BY No Author | June 14 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


‘Saints’ preserve us still

1450th anniversary of St Columba’s arrival on Iona marked by national Year of Faith Mass in Oban

THE Catholic Church in Scotland needs the prayers and support of those in monastic life now as much as it did when St Columba arrived in 563, the Bishop of Argyll and Isles told those gathered for the national Year of Faith Mass in Oban.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini presided over the Mass on Sunday, the solemnity of St Columba, to mark the 1450th anniversary of the arrival of 6th century Irish abbot and missionary on Iona. Sunday’s Mass was celebrated by local Bishop Joseph Toal along with fellow members of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland—including Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, president, and his predecessor Archbishop Mario Conti, diocesan clergy and priests from around Scotland and beyond.

During his homily Bishop Toal, vice president of the Bishops’ Conference, said it was fitting to honour St Columba, one of the early evangelisers of Scotland, during this Year of Faith and the New Evangelisation of originally Christian countries that was initiated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he was Pontiff.

“It was St Columba and other missionaries that brought the Gospel to our shores,” Bishop Toal said in his homily.

“The Church in Scotland today in the midst of the noise of modern life and the crises which come upon us continues to need more than ever that support of the communal prayer and reflective living of those who have literally ‘left everything’ and followed him,” he said. “We thank our monastic communities and our hermits for their prayerful support especially in difficult times.”

The bishops thanked the religious present, including those from Nunraw, Pluscarden and Kinnoull. He offered a special vote of thanks to the delegation from Kells, County Meath, Ireland including Bishop Michael Smith of Meath. The delegation brought with them their copy of the Book of Kells, which will remain on display in Oban and the surrounding district throughout the summer.  It includes the Cathach of St Columba, the copy made by Columba of a book loaned to him by St Finnian.

Sunday’s celebrations in Oban began with the blessing and reactivation of the cathedral bells followed by the entrance into the cathedral of young Catholics from Argyll and the Isles Diocese carrying with them the Scottish Youth Cross. The young people were returning from an overnight pilgrimage to Iona.

Young Catholics from South Uist and Barra also took part in the Liturgy, bringing haunting Gaelic melody and voices to the responsorial psalm and hymns. The Gospel was read in both English and Gaelic.

The bishop of Argyll and the Isles also used his homily as an opportunity to praise the active role Christians play in Scottish society.

He said we have ‘a distinctive voice’ but warned of those who would have us silenced.

The Mass on Sunday preceded Monday’s pilgrimage to Iona. The Apostolic Nuncio, who did not address the congregation at the Sunday Mass, was the main celebrant and preacher at the Mass on Iona.

“St Columba faced many challenges in living the Faith and bringing it to others and, recently in Scotland we have faced challenges too, which may well have saddened us and made us all reflect on how we can bring the Gospel and the person of Christ to all those persons we encounter and to a society which is searching, often unawares, for God,” Archbishop Mennini said. “One source, I should like to quote a word or two of, which I believe appropriate, is taken from Oscar Wilde, who said: ‘Never forget, every saint has a past… and every sinner has a future!’


This story ran in full in the June 14 print edition of the SCO

—   For the Apostolic nuncio’s homily in full, click here

—  For Bishop Toal’s homily in full, click here.

—     Pic: Paul McSherry


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