Adamnan was a descendant of the same Irish royal family as Columba, born in Donegal. He served as the ninth Abbot of Iona about 100 years after Columba. In 688 he visited Coelfrid in Wearmouth, who persuaded him to adopt the Roman date of Easter and the Roman tonsure. Although he was greatly inspired by Columba’s life and example, Adamnan felt compelled to accept the Roman customs. Some of his monks felt this was disrespectful to Columba’s memory, and for many years on the tiny island of Iona two tonsures and two dates for Easter persisted. To prove that he was not being disrespectful to Columba, Adamnan wrote his biography of the great saint, and this has remained a central source of information about Columba.
Adamnan sought peace in his own community and elsewhere in Scotland, Ireland and Northumbria. He worked to have Irish law changed to exempt women, children and clergy from military service, and to guarantee the safety and immunity of non-combatants. This is known as ‘The Law of Innocents’. Adamnan was partly responsible for Iona being called by that name. In the biography he translated the island’s name, “Hy”, into Latin as Ioua and a later scribe miscopied it as Iona, which, significantly, is the Hebrew for Columba’s name, “the dove”. He wrote other books, including a guidebook to the holy places of the Holy Land, which was used widely throughout Europe. He was asked by a King of Ireland to go to Northumbria to persuade King Aldfrith to release sixty Irish hostages. He presented the king with this book and not only secured the captives’ release but also was showered with gifts himself! At various times in his ministry he was reprimanded for having the scriptures translated into Gaelic and saying Mass in Gaelic. He travelled widely and is honoured also in the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Man.
Holy Dove, make us people of peace and reconciliation. Give us wisdom to accomplish your purposes for love and freedom and peace in our communities, by the grace of the Father and Christ Jesus, His Son. Amen.