St Adamnan

Abbot of Iona (entered heaven in 704)

Dear Adam,

Your last note truly shocked me.  Don’t get me wrong, I am only too glad to send you answers to questions about the faith (please see the attachment for an article on the Crusades which will supply you with answers to all your queries), but I can’t help wondering why you have to come to me for such answers.  Never before in the history of the world has information been so readily available, and yet you have to email your poor uncle who is imprisoned on the other side of the world in order to dig up a bit of history.  The smallest towns in America have vast libraries; universities like yours have even vaster libraries; the Internet brings still vaster collections into your own tiny little dorm room, and you have to resort to Uncle Eddy to find out why the Crusades don’t disprove Christ’s divinity.  I smell a crisis here.  It’s as if there’s a mountain of foodstuffs in our backyard and we go begging for lunch down the street.

Back in today’s saint’s times a book was worth a fortune, and a great book was worth a mint.  The thirst for knowledge (especially about theology and the Church) was strong and healthy, but the sources were scarce.  Wars were fought over books, believe it or not, and when you got your hands on one you made sure to read it and relish it, because you never knew when you’d get your paws on another.  St Adamnan loved books, because they could so easily lift a soul up to God.  He had a special love for the Sacred Scriptures, which he and his monks copied and illustrated with heartfelt devotion.  He himself wrote a biography of his fellow countryman and predecessor as abbot (and founder) of the famous monastery in Iona (Scotland), St Columba, a book that inspired generation after generation of Irish and Scottish saints.  He also committed to writing the tales of a shipwrecked Frenchman who got washed up on Ionian shores upon his return from pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  It was the only source of information about Palestine for centuries of Irish and Scottish Catholics.  His love for books was coupled with a love for prayer and a gift for diplomacy.  He traveled widely during his tenure as abbot, in order to resolve disputes between rival kings and rival Christian factions, such that he was described as “a great lover of peace and unity” by one of his biographers.

In the incomparable tradition of Irish Catholicism, holiness and scholarship have always gone together, would that the same could be said of our own homeland!  We are too lazy to look beyond facile headlines to resolve our doubts and questions!  Shame on us.  May God forgive us for taking for granted the immense resources at our disposal, and may he kindle in us a deeper sense of responsibility for knowing what we believe, so we can help others believe it too.


Uncle Eddy

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