Columbanus was Irelands first European. Poet, scholar, abbot, preacher, saint, co-founder of western monasticism, associate of kings, correspondent of popes - he was at the centre of controversy in his own day and has gone on generating argument ever since. His writings are more than the legacy of history. Within these pages there is a wealth of spirituality that cannot fail to inspire and encourage.
Tomás Ó Fiaich
Tomas O Fiaich (1923-1990), Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, travelled widely in Europe lecturing on Irish literature and history and researching the work and influence of the early Irish missionary saints. This revised edition of Columbanus in His Own -Words, first published in 1974 and reissued in 1990, is a result of that research. Cardinal O Fiaich contributed to a wide range of journals in both English and Irish and his books include Gaelscrinte i gCein (1960); Irish Cultural Influence in Europe (1966); Imeacht na nlarlai (1972); Ma Nuad (1972); Art Mac Cumhaigh - Danta (1973); Oliver Plunkett: His Life and Letters (1975, with Desmond Forristal) and Gaelscrinte san Eoraip (1986).
Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich gave leadership to the Catholic community in the north at a time of political and civil turmoil. His evenhanded approach in calling for both justice and peace however only earned him the title of ‘The Provo Cardinal’ in sections of the British media and denunciation from the Provisional IRA itself. In a more peaceful era perhaps he could have devoted greater time to his beloved history of all things Irish of which he was such an enthusiastic proponent.
The recent re-publication of his 1974 biography Columbanus – In His Own Words marks a welcome return for a popular account (based largely on the original contemporary biography by the 7th century Jonas of Bobbio) of the life of Ireland’s most famous missionary saint whose memory and legacy is still venerated throughout Europe. In the new introduction to the present reprint it is noted that for many scholars Columbanus has through his works appeared to be a ‘brash and abrasive old Irishman’ with a directness of advice that sometimes riled those in authority. In one example of wordplay he calls on Pope Boniface IV who succeeded the disastrous reign of Pope Vigilius: ‘Be vigilant, I beg you Pope, be vigilant and again I say be vigilant; since perhaps Vigilius was not very vigilant.’
Over 15 all too brief chapters the life, writings and legacy of Columbanus including his prayers and poems are vividly described by an author who was not only passionately familiar with the saint’s writings but also journeyed frequently to all of those places associated with Columbanus and with an eye for the small details and anecdotes so typical of Cardinal Ó Fiaich in his own writings, sermons and conversations. A timeless classic.
- Fr Paul Clayton-LeaClogherhead, Co Louth