Dom Columba Marmion

Favours / Prayers Intentions
40 steps with Blessed Columba

At the end of the last chapter of his Rule (chapter 73) St. Benedict suggests that, even if one has already begun the journey towards the Christian life in sincerity and truth, not all has been said or done to enable us to maintain progress. We need help on the way.

In this section we suggest how a kind of spiritual training course using Dom Marmion’s ideas and teaching may be used to help us on the journey. The method we propose is one borrowed from the structured ‘fitness’ routines, so familiar today, with their ‘supports’, aids and stages.

We need ‘supports’ because we are weak, easily discouraged, pushed off course, and distracted by an environment ever louder and more blinding. We already use ‘supports’ in our spiritual life, though we may not have thought of them as such. The Rosary is one that has been used for centuries. By simple repetition it draws attention to many different facets of the life of the Holy Family, to Mary’s humility, to the mysteries that attach her to Jesus. It recalls that she is our Mother through Jesus. Pope John Paul II urged Catholics to value this devotion because it leads us to reflect on the ‘mysteries’ and events of the life of Jesus.

The Stations of the Cross is another of these aids; the Way of the Cross with its 14 illustrations is a feature in almost every church. Dom Marmion practiced this devotion regularly and valued it so much that he wrote a little work of his own to help us along ‘The Way of the Cross’.

Another aid we have used for centuries is the ‘novena’. Originally a novena was a structured program of prayer lasting nine days, hence the name. Now there are novenas of many different kinds: the First Fridays, the Triduum, the Nine Tuesdays of St. Anthony, the Thirty Day Retreat, and so on. Novenas continue to be popular because they are an effective means of sustaining our effort.

What we are proposing is a new novena, ‘40 steps with Blessed Columba’. It proposes a ‘circuit’ that leads us forward along a spiritual path. It is based on forty stages which taken together comprise the essential teaching of Blessed Columba Marmion. The notion of a forty-day period of preparation, or quadragesima, is an idea of long standing. The number ‘forty’ has particular significance in both the Old and the New Testaments. For instance, there were forty years of formation in the desert for the People of God in the Old Testament. For Jesus, there were forty days when he withdrew to the desert to prepare to confront His Passion and Death. The forty days after the Resurrection were a period of preparation for the founding of the Church at Pentecost.

To call this spiritual journey the Columba Circuit is appropriate because Dom Marmion was an exile, a traveller and an apostle. He took the name Columba, when he became a monk, It is the name of an Irish saint, Columcille of Iona, who was an exile, a traveller and an apostle.

Just like any other training circuit, ‘The Columba Circuit’ schedules stages and challenges but the extent of what is undertaken is optional, for instance the number of stages. Likewise, each stage may be adapted to suit the purpose and needs of the individual who should feel free to make it an exercise of 40 minutes or 40 hours, or even of 40 days. It might become an exercise for the duration of Lent, for example.

Each idea of Blessed Columba is the topic for a stage. But it is not necessary to follow the sequence proposed. Likewise how a person arranges each stage is their own decision. For guidance, we suggest a few possibilities ranging from the simplest format to one appropriate for a group undertaking a longer exercise.
a) The stage might consist of a reading of the idea followed by a short prayer that develops it. The exercise ends with a petition to Our Father or a prayer of thanksgiving.
b) If time allows, the stage might be extended by searching the Bible for a text that resonates with the idea and reflecting on this. Again a personal prayer ends the stage.
c) An extended approach might involve a longer exercise using one or more stages of the Circuit. This might suit the participation of a group, with discussion in which dialogue is encouraged. This approach might use a pattern common in Benedictine spirituality:

The excerpt is read. A connection is made with a Scripture text or one chosen from the Rule of St. Benedict. There is a period for personal reflection. A shared discussion results. A resolution follows to make the conclusion relevant in some way in our spiritual, professional or family life. The exercise ends with prayer. The final prayer might be inspired by what has passed during the exercise, with an emphasis on listening for what Scripture, the Holy Spirit or Blessed Columba has to say.

