Columban remains one of the greatest Irish missionaries noted for the great works in the European continent. By his death, he had founded several monasteries, most notably the Luxeuil Abbey in Italy. Apart from the building of monasteries, most of what is known about Columban’s life was documented by a monk named Jonas, who lived one generation after the saint. Jonas authored Columban’s life based on the recollection of the monks who had lived with Columban during his life.
Columbian was born in Ireland in 543, the same year that Saint Benedict died in Italy. He was an intelligent boy who received education in geometry, grammar, poems, and the Holy Scriptures. At a young age, he was greatly tempted by the flesh and thus sought advice from a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. Following her advice, he decided to leave the ways of the world and the monastery. Therefore, he left home at twelve and went to Sinell, Abbot of Cleenish in Lough Erne. Under him, Columbanus composed commentaries on the Psalms.
At the age of fourteen, he received Comgall’s permission to travel the continent, and thus, for his journey, he gathered twelve companion missionaries. During their travels, they gained wide respect for their preaching, discipline, and commitment to religious life when civil strife and clerical laxity were on a high. He also wrote a treatise on penance, sermons, poetry, and the monastic rule during his travels.
Like other saints, Columban met opposition which led him to write to the pope for his approval of Irish customs and vindication of his orthodoxy. On another occasion, he reproved the king for his ways and insisted that he marry, which led him to be exiled to Ireland. On his way back, his ship ran into a storm, and thus he lived the rest of his life in Italy, where he established the monastery of Bobbio, where he died.