The Life of Columba - Book II
The Life of Columba - Book II is the second part of the life story of Saint Columba entitled On his Miraculous Powers and was written by Adomnán (627/628-704), the Ninth Abbott of Iona (679-704).
BOOK II. ON HIS MIRACULOUS POWERS.
CHAPTER I. Of the Wine which was formed from water.
AT another time, while the venerable man was yet a youth in Scotia (Ireland) learning the wisdom of the Holy Scripture under St. Findbarr, the bishop, it happened that on a festival day not the least drop of wine could be found for the mystic sacrifice. Hearing the ministers of the altar complaining among themselves of this want, he took the vessel and went to the fountain, that, as a deacon, he might bring pure spring water for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist; for at that time he was himself serving in the order of deacon. The holy man then blessed in faith that element of water taken from the spring, invoking, as he did so, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in Cana of Galilee had changed water into wine: and the result was that by His operation in this miracle also, an inferior element, namely pure water, was changed into one of a more excellent kind, namely wine, by the hands of this illustrious man. The holy man, then returning from the fountain and entering the church, placed beside the altar the vessel containing this liquid, and said to the ministers: "Here is wine, which the Lord Jesus hath sent, for the celebration of His mysteries." The holy bishop and his ministers having ascertained the fact, returned most ardent thanks to God. But the holy youth ascribed this, not to himself, but to the holy bishop Vinnian. This first proof of miraculous power, Christ the Lord manifested in His disciple, just as under like circumstances He had made it the first of His own miracles in Cana of Galilee.
Let this divine miracle, worked by our Columba, shine as a light in the beginning of this book, that it may lead us on to the other divine and miraculous powers which were seen in him.
CHAPTER II. Of the bitter fruit of a tree changed into sweet by the blessing of the Saint.
THERE was a certain very fruitful apple tree on the south side of the monastery of the Oakwood Plain (Derry), in its immediate vicinity. When the inhabitants of the place were complaining of the exceeding bitterness of the fruit, the saint one day in autumn, came to it, and seeing the boughs bearing to no purpose a load of fruit that injured rather than pleased those who tasted it, he raised his holy hand and blessed it, saying, "In the name of the Almighty God, O bitter tree, let all thy bitterness depart from thee; and let all thy apples, hitherto so very bitter, be now changed into the sweetest." Wonderful to be told, quicker than the word, and at that very instant, all the apples of the tree lost their bitterness, and were changed to an amazing sweetness, according to the saint's word.
CHAPTER III. Of Corn sown after Midsummer and reaped in the beginning of the month of August, at the Saint's prayer, while he was residing in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona).
AT another time the saint sent his monks to bring from the little farm of a peasant some bundles of twigs to build a dwelling. When they returned to the saint, with a freight-ship laden with the foresaid bundles of twigs, they told the saint that the poor man was very sorry on account of the loss. The saint immediately gave them these directions, saying, "Lest we do the man any wrong, take to him from us twice three measures of barley, and let him sow it now in his arable land." According to the saint's orders, the corn was sent and delivered over to the poor man, who was called Findchan, with the above directions. He received them with thanks, but asked, "What good can any corn do, which is sown after midsummer, against the nature of this soil?" But his wife, on the contrary, said, "Do what thou hast been ordered by the saint, to whom the Lord will give whatever he asketh from Him." And the messengers likewise said further, "St. Clolumba, who sent us to thee with this gift, intrusted us also with this form of instruction regarding thy crop, saying, 'Let that man trust in the omnipotence of God; his corn, though sown now, when twelve days of the month of June are passed, shall be reaped in the beginning of the month of August.'" The peasant accordingly ploughed and sowed, and the crop which, against hope, he sowed at the above-mentioned time he gathered in ripe, to the admiration of all his neighbours, in the beginning of the month of August, in that place which is called Delcros (not identified).
CHAPTER IV. Of a Pestilential Cloud, and the curing of many.
