The Rule of St. Columba

The Rule of St. Columba is a late 7th early 8th century document whose authorship is unknown. It is believed to be an accurate reflection of the early spiritual practices that we see recorded by Adomnan in his Life of St. Columba. A part of the Society of St. Columba’s work is to extrapolate, contextualise and apply the rule to a contemporary context. It is a rule that can be used as guidelines for one’s personal Christian walk or used as a way of shaping and guiding community life.

  1. Be alone in a separate place near a chief city, if your conscience is not prepared to be in common with the crowd.
  2. Be always naked in imitation of Christ and the Evangelists
  3. Whatever little or much you possess of anything; whether clothing, or food, or drink, let it be at the command of the senior and at his disposal, for it is not fitting a religious to have any distinction of property with his own free brother.
  4. Let a fast place with one door enclose you.
  5. A few religious men/women to converse with you of God and Testaments; to visit you on days of solemnity; to strengthen you in the testaments of God and the narratives of the scriptures.
  6. A person who would talk to you in idle words, or of the world; or who murmurs at what he/she cannot remedy or prevent, but who would distress you more should he be a tattler between friends and foes, you shall not admit them to you, but at once give them your benediction should they deserve it.
  7. Let your servant be a discreet, religious, not a tale telling person, who is to attend continually on you with moderate labour of course, but always ready. Yield submission to every rule that is of devotion.
  8. A mind prepared for red martyrdom [that is death for the faith].
  9. A mind fortified and steadfast for white martyrdom [that is ascetic practices].
  10. Forgiveness from the heart of everyone.
  11. Constant prayers for those who trouble you.
  12. Fervour in singing the office for the dead as if every faithful dead was a particular friend of yours.
  13. Hymns for souls to be sung standing.
  14. Let your vigils be constant from eve to eve under the direction of another person.
  15. Three labours a day; prayer, work and reading.
  16. The work to be divided into three parts; your own work and the work of your place as regards its real wants. Secondly the share of your brother/sisters work and lastly to help your neighbours, by instructions or writing, sewing garments or whatever labour they may be in want of [as the Lord says, “You shall not appear before me empty”].
  17. Everything in its proper order [for no one is crowned except he who has striven lawfully].
  18. Follow alms giving before all things.
  19. Take not food until you are hungry.
  20. Do not sleep until you feel the desire.
  21. Speak not except on business.
  22. Every increase which comes to you, in lawful meals or clothing give it for pity to the brethren that want it or to the poor in like manner.
  23. The love of God with all your heart and all your strength.
  24. The love of your neighbours as yourself.
  25. Live in the Testament of God throughout all times.
  26. The measure of your prayers shall be until your tears come.
  27. The measure of your work until your tears come.
  28. The measure of your physical work or your genuflexions until your perspiration comes if your tears are not free.