The 40 steps with Blessed Columba

Knowing God

1. When the Father tells us that Jesus is His Beloved Son, He reveals his Life (His nature as God the Father ?*); and when we believe in this revelation, we have insight into God himself. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW 1998, p. 477)

Filial adoption

2. The more perfectly one lives as the child of God here below, doing all one can to make the grace of supernatural adoption bear fruit through Jesus Christ, the higher one’s place in heaven. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW 1998)

3. The Holy Spirit is given to all the children-by-adoption of Jesus Christ, all who are His brothers by sanctifying grace. Because this endowment is divine and contains all the most precious gifts of life and holiness, its diffusion in us is a ‘source of joy that fills the whole world’. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW, 1998, p. 545)

4. We are holy if we allow ourselves to be child-like and live truly as children of our Heavenly Father, worthy of our supernatural adoption.(Christ the Life of the Soul, Marmion 1917, SW, 1998)

The Holy Spirit forms Jesus in us

5. The Holy Spirit forms Jesus within us through his infinitely gentle, but truly potent, intervention. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW, 1998, p. 546 )

The humanity of Jesus

6. When we share in the delightful scene at Bethany in a spirit of faith, we feel in our hearts that Jesus is truly one of us. God has come to live among us, he is at home with us. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW, 1998, p. 465)

The humanity of Jesus provides a Path

7. The blessed humanity of Jesus shows us the Path. His ability to unite us to the Incarnate Word is without limit. Let us try to be saints to glorify Him. (A Master of the Spiritual Life, Thibaut 1932)

Union with Christ and the Faith

8. We fear neither difficulties nor contradictions when we have a living faith in Christ, because through our faith we know that Christ lives within us and we can rely on Him. (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion 1922, SW, 1998, p. 675)

The imitation of Christ

 9. Spiritual life consists above all in thinking about Christ in such a way as to reproduce in ourselves his person as Son of God with the virtues that belong to him. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 78)

10. Christ is more than a model, more than a High Priest who has gained for us the grace to imitate Him. Through the Holy Spirit He works within the intimacy of our soul to help us imitate Him. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 79)

11. Christ provides for us the perfect model for our sanctity. God finds in Him all that pleases Him. The characteristics he finds in us are there according to the degree that we resemble Jesus. (Union with God, Thibaut 1938, p. 42)

The disciple – another Christ, dead and now risen

12. We have become disciples of Jesus in the blessed water of Baptism, through an act that symbolises His death and His resurrection. We must re-enact this death and this resurrection during the lifetime that we spend here below. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 147)

Union with Christ in the Eucharist

13. It is the soul’s perfection to be united with Him who is its love. Holy Communion, through which the soul receives Christ, works towards this perfection by transforming little by little the soul into Christ himself. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 233)

14. If we will have it so, the admirable exchange still continues. For it is likewise through His Humanity that Christ infuses divine life into us at the Holy Table. It is in eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, in uniting our selves to His Humanity, that we draw at the very welsspring of everlasting life. (Christ in His Mysteries, Marmion, 1919, SW, 1998, p. 405)

The Eucharist - sharing and our neighbour

15. When we receive the Eucharist we should be ready to embrace Christ with love and likewise all who are united with Him, because our love for our brothers and sisters is the measure of our love for Christ. (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion 1922, SW, 1998, p. 911-912)

16. I have no hesitation in saying that one who supernaturally gives him, or herself, unstintingly to Christ in the person of another, greatly loves Christ and is infinitely loved by Him. Such a person will make great progress to union with Our Lord. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 286-287)

17. Christ has become our neighbour. Or rather, our neighbour is Christ who makes Himself known to us under such or such a form. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 285)


18. The surest path, the most direct, the brightest, also the sweetest, is the path of Love. But to travel on this path requires the greatest fidelity. (Union with God, Thibaut, 1938, p 20-21)

19. Love is the ultimate measure of the value of all our actions, even the most everyday ones. (Christ the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion 1922, SW, 1998, p. 703)

20.Love is the motive of all that God does for us. The creation and all the mysteries of the redemption are founded on Love. (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion 1922, SW, 1998, p. 884)

21.Our love should be supernatural. True Love is the love of God that includes in the same embrace God and all that is united with him. (Christ the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 290)

22. To give oneself to others, or rather, to give oneself to Christ in the person of others, this is the true proof of love. (Union with God, Thibaut, 1938, p. 256)

