Belgium: Centenary of the Death of Dom Columba Marmion

Source: FSSPX News

Dom Columba Marmion

In an article published in La Couronne de Marie in January 2023, Fr. François Knittel retraces the career of the Benedictine, Dom Columba Marmion (1858-1923), before giving an overview of his book Christ the Life of the Soul. We quote here the first part of his article.

Joseph Louis Marmion was born in Dublin on April 1, 1858. His father, William Marmion, was Irish. His mother, Herminie Cordier, was French. He was the seventh of nine children, three of whom would enter religion. Studying theology in Rome at the Pontifical College for the Propagation of the Faith, he was ordained a priest on June 16, 1881.

On the way back to Dublin, he stopped at the of Maredsous Abbey (near Namur) to greet a former fellow student there. The monastic atmosphere that he observed there seduced him to such an extent that he considered interrupting his trip and staying at the monastery.

Called to orders by his bishop, he continued on his way to his homeland and his diocese of origin. Vicar at Dundrum (south of Dublin) for a year, he was then appointed professor of philosophy at Holy Cross College, the diocesan seminary of Dublin.

In mid-November 1886, he received permission from his bishop to respond to his religious vocation. Welcomed on the spot by Dom Placide Wolter (1st Abbot of Maredsous), he began his novitiate under the name of Brother Columba. Training is tough for this 30-something surrounded by young people in their twenties. But it is of little import! He persevered in his way until his solemn profession which he pronounced on February 10, 1891.

Noted for his many talents, Dom Marmion was sent by his superiors to Louvain to found the Abbey of Mont-César, of which he became prior in 1899. He also took on the role of confessor to the future Cardinal Joseph Mercier, then Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.

Dom Hildebrand de Hemptinne (2nd abbot of Maredsous) had been appointed primate of the Benedictine Confederation by Leo XIII, Dom Marmion was chosen to succeed him on September 28, 1909. His abbey motto is taken from the Rule of St. Benedict: “Rather to serve than to dominate” (ch. 64).

He gave his monks numerous spiritual conferences centered on the person of Christ. His secretary, Dom Raymond Thibaut, transcribed them and ordered them until there were enough to constitute a trilogy, which Dom Marmion took care to revise and approve. Christ the Life of the Soul, Christ in His Mysteries, and Christ the Ideal of the Monk were published respectively in 1917, 1919 and 1922. Dom Marmion died on January 30, 1923 at Maredsous Abbey, a victim of a flu epidemic.

After reading Christ the Life of the Soul, Benedict XV sent the author a letter full of praise. The Sovereign Pontiff praised Dom Columba Marmion for his “singular ability to excite and maintain the flame of divine charity in hearts.”

He also emphasized how much his “doctrine is capable of igniting in souls the ambition to imitate Christ and the ardor to live for Him who, “by God Himself, has established our wisdom, our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).

Christ the Life of the Soul has been reissued and is still available in bookstores.