"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion, O.S.B.

Born: April 1, 1858 in Dublin IrelandMarmion-Abbot_(circa_1918)

Died: January 30, 1923 (at the age of 65) Maredsous Abbey, Belgium

Beatified: September 3, 2000 by  Pope John Paul II

Feast Day: October 3

Here’s a thought to contemplate: “I owe more to Columba Marmion for initiating me into things spiritual than to any other spiritual writer.” – Pope St. John Paul II


Born Joseph Aloysius Marmion, Blessed Columba Marmion was raised within the atmosphere of a pious family. His parent’s love for our Lord planted and watered seeds in little Joseph’s soul that eventually gave rise to a desire for priesthood. While many would call him blessed for knowing at such an early age what he was supposed to do with his life, his journey wasn’t all that clean, cut, and dry. For as the years turned into decades, Joseph’s venture into the heart of God led him to discover a secret that he has since passed on to the world: “The surest path, the most direct, the brightest, also the sweetest, is the path of Love. But to travel on this path requires the greatest fidelity.” [1]

A ‘Call’ within a ‘Call’

Aspirations gave rise to reality when, at 16 years of age, he entered the Dublin Diocesan Seminary in order to prepare for priesthood. While his first step in following God’s call began at home, his studies were completed in Rome at the Pontifical Irish College. He was ordained on June 16, 1881. Throughout the course of his life, this pattern of obedience to the will of God beginning to unfold within the present moment and then leading him to embrace an unforeseen destiny came to pass a number of times. Take, for example, how initially his goal was to become a missionary in Australia – but like the old saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!” Shortly following his ordination, Fr. Joseph visited the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium and during the course of the Monastic Liturgy, God touched his heart so profoundly that he realized he was now being called to become a monk!

Marmion-Ordination_(1881)He notified his Bishop of that which was stirring within him. Well, as you can imagine, the Bishop wanted him to take some time with this and so he appointed him Curate in Dundrum. It was during these first few years as a priest that he developed a love for the ‘art of spiritual direction’. He “possessed an extraordinary facility for adapting himself to other people,” and above all, “in comforting others and putting them at their ease.”[2]

After what must have seemed like forever – five years later, in 1886 – he was given permission by the Bishop to enter the monastery. He became a Benedictine Monk and took on a new Irish name: ‘Columba’. At 27 years of age, though he was a priest and already a prolific professor, Columba learned the art of obedience as he let “himself be moulded by monastic discipline, community life and choral prayer until his solemn profession on 10 February 1891.”[3]


Abbey of Maredsous 

Monastic Obedience

Within the context of his monastic vocation, obedience to his superiors led him to embrace a number of roles and responsibilities. At 41 years of age, he helped “found the Abbey of Mont Cesar, Louvain, Belgium, and became its first Prior.” [4] By this time, his reputation as a great teacher of clarity in matters of the faith was spreading throughout the land.


Abbot of Maredsous

For while he had many ecclesiastical duties, his first love had always remained that of shaping souls in the likeness of Christ. Fully aware of Columba’s love for souls, those whom he served and lived with elected him Abbot of Maredsous in 1909. Abbot Marmion selected as his motto a saying that he distilled from the Rule of Benedict: Magis prodesse quam praesse – ‘To serve rather than to rule’. He faithfully served the monks of Maredsous until his death in 1923.

His Writings – Treasures for the Spiritual Life

It’s been said that “in 1985 Pope John Paul II visited Belgium. When the papal helicopter flew over the Abbey of Maredsous on the way from Brussels to Beauraing, the Holy Father confided to one of his aides: “I owe more to Columba Marmion for initiating me into things spiritual than to any other spiritual writer.”[5]


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While Abbot Marmion has composed a number of works during his life, among them three books in particular have served as spiritual lighthouses for laity, religious, seminarians, and clergy alike: “Christ, the Life of the Soul,” “Christ in his Mysteries,” and “Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion .”

I leave you with a number of quotes and short sayings from Blessed Abbot Marmion.

In Christ, Fr. Jerome

“If, while reading you feel yourself moved to speak to God, stop for a moment and speak.”

monk“If Grace does not destroy nature, neither does it suppress our personality.”

“The crucifix is the most vivid revelation of sin.”

“Love is like the philosopher’s stone which turns all that attaches into gold.”

“To abandon the least of our brethren, is to abandon Christ himself.”[6]


“The more perfectly one lives as the child of God here below, doing all one can to make the grace of supernatural adoption bear fruit through Jesus Christ, the higher one’s place in heaven.” (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW 1998)

“Spiritual life consists above all in thinking about Christ in such a way as to reproduce in ourselves his person as Son of God with the virtues that belong to him.” (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 78)

“Christ has become our neighbour. Or rather, our neighbour is Christ who makes Himself known to us under such or such a form.” (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 285)

“If we will have it so, the admirable exchange still continues. For it is likewise through His Humanity that Christ infuses divine life into us at the Holy Table. It is in eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, in uniting our selves to His Humanity, that we draw at the very wellspring of everlasting life.” (Christ in His Mysteries, Marmio, 1919, SW, 1998, p. 405)

“St. Benedict’s spirituality comes straight from the Gospel. This gives it its characteristics of loftiness and simplicity, of force and gentleness: these distinguish it from all others.” (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion 1922, SW, 1998, p. 692)


[1] Union with God, Thibaut, 1938, p 20-21

[2] Tierney, Biography, p. 27.

[3] http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20000903_columba-marmion_en.html

[4] Thibaut, pp. 114 ff.

[5] http://vultuschristi.org/index.php/2014/09/blessed-columba-marmion-a-life-in-the-trinity/

[6] http://www.osb.org/gen/marmbibl.html

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