St. Patrick Catholic Church
Saint of the Day

Adomnan (Adamnan) of Iona, Abbot
September 23 (RM)

Today the Universal Church celebrates the memorial of St. Adomnan of Iona, Abbot, who died September 23, 704. He was the 9th abbot of Iona (near present-day Argyll, Scotland), the monastery founded by Saint Columba in 563. Born c. 627, Adomnan became abbot c. 679. At that time, abbots were members of the powerful Ui' Neill family, kings in northern Ireland.

There were different practices in various parts of the British Isles then. In Celtic monasteries there was a different method for dating Easter, a different tonsure, and the abbot held administrative superiority to a bishop.

Conflict over practice came to a head when King Egfrith of North Umbria (Celtic) married a Kentish princess (English/Universal) and the Synod of Whitby followed in 664 to resolve the differences between the Celtic and English churches. The king was won over by the English, but the Columban factions remained unresolved until Adomnan used his diplomatic skills to convert the Columbanus.

Adomnan had an open mind regarding issues damaging to unity but not essential to the faith. He worked for 15 years to emphasize the essential and downplay the differences. During this time he also established a law to protect women, children, and clergy from injury or participation in war (Cai'n Adomna'n or Law of the Innocents (697)) and wrote the Vita Columbae. The Cai'n Adomna'n established legal rights for women for the first time in the British Isles.

The Vita Columbae stresses St. Columba's relationship with God and his fight against exploitation, carelessness, falsehood, and murder. St. Adomnan upholds Columba as an Irish saint whose faith transcends petty divisions.

May God help us all to live in the spirit of St. Adomnan.

About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.