries, subdued wild forest and desert places to the use of man, and gave an impetus to religion, science, and civilization. "The breviary of the French Benedictines styles him one of the chief patriarchs of the monastic institute, especially in France, where many of the principal monasteries followed his rule, till, in the reign of Charlemagne, for the sake of uniformity, they all received that of St. Benedict."  How impressive is the beautiful story of his grand life! how serene the death of so great a servant of God! and how glorious a reward awaited him in Paradise! Trials, contradictions, and persecutions he endured in life; but "the God of all consolation," in Whose service he persevered to the end, enabled him to convert tribulations into blessings. Internal joy accompanies the patient endurance of afflictions, and Providence has ordained that those who suffer with Christ 'here shall reign with Him hereafter. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy," (Ps. cxxv. 5).

St. Columbanus was the author of various tracts and poems of a high degree of merit. He was endowed with a genius unusually rich, and he had stored his capacious mind with every branch of learning, sacred and secular. His writings manifest an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures and the early Fathers, with the classical learning of Rome and Greece. His knowledge was acquired ere his departure from Ireland, and chiefly in the great school of Bangor, under his beloved master, St. Comgall. He went out in middle age, ripe in years and wisdom and elegant acquirements, to begin a life of wonderful activity and usefulness. Cave and Dupin, quoted by Ledwick, speak of St. Columbanus as of primitive simplicity and ancient virtue . . . Dupin, who carefully examined, and with ability epitomized his works, declares they are written with wisdom and eloquence, and with a profound knowledge of ecclesiastical history: they are judicious, witty, and learned. The holy and austere life of St. Columbanus; the miracles he performed; the prophecies he uttered; his writings, remarkable for breadth and holiness of thought; his famous Rule, which is full of wisdom and spiritual instruction; and his great school declared to be the first monastic establishment in the Gauls, — all tended powerfully to influence many parts of the Continent, and especially France. The zeal and courage wherewith he reproved vice, even in high places, was characteristic of a true reformer of morals, of a brave champion of Christianity. Persecution he suffered from a depraved Court, banishment, too, from his dear monasteries amid the Vosges; — persecution from the barbarous tribes of Helvetia. What more natural for a faithful and intrepid follower of a crucified Master? "If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you," says the great Master of the school of affliction. But our Divine Lord, Who overcame the world, encourages His servants to "have confidence," and their "distress," after "a little while," shall be changed into everlasting joy.

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