“Motivated by faith in Jesus Christ, he kept going, because he had not yet reached his destination. I think we can say, in the words of St. Paul that, like Abraham, “his faith was counted as justifying him”.
“Over fifteen hundred years ago, in that period known as the dark ages Columbanus travelled from the North West, with a small group of monks to bring the light of faith to the Gauls, the Alemani and the Lombards alike. He made friends of strangers. It is astonishing to discover that, today, devotion to Columbanus is still so strong in communities all over Europe. An inscription on a statue in Luxeuil pays tribute to “the apostle with a soul of fire; tireless traveller, saviour of civilization”. Robert Schumann, founding father of what became the European Union, called Columbanus “the patron saint of all who now seek to build a united Europe”.
A Journey in Hope
Bishop Doran continued, “When we think of the promise God made to Abraham, we tend to think of Isaac and Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel. But Abraham had another son, Ishmael, whose mother was the servant girl Hagar. The Islamic people trace their roots back to Abraham through the descendants of Ishmael who, according to the Scriptures, went to live in the East. It seems to follow that most of the thousands of refugees who have travelled in hope from the opposite end of Europe, whether they are Christians or Muslims, are the spiritual children of Abraham. They have arrived by sea into Italy and they have walked for days to get to Germany, as if it were the promised land. A Europe without borders has suddenly begun to question the very possibility of its continued existence. It is interesting to ask ourselves how Columbanus might view this. It strikes me that he would see the arrival of refugees in Europe as a challenge and an opportunity for the work of mercy and evangelisation.
“Remember that most of the tribes among whom Columbanus lived and exercised his mission were, themselves, recent migrants into what was previously the Roman Empire. Some of them were violent and that is probably why the word barbarian has such a negative significance to our ears. But most of them, like the migrants of today, were simply looking for a place where they could live in peace and feed their families.
“Columbanus might remind us that hope, like faith, is a virtue. He might remind us as Pope John XXIII did in Pacem in Terris, just fifty years ago, that:
“every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own State. When there are just reasons in favour of it, he must be permitted to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there. The fact that he is a citizen of a particular State does not deprive him of membership in the human family, nor of citizenship in that universal society, the common, world-wide fellowship of men”.
Bishop Doran went on to say, “Migration has been a feature of the history of Europe from its very origins. When I was a child at school, we learnt about how the Celts, travelling from the opposite end of Europe, were just one of many waves of migrants to reach Ireland in pre-Christian times. The Celts did not have television and St. Columbanus did not have access to the World Wide Web – and yet they embarked on voyages of faith and hope. Today, in remote and relatively undeveloped parts of Africa and Asia, there are millions of people with mobile phones and tablets. They are only a click away from our shopping centres, our restaurants and our sitting rooms. They may not want to leave their homelands but, when they experience poverty and hunger, unemployment and war, they already have an image, even if it is an exaggerated one, of how much better life could be in Europe. We should not be surprised when the trickle becomes a flood.
“The arrival of so many de facto refugees in Europe poses a challenge to solidarity. Their presence may be an inconvenience in some respects, but they also bring with them many gifts which will be placed at the disposal of the nations where they are made welcome and allowed to participate. More important still, they are people like us, who laugh and cry, who love and bleed and feel hunger.
“When he addressed the European Institutions at Luxembourg in 1985, Pope John Paul II referred to the intention of the founders of the European Communities to restore the solidarity between the nations of Europe which had been so cruelly destroyed by two world wars. Solidarity is something organic. It either grows or it dies. In 1989, Pope John Paul welcomed President Mikhail Gorbaciov of the U.S.S.R. to the Vatican. The pope spoke of the possibility that a common concern for humanity might lead “not only to the overcoming of international tensions and to an end of the opposition of blocs,” but could also “give birth to a universal solidarity especially in relation to the developing countries. The Pope recognized that it is easier to be in solidarity with people who are naturally closer to us or more like us. But the value involved in solidarity is not the feeling of closeness, it is the human person, and every human person, irrespective of whether or not he gives rise to an experience of closeness. In that way, “continental solidarity is today a necessary step towards universal solidarity”.
“We who live in Europe today are called to embark on a journey of our own. It is a journey of the heart, which leads us to see the other person, not as an obstacle or an intruder, but as someone who is invited by God to share on an equal basis in the banquet of life”. This inner journey from individualism to solidarity and from a closed solidarity to an open solidarity reflects the kind of conversion which was such an important part of the journey of St Columbanus.
“Archbishop Piero Marini, speaking at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, in 2012, commented:
Another characteristic of Columban and of his disciples, to which we have already briefly alluded, was the communion of goods: “everything was common to all.” This sharing of goods was not only spiritual, but also material: a sharing of faith and of life. The urgent evangelical call to the sharing of goods was applied by Columban not only to the brethren living the same monastic vocation, but also to every poor person knocking at the door.
“Our faith in Jesus Christ, like that of Columbanus, will be most effectively reflected in an attitude of welcome and respect to those who come to Europe seeking asylum. The Pontifical Council, Cor Unum, published a statement some years ago in which we read:
Progress in the capacity to live together within the universal human family is closely linked to the growth of a mentality of hospitality. Any person in danger who appears at a frontier has a right to protection. In order to make it easier to determine why such people have abandoned their country, as well as to adopt lasting solutions, a renewed commitment is needed to produce internationally acceptable norms for territorial asylum.(9) Such an attitude facilitates the search for common solutions and undercuts the validity of certain positions, sometimes put forward, that would limit acceptance and the granting of the right of asylum to the sole criterion of national interest. 
“It is regrettable that so much energy these days is being devoted to talk of building walls and erecting fences; to establishing new restrictions on trade and on the movement of peoples. An authentic solidarity would inspire us instead to devote our energy to helping the countries of the third world to engage in trade on a basis of equality. It would ban, for once and for all, the sale of weapons and military equipment to governments and local militia groups who use them to attack their own people or their peaceful neighbours. In this way, rather than simply providing an emergency response to refugees, following a long and often dangerous journey to Europe, we would contribute to building a world in which people could live safely and in prosperity in the own countries, surrounded by their family members and friends.
“In order for all of this to happen, a conversion of political and economic structures will be necessary. But, as we learn from history, structures only change when hearts change. This conversion of hearts, beginning with our own is, in the final analysis, why we are here. Today, it is our turn, to “announce the kingdom of God” and to be, as Columbanus was, a light that shines in the darkness.”
Bishop Kevin Doran used the words of Saint Columbanus himself to conclude his homily:
“Lord, grant me, I beseech you, in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and my God, unfailing charity, so that my lamp may be ever lighted and never extinguished. May it burn for me and radiate light to others. Christ, dearest Savior, deign to light our lamps. May they shine for ever in your temple and receive constant light from you, everlasting Light, so that our darkness may be dispelled and that we may put the darkness of the world to flight.”
 Columbanus, Sermons 2,2, p. 161.163.
 Pope John XXIII. Pacem in Terris. Vatican: 1963, 25
 Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 11th January 1986
 Pope John Paul II. Solkicitudo Rei Socialis. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987, 39
 Marini, Piero. “ ‘Come lampada che brilla’. San Colombano: la sua vita e il suo insegnamento”. Address delivered at the International Eucharistic Congress. Dublin, 2012
 Pontifical Council Cor Unum. I rifugiati: una sfida alla solidarietà
 «Institutions» of Saint Columbanus, abbot. (Istr. On compunction, 12, 2-3; Opera, Dublin 1957, pp. 112-114)