All Hallows Day & St Columba

Thursday, 1 November 2012

St. Columba is the patron of everyone involved in the book publishing business, but he could also be invoked against copyright infringement.

St. Columba was born a prince of the O’Donnell clan of County Donegal in northwest Ireland. Like so many Irish Christians of this period St. Columba was an avid collector of beautiful books. Not long after he was ordained a priest, St. Columba called on St. Finnian, abbot of Clonnard Abbey. St. Finnian had just returned from Rome, and he had brought home with him a copy of St. Jerome’s translation of the Psalms. With its superb hand-lettering and border decoration, each page was awork of art. As St. Columba turned the pages of this treasure, he knew he had to have it. So every night, after St. Finnian and his monks had gone to sleep,St. Columba sat up making an exact copy. He had just finished when St. Finnian got wind of what his guest had been up to. Since he had not authorized any replica to be made of his book, St. Finnian demanded that St. Columba hand over the copy. St. Columba refused. The two saints’ argument grew heated, until some of the monks stepped in and suggested that the case be arbitrated by Diarmaid, Ireland’s high king.

Off St. Finnian and St.Columba went to the king’s court where each presented his side of the argument. Diarmaid considered the case for a time and then pronounce his sentence. “To every cow its calf,” he said, “and to every book its copy.” Barely able to conceal his rage, St. Columba surrendered the copy to St. Finnian.

At a special synod called to discuss the case, the bishops and abbots agreed that if every thin-skinned priest went to war every time he felt his pride had been wounded, Ireland would be slaughterhouse. (A lesson for us all!)

Repentant and obedient he sailed for Iona off Scotland’s western coast. From this island St. Columba launched a mission to the Picts.

The Motto of this saintly tale? Banish all the ‘Free’ Download sites from the Web (if only!)

Happy All Saints Day.