Columban, known also as Columbanus and Colombán was born in Leinster, Ireland in 543, he became a monk in Bangor under Abbot Comgall. Around the age of 45, he left his homeland with a group of companions to continue his missionary journey as a Pilgrim for Christ across continental Europe. He ended his earthly pilgrimage in Bobbio in Northern Italy in 615. A founder of monasteries and communities, healer, prophet, and missionary, he has inspired people throughout the centuries to focus on their life’s journey and embrace the call to follow Christ.
In late middle age, he felt called to leave his monastery in Bangor and sailed with twelve companions into the unknown, never to return. He had a twofold reason for going: to forego the pleasures of home, to leave Ireland and never return, making this sacrifice out of love of God; and secondly to spread the Gospel.
He became a migrant in Europe and experienced everything that meant getting to know another culture that was not his own. He had to make inroads into the social and political structures of places like Luxeuil, Bregenz and Bobbio and negotiate his welcome. He had to become familiar with the practice of local Kings, the local church and bishops. Often he was not made welcome and he was seen as a stranger.
Columban’s tremendous love and respect for nature were reflected in the beautiful places chosen for his monasteries. While the monks lived off the land, rivers and seas, they did not devastate the forests, nor did they deplete the rivers of fish. They befriended the wilderness and even made friends with the wild beasts and animals. They were the precursors of St. Francis and his love for nature, and call us to a new respect for ecology.
As Columban journeyed from place to place across Europe, he was dedicated to living and spreading the Gospel. He was wrapped up in the mystery of the God. His encounter with God was in the quiet places and his church was the cave on the hillside outside villages and towns. We hope the steps of this walk will give us a sense of what Columban was about and an inspiration to continue the mission. This is a mission that is grounded in our particular reality and in the soil that we trod. It is a mission that recognises the presence of God in our midst, who speaks to us in the telling of our story, who connects with us through those with whom we live and who touches us through people we meet along the road.