Dinooth stands out as a man whose life made a profound impact, not only on the Celtic church but also upon Wales as a nation. His life challenges us to think about the kind of impact that we can make in a secular post-modern world.
Writing about Dinooth in his book Truth Triumphant, B.G. Wilkerson says this: “He (Dinooth) stamped his personality on the life of the Welsh nation and he gave direction to the thought of his country’s church.” Dinooth was a giant of piety and intellect, spiritual enough to be director of the Celtic church in England and Wales and smart enough to defeat the arguments of Augustine in his quest to subjugate Celtic Christianity to Papal authority. But what stands out above both these accomplishments is the kind of influence he had on Wales both socially and spiritually. What was it that made him such a compelling thought leader and visionary? It was his unwavering consecration to the word and work of God.
Dinooth lived from 530-610 AD and rose to the leadership of the Celtic church at a very young age. He was trained by Columba and later used much of what he learned in evangelizing Wales. The most notable thing he accomplished was establishing a training school at Bangor in Wales, which became a center of spiritual influence in that region, deploying missionaries to all surrounding quarters. At any given time there would have been hundreds if not thousands of students training at the school.
One story recounts how soon after Dinooth had defeated Augustine in his quest to subjugate the Welsh church, Aethelfirth, the Catholic monarch of Northumbria, slaughtered 1200 young ministerial students while they were praying at the training school in Bangor. It was a terrible blow for the young missionaries who survived but they chose not to yield to tyranny and stood firm for what they believed.
The Welsh church was the sturdiest branch of the Celtic church and the last to bow to Papal pressure. They differed with Rome on several key points including the supremacy of bishops, celibacy of priests and the observance of Sunday as Sabbath. Historians note that the Celtic church from its earliest beginnings kept the seventh-day Sabbath. The 6th century marked the golden age of the Celtic church, with such bright lights as Aidan in England, Columba in Scotland, Patrick in Ireland and Dinooth in Wales.
Moving from Dinooth, we focus our attention on another hero of faith, Columbanus.
Columbanus was trained at Bangor and was intelligent, gifted and completely consecrated to God, a combination that rarely, if ever, falls short of making a significant impact. Columbanus cast his eyes from the well-watered fields of Celtic Christendom to the dry and barren lands of continental popery. Europe would be his mission field and he was bent on revolutionizing the continent for Jesus.
He arrived in France with a cohort of 13 missionaries and set up his training school in Anagrates. From there the work rippled outward as local youth flocked to the training school, no longer having to leave their homeland in search of quality missionary training. The school at Anagrates soon became too small and there followed the establishment of more training centers at Luxeuil and Fontaine all located within 20 miles of each other.
Columbanus then pushed further into the continent, taking the gospel to Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The final frontier that he crossed was that of Italy. Here he met like-minded Christians, the Waldenses, who shared commonalities with Celtic Christianity.
Nearing the end of his life, Columbanus sought a grant of land from the king to establish a training school and was given the ruined church of Bobbio for his work. He died a year after the school was established in 615 AD at 72 years of age. Having put his hand to the plow, he never looked back and never slowed down.
How do you begin to make an impact? The common threads that run through the stories of Dinooth and Columbanus are consecration and faithfulness. Sometimes it can be easy to look around us and be discouraged. Not only is there war and bloodshed but there seems to be a communal fist waving angrily and defiantly in the face of God. As a Christian, how do you navigate that? Still, make an impact in spite of that?
Zechariah 4:10 asks “Who has despised the day of small things?” Widespread ripples can begin with a single small stone. The most powerful impact can be made by faithfulness to God, in the smallest work He places before us. Don’t despise the day, or the ways, of small things.