Saturday, June 9, 2007
+ St. Columba of Iona +
When people think of the evangelization work of the Irish, they inevitably think of St. Patrick, a once enslaved British youth who returned to his former captors to bring the Gospel. However, another equally significant figure in Irish evangelistic efforts is the Irish missionary of the Early Middle Ages known as Columba of Iona (521-597). Columba was instrumental in introducing the Gospel to the ancient kingdom of the Picts, a confederation of tribes that eventually became Scotland.
Columba, also credited with revitalizing monasticism in his era, turned a base for contemplation into a base for missions, using the island of Iona to spearhead efforts to plant churches and spread the Good News of Christ throughout the land of Scotland.
As a Scotch-Irish descendant of the Macauleys, I appreciate the dedication and hard work of this tireless missionary to a people that were not his own. Knowing that the Picts were often a formidable foe of the Romans, it must have taken great courage to work with these pagan warriors. My forefathers were able to hear and believe, in part, because this man heard the call to go and make disciples of all nations.
To all who still labor as missionaries, whether to distant exotic lands or to the unbelieving neighbor next door, a blessed St. Columba day (he died on June 9)! May his example inspire the church anew to faithful missionary work in every generation.
[P.S. Saints Boniface and Columba represent a fascinating era of missionary work in the Early Middle Ages where Europe and the British Isles were first evangelized. Does anyone know of a readable history of missions from this era that concentrates on mission work to Europe and Britain?]