Columba (7 December 521 – 9 June 597) was one of those who was faithful to take the gospel to Ireland and Scotland during the sixth century. Columba was born to Fedlimid and Eithne in Northern Ireland, what is now County Donegal. Columba was discipled and mentored in the faith by his foster uncle Crunathan.
As you could imagine, the tradition of the druids had been flourishing, right up to the sixth century, think of Stonehenge in England, a center for their practices. However, and thankfully, the spread of Christianity began to have an effect on the Celtic paganism. By the sixth century, the time of Columba, the druidic traditions were beginning to disappear.
As a young man Columba attended a monastery school at Clonard, Finnian was the teacher there, many of Ireland’s greatest ministers attended this school. Columba eventually became a monk, and then later was ordained as a priest, teaching and preaching and ministering the sacraments. Columba then founded new monasteries in outlying districts, these became centers for Christian learning, worship and prayer, and places to support the needy. These monasteries were also locations where Biblical parchments and scrolls were copied en masse, so others could have the benefit of the Scriptures.
We know various details about the life and work of Columba from two significant sources. The first is the vita Columbe (for a biography of Columba), by Adomnan. And the Venerable Bede, who wrote a history of the people of Britain. These reports could be somewhat romanticized, and overstated, in some areas. Stories of battles over miscopied manuscripts and so forth, visions and predictions being realized, on which I might prefer to remain a skeptic. What historians are confident over is how Columba established many different monasteries in both Ireland and even into Scotland. Some of which are still around today.
This was the middle of the sixth century. Even in these far Northern regions of the Roman Empire, they still felt the effects of its collapse. The establishment of the monasteries and the success of the gospel helped to bring stability. And Columba gave a significant contribution to this effect.