Columba vs. Kateri Tekakwitha

Congratulations! You have officially survived your first full weekend without saintly voting. Veterans of this online devotion know well the desperate void that comes during the weekends of Lent, which is why there is even an official diagnosis for this phenomenon: Lent Madness Withdrawal (aka LMW). This is precisely why the Supreme Executive Committee, in its infinite pastoral sensitivity, shared 10 Tips to Surviving LMW.
So, while we may all dread the effects of yet another weekend filled with LMW, in the meantime we have a full five days of saintly bliss stretching out before us! We begin today with Columba taking on Kateri Tekakwitha, a well-known saint vs. one perhaps new to many. Away we go!


Born in 521 CE to Fedlimid and Eithne in what is now County Donegal, Ireland, Columba was privileged to receive a first-rate education. His first studies were with Saint Finnian. Then he went to study at Clonard Abbey, and from this base, Columba and other missionaries traveled around Ireland to set up other monasteries that became famous, including ones at Kells, Derry, and Swords.

In 560, trouble struck. Columba ran afoul of his superiors in the monastery over a psalter. Columba adored books, and upon discovering a gorgeous copy of the psalms, decided to make a copy for himself in secret. Saint Finnian objected to this. Behold, the first recorded copyright dispute in monastic publishing!

The argument escalated until there resulted an actual pitched battle known as the Battle of Cul Dreimhe, in Sligo. Many monks were killed. Soon after, Columba ran afoul of the king. A neighboring royal, Prince Curnan of Connaught, fatally wounded the king’s relative in a hunting accident. Prince Curnan was a cousin to Columba, and he sought sanctuary at the abbey from the angry king. The king, however, ignored this long-honored custom, stormed the abbey, and killed the prince. Infuriated, Columba summoned his clan (Clan Niall, of the bloody Nine Hostages-fame) and urged them to rebel against the king. Many died, including several brother-monks, and Columba realized his life had taken a wrong turn.

As penance, he agreed to exile himself. He sailed away, landing at the island of Iona in 563. There, he built a monastery, which has become a famous and  oft-traveled site for pilgrimages. From Iona, Columba launched many missionary journeys into Scotland, establishing churches and monasteries as far away as Aberdeen and Inverness. According to legend, Columba even preached to and converted the Loch Ness monster. He died in 597, at home at Iona. According to his biographer, Columba’s last act was to put down the manuscript he had been copying, after he wrote out, “They that love the Lord shall lack no good thing,” and he remarked, “I must stop here. Let Baithain do the rest.” And so, he died—a book lover to the end.

Collect for Columba
O God, by the preaching of your blessed servant Columba you caused the light of the Gospel to shine in Scotland: Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance, we may show forth our thankfulness to you by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Megan Castellan

Kateri Tekakwitha

Born in 1656 near Auriesville, New York, Kateri Tekakwitha was the daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Roman Catholic Algonquin woman. Named Tekakwitha, which means, “She who bumps into things,” she had a childhood bout with smallpox that left her with permanent facial scars and diminished eyesight. Known as the Lily of the Mohawks and the Flower of the Algonquians, Tekakwitha was among the first Native Americans canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Her life changed in 1675 when she met Jesuit Father Jacques de Lambertville. She sought an education in Christianity, and she converted to the Roman Catholic faith and was baptized on Easter Day in 1676. She took the name Kateri for Saint Catherine of Sienna and declared a lifelong vow of virginity. Tekakwitha’s family continued to shun her: first for her disfigurement, and then for her adherence to Christianity. In 1677 she took up residence at the Jesuit mission just south of Montreal. There, she prayed tirelessly for the conversion of her people and undertook many forms of penance in the development of her personal piety. Although she didn’t have access to formalized convent life or instruction regarding holy orders, she and her mentor, Anastasia, her close friend, Marie-Therese, and several other young women committed to practicing their faith together as a community.

On Wednesday, April17, 1680, at twenty-four-years-old, Kateri Tekakwitha died during Holy Week. She is believed to have uttered as her last words, “Jesus, Mary, I love you.” It was reported that in death, her smallpox scars disappeared. The cause for her sainthood was initiated in 1884, by Roman Catholics living in Canada. Pope Benedict XVI canonized her on October 21, 2012.

Four US shrines honor Tekakwitha, and numerous churches, schools, and institutions are named for her in the United States and Canada.

Collect for Kateri Tekakwitha
God of grace and glory, your beauty fills the whole of creation, calling lilies to bloom and mountains to bow. Thank you for the life of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, who was called to live a life set apart, devoted to penitence and prayer. Create in us a willingness to examine our hearts and be transformed by your love. Amen.

