Blessed Columba Marmion – Feast 3rd October
Sunday, 7th October 2018
When I was about eight years of age, my mother put me on the bus in Navan and gave instructions to the bus conductor to let me off at Ross Cross. I was on my way to visit my cousins, the Marmions. I remember I brought gifts of colouring books for them. Do you remember those colouring books? All you had to do was brush water over the pages and the colours appeared like magic.
Ross Cross was only about four miles outside the town but it was the longest journey I’d ever gone on my own. So I would have been excited and nervous at the same time! The plan was that Thomas Marmion would meet me with horse and trap, but when I got off the bus at Ross, there was no Thomas, no horse and no trap and I never felt more alone and lost in my short life! Eventually he did arrive and the journey in the trap seemed endless but it was a great adventure over past Dunsany Castle to Derrypatrick. Mrs. Marmion was my mother’s sister but only much later in life did I learn that it was to this house that the great and saintly Benedictine Abbot, Dom Columba Marmion, sometimes came on visits. I attended the Diamond Jubilee of Sr. Marcellus Marmion and she remembered his visits there when she was a child. She was watching very closely the progress of his cause for canonisation but did not live to see him beatified by Pope John Paul 2 in Rome on 1st. September, 2000, the same day that John XX111 was beatified.
During my student days, I was well aware of Columba Marmion. We were reared on his writings! But only a few years ago did I discover that when he was a student in Clonliffe from 1874 to 1879, he visited a Passionist house and thought seriously about becoming a Passionist. That must have been Mount Argus where Fr.Charles was living and ministering at the time. I’m sure the young Joe Marmion (as he was then known) must have known about Fr.Charles and may even have met him. Later, after ordination, he was a curate in Dundrum for a year and a few years teaching in Clonliffe. Then he left the diocese and joined the Benedictines at Maredsous Abbey in Belgium.
I wrote down these words of Dom Marmion when I was a student. He was explaining how there are priests and religious people who are very learned and who live very strictly but whose ministry is more or less unfruitful. You go to them, he said, in times of trouble, and you meet a brain, head knowledge but no heart, no compassion. And he concluded, “Only the heart touches hearts. We influence people in proportion to our love for them.”
Columba Marmion was so wise spiritually but was easily deceived by imaginary bargains. He loved telling the story of how, as young priest in Dublin, he bought a horse and trap for a community of Sisters and thought he’d got a great bargain. But the horse was old and decrepit and the trap fell to pieces in no time! Maybe it was fixed up and left to his family? Maybe that’s the trap I travelled in with Thomas Marmion when I was a child? Stranger things have happened!