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Colum Cille (30)

And this great favour also was conferred by God on that man of blessed memory, that, although he lived in this small and remote island of the Britannic ocean, he merited that his name should not only be illustriously renowned throughout our Ireland, and throughout Britain, the greatest of all the islands of the whole world; but that it should reach even as far as three-cornered Spain, and Gaul, and Italy situated beyond the Pennine Alps; also the Roman city itself, which is chief  of all cities. So great and high honour and fame is known to have been bestowed upon that saint, among the other gifts of divine granting, by God, who loves those that love him, and, more and more glorifying those that magnify him with savoury praises, elevates them with boundless honours. And he is blessed through the ages. Amen.

  - Adomnán, Life of Columba[1]

And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 - Acts 1.8

For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

 - 2 Corinthians 4.15

Colum Cille died in 597, peacefully and in glory on the island to which he had been exiled as a younger man. He spent most of his life in study, teaching, and evangelizing the lost, all within a close circuit from his home base on Iona. He did not himself venture afar—like Brendan or Columbanus—but he invested in the lives of others, giving them a vision for the coming of the Kingdom and the great need of the world for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Colum knew the compass of his Personal Mission Field, and he worked that field diligently to his final moments of life. The result was a legacy that reached far beyond Iona and the 6th century to Ireland, Britain, Spain, Gaul (France), and Italy in less than 100 years.

Colum’s was a legacy of example. He lived by faith and believed God for the impossible. From the time of his exile he lived a life of increasing holiness. The surviving stories, passed down to Adomnán and descendants of Colum’s Irish family, give a consistent picture of one who understood that full and abundant and joyful and powerful life is life is to be known only in Christ, in a life of obedience and glad submission to His Word. Colum was a “blessed” man, a “holy” man, and a saint to all who knew him.

His was a legacy of discipleship. Those like Colmán, who went from Iona and founded the monastery of Ela in Ireland and Aidan, who went from Iona to the east coast of Scotland and founded Lindisfarne, and the countless missionaries and monks who disbursed from Ireland to far parts, took with them the Jesus-seeking life of discipline, solitude, hard work, service, and witness which they learned from Colum and those he trained.

His was also a legacy of the written word. Even though we have very little of what must have been a considerable literary and spiritual corpus, what we do have reveals a visionary mind, a devoted heart, a keen sense of the Presence and help of the Lord, a love for creation, and an insight to the world of beauty and truth which continues ministering to this day.

And he left us a legacy of ministry—that is, of service, of giving himself daily to the Lord and then to any he might encounter along his path—whether a brother in his order, a stranger along the way, a friend in need of counsel, or a weeping and weary horse. Colum was filled with Jesus because he emptied himself of Colum. Filled with Jesus, guided by His Word, and empowered by His Spirit, Colum spread the grace of God wherever he went, such that many were saved, many others were healed, and much evil was driven out wherever he went to serve.

Colum’s word to us is Paul’s to the Corinthians: “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4.16-18).

Whether we think about it or not, we are building a legacy, right where we are, in the work we do in our Personal Mission Field. The question is not whether, but what? What kind of legacy will we leave to the generations that follow? How far will the grace of Jesus spread, provoking praise and thanks to God for our faithfulness?

May God be pleased to use Colum’s example to spur us on in our own callings and ministries.

For Reflection
1. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from this study of Colum Cille?

2. How has his example affected the way you work your Personal Mission Field?

Psalm 111.1-3 (Manoah: When All Your Mercies, O My God)
Praise the LORD! O let my heart give thanks here amid His chosen race!
Your works are great, O LORD, and sought by all who know Your grace.

For Your work is full of splendor, LORD, and of majesty most pure;
Your righteousness, O glorious God, forever will endure!

Thank You, Lord, for the example of Colum Cille. Help me to follow him in how he followed You, so that I…

Bring some joy to your world

We are appointed, like Colum, to bring the joy of the Gospel to our world. Our book, Joy to Your World!, can help you understand how to fulfill this calling day by day. Order your copy by clicking here.

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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.


[1] Adomnán, pp. 233, 235.

T.M. Moore

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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