— Neva Rae Fox



At 11:02 p.m. EST, two addresses in Vermillion, SD and Medford, OR were blocked. 125 votes for Kateri Tekakwitha were recorded from these two locations, and we do not know of groups participating in Lent Madness in those cities. Not enough votes were cast to affect the outcome, but we have blocked the addresses to prevent further votes. At this point, no votes have been removed from the total cast. Unless we hear from those folks, we will subtract the appropriate number of votes if needed to keep the outcome as determined by fair voting. Remember, vote once only per person!

Columba vs. Kateri Tekakwitha

  • Columba (51%, 3,885 Votes)
  • Kateri Tekakwitha (49%, 3,755 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,640

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Columba:J. R. Skelton, illustrator, via Wikimedia Commons
Kateri Tekakwitha: By Dieterkaupp via Wikimedia Commons



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268 comments on “Columba vs. Kateri Tekakwitha”

  1. As much as the Celt in me would like to support Columba - especially given how his name has been tracked through the mud of late by the Churches of England and Scotland! - I can never resist backing the Canadian Content. Living across the river from her shrine at Kahnawake, it's gotta be Kateri (GA-DA-LI) for me.

    1. I voted for Columba. He started a rebellion, settled on an island, made a monastery, and did many other things. Overall, in my opinion, he is just epic.

      1. When Columba copid a book against his "Boss's" orders, he sure got my vote! The idea! Right on!!

  2. I voted for Columba because he got kicked out of his country and had his own island.

    1. I am starting to look forward to your comments every day as much as I look forward to reading about the saints themselves, Oliver!

    2. It's a wonderful place to visit, Oliver; I've even there twice. Be sure to put it on your bucket list.

    3. Oliver, I look forward to your insightful vote every morning. You are a bright young man. Keep up the great work.

    1. It seems the Monk could have found some peaceful resolution to a silly dispute, but no. Kateri gets the vote

  3. I have visited Kateri's shrine in Fonda, N.Y., on the Mohawk River. I noticed many devotees place medallions and amulets around the neck of her statue, asking her protection for soldiers in combat and healing for relatives. I believe Leonard Cohen has composed a song in her honor.

  4. I have to admit that neither of these raised a great deal of excitement in me, so I voted for my fellow Upstate New Yorker, Kateri.

    1. As much as I admire St. Columba for recognising his life had taken a wrong turn, I too have to vote for the fellow Upstate New Yorker, Kateri...

  5. I had planned to vote for Columba before reading about the battles he instigated where monks were killed. I went for the gentle spirited Kateri instead.

    1. I voted as you did, Patsy. Although the king's offense -- disregarding the custom of the times of allowing those fleeing the king or officers of the law to go to a church and claim sanctuary -- was not a minor thing, the direct involvement in battle of a monk bothers me. So, even though he repented (and even though I have Scottish ancestry), I voted for the gentle and much abused Kateri. The thing these two saints have in common is seeking the conversion of an entire people.

  6. I like the simple story of a child of God, rejected by her own people, who found comfort and meaning in the message of Christ. It is in our small communities that we lift each other up and are often healed from our sorrows. So, it is Kateri for me.

    And it bothered me greatly that Columba's disputes led to bloodshed and death.

    1. I agree with you, Ellen. Columba, while repentant, raised havoc while Kateri raised peace. Ahh, me. . . . . what shall we do with these warrior-monks who rule by the sword? (Book-lover or not!)

        1. Hmm. I guess repentance means nothing? Columba lived the greater part of his life proclaiming peace. I suppose that doesn't account for much nowadays.

  7. Anyone who can preach to and convert the Loch Ness monster gets my vote. While Columba made mistakes, he had the humility to turn his life around. The monastary he founded after repenting impacted many people. Columba loved the Lord so much that he wrote out psalms and died writing out other books. I voted for Columba because of his ability to change his life, his love of books, and his love of sea monsters.

    1. You said it beautifully! I've been really torn, but--"she who bumps into things" and the Loch Ness monster conversion best exemplify what Lent Madness is all about! And her name reminds me of one of my favorite opera singers--Kiri Te Kanawa!

    2. Well said Olivia. I would like to add that those who truly repent and turn their lives around are often able to provide understanding and light for others. Also it is a relief to know that Nessie is a faithful monster of the deep.

  8. While I admire Kateri and usually favor the saints recognized among the Native peoples of North/Sputh America, I spent a week on the holy island of Iona. Walking in Columba's footsteps I came to understand what is meant by 'a thin place'. Columba's repentance that brought him to Iona and then he carried the message of Christ's love to Scotland leaving a legacy that inspires prayer, witness, and social justice action throughout the world even today with the Iona Community. Going with the "doer" today.

  9. Had to go with Columba. My pilgrimages to Iona have deepened my faith and love for Celtic Christianity.

  10. Kateri Tekakwitha kept the faith in her short life despite all odds...a shining example for us to follow. And who can resist a saint whose name means "she who bumps into things?" It's Blessed Kateri for me!

