Acta Sanctorum: Bl. Columba Marmion (Oct 3)
October 03, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.
October 3
Bl. Columba Marmion
Life (1858-1923)

Bl. Columba Marmion was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 1 April 1858 to an Irish father (William Marmion) and a French mother (Herminie Cordier). Given the name Joseph Aloysius at birth, he entered the Dublin diocesan seminary in 1874 and completed his theological studies at the College of the Propagation of the Faith in Rome. He was ordained a priest at St Agatha of the Goths on 16 June 1881.

He dreamed of becoming a missionary monk in Australia, but was won over by the liturgical atmosphere of the newly founded Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, which he visited on his return to Ireland in 1881. His Bishop asked him to wait and appointed him curate in Dundrum, then professor at the major seminary in Clonliffe (1882-86). As the chaplain at a convent of Redemptorist nuns and at a women's prison, he learned to guide souls, to hear confessions, to counsel and to help the dying.

In 1886 he received his Bishop's permission to become a monk. He voluntarily renounced a promising ecclesiastical career and was welcomed at Maredsous by Abbot Placidus Wolter. His novitiate, under the iron rule of Dom Benoît D'Hondt and among a group of young novices (when he was almost 30), proved all the more difficult because he had to change habits, culture and language. But saying that he had entered the monastery to learn obedience, he let himself be moulded by monastic discipline, community life and choral prayer until his solemn profession on 10 February 1891.

He received his first "obedience" or mission when he was assigned to the small group of monks sent to found the Abbey of Mont César in Louvain. Although it distressed him, he gave his all to it for the sake of obedience. There he was entrusted with the task of Prior beside Abbot de Kerchove, and served as spiritual director and professor to all the young monks studying philosophy or theology in Louvain.

He started to devote more time to preaching retreats in Belgium and in the United Kingdom, and gave spiritual direction to many communities, particularly those of Carmelite nuns. He become the confessor of Mons. Joseph Mercier, the future Cardinal, and the two formed a lasting friendship.

During this period, Maredsous Abbey was governed by Dom Hildebrand de Hemptinne, its second Abbot, who in 1893 would become, at the request of Leo XIII, the first Primate of the Benedictine Confederation. His frequent stays in Rome required that he be replaced as Abbot of Maredsous, and it is Dom Columba Marmion who was elected the third Abbot of Maredsous on 28 September 1909, receiving the abbatial blessing on 3 October. He was placed at the head of a community of more than 100 monks, with a humanities college, a trade school and a farm to run. He also had to maintain a well-established reputation for research on the sources of the faith and to continue editing various publications, including the Revue Bénédictine.

His ongoing care of the community did not stop Dom Marmion from preaching retreats or giving regular spiritual direction. He was asked to help the Anglican monks of Caldey when they wished to convert to Catholicism. His greatest ordeal was the First World War. His decision to send the young monks to Ireland so that they could complete their education in peace led to additional work, dangerous trips and many anxieties. It also caused misunderstandings and conflicts between the two generations within this community shaken by the war. German lay brothers, who had been present since the monastery's foundation by Beuron Abbey, had to be sent home (despite the Benedictine vow of stability) at the outbreak of hostilities. After the war was over, a small group of monks was urgently dispatched to the Monastery of the Dormition in Jerusalem to replace the German monks expelled by the British authorities. Finally, the Belgian monasteries were separated from the Beuron Congregation, and in 1920 the Belgian Congregation of the Annunciation was set up with Maredsous, Mont César and St André of Zevenkerken.

His sole comfort during this period was preaching and giving spiritual direction. His secretary, Dom Raymond Thibaut, prepared his spiritual conferences for publication: Christ the Life of the Soul (1917), Christ in His Mysteries (1919) and Christ the Ideal of the Monk (1922). He was already considered an outstanding Abbot (Queen Elisabeth of Belgium consulted with him at length) and a great spiritual author.

He died during a flu epidemic on 30 January 1923.


Scripture (Col 4:2-6)
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

(Year A) The profound conviction that Christ is God, and that He has been given to us, contains all spiritual life.  Let us place ourselves at the feet of Christ and say to Him: Lord Jesus, Incarnate Word, I believe that Thou art God; true God begotten of true God. I do not see Thy divinity, but because the Father tells me, ‘This is my beloved Son,’ I believe it. And because I believe it, I submit myself entirely–body, soul, judgment, will, heart, sensibility, imagination, all my energies–I wish that all things may be subjected under Thy feet in homage.  ‘I wish to follow Thee as my chief and that Thy Gospel may be my light and Thy will my guide; I wish neither to think otherwise than as Thou thinkest because Thou art infallible truth, nor to act without Thee, because Thou art the only way to go to the Father, nor to seek my joy outside Thy will, because Thou art the very foutain of life. Possess me wholly, through thy Spirit, for the glory of the Father!’  By this act of faith, we lay the foundation of our spiritual life, for other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.  Acts of faith in Christ’s divinity are extremely pleasing to the eternal Father, because all His exigencies–and they are infinite–are summed up in willing the glory of His Son.  And the more His Son veils His divinity, the more He abases Himself out of love for us, the more profoundly we ought to adore Him as Son of God…The more Christ humbles Himself in becoming a little Child, in choosng the hidden life of Nazareth, in submitting Himself to the gibbet like a malefactor, with the wicked; the more His divinity is attacked and denied by unbelievers–the more we ought to place Him high in the glory of the Father, and in our hearts yield ourselves to Him in a spirit of intense reverence and entire submission to His Person, and to labor for the extension of His reign in souls. (Christ the Life of the Soul)

Musical Selection
Soul of Christ, sanctify me 
Body of Christ, save me 
Blood of Christ, inebriate me 
Water from the side of Christ, wash me 
Passion of Christ, strengthen me 
O good Jesus, hear me 
In your wounds hide me 
Never let me be apart from you
From the evil one defend me 
In my hour of death call me 
And bid that I may come close to you
And with all your saints and angels I may praise you
For all eternity. Amen.


O God, Almighty Father, who called the blessed abbot Columba

to the monastic way of life and willed to open to him

the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,

mercifully grant that strengthened in the spirit of our adoption as sons and daughters

by his intercession, we may become a dwelling place worthy of your Wisdom.

Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.  Amen.