AT another time also, while the saint was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), and was sitting on the little hill which is called, in Latin, Munitio Magna, he saw in the north a dense rainy cloud rising from the sea on a clear day. As the saint saw it rising, he said to one of his monks, named Silnan, son of Nemandon Mocusogin, who was sitting beside him, "This cloud will be very baleful to man and beast, and after rapidly passing today over a considerable part of Scotia (Ireland) namely, from the stream called Ailbine (Delvin, in Meath) as far as the Ford Clied (Athcliath, now Dublin) it will discharge in the evening a pestilential rain, which will raise large and putrid ulcers on the bodies of men and on the udders of cows; so that men and cattle shall sicken and die, worn out with that poisonous complaint. But we, in pity for their sufferings, ought to relieve them by the merciful aid of God; do thou therefore, Silnan, come down with me from this hill, and prepare for thy tomorrow's voyage. If God be willing and life spared to us, thou shalt receive from me some bread which has been blessed by the invocation of the name of God; this thou shalt dip in water, and on thy sprinkling therewith man and beast, they shall speedily recover their health." Why need we linger over it? On the next day, when all things necessary had been hastily got ready, Silnan received the blessed bread from the hands of the saint, and set out on his voyage in peace. As he was starting, the saint gave him these words of comfort, saying, "Be of good courage, my dear son, for thou shalt have fair and pleasant breezes day and night till thou come to that district which is called Ard-Ceannachta (in Meath), that thou mayest bring the more speedily relief with the healing bread to those who are there sick." What more? Silnan, obeying the saint's words, had a quick and prosperous voyage, by the aid of God, and coming to the above-mentioned part of the district, found the people of whom the saint had been speaking destroyed by the pestilential rain falling down from the aforesaid cloud, which had passed rapidly on before him. In the first place, twice three men were found in the same house near the sea reduced to the agonies of approaching death, and when they were sprinkled by Silnan with the blessed water, were very happily healed that very day. The report of this sudden cure was soon carried through the whole country which was attacked by this most fatal disease, and drew all the sick people to St. Columba's messenger, who, according to the saint's orders, sprinkled man and beast with the water in which the blessed bread had been dipped, and immediately they were restored to perfect health; then the people finding themselves and their cattle healed, praised with the utmost expression of thankfulness Christ in St. Columba. Now, in the incidents here related these two things, I think, are clearly associated--namely, the gift of prophecy regarding the cloud and the miraculous power in healing the sick. And to the truth of all these things, in every particular, the above-named Silnan, the soldier of Christ and messenger of St. Columba, bore testimony in the presence of the Abbot Segine and the other fathers.
CHAPTER V. Of Maugina the holy virgin, daughter of Daimen, who had lived in Clochur, of the sons of Daimen (Clogher).
AT another time, while the saint was staying in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he one day at prime called to him a certain brother, named Lugaid, who in the Scotic tongue was surnamed Lathir, and thus addressed him, saying, "Prepare quickly for a rapid voyage to Scotia (Ireland), for it is of the very utmost importance to me that thou be sent with a message from me to Clocher, of the sons of Daimen (Clogher). For this last night, by some accident, the holy virgin Maugina, daughter of Daimen, when she was returning home from the oratory after mass, stumbled and broke her thigh quite through. She is now crying out, and very often calling on my name, in hope that through me she may receive some comfort from the Lord." What more need I say? As Lugaid was setting out in accordance with the directions given him, the saint gave him a little box made of pine, saying, "Let the blessed gift which is contained in this little box be dipped in a vessel of water when thou comest to visit Maugina, and let the water thus blessed be poured on her thigh; then at once, by the invocation of God's name, her thigh-bone shall be joined together and made strong, and the holy virgin shall recover perfect health." This, too, the saint added, "Lo! here in thy presence I write on the lid of this little box the number of twenty- three years, which the holy virgin shall enjoy of this present life after receiving her health." All this was exactly fulfilled as the saint had foretold; for as soon as Lugaid came to the holy virgin her thigh was washed, as the saint recommended, with the blessed water, and was in an instant completely healed by the closing up of the bone. At the arrival of the messenger of St. Columba, she expressed her joy in the most earnest thanksgiving, and, after recovering her health, she lived, according to the prophecy of the saint, twenty-three years in the constant practice of good works.
CHAPTER VI. Of the Cures of various Diseases which took place in the Ridge of Ceate (Druimceatt).
