Columban, the most famous of the Irish missionary-monks, lived in the seventh century. He had a good education as a boy. When he was a teenager, he decided to become a monk. His mother could not bear the thought of him leaving her. However, Columban felt the call to serve God in the quiet of a monastery. After many years as a monk in Ireland, Columban and twelve other monks set sail for France. There was a shortage of priests there at that time. The French people were inspired by the lives of the monks. These holy men performed penance, practiced devotion and lived in charity. Many young men were attracted to this holy way of life. They came and asked to join the monks. Soon the monks were building other monasteries to house all the disciples of St. Columban.
There were some people, however, who thought the rules of these monks were too strict. St. Columban also faced danger when he confronted the king about his sins. As a result, he and his Irish monks had to leave France. St. Columban, though fairly old, still tried to preach to unbelievers in Switzerland. When he was seventy, he went into Italy and defended the faith against the Arian heretics. In his letters to Pope St. Boniface IV, St. Columban proclaims his great devotion to the Holy Father. "All we Irish, living in the most distant parts of the earth," he says, "are bound to the Chair of St. Peter." He calls the pope the "leader of leaders."
In his last years, St. Columban built the great monastery of Bobbio in Italy. He died there on November 23, 615. After his death, both the Irish and the Italians were very devoted to this wonderful missionary.
"It is a glorious privilege that God should grant man his eternal image…. We should turn back our image undefiled and holy to our God and Father, for he is holy…. We must restore his image with love, for he is love…. We must restore it with loyalty and truth, for he is loyal and truthful."