22nd May

God First

Jesus said: Whoever loves their father or mother more than me is not fitted to be my disciple. Matthew 10:37

Columbanus was born in the south of Ireland. He grew to be tall, fair, and handsome, a darling of a close and loving family. He received a superb education, and he dressed, like others of his rank, in a fine silk tunic bordered with gold. He had, in fact, everything the world could offer. But Columbanus wanted something more than the world could offer, he wanted to give his whole life to God. Since he did not know how to do this, he consulted a wise old hermit. She told him there was only one way for him: he had to leave all forms of human security behind – even his beloved family – and make life-long vows of service to God. In those days that meant becoming a monk.

His mother was against this, so much so, that on the day Columbanus was due to leave home she lay down across the doorway to try to prevent him leaving. It was to no avail. Columbanus was clear; perhaps he had reflected upon those words of Jesus quoted above; he knew that, though we are to honour our mothers, we are never to put them first, for that place belongs to Jesus alone. So Columbanus joined the monastery at Bangor, and went on to become its most famous pupil.

A friend of mine once returned to live with her mother in order to help her recover from alcoholism. She did this because God told her to. But after a time, she realised that her mother was becoming as dependent upon her as once she had been dependent upon alcohol. As she prayed about this, she felt God was telling her it was time to move on, though she was to maintain caring contact. Mature Christian friends agreed this was right.

However, on the day she was to leave, her mother went berserk, and threatened to commit suicide if her daughter left. The younger woman wondered if she should stay after all, and went aside to pray. God clearly said: ‘Go now, I will look after your mother’. So she did leave, and God did look after her mother, who became creative, at times vigorous, and even radiant.

O Mighty One, may I put no one on a pedestal.
Help me to honour my parents
but never to put them in the place
that only you should have.