Irish saints II Soldiers of Christ. Columba of Iona

Catherine Swift

In the second of a series of articles on Irish saints, this piece looks at Columba of Iona and Columbanus ('Little Columba') of Luxeuil and Bobbio.? Catherine Swift is a lecturer in Irish Studies at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

The Lord said ?You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left and also many animals??
Book of Jonah 4.10-11

In their study and contemplation of the word of God, early Irish churchmen were particularly conscious of language: the b?lre b?n or ?pure speech? of Scripture as attested through the three sacred languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin. A seventh-century writer, Adomn?n wrote of his hero:

There was a man of venerable life and blessed memory, the father and founder of monasteries, who received the same name as the prophet Jonah. For although sounding differently in the three different languages, yet what is pronounced iona in Hebrew and what Greek calls peristera and what in the Latin language is named Columba, means one and the same thing. So good and great a name is believed not to have been put upon the man of God without divine inspiration.

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