We continue the octave of posts in honour of the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columbanus with a portrait of the way of life he pursued at Annegray. It reveals a tension familiar to the saints, torn as they are by the needs of others and a desire for solitude:
During the sojourn of Columbanus at Anegrai which lasted for two or three years, he lived in the continual practice of prayer and contemplation. Oftentimes, his course of life was interrupted by the wits of those, who came from afar, being attracted by the reputation of his virtues and many miracles wrought through the efficacy of his prayers. Numbers of sick and infirm persons were brought to him, and through his intervention they were miraculously restored to health and strength. Numbers of pious persons sought the direction and advice of this experienced instructor. These unavoidable interruptions did not however prevent our Saint occasionally retiring from public observation, to avoid the distractions caused by his visitors. Although he could not always shun intercourse with men, on account of the laborious duties of the ministry he was called to exercise; yet, he was accustomed, before all great festivals, to withdraw himself for a few days to the most retired parts of the desert, where, by a sort of retreat, he devoted himself entirely to fasting, prayer and holy contemplation.
Rev. John O'Hanlon, ' Life of Saint Columbanus, Abbot of Luxeu' in The Irish Harp: a monthly magazine of national and general literature: Volume 1, 1-4 (1863), 154.
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