    1. As one with some vision problems who periodically bumps into things, I'm definitely drawn to Kateri! However my major reason for giving her my vote is that I totally agree with your comment that Kateri "kept the faith in her short life despite all odds…a shining example for us to follow." Also, the records about her seem considerably more reliable than the claim of converting the Loch Ness monster......

  11. The beautiful isle of Iona has become a n international Christian community for prayer and solidarity in faith. It is not a space belonging to any one denomination but to all who seek to have a living faith. Columba's penance was to leave his beloved and lush Ireland for a desolately beautiful, but not lush, island in Scotland. Not to ignore the violence, but to look to the end results I voted for Columba, over my fellow Canadian.

  12. As a member of the Iona Community I can do nothing else but vote for Columba who in penance left his land and established the monastery at Iona from which the north of Britain was evangelized. In the prayer for the present day community members remember Columba for his gifts of courage, faith and cheerfulness. There is a beautiful legend that as Columba's death drew near, his white horse, sought Columba out and rested his head against Columba's chest weeping in sorrow.
    O God, who gave to your servant Columba
    the gifts of courage, faith and cheerfulness,
    and sent people out from Iona
    to carry the word of your gospel to every creature,
    grant, we pray, a like spirit to your church,
    even at this present time.
    Further in all things the purpose of our Community,
    that hidden things may be revealed to us,
    and new ways found to touch the lives of all.
    May we preserve with each other
    sincere charity and peace,
    and if it be your holy will,
    grant that a place of your abiding be continued
    still to be a sanctuary and a light.
    Through Jesus Christ, Amen

    1. Having spent time at the Abbey two Easters ago, I had to vote for Columba.
      I can still close my eyes, see the crashing waves, feel the wailing wind and recall the great Spirit I felt during my days there. Columba for me!

  13. Columba had me at Irish book lover. I'm additionally impressed by his ability to see the error of his ways and to accept a life of exile. While I might be put off by the bloodiness of his disputes, I also look at that in the context of the times in which he lived.

    1. I could not have said it better. Columba repented of his war like actions which brought suffering, so I can overlook that- his love of books are what I find resonant.

  14. With 2 nieces taking Kateri as confirmation name, had to vote for her. Besides, her shrine in Fonda NY is tended by Franciscans.

  15. Columba renounced his anger and his need for revenge and changed his life, making a difference in the world by his actions and his prayers. Had to pick him.

  16. Thank you, Ellen. I agree. Columba did great things later in life and is well known but I'm really tired of all the roaring around and bloodshed (even in the name of publishing) that went on then and goes on now--even though a lot of the bloodshed is just verbal. Kateri quietly did the things we should all be doing.

  17. I had to read the bios twice today to arrive at a choice, and when I clicked the results button, the early voting was tied, so maybe I'm not the only one ambivalating. I chose Columba because a) he worked hard at his faith; b) he messed up; c) he recognized that he messed up and tried to make up for it. Also, I think his story would make a ripping PBS mini-series ("Game of Monks," starring Benedict Cumberbatch).

  18. Like Francis of Assisi, Columba lived very less-than-perfect life, and the grace of redemption was obtained through renunciation.

  19. If anyone is interested in reading more about Kateria ( and the Roman process for canonization), there is short book by Bill Donahue called The Secret World of Saints: Inside the Catholic Curch and the mysterious process of annointing the holy dead

  20. Kateri is my choice for today. She chose to follow Jesus in a quiet life. She suffered rejection by her own people because of her devotion. She is a good example of the Christian Way.
    Columba's love for the written word and his final rejection and repentance of violence is also a great example for living the Christian life. In the end I chose kateri for today.

  21. I went with Columba for his ability to fall off the rails (as we all do) and recognize the need to change course. His devotion to books and connection to Scotland also speak to me.

  22. I'm not convinced all those Irish battle stories are true, and others say Culumba was banished. But I was ready to vote for Kateri, but couldn't find enough that she did. So I went with the doer, Columba.

    1. On the other hand, what might Kateri have done if she'd lived longer? Her life as a Christian was only four years.

  23. It doesn't seem right that Kateri's family shunned her even more after her conversion to Christianity, when her own mother was Roman Catholic. She did indeed lead a saintly life in spite of (or perhaps because of) the difficulties she was dealt. However my vote goes to Columba. There are not many of us who have not rejoiced at least once in our lives as our tribe rained down some death dealing terror in our own wars with other clans. We all need to see the error of our ways, repent, and follow the way of peace. Columba and his isle have been an inspiration to so many over the centuries.

    1. Her mother was not Mohawk but an Algonquin captive - her father, mother and brother all died from the small pox that disfigured her. She was raised by an uncle who probably didn't accept her faith.