National Mass in Armagh to Mark 1400th Anniversary of Irish Missionary Monk

St. Columban died in 615, hailed as one of greatest Irish missionaries

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The 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columbanus (also known as Saint Columban), one of the greatest of the Irish missionary monks, is being marked with a national Mass of Thanksgiving next Sunday in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh with Archbishop Eamon Martin presiding.

Father Neil Collins, SSC, will preach the homily. During the Mass Archbishop Eamon will bless and commission young pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Armagh who will be going on pilgrimage to Rome and Taizé during the summer months. At the conclusion of the Mass, Archbishop Eamon will bless the congregation with the Relic of St Columbanus.

Born in Leinster around 543 and having studied in the monastery on Cleenish Island, Co Fermanagh, Saint Columbanus entered the monastery in Bangor, Co Down and was later principal teacher there. 

In 591, desiring to ‘go on pilgrimage for Christ’, he set out with twelve companions and travelled to Burgundy.  He established monasteries at Annegray, Luxeuil and Fontaine.  Later he founded Bregenz in Austria and his greatest foundation at Bobbio, near Genoa, where he died in 615.  He is remembered as one of the greatest of the Irish missionary monks and revered across parts of Europe.

While next weekend’s celebrations will focus on Bangor and Armagh, there will also be pilgrim walks and gatherings in many parishes and communities across Ireland to honour Saint Columbanus.

On Saturday celebrations will centre on Bangor beginning with an ecumenical morning prayer service in Bangor Abbey followed by a civic reception in the Town Hall. In the afternoon there will be a varied programme of activities for Irish visitors and the many dignitaries visiting from abroad. The programme will include Cardinal Tomás O’Fiaich films, displays on the life of Saint Columbanus, a lecture given by Father Sean McDonagh, an opportunity to hear the history of the formation of the Knights of Saint Columbanus as well as many other activities and street performers. 

The Way of Saint Columban

A new pilgrim walk entitled The Way of Saint Columban has been prepared by the Columban Missionaries as an ecumenical pilgrimage with nine steps along a selected route in a local parish. Each step consists of: a reading from Scripture, the words of St. Columban, a brief reflection, and, the Our Father. The nine steps conclude with the litany of Saint Columban, prayers of intercession, prayer of Saint Columban and a shared Blessing.

For more information on the Pilgrim Way of Saint Columban as well as other resources including prayers and reflections by Saint Columbanus, please see a special feature on

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