Words and pictures fail to express the joy and amazement we experienced at Bobbio. Eight of us Columban Sisters : Patricia McGuinness, Mary McGuinness, Bridie Lough, Susan Keating, Mary Greaney, Nora Mary O’Driscoll, Martina Kim and Eileen Rabbitte made a historic pilgrimage to Bobbio, from April 14 to 17, 2015. Columban Fr. Pat Raleigh accompanied us hence we had Mass at the Crypt each evening. Thanks too to Patricia McGuiness for organizing the pilgrimage.
Columban’s spirit is alive and well there. As we celebrated Mass at the beautiful altar behind his magnificent marble Crypt, I felt I was keeping vigil at his wake! We also prayed the suggested Stations and Rounds walking sun-wise around the crypt. The rosary seems to have been the preferred prayer on these rounds.
On our arrival at Bobbio it seemed like Columban himself was waiting to greet and bless us as we turned off the highway that runs along the winding river with its legendry hunchback Vecchio bridge. The more than life size statue of our Saint, with dove and outstretched hands in blessing, seemed to say “welcome , see how unspoiled I have kept Bobbio, my final resting place, for all my followers”. Indeed, with Spring blooming all around us this small town of about 4,000 residents is everything that anyone could ask for with its winding, immaculately clean streets, and graced by Columban’s Basilica in its centre.
As we walked around we literally breathed in the presence and influence of Columban, no matter which Street or Avenue we took.
On our second day we went to the small village of Coli which is within view of the famous cave where Columban went for prayer, reflection and finally breathed his last as God took him home from this extraordinary retreat centre to his eternal heavenly cave.
The warm welcome given us in Coli, especially by Simona, a lovely lady who owns a restaurant there, opened the door to the possibility of a visit to the Cave. By supplying a jeep she made the dreams of five of our group come true by having them taken to the cave. Even by jeep it sounded like an impossible climb and furthermore the jeep could only take them so far. The rest of the climb was dangerous and a huge challenge. How Columban got there in the 7th Century without any kind of wheels is a mystery. From comments from my pilgrim companions it was not just a mystery but a miracle that they all came back to Coli in one piece and without a broken bone!! Thank you Columban.
Down the winding corkscrew road again after a great adventure in the Apennine hills we continued to explore and drink in the beauty that surrounded us. The weather was perfect, something Columban had been charged with by Patricia who organized the trip. We visited the small museum housed in one wing of the cloister of the former monastery. We saw many memos of the Saint and his times but most important is the relic of St. Columban. It consists of part of his skull placed in a silver bust shaped reliquary.
A beautiful painting of the Assumption of Mary by Liuni, is a fitting last memory of the museum before we left and made our way to the crypt for our final Mass in Bobbio.
As we looked back at the remains of the cloister which had housed Columban and his monks in the 7th century we thought of the rugged life and unbelievable living conditions these great men of God must have endured.
Our pilgrimage was coming to an end on our third and last day. We were extremely grateful to have savoured something of our patron Saint and his adopted missionary territory and gotten to know him in a new way.
The famous Roman Bridge
by: Sr. Eileen Rabbitte,ssc
Photos: by Sr. Martina Kim,ssc