WE have been told by well-informed persons that this man of admirable life, by invoking the name of Christ, healed the disorders of various sick persons in the course of that short time which he spent at the Ridge of Ceate (Druimceatt), when attending there the meeting of the kings. For either by his merely stretching out his holy hand, or by the sprinkling of the sick with the water blessed by him, or by their touching even the hem of his cloak, or by their receiving his blessing on anything, as, for instance, on bread or salt, and dipping it in water, they who believed recovered perfect health.
CHAPTER VII. Of a lump of Salt blessed by the Saint, which could not be consumed by the fire.
On another occasion also, Colga, son of Cellach, asked and obtained from the saint a lump of salt which he had blessed, for the cure of his sister, who had nursed him, and was now suffering from a very severe attack of ophthalmia. This same sister and nurse having received such a blessed gift from the hand of her brother, hung it up on the wall over her bed; and after some days it happened by accident that a destructive fire entirely consumed the village where this took place, and with others the house of the aforesaid woman. Yet, strange to say, in order that the gift of the blessed man might not be destroyed, the portion of the wall from which it was suspended still stood uninjured after the rest of the house had been burned down; nor did the fire venture to touch even the two uprights from which the lump of salt was suspended.
CHAPTER VIII. Of a volume of a book in the Saint's handwriting which could not be destroyed by water.
I CANNOT think of leaving unnoticed another miracle which once took place by means of the opposite element. For many years after the holy man had departed to the Lord, a certain youth fell from his horse into the river which in Scotic is called Boend (the Boyne), and, being drowned, was for twenty days under the water. When he fell he had a number of books packed up in a leathern satchel under his arm; and so, when he was found after the above-mentioned number of days, he still had the satchel of books pressed between his arm and side. When the body was brought out to the dry ground, and the satchel opened, it was found to contain, among the volumes of other books, which were not only injured, but even rotten, a volume written by the sacred fingers of St. Columba; and it was as dry and wholly uninjured as if it had been enclosed in a desk.
Of another Miracle in similar circumstances.
AT another time a book of hymns for the office of every day in the week, and in the handwriting of St. Columba, having slips, with the leathern satchel which contained it, from the shoulder of a boy who fell from a bridge, was immersed in a certain river in the province of the Lagenians (Leinster). This very book lay in the water from the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord till the end of the Paschal season, and was afterwards found on the bank of the river by some women who were walking there: it was brought by them in the same satchel, which was not only soaked, but even rotten, to a certain priest named Iogenan, a Pict by race, to whom it formerly belonged. On opening the satchel himself, Iogenan found his book uninjured, and as clean and dry as if it had been as long a time in his desk, and had never fallen into the water. And we have ascertained, as undoubted truth, from those who were well informed in the matter, that the like things happened in several places with regard to books written by the hands of St. Columba namely, that the books could suffer no injury from being immersed in water. But the account we have given of the above-mentioned book of Iogenan we have received from certain truthful excellent, and honourable men, who saw the book itself, perfectly white and beautiful, after a submersion of so many days, as we have stated.
These two miracles, though wrought in matters of small moment, and shown in opposite elements namely, fire and water, redound to the honour of the blessed man, and prove his great and singular merits before the Lord.
CHAPTER IX. Of Water drawn from the hard rock by the Saint's prayers.
AND since mention has been made a little before of the element of water, we must not pass over in silence some other miracles which the Lord wrought by the saint at different times and places, in which the same element was concerned. On another occasion, then, when the saint was engaged in one of his journeys, a child was presented to him in the course of his travels for baptism by its parents; and because there was no water to be found in the neighbourhood, the saint turned aside to a rock that was near, and kneeling down prayed for a short time; then rising up after his prayer, he blessed the face of the rock, from which there immediately gushed out an abundant stream of water; and there he forthwith baptized the child. Concerning the child that was baptized he uttered the following prophecy, saying, "This child shall live to a very great age; in his youth he will indulge freely the desires of the flesh; afterwards he will devote himself to the warfare of a Christian until the very end of his life, and thus depart to the Lord in a good old age." All this happened to the man according to the prophecy of the saint. This was Lugucencalad, whose parents were from Artdaib Muirchol (Ardnamurchan), where there is seen even to this day a well called by the name of St. Columba.
CHAPTER X. Of a poisonous Fountain of Water to which the blessed man gave his blessing in the country of the Picts.
