St Columba

Abbot of Iona (Scotland) (entered heaven in 597)

Dear Colin,

If God has given you a quick temper, it must be for a reason, so I’ll not stand for your whining.  Some horses are good for slow and steady work, which is necessary for prosperity. Other horses would go insane behind a plough; these are made for swift and long journeys, for the heat of battle or the speed of a midnight ride to freedom.  What a fool one horse would be if it wished to be the other! And what a fool you are to squander your energy complaining that you’re too energetic! Instead, you should form your character, learning to channel your strong passions and volcanic temper into determined efforts to make yourself into a saint.  The warrior’s steed will do him no good if it hasn’t learned to obey its bridle, just so with your warrior’s temperament.

You ought to build a friendship with today’s saint, learning from his example and asking him for his intercession.  Columba was of noble Irish extraction and spent his childhood and youth receiving the incomparable education of the monastic and bard schools of sixth century Ireland.  He was part of the gushing stream of scholars and saints who poured out of that Island like smoke out of a chimney, much to the benefit of European and Christian civilization.  He was a massive man, athletic, striking in appearance, and had a voice like thunder (they say he could be heard a mile away when he wanted to). When he was twenty-five he began a 15-year stint as an itinerant preacher, making converts, encouraging the faithful, and founding monasteries wherever there wasn’t one.  He loved books, as did all the great saints of the time. He copied one without permission and was forced by the king to return it to the owner of the original. This same king later unlawfully executed one of Columba’s relatives, to which the saint responded by instigating a bit of a war, which resulted in the death of 3000 men.  His penance was exile from Ireland and the conversion of as many men as had died in the battle. He fulfilled his penance, founding a monastery on the Scottish Island of Iona, whence he and his companions evangelized all of Scotland, Northern England, and many parts of Ireland. As he grew older, his fame spread far and wide, and his monks did too, bringing the true faith everywhere they went.  Personally, he grew milder in his treatment of others, though he never ceased his own strict self-discipline, and Christians flocked to his island cell in order to be healed in body and in the soul.

Columba is the kind of saint you ought to keep in your sights: he could just as easily start a war and conquer a kingdom as start a monastery and spread The Kingdom – may his prayers lead your temper to its proper arena.

God bless, Uncle Eddy

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  1. According to Amazon, No: The author, Blessed Columba Marmion, for the book you mention, “Christ the Life of the Soul,” was born in Ireland in 1858 and became Abbot of Maredsous Abbey, Belgium. He is one of the great spiritual masters of the 20th century. His conferences and books have influenced popes, cardinals, priests, monks, and laity alike.

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