Benedictine spirituality and the Gospel

23. St.Benedict’s spirituality comes straight from the Gospel. This gives it its characteristics of loftiness and simplicity, of force and gentleness: these distinguish it from all others. (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion 1922, SW, 1998, p. 692)

The ‘Lectio Divina’ and the Gospel

24. Knowledge of Jesus and the nature of his life comes to us through the Gospel. Happy are those who open the Gospel every day! They drink at the real spring of living water. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW, 1998, p. 332)


25. Prayer expresses our life as the intimate child of God, the consequence of our divine filiation with Christ. It is the spontaneous flowering of the Holy Spirit. (Christ the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 265)

26. When grace and love take hold of everything in our Life, our whole existence is like a constant hymn to the glory of our heavenly Father. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW,1998, p. 207)


27. Humility is the real and enduring acknowledgement of our miserable condition; this acknowledgement draws us to God’s attention.(Christ the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion 1922,  SW, 1998, p. 761)

28. True humility does not deny God’s gifts; it uses them but attributes all the glory to Him to whom they belong. (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, Marmion, 1922, SW, 1998, p. 779)

Pardon, poverty, weakness

29. The poorer one is, the more the indescribable riches of Christ will find their place in us. When we acknowledge and admit our misery, his generosity is very great. (Union with God, Thibaut 1938, p. 156)

30. Nothing disarms the justice of God in our regard like the mercy we show others. (Union with God, Thibaut 1938, p. 182)

31. We are miserable. But if we unite our sorrows with those of Jesus they will cry to our Father in heaven. (Union with God, Thibaut 1938, p. 111)

32.After communion I like to reflect on how the everlasting Word Incarnate who is “in the heart of the Father” is also present in me “in the heart of the sinner”. This thought makes me throw myself on my knees in adoration and thanksgiving. (A Master of the Spiritual Life, Thibaut 1932, p. 442)


33. No one can say: holiness is not for me. What can make it impossible when God wishes something for us? (Christ, in His Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW, 1998, p. 587)

34. It is a praiseworthy ambition to strive with all our strength to achieve that glorification of God that we attain through sanctity. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW, 1998, p. 579)


35. There is a way in which Mary shares the authority of the Eternal Father over her Son, God made man. Jesus could say of His Mother that which the Son says of his Heavenly Father: “I do only that which pleases Him.” (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 297)

36. Today I realised the perfection of Mary in her sublime faith at the foot of the Cross. Oh! If only she could obtain for us a grace to be like that, marked with such a faith in the extremity of such a trial. (A Master of the Spiritual Life, Thibaut 1932, p. 397)

37. We should imitate Jesus who is both “Son of God” and “Son of Mary”. If we wish to be like Him, then we must have the qualities of each. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 293)

38. What is it that we should ask of Mary? Surely, before all and above all, that she makes Jesus live within us, imparting her faith and her love. (Christ, the Life of the Soul, Marmion, 1917, SW, 1998, p. 304)

39. Those who do not know the Virgin, those who do not truly love the Mother of Jesus, run the risk of not grasping the mystery of Christ’s humanity, and what flows from it. (Christ in his Mysteries, Marmion 1919, SW, 1998, p. 419)

Consecration to the Blessed Trinity (25th December, 1908)

40. O Eternal Father, prostate in humble adoration at Your feet, we consacrate our whole being to the glory of Your Son Jesus, the Incarnate Word. You have constituted him King of our souls, submit to Him our souls, our hearts, our bodies, and may nothing within us move without His orders, without His inspiration. United with Him, may we be carried into Your bosom, and be consumed in the unity of Your love.
O Jesus, unite us to Yourself in Your life that is altogether holy, altogether consecrated to Your Father and to souls. Be our ‘Wisdom, our Justice, our sanctification , our redemption’, our all. ‘Sanctify us in truth’.
O Holy Spirit, love of the Father and the Son, establish Yourself like a furnace of love in the centre of our hearts and ever carry, like blazing flames, our thoughts, our affections, our actions on high, within the bosom of the Father. May our whole life be a ‘Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto’.
O Mary, Mother of Holy Love, yourself form us according to the Heart of your Son.