AGAIN, while the blessed man was stopping for some days in the province of the Picts, he heard that there was a fountain famous amongst this heathen people, which foolish men, having their senses blinded by the devil, worshipped as a god. For those who drank of this fountain, or purposely washed their hands or feet in it, were allowed by God to be struck by demoniacal art, and went home either leprous or purblind, or at least suffering from weakness or other kinds of infirmity. By all these things the Pagans were seduced, and paid divine honour to the fountain. Having ascertained this, the saint one day went up to the fountain fearlessly; and, on seeing this, the Druids, whom he had often sent away from him vanquished and confounded, were greatly rejoiced, thinking that he would suffer like others from the touch of that baneful water. But he, having first raised his holy hand and invoked the name of Christ, washed his hands and feet; and then with his companions, drank of the water which he had blessed. And from that day the demons departed from the fountain; and not only was it not allowed to injure any one, but even many diseases amongst the people were cured by this same fountain, after it had been blessed and washed in by the saint.
CHAPTER XI. Of the Danger to the blessed man at Sea, and the sudden calm produced by his prayers.
AT another time the holy man began to be in great danger at sea, for the whole vessel was violently tossed and shaken with the huge dashing waves, and a great storm of wind was raging on all hands. The sailors then chanced to say to the saint, as he was trying to help them to bale the vessel, "What thou art now doing is of little use to us in our present danger, thou shouldst rather pray for us as we are perishing." On hearing this he ceased to throw out the bitter waters of the green sea wave, and began to pour out a sweet and fervent prayer to the Lord. Wonderful to relate! The very moment the saint stood up at the prow, with his hands stretched out to heaven and prayed to the Almighty, the whole storm of wind and the fury of the sea ceased more quickly than can be told, and a perfect calm instantly ensued. But those who were in the vessel were amazed, and giving thanks with great admiration, glorified the Lord in the holy and illustrious man.
CHAPTER XII. Of another similar Peril to him at Sea.
AT another time, also, when a wild and dangerous storm was raging, and his companions were crying out to the saint to pray to the Lord for them, he gave them this answer, saying, "On this day it is not for me, but for that holy man, the Abbot Cainnech, to pray for you in your present peril." What I am to relate is wonderful. The very same hour St. Cainnech was in his monastery, which in Latin is called Campulus Bovis, but in Scotic Ached- bou (Aghaboe, in Queen's County), and heard with the inner ear of his heart, by a revelation of the Holy Ghost, the aforesaid words of St. Columba; and when he had just begun to break the blessed bread in the refectory after the ninth hour, he hastily left the table, and with one shoe on his foot, while the other in his extreme haste was left behind, he went quickly to the church, saying, "It is not for us now to take time to dine, when the vessel of St. Columba is in danger at sea, for at this moment he is lamenting, and calling on the name of Cainnech to pray to Christ for him and his companions in peril" When he had said this he entered the oratory and prayed for a short time on his bended knees; and the Lord heard his prayer, the storm immediately ceased, and the sea became very calm. Whereupon St. Columba, seeing in spirit, though there was a far distance between them, the haste of Cainnech in going to the church, uttered, to the wonder of all, from his pure heart, these words, saying, "Now I know, O Cainnech, that God has heard thy prayer; now hath thy swift running to the church with a single shoe greatly profited us." In such a miracle as this, then, we believe that the prayers of both saints had their share in the work.
CHAPTER XIII. Of the Staff of St. Cainnech which was forgotten in the Harbour.
ON another occasion, the same Cainnech above mentioned embarked for Scotia (Ireland) from the harbour of the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona),and forgot to take his staff with him. After his departure the staff was found on the shore, and given into the hands of St. Columba, who, on his return home, brought it into the oratory, and remained there for a very long time alone in prayer. Cainnech, meanwhile, on approaching the Oidechan island (Oidech, near Isla, probably Texa) suddenly felt pricked at heart at the thought of his forgetfulness, and was deeply afflicted at it. But after some time, leaving the vessel, and falling upon his knees in prayer on the ground, he found before him on the turf of the little land of Aithche (genitive of Aitech) the staff which, in his forgetfulness, he had left behind him at the landing-place in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona). He was greatly surprised at its being thus brought to him by the divine power, and gave thanks to God.
