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|Missionary Sisters of St Columban|
By Fr Ray Scanlon
Until I did the pilgrimage I did not know much about St Columban. To me he was a mythical figure of ages long ago, one who was not so human and who had extraordinary powers, superhuman ideals and expectations.
As we travelled in St Columban’s footsteps we heard a number of accounts about his life. I began to understand and admire him. He became alive and real rather than a distant historical figure.
At the beginning of the pilgrimage our leader, Fr Derry Healy, said, ‘We are a group of lay people, sisters and priests hoping to be touched by the people, places and cultures where St Columban traveled, setting up schools and monastic communities at the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh centuries’.
The highlight of the pilgrimage was offering Mass with my classmate, Fr Brian Gore, on the occasion of our 40th anniversary of ordination. We celebrated beside St Columban’s tomb in the crypt of the basilica in Bobbio, Italy. I felt feelings of gratitude to God, to my family, Columbans, the people of Korea, the benefactors of our mission Society and to St Columban himself.
Through the pilgrimage I have come to know St Columban as someone I could pray to in a personal way.
Basilica of St Columban, Bobbio, Italy. The basilica was built between 1462 and 1522.
I was surprised at the way the people of Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy remember and revere St Columban today. His name is everywhere - mountains, streets, towns, churches, orchestras and businesses. Even the dry-cleaning shop and a lingerie boutique in Luxeuil near his former monastery are named after him. There are groups of people in these countries such as Les Amis de St Columban (The Friends of St Columban) in Luxeuil, in Baden-Baden (Germany), Olivone (Switzerland), in Bregenz (Austria), and in several towns in Italy, who keep his memory and his spirit alive.
We traveled by bus and a few on foot. St Columban did most of his traveling by foot and during his life covered amazing distances. He also traveled by boat; his original journey was by sea from Ireland to mainland Europe, down the Loire River in present day France and later by the Rhine to Austria. He was 70 years of age when he walked across the Alps into Italy.
We found that St Columban had a strong relationship with nature. He regularly walked up mountains to spend time in prayer and reflection there. Images show him with a sun on his breast and a dove on his shoulder. Scholars today still research the influence he may have had on St Francis of Assisi.
St Columban, Bristol Rhode Island
Young men flocked to receive an education from St Columban who was highly educated. The rule he wrote for his monasteries was notorious for its severity, particularly the acts of penitence imposed for infractions.
One of the valuable teachings that appealed to me is the link between love and respect for the Eucharist - with the practice of love and respect for one’s brothers and sisters.
We are truly blessed to have St Columban as our patron, our model.
Crypt of St Columban, Bobbio
Fr Ray Scanlon worked in the priestly formation of Columban students in Korea and the USA. He now resides at St Columban’s, Essendon, Victoria, Australia.