Last Sunday, June 21st, the 1400th Anniversary of the death of St Columban was celebrated both in the Catholic and Church of Ireland Cathedrals in Armagh.
Archbishop Eamon Martin invited the Columban Sisters and Fathers to join in the celebration. It was truly a great tribute to St Columban to be honoured nationally and we were delighted to be part of the Armagh celebration. St Patricks Cathedral was full for the special Mass at 11am. There were representatives from many different religious groups as well as lay groups.. There was also a representative group from Italy accompanied by the Bishop of Pavia, outside Milan.
We, Columbans got a great welcome from Archbishop Eamon and the Organising Committee for the Event.
Archbishop Eamon was the main celebrant of the Mass, with Cardinal Brady, Archbishop Browne (Papal Nuncio) several other Bishops and priests, including Columbans.
For me, it was quite significant too to see 3 young Chinese priests taking part in the Mass. They are Chinese Diocesan priests who are studying English in Maynooth under the sponsorship of the Columban Fathers and resident in the Columban House, so “The Maynooth Mission to China”, is still alive!
The Gregorian Chant and Hymns at the Mass were inspiring. The Homily given by Fr Neil Collins. SSC was really touching as he spoke on the life and spirituality on St Columban.
Columban took his missionary call very seriously in responding to,”Leave your country, your family and your fathers house and go to the land I will show you.” He and his companions had great faith and were on fire with the Joy of the Gospel and spreading the Good News. However, while Columban was a man of deep faith, he seemed very strong and not very diplomatic at times, and not into Inculturation so this got him into trouble along the way. His “Peregrinatio pro Christo” was always to the fore—he was truly a pilgrim for Christ in his day in many of the countries around Europe. So our patron Columban is still calling us to be people of Faith and fearless Pilgrims for Christ in today’s world.
At the end of the Mass we had a very impressive “Youth Commissioning” ceremony.
Archbishop Eamon blessed and commissioned a big group of young pilgrims from Armagh Diocese who will go on pilgrimage to Rome and Taize during the summer months. He presented the group with a Celtic Cross, symbolising Ireland and a Staff, a reminder of the care of The Good Shepherd.
After Mass we were all treated to a delicious lunch, prepared and served by a big group of parish volunteers.
In the afternoon we were invited to St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, nearby for Evensong, a specially prepared ecumenical service to commemorate the 1400th Anniversary of St Columban. Again, the whole service and particularly the choir was inspiring. Fr. Sean Mc Donagh SSC gave a talk during the service.
For me, the whole day was special. I was proud to be a Columban Missionary. I prayed to St. Columban for all our Sisters asking him to continue to lead us all in our Pilgrimage for Christ, and that we will always be aware ,”we are Christs not our own.”