It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem...
- Micah 4.1, 2
Here then the excellent man began to build a monastery. 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 sufficient room. The children of the nobles from all directions strove to come thither; despising the trappings of the world and the pomp of present wealth, they sought eternal rewards.
- The Monk Jonas, Life of St. Columban (Italian, 7th century)
The churches in Gaul early in the 7th century were reflections of the decrepit culture around them. Compromise with the world was everywhere the norm, and scarcely one priest in a hundred cared for anything more than keeping his flock and his stipend.
The young people of Gaul wanted nothing to do with the church or Christianity. They had begun to seek their meaning and fulfillment in more worldly occupations.
Then Columbanus arrived and built a monastery at Luxeuil. What he and his fellow monks undertook in that place became a magnet for young people from all over Gaul. Here they saw something really meaningful, really worthwhile - something they wanted to give their lives to, as if they had been seeking this all along.
And what did they see at Luxeuil?
Men devoted to prayer, study, work, loving one another, evangelism, teaching the illiterate, caring for prisoners and the poor, lovers of learning and of the creation. Men who spoke boldly to kings and bishops alike about the reprehensible condition of their lives, courts, and churches. Men who loved the Word of God and taught it with passion. Men who lived by the Law of God and the strict discipline of a community rule of life. Men who denied themselves in order to serve God and others.
Luxeuil became the chief religious center in Gaul in a very short time, and young people streamed up to it from all over the land. They had been seeking something more than the frivolous, compromised, undemanding life of faith held out by the churches of the day. And they found what they were seeking in Luxeuil.
"Seeker-friendly" means something completely different in our day: Low demands, all fun and fellowship and holding hands, downplaying of doctrine and sin and repentance, a place for everyone to make friends and find a home.
Exactly the kind of churches Columbanus railed against and the young people of Gaul fled in droves.
Will we ever get this right?
T. M. Moore, Principal