When I entered monastic life, we were allowed to bring 3 books with us: The Bible,
The Exercises of St. Gertrude and Christ the Life of the Monk by Dom Columba Marmion.
BLESSED COLUMBA MARMION, OSB was born Joseph Aloysius Marmion in 1858 in
. He was to become the third
Abbot of Maredsous
Abbey in Belgium. He was beatified
by Pope St. John Paul II on September 3,
2000. While little known in this country, except to Benedictines, he was one of
the most popular and influential Catholic authors of the 20th Century. Today
his books are considered spiritual classics. Dublin, Ireland
He came from a large and very religious family; three of his sisters became nuns. His father, William Marmion was from Kildare. His mother, Herminie Cordier was French, prompting his biographer, Dom Raymond Thibaut to remark: "He owes to his Celtic origin his penetrating intelligence, his lively imagination, his sensibility, his exuberance and his youthful spirit. The French blood which ran in his veins contributes to his clearness of mind, his habit of clear perception, his ease of exposition, and his uprightness of character. From the combination of the two he derives his constant gaiety and his generosity of heart with all the strength, devotion, and fine feeling which this noble quality implies."
From a very early age he was seemingly "consumed with some kind of inner fire or enthusiasm for the things of God." He was educated at the Jesuit Belvedere College in
He entered the seminary at the age of 16. Dublin
A "very important moment in Dom Marmion's inner life" occurred while he was still in seminary. It seems that one day when returning to the study hall he had all at once, to use his own words, "a light on God's Infinity." While this "light" only lasted for an instant, it was so clear and strong that it left an indelible impression on him, so that... "he referred to this not without emotion and thanksgiving during the last days of his life."
On his journey back to Ireland, he passed through Maredsous, Belgium, a young and dynamic monastery founded 9 years before (1872) by Benedictine monks from the great Abbey of Beuron, Germany. He wished to join the community there, but his archbishop in
refused his request to do so and appointed him as curate at Dundrum, a
parish in the south of .
After a year, he was appointed Professor of Metaphysics at Holy Cross College at Clonliffe, his old seminary. For the next four years (1882-86) he embarked on the education and spiritual direction of others, including his appointment as chaplain to a nearby convent.
At the age of 27, he received permission from his bishop to join the Benedictines at Maredsous . At first, it was very hard for him, even "traumatic.", as he was a respected priest and professor, and now in the monastery he was starting over as a novice, as well as learning a new language (French).
After his Solemn Profession in 1891, he was appointed to act as assistant to the Novice Master, with whom he got on rather badly plus he had to preach at parishes in the vicinity of the Abbey.
"There was an element of the dramatic in his initiation into pastoral work. A neighboring parish priest, whose preacher had unexpectedly failed him on the eve of a great feast, came to the Benedictines to ask their help in his difficulty. The superior was very sorry, but he had no one to offer him except a young Irish monk whose French was far from perfect. 'I will take him all the same,' said the parish priest, and he brought off Dom Columba. Three days later he brought him back to the Abbey saying: 'We have never had such a preacher before in my parish.' And soon the other parish priests were competing with each other for 'the Irish father.
Above all, his spiritual life became more and more centered on Christ.
“One morning after breakfast, while walking in the garden, I read the eighth chapter of The Imitation of Christ and I felt strongly impelled to take Jesus as my one friend. I realized that, in spite of my great weakness and unfaithfulness, Jesus desired to be my friend above all others. The text: "My delights are to be with the children of men" [Proverbs 8:31], gripped me and compelled me irresistibly to respond with all my heart to this desire of Jesus. In the course of this meditation I felt the near presence of Jesus and a great desire to do all things before His eyes”.
In 1899, Dom Columba helped to found the Abbey of Mont César,
, and became its first Prior. Not only did he
have the care of this new foundation, but he also gave retreats in Louvain, Belgium Belgium
and the .
He also became confessor to the future Cardinal Mercier.(Future
BLOG) United Kingdom
|With Card. Mercier (Rt.)|
In 1893, Dom Hildebrand de Hemptinne, Second Abbot of Maredsous, was appointed by Pope Leo XIII as the first Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order. At the request of the Pope, Dom Hildebrand continued as Abbot of Maredsous, but relinquished that office in 1909. In that year, at the age of 51, "at the height of his powers, both physical and intellectual," Dom Marmion was elected Third Abbot of Maredsous. A community consisting of a hundred monks, it ran two schools. Abbot Marmion adopted as his motto "To serve rather than be served," a maxim taken from the Rule of St. Benedict.
The monastery had great spiritual and intellectual influence under his leadership, and vocations abounded. But Dom Marmion was not indifferent to temporal matters. Thus he had the Abbey equipped with electricity and central heating, facilities rarely to be found in monasteries at that time.
When war broke out in 1914 Dom Marmion, fearing that his young novices might be called up, sent them to
involved his traveling, disguised as a cattle dealer, through the war zone from
Ireland Belgium to ,
"without passport or papers of any kind. England
|Disguished as a Sheep Farmer|
His first book was Christ, the Life of the Soul (1917) which was first published privately, but then rapidly, unexpectedly, became an "overwhelming success" in the Catholic world.
There was essentially "nothing new" in Dom Marmion's work. Rather, his "revolution" was effected by a return to what was fundamental, specifically his restoration of "Christ as the center of all.
A second major theme of his work is the doctrine of divine adoption in Christ, as set forth in
’s writings. But although the doctrine
had been addressed by many spiritual writers before him, it would be difficult
to find another who had given the mystery such preeminence, making it, as he
does, the beginning and the end of the spiritual life. And with Dom Marmion it
is not so much a theory or a system, as a living truth that acts directly on
the soul. Some believe the Catholic Church will one day formally declare Dom
Marmion a Doctor of the Church. St. Paul
Sources for his thought include, preeminently, the Bible (especially St. Paul and St. John), the Church Fathers, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Liturgy and St. Francis de Sales. As a 20th-century writer, Dom Marmion is notable, perhaps unique, in the several formal and informal endorsements his works have received from the popes of the 20th century, including Benedict XV.
With Cardinal Mercier, his friend and confidant, Dom Marmion was a spiritually dominant figure on the Belgian and international scene. The publication of his books had met with "immediate and overwhelming success. His influence was at its height, despite his fatigue and a precarious state of health.
Dom Marmion was struck during a flu epidemic, and succumbed to bronchial pneumonia on January 30, 1923.
Rapidly, favors and miracles were attributed to him; justifying the transfer, in 1963, of his body from the monks' cemetery to the abbatial church (his body was found to be incorrupt, after more than 40 years). A cure from cancer obtained after a woman from St. Cloud, Minnesota, visited his tomb in 1966 was investigated by the Church and recognized as miraculous in 2000, leading to his beatification in that year by Pope John Paul II.
“He bequeathed to us an authentic treasury of spiritual teaching for the Church of our time. In his writings he teaches a way of holiness, simple and yet demanding, for all the faithful, whom God, through love, has destined to be his adopted children in Christ Jesus... May a wide rediscovery of the spiritual writings of Blessed Columba Marmion help priests, religious and laity to grow in union with Christ and bear faithful witness to Him through ardent love of God and generous service to their brothers and sisters.
May Blessed Columba Marmion help us to live ever more intensely, to understand ever more deeply, our membership in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ!”