23rd May

Stand Firm

…people will stumble and fall, but we will rise and stand firm. Psalm 20:8

Columbanus and his monks made their weary way to the courts of several kings as they travelled north, stopping for a time by the shores of Lake Zurich, which was under the jurisdiction of their friend, King Theodobert. There they established a community. which was to grow into the Swiss town of Bregenz.

Columbanus made a long journey south to pass on some prophetic words to King Theodobert: ‘You will lose your life and your soul unless you become a monk now’ he told him; ‘if you do not do this voluntarily you will be made to do it against your will’. Sadly, Theodobert disregarded Columbanus’ advice His army was completely destroyed in battle; he was taken captive and forced to wear a monk’s habit as a sign of submission. This defeat meant that Theodobert’s lands returned to the jurisdiction of relatives who were hostile to Columbanus, so he said farewell to his monks, and moved on to Italy accompanied by just a small band of brothers, one of whom, Gall, they left behind on the way. The Lombard King and Queen welcomed him, and they built their last monastery at Bobbio. There he died on 23 November, 615.

After his death the sternness of Columbanus’ original Rule gave way to the gentler system of Benedict. This may have been what was needed over the long term, but tough times call for tough measures, and the Celtic monks had been called to a task tougher even than breaking virgin ground – they had to win back lost territory. Only people with an overmastering faith could have seen why it was worth doing. Only men who trained their bodies to stand up to unbelievable physical hardships, and their souls to battle through seemingly impossible situations, could have survived.

We can learn this key lesson from Columbanus: he trained his team to depend upon God alone. They were not put off their calling by the way other people treated them, however harsh. They used the spiritual armoury of prophetic direction, and faith directed mission so that they overcame all things in Christ’s power, and stood firm in all circumstances.

Toughen me , Lord.
Give me a heart of love
but a backbone of steel