CHAPTER XIV. How Baithene and Columban, the son of Beogna, holy priests, asked of the Lord, through the prayers of the blessed man, that he would grant them on the same day a favourable wind, though sailing in different directions.
AT another time, also, the above-named holy men came in company to the saint, and asked him, with one consent, to seek and obtain for them from the Lord a favourable wind on the next day, though they were to set out in different directions. The saint in answer gave them this reply, "To-morrow morning, Baithene, setting sail from the harbour of the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), shall have a favourable wind until he reaches the landing-place of the plain of Lunge (Magh Lunge, in Tiree)." And the Lord granted this favour according to the word of the saint; for Baithene on that same day crossed, with full sails, the whole of the open sea, as far as the Ethican land (Tiree). But at the third hour of the same day, the venerable man called to him the priest Columban, saying, "Baithene has now happily arrived at the wished-for haven, prepare thou then to sail to-day; the Lord will soon change the wind to the north." And the same hour the wind from the south obeying the word thus spoken by the holy man, wheeled round and became a northern breeze; and thus on the same day these two holy men departed the one from the other in peace and both set sail, Baithene in the morning for the Ethican land (Tiree), and Columban in the afternoon for Hibernia, and made the voyages with full sails and fair winds. The Lord wrought this miracle in answer to the prayer of the illustrious man, according as it is written, "All things are possible to him that believeth." After the departure of St. Columban on that day, St. Columba uttered this prophecy concerning him: "The holy man, Columban, whom we have blessed on his departure, shall never see my face again in this world." And this was afterwards fulfilled, for the same year St. Columban passed away to the Lord.
CHAPTER XV. Of the driving out of a Demon that Lurked in a Milk-pail.
AT another time, a certain youth, named Columban, grandson of Brian, came forward hurriedly, and stopped at the door of the little cell in which the blessed man was writing. This same person, being on his way home from the milking of the cows, and carrying on his back a vessel full of new milk, asked the saint to bless his burden, as he usually did. Then the saint, being at the time at some distance away in front of him, raised his hand, and formed the saving sign in the air, which at once was greatly agitated; the bar, which fastened the lid of the pail, being pushed back through the two openings that received it, was shot away to a great distance, while the lid fell to the earth, and the greater part of the milk was spilled upon the ground. The young lad then laid down the vessel, with the little milk that remained, on its bottom on the ground, and kneeled down in prayer. The saint said to him, "Rise up, Columban, for thou hast acted negligently in thy work today, inasmuch as thou didst not banish the demon that lurked in the bottom of the empty vessel by forming on it the sign of the cross of our Lord before the milk was poured into it; and now, as thou seest, being unable to bear the power of that sign, he has quickly fled in terror, troubled the whole vessel in every corner, and spilled the milk. Bring the vessel, then, nearer to me here that I may bless it." This being done, the half-empty pail, which the saint had blessed, was found the same instant, filled by divine agency; and the little that had previously remained in the bottom was at once increased under the blessing of his holy hand, so as to fill it to the brim.
CHAPTER XVI. Concerning a Vessel which a sorcerer named Silnan had filled with milk taken from a bull.
THE following is told as having occurred in the house of a rich peasant named Foirtgirn, who lived in Mount Cainle (not identified). When the saint was staying there, he decided justly a dispute between two rustics, whose coming to him he knew beforehand: and one of them, who was a sorcerer, took milk, by his diabolical art, at the command of the saint, from a bull that was near. This the saint directed to be done, not to confirm these sorceries--God forbid! but to put an end to them in the presence of all the people. The blessed man, therefore, demanded that the vessel, full, as it seemed to be, of this milk, should be immediately given to him; and he blessed it with this sentence, saying: "Now it shall in this way be proved that this is not true milk, as it is supposed to be, but blood, which is coloured by the artifice of demons to impose on men." This was no sooner said than the milky colour gave place to the true natural colour of blood. The bull also, which in the space of one hour wasted and pined away with a hideous leanness, and was all but dead, was sprinkled with water that had been blessed by the saint, and recovered with astonishing rapidity.
CHAPTER XVII. Of Lugne Mocumin.
