At the news of this, people streamed in from all directions in order to consecrate themselves to the practice of religion, so that the large number of monks scarcely had room. The children of the nobles from all directions strove to come thither; despising the spurned trappings of the world and the pomp of present wealth, they sough eternal rewards.
- Jonas, Life of St. Columban
With countless chances the seasons of life roll on.
All things pass, the months revolve on years;
At every moment age glides to senility.
That you may lawfully apprehend the life eternal,
Now spurn the sweet deceits of transitory life…
A life devoted to vain cares knows not how to keep measure.
- Columbanus, “Verses to Hunaldus”
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
Thatthe mountain of the LORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.
Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
And rebuke strong nations afar off…
- Micah 4.1-3
Young people from all over Gaul made their way to Annegray. They were under no illusion about what they would find there. Meager provisions. Hard physical work. Reading and study. Rigorous spiritual disciplines. Not the easy life many of them had known as children of nobility, or many had hoped for as children of peasants.
But they saw something in that community of monks, in the joy of their collaborations, the reality and intensity of their devotions, their camaraderie, sense of mission, generosity, holiness, and dedication. These monks had found something to live and die for, and the multitudes who streamed into Annegray wanted that life for themselves. So many came to Columbanus to join his community, that a second foundation had to be started at Luxueil, then a third at Fontana.
Here was Micah’s prophesy coming to fulfillment. The more Columbanus and his monks went among the people of Gaul, preaching and ministering and leading people to Jesus, the more young people from all over the country streamed into their monasteries. They weren’t looking for friends and fun; they did not expect to be entertained or coddled. They knew what they were in for, and they determined to be in for it for life.
In our day, we do not consider the model presented by Columbanus as viable. We seldom venture out among the lost and needy, to preach, heal, pray, teach, and mend. When we’re not at church, we tend to keep our faith to ourselves, and try to fit in as best we can with the people around us. We’re happy to help folks if they find their way to our church, as long as all they’re looking for is an exciting worship service and some group activity where they can make friends. But as for offering them a life of dying to the world and self and taking up the cross of Jesus in service to others, well, we don’t have much of that to offer.
“But our churches are growing. People like our lively worship services. All my friends go to my church.”
That may be true, but does it have anything to do with growing in Jesus, living out His Law in our Personal Mission Fields, calling others to repentance and faith, exercising the judgment of God in all aspects of our lives, and turning our world rightside-up for the Kingdom of our Lord?
The young people who streamed up to Columbanus and his monks weren’t looking for something to live for. They were looking for something to die for. For all who came to Columbanus, it cost setting aside their old way of life to follow Jesus as His witnesses. For some of them, it did cost their lives in blood, as martyrs for the Savior.
What is the cost of your discipleship?
Psalm 84.1-4 (Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
Lord of hosts, how sweet Your dwelling;
How my soul longs for Your courts!
Let my soul with joy keep telling
Of Your grace forever more.
Like a bird upon the altar
Let my life to You belong.
Blessed are they who never falter
As they praise Your grace with song!
Take my life today, Lord, as a living sacrifice, so that…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- T.M. Moore
- December 11, 2018
They came in multitudes, looking for something to die for.
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.