The Way of Columba

St. Columba (529-597), also known as Columcille (Irish for “Church Dove”) was a 2nd generation Irish Christian following in the footsteps of St. Patrick, by leaving his homeland of Ireland (Patrick left his homeland of Britain to go to Ireland as a missionary). Columba led a mission team of Irish monks to what is now Scotland, setting up his mission base on the Island of Iona, from which he brought the Light of the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people and clans of Scotland. He wrote and lived by a daily “rule of life”, a list of guidelines for daily spiritual living together in Christ. Today we might call this a “constitution” or a “mission/purpose statement”. I found the document below in Ray Simpson’s book, A Pilgrim Way: New Celtic monasticism for everyday people (Kevin Mayhew, Ltd., 2005), 244-245. This “rule of life” is from the 8th or 9th century expressing “the spirit of Columba” who lived several centuries earlier. Something like this rule of life is what Aidan and Cuthbert lived daily in their shared life in Christ on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in the 7th century. NOTE: beginning tomorrow, Monday, August 24th, I’ll be taking a guided retreat on the Holy Island from Ray Simpson on the life of Aidan, who lived according to these 25 spiritual principles known as “the way of Columba”:

  1. Solitude: If your conscience leads you to keep away from crowds, be alone in a separate place near a major city.
  2. Imitation of Christ: Always have a naked spirit in imitation of Christ and the Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
  3. Accountability: Put whatever little possessions you have at the disposal of your senior (soul-friend).
  4. Boundaries: Make sure your dwelling is enclosed and has one door.
  5. Bible Study: Invite several members of your nearest monastery to study the Bible with you on Christian festivals.
  6. Speech: Refuse entry to those who want to gossip or talk about trivia; send them on their way with a blessing if appropriate.
  7. Help: Choose as your helper someone who is discreet, spiritually minded and always ready to oblige, though do not over-work them.
  8. Guidance: Willingly carry out any guidance given to you which fosters devotion.
  9. Martyrdom: Have a mind prepared for red martyrdom (willingness to die for Christ); have a mind fortified and steadfast for white martyrdom (dying to self to live more fully for Christ).
  10. Forgiving: Extend forgiveness from the heart for everyone.
  11. Praying: Offer constant prayers for those who trouble you.
  12. Honoring: Have fervor in singing the order of prayer for the dead, as if every deceased faithful believer was a particular friend of yours.
  13. Singing: Stand up when you sing hymns in honor of departed souls.
  14. Vigils: Let your vigils be constant, from evening to evening, and under the direction of another person.
  15. Three Daily Labors: the three labours in the day – prayers, work, and reading.
  16. Working: Divide your work into three parts. 1) The work that needs to be done in your own place; 2) the work of your brother; 3) helping your neighbors in practical ways such as making clothes and study.
  17. Ordering: Do everything in proper order.
  18. Giving: Give money or goods to others as your first priority.
  19. Eating: Do not eat until your are hungry.
  20. Sleeping: Do not sleep until your are tired.
  21. Generosity: If you are given something, such as food or clothing, give something to someone who needs it.
  22. Love God: Love God with all your heart and strength.
  23. Love neighbor: Love your neighbor as yourself.
  24. Living by Scripture: Live in the Old and New Testaments at all times.
  25. Tears and Sweat: You will know that you are really praying or working if tears come; or, if tears don’t come freely, if you perspire.