ONE day a young man of good disposition and parts, named Lugne, who afterwards, in his old age, was prior of the monastery of the Elena island (Eileen Naomh, now Nave island, near Isla), came to the saint, and complained of a bleeding which for many months had often poured profusely from the nostrils. Having asked him to come nearer, the saint pressed both his nostrils with two fingers of his right hand and blessed him. And from that hour when he received the blessing, till the last day of his life, a drop of blood never came from his nose.
CHAPTER XVIII. Of the Fishes which were specially provided by God for the blessed man.
ON another occasion, when some hardy fishermen, companions of this renowned man, had taken five fish in their net in the river Sale (the Shiel, or Seil), which abounds in fish, the saint said to them, "Try again," said he; "cast thy net into the stream, and you shall at once find a large fish which the Lord has provided for me." In obedience to the saint's command they hauled in their nets a salmon of astonishing size, which God had provided for him.
AT another time also, when the saint was stopping some, days beside the lake of Ce (Loughkey, in Roscommon), he delayed his companions when they were anxious to go a-fishing, saying: "No fish will be found in the river today or to-morrow; but on the third day I will send you, and you shall find two large river-salmon taken in the net." And so, after two short days, they cast their nets, and landed two, of the most extraordinary size, which they found in the river which is named Bo (the Boyle). In the capture of fish on these two occasions, the power of miracles appears accompanied at the same time by a prophetic foreknowledge, and for both graces the saint and his companions gave fervent thanks to God.
CHAPTER XX. Regarding Nesan the Crooked, who lived in the country bordering on the Lake of Apors (Lochaber).
THIS Nesan, though very poor, joyfully received on one occasion the saint as his guest. And after he had entertained him as hospitably as his means would afford for one night, the saint asked him the number of his heifers. He answered, "Five." The saint then said, "Bring them to me that I may bless them." And when they were brought the saint raised his holy hand and blessed them, and said: "From this day thy five little heifers shall increase to the number of one hundred and five cows." And as this same Nesan was a man of humble condition, having a wife and children, the saint added this further blessing, saying: "Thy seed shall be blessed in thy children and grandchildren." And all this was completely fulfilled without any failure, according to the word of the saint.
ON the other hand, he pronounced the following prophetic sentence on a certain rich and very stingy man named Uigene, who despised St. Columba, and showed him no hospitality, saying: "But the riches of that niggardly man who hath despised Christ in the strangers that came to be his guests, will gradually become less from this day, and be reduced to nothing; and he himself shall be a beggar; and his son shall go about from house to house with a half-empty wallet: and he shall be slain by a rival beggar with an axe, in the pit of a threshingfloor." All this was exactly fulfilled in both cases, according to the prophecy of the holy man.
CHAPTER XXII. How the holy man blessed the few Cattle belonging to Columban, a man of equally humble condition; and how, after his blessing, they increased to the number of a hundred.
AT another time also, the blessed man was one night kindly treated as his guest by the aforesaid Columban, who was then very poor, and, as he had done before in the above account of Nesan, he asked his host, early next morning, as to the amount and kind of his goods. When asked, he said: "I have only five small cows, but if thou bless them they will increase to more." And immediately he was directed by the saint to bring them before him, and in the same manner as was related concerning the five cows of Nesan, he gave as rich a blessing to those of Columban, and said, "Thou shalt have, by God's gift, a hundred and five cows, and an abundant blessing shall be also upon thy children and grandchildren." All this was granted to the full in his lands, and cattle, and offspring, according to the prophecy of the blessed man; and, what is very strange, the number of cattle determined by the saint for both these men, whenever it reached one hundred and five, could not in any way be increased; for those that were beyond this stated number, being carried off by various accidents, never appeared to be of any value, except in so far as anything might be employed for the use of the family, or spent in almsgiving. In this history, then, as in the others, the gifts both of miracles and prophecy are clearly shown together, for in the large increase of the cattle we see the virtue of his blessing and of his prayer, and, in the determination of the number, his prophetic knowledge.
CHAPTER XXIII. Of the Death of some wicked men who had spurned the Saint.
