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Saint Donnan

SAINT DONNAN  (died 618 A.D.)
Donnan is an Irish name that means “world mighty.”

Sometimes we know something about a person, but not too much. This is the case with St. Donnan.

St. Donnan was taught the Catholic faith by St. Columba in Iona, Scotland at a monastery which Columba had founded. Columba was an Irish missionary who was eager to spread the faith to the Scottish people, called the Picts, who had not heard about Jesus. Some of these people were glad to hear about Jesus and others rejected the faith.

St. Donnan was also from Ireland and he, too, saw the importance of helping the Picts learn about Jesus. With 52 other monks, he established a monastery on Eigg Island, which is off the western coast of Scotland. Here the monks lived, prayed, and worked together. From here they journeyed out to teach the Picts about Jesus. They lived a quiet, joyful life together. And together they died.

Three different accounts tell how these monks died. The common thread is that they were killed after prayer, and they were martyred for their faith.


One account states that Donnan, who was abbot of the monks, was offering Holy Mass when robbers arrived by sea. Seeing that these evil men would kill all who were present at the monastery, St. Donnan ask them to wait until Mass was over. This they did, beheading all of the monks once the Mass was completed.


Another account states that a pagan queen of the Picts had Donnan and all of his monks burnt because she was opposed to their teaching about Jesus.


A third account states that Donnan and his monks built their monastery on ground that a rich woman sometimes used to graze her sheep. Resenting this, she hired bandits to kill Donnan and the monks. The monks were at prayer, chanting their psalms, when the bandits arrived. The bandits did not want to kill the men when they were praying so they waited. When Donnan saw what would happen, he had the monks finish their prayers and then go into their kitchen where they were killed.


We know that Donnan was a holy man and that he died because of his faith. These are two important things about him. It does not matter if we don’t know other details. God does.

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