St. Columcille (Columba) 521 – 597

This is a child page of Clonskeagh Parish Shrines


Around the same time that St. Patrick was taken to Ireland as a slave, Columcille was born in Gartan, Co. Donegal. He came from a race of kings who had ruled in Ireland for six centuries and was himself in close succession to the throne. At an early age, he was given in fosterage to a priest. After studying at Moville under Saint Finnian and then at Clonard with another Saint Finnian, he surrendered his princely claims, became a monk at Glasnevin under Mobhi, and was ordained.

He spent the next 15 years preaching and teaching in Ireland. By the time he was 25, he had founded no less than 27 Irish monasteries, including those at Derry, Durrow and Kells. Even though he loved Ireland with all of his heart, Columcille made the profound decision to become an exile. In 563, he and 12 companions crossed the Irish Sea in a coracle, which is similar to a curragh, and landed on a deserted island now known as Iona (Holy Island). It was here, on this tiny isle off the coast of Scotland, that he began his work. Eventually, Iona became the heart of Celtic Christianity and its existence was one of the strongest influences in the conversion of the Picts, Scots, and Northern English.

It is clear that Columcille's temperament changed dramatically during his life. Although his name means "dove", in his early years, he had a quick temper and was extremely stern with his monks; gradually, he softened and later in life, he was as gentle toward them as he had always been with children and animals. Columcille had great qualities, but ultimately, his chief virtue lay in the conquest of his own passionate nature and in the love and sympathy that flowed from his eager and radiant spirit.

Alone with none but You,
my God, I journey on my way;
What need I fear when You are near,
Oh King of night and day?
More safe am I within Your hand
Than if a host did round me stand.

(Attributed to Saint Columcille)


St. Columcille, you were given a grace to conquer your ill-nature, help us to do likewise so that those we meet can recognise Christ in us and be transformed. We ask your intercession for missionaries and for those who for various reasons need to leave their native lands, may they be protected from all harm and find nourishment and strength in Christ. Amen.