Charity registration No. SC002876  
Sunday June 16th. 2013
The first view of the Isle of Iona and the Abbey from the ferry never fails to stir the emotions. Together they stand for the bringing of our faith to Scotland. It is incredible that such a tiny, remote isle should become the cradle of Christianity in our country and that a humble monk from neighbouring Ireland should sail and land, bringing that light of faith with him; a light which was to grow and spread so that today, 1450 years later, we too are lit by that same faith and follow in the footsteps of that saintly monk, Columba or Columcille – the Dove of Peace.  Our pilgrimage today led to Iona Abbey, its rose- hued granite from the Ross of Mull contrasting with the dark rock and creamy sandstone, the colours and the sparkle of the stone brought out by the sun. We gathered inside the Abbey, the light streaming in the far window behind the altar. At 10.30am the procession of clergy made its way up the long centre aisle to the altar. There followed another joyful Mass, the main celebrant being Archbishop Mennini who gave the homily and expressed his own joy at being on the pilgrimage. In their blue tartan sashes, the girls from the Western Isles sang again and the congregation joined heartily in the hymns and
responses. It was a privilege to be at the Mass and we remembered in prayer those in our parishes who could not be with us.  There is an ancient prophesy attributed to Columba, held dear by all lovers of Iona:  “In Iona of my heart, Iona of my love, Instead of monks’ voices there shall be lowing of cows; But ere the world shall come to an end. Iona shall be as it was.”  Today, 1540 years after Columba landed in his coracle, voices of monks were heard again, and the people of St Columba’s own diocese thanked God for the faith we still cherish today.  We had time after Mass to do as we wished. Most spent further time around the Abbey; wondering at the ancient Celtic crosses, examining the intricately carved stone slabs and age old tombstones, enjoying the peace of the cloisters. Some energetic souls climbed the highest hill on Iona, Dun I, to marvel at the far reaching view from the top, of islands scattered like jewels in a sea of aquamarine and amethyst. Yet others sought solitude and a chance to pray and reflect on all that Iona was and is, for it is in the little things one finds the hidden gems:  the rasping call of the elusive corncrake skulking in the undergrowth just beyond the Abbey garden wall; the rocks silvered and oranged by lichen; the ditches aglow with golden marsh marigolds and yellow flags; the dazzling white sands and the waders at work probing the shoreline; the whispering sound of the field of barley; the natural rock gardens in the crevices of the walls of the beautiful nunnery ruins; the
Carmelite sisters formerly of Oban Convent
Some well-known pilgrims on the ferry to Mull
Pluscarden monks—a reminder of Columba’s monks on Iona.
Mass in St. Columba’s Cathedral
colours of the sea, alternating shades of green and mauve inshore, blue and purple further out until light blue deepens to indigo. In her book “Iona”, F. Marian McNeill writes:  “There is a wealth of colour, not gorgeous but exquisite, appealing less to the senses than to the spirit, and balm to the world-weary. The pilgrim, the antiquarian, the artist: Iona casts her spell on all.”  The little island, and all it stands for, surely cast its spell on our pilgrims. The flame of Christian faith that Columba and his monks brought from across the sea lives on, surviving all attempts through long ages to quench it.  May it continue to burn brightly within us all as we welcome the spirit of St Columba into our hearts, minds and souls; into the very way we live our lives.