I love that the Church honours such a wide variety of saints, and I love particularly that along with their saintly deeds, we also recall their very human qualities (some of which are not very flattering!)
This past Thursday, we remembered St. Columba, Abbott of Iona. A remarkable man in many ways, this great saint was known for his prayerfulness and scholarly pursuits. He was a founder of monasteries and churches, one of which became a centre of evangelization through Scotland and Northern England; and he is also remembered for his missionary efforts to the Picts and the conversion of King Brude of Inverness.
However, one story of how Columba came to Iona in the first place is particularly interesting. As it is told, Columba was known for having a bit of a hot temper. When his former master, St. Finnian, returned from Rome with a copy of St. Jerome’s psalter, his love of books got the better of him. He made a copy of it by hand in secret, and when Finnian discovered this, he claimed that the copy rightfully belonged to him. The dispute was brought before the king, who sided with Finnian, and the bad blood stirred up by this decision led to a series of unfortunate events which culminated in a war that resulted in much bloodshed, and ultimately, Columba’s exile to Iona.
Columba, chastened by his part in the loss of so many lives, vowed that he would not rest until he had converted as many souls to Christ as were lost on the battlefield. Thus was born his remarkable ministry in Iona, and his incredible impact on the life of the Church.
It can be easy to look upon our failings and become consumed by them, even filled with despair. Yet, this is not God’s plan for any of us. Our belovedness is not earned through our good deeds, nor is it lost through our failures. On this Trinity Sunday, may we be encouraged through Christ, who has defeated the powers of sin and death, to confess our sins; then our Advocate – the Holy Spirit – will intercede for us to the Father, so that we can be healed and restored; empowered to get up and try again. In this pattern, repeated over and over, we may find that we are all living “saintly” lives, of continual conversion and transformation, moving ever closer to the image of Christ we are called to be.