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St Columba and the Existential Categories of Displacement and Identity

October 6, 2021 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0

Adomnan’s Life of Columba famously described St Columba as a ‘Pilgrim for Christ’. This was certainly the identity that the Iona community attributed to him after his death but were there any traces of this identity in Columba himself as an exile from Ireland? This paper explores this question in the earliest sources and the identity of Columba as a peregrinus pro Christo. This identity is clarified in the context of Scriptural tradition that Columba was steeped in. The Word of God contains not just meta-narratives but existential categories of displacement and the formation of identity. These themes emerge first in the Old Testament with the people of Israel called out into the desert and led to the promised land. It is also seen in the spirituality of the psalms that are often marked by a process of orientation leading to disorientation and that finally leads to re-orientation on the part of the person or community of faith. Such a process of displacement, relocation and adaption facilitates a new identity in the person or community. In the Irish Christian tradition, this shaping of a new identity by displacement, pilgrimage and re-orientation is seen in the life of Columba but also in Patrick before him and Columbanus after him. Finally, the question is examined of how the existential categories of displacement and identity in these Irish saints can speak to Irish Christians today.

Alexander O’Hara, Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin
Very Rev Dr Billy Swan, Diocese of Ferns


October 6, 2021
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm UTC+0




Trinity College Dublin