THE venerable man had a great love for the above-named Columban, on account of the many acts of kindness he had done to him, and caused him by blessing him, from being poor to become very rich. Now, there was at that time a certain wicked man, a persecutor of the good, named Joan, son of Conall, son of Domnall, sprung from the royal tribe of Gabran. This man troubled the foresaid Columban, the friend of St. Columba; and not once, but twice, attacked and plundered his house and carried off all he could find in it. Hence it not unfitly happened to this wicked man, that as he and his associates, after having plundered the house of the same person a third time, were returning to their vessel, laden with plunder, he met advancing towards him, the holy man whom he had despised, when he thought he was afar off. When the saint reproached him for his evil deeds, and advised and besought him to give up the plunder, he remained hardened and obstinate, and scorned the holy man; and thus mocking and laughing at the blessed man, he embarked with the booty. Yet the saint followed him to the water's edge, and wading up to the knees in the clear green sea-water, with both his hands raised to heaven, earnestly invoked Christ, who glorifies His elect, who are giving glory to Him.
Now the haven where he thus for some time stood and besought the Lord after the departure of the oppressor, is at a place called in Scotic Ait-Chambas Art-Muirchol (Camus-an-Gaall, Ardnamurchan). Then the saint, as soon as he had finished his prayer, returned to the dry ground, and sat down on the higher ground with his companions, and spoke to them in that hour these very terrible words, saying: "This miserable wretch who, hath despised Christ in His servants will never return to the port from which you have now seen him set sail: neither shall he, nor his wicked associates, reach the land for which they are bound, for a sudden death shall prevent it. This day a furious storm shall proceed from a cloud, which you will soon see rising in the north, shall overwhelm him and his companions, so that not one of them will survive to tell the tale." After the lapse of a few moments, even while the day was perfectly calm, behold! a cloud arose from the sea, as the saint had said, and caused a great hurricane, which overtook the plunderer with his spoil, between the Malean and Colosus islands (Mull and Colonsay), and overwhelmed him in the midst of the sea, which was suddenly lashed into fury: and not even one of those in the vessel escaped, as the saint had said: and in this wonderful manner, by such a singular storm, while the whole sea around remained quiet, were the robbers miserably, but justly, overwhelmed and sunk into the deep.
CHAPTER XXIV. Of a certain Feradach, who was cut off by sudden death.
AT another time also, the holy man specially recommended a certain exile, of noble race among the Picts, named Tarain, to the care of one Feradach, a rich man, who lived in the Ilean island (Isla), that he might be received in his retinue for some months as one of his friends. After he had accepted the person thus highly recommended at the hand of the holy man, he in a few days acted treacherously, and cruelly ordered him to be put to death. When the news of this horrid crime was carried by travellers to the saint, he replied by the following prediction: "That unhappy wretch hath not lied unto me, but unto God, and his name shall be blotted out of the book of life. We are speaking these words now in the middle of summer, but in autumn, before he shall eat of swine's flesh that hath been fattened on the fruits of the trees, he shall be seized by a sudden death, and carried off to the infernal regions." When the miserable man was told this prophecy of the saint, he scorned and laughed at him; and when some days of the autumn months had passed, he ordered a sow that had been fattened on the kernels of nuts to be killed, none of his other swine having yet been slaughtered: he ordered also, that its entrails should be immediately taken out and a piece quickly roasted for him on the spit, so that by hurrying and eating of it thus early, he might falsify the prediction of the blessed man. As soon as it was roasted he asked for a very small morsel to taste it, but before the hand which he stretched out to take it had reached his mouth he expired, and fell down on his back a corpse. And all who saw or heard it were greatly astonished and terrified; and they honoured and glorified Christ in his holy prophet.
CHAPTER XXV. Concerning a certain other impious man, a persecutor of the Churches, who was called in Latin Manus Dextera.
ON one occasion when the blessed man was living in the Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh), and set about excommunicating some destroyers of the churches, and amongst them the sons of Conall, son of Domnall, one of whom was the Joan before mentioned, one of their wicked associates was instigated by the devil to rush on the saint with a spear, on purpose to kill him. To prevent this, one of the brethren, named Findlugan, put on the saint's cowl and interposed, being ready to die for the holy man. But in a wonderful way the saint's garment served as a kind of strong and impenetrable fence which could not be pierced by the thrust of a very sharp spear though made by a powerful man, but remained untouched, and he who had it on was safe and uninjured under the protection of such a guard. But the ruffian who did this, whose name was Manus Dextera, retraced his steps thinking he had transfixed the saint with his spear. Exactly a year afterwards, when the saint was staying in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he said, "A year is just now elapsed since the day Lam-dess did what he could to put Findlugan to death in my place; but he himself is slain, I believe, this very hour." And so it happened, at that very moment, according to the revelation of the saint, in the island which in Latin may be called Longa (Luing), where, in a battle fought between a number of men on both sides, this Lam-dess alone was slain by Cronan, son of Baithene, with a dart, shot, it is said, in the name of St. Columba; and when he fell the battle ceased.
CHAPTER XXVI. Of yet another Oppressor of the innocent.
WHEN the holy man, while yet a youth in deacon's orders, was living in the region of the Lagenians (Leinster), learning the divine wisdom, it happened one day that an unfeeling and pitiless oppressor of the innocent was pursuing a young girl who fled before him on a level plain. As she chanced to observe the aged Gemman, master of the foresaid young deacon, reading on the plain, she ran straight to him as fast as she could. Being alarmed at such an unexpected occurrence, he called on Columba, who was reading at some distance, that both together, to the best of their ability, might defend the girl from her pursuer; but he immediately came up, and without any regard to their presence, stabbed the girl with his lance under their very cloaks, and leaving her lying dead at their feet turned to go away back. Then the old man, in great affliction, turning to Columba, said: "How long, holy youth Columba, shall God, the just Judge, allow this horrid crime and this insult to us to go unpunished?" Then the saint at once pronounced this sentence on the perpetrator of the deed: "At the very instant the soul of this girl whom he hath murdered ascendeth into heaven, shall the soul of the murderer go down into hell." And scarcely had he spoken the words when the murderer of the innocent, like Ananias before Peter, fell down dead on the spot before the eyes of the holy youth. The news of this sudden and terrible vengeance was soon spread abroad throughout many districts of Scotia (Ireland), and with it the wonderful fame of the holy deacon.
What we have said may suffice concerning the terrible punishments inflicted on those who were opposed to him; we will now relate a few things regarding wild beasts.
CHAPTER XXVII. How a Wild Boar was destroyed through his prayers.
ON one occasion when the blessed man was staying some days in the Scian island (Sky), he left the brethren and went alone a little farther than usual to pray; and having entered a dense forest he met a huge wild boar that happened to be pursued by hounds. As soon as the saint saw him at some distance, he stood looking intently at him. Then raising his holy hand and invoking the name of God in fervent prayer, he said to it, "Thou shalt proceed no further in this direction: perish in the spot which thou hast now reached." At the sound of these words of the saint in the woods, the terrible brute was not only unable to proceed farther, but by the efficacy of his word immediately fell dead before his face.
CHAPTER XXVIII. How an Aquatic Monster was driven off by virtue of the blessed man's prayer.
ON another occasion also, when the blessed man was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (the Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water; his wretched body was, though too late, taken out with a hook, by those who came to his assistance in a boat. The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from being dismayed, that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the coble that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin hearing the command of the excellent man, obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes, except his tunic, and leaping into the water. But the monster, which, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey, was lying at the bottom of the stream, and when it felt the water disturbed above by the man swimming, suddenly rushed out, and, giving an awful roar, darted after him, with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream. Then the blessed man observing this, raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, "Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed." Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians.
CHAPTER XXIX. How the Saint blessed the Soil of this Island that no poison of Serpents should henceforth hurt any one in it.
ON a certain day in that same summer in which he passed to the Lord, the saint went in a chariot to visit some of the brethren, who were engaged in some heavy work in the western part of the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona). After speaking to them some words of comfort and encouragement, the saint stood upon the higher ground, and uttered the following prophecy: "My dear children, I know that from this day you shall never see my face again anywhere in this field." Seeing the brethren filled with sorrow upon hearing these words, the saint tried to comfort them as best he could; and, raising both his holy hands, he blessed the whole of this our island, saying: "From this very moment poisonous reptiles shall in no way be able to hurt men or cattle in this island, so long as the inhabitants shall continue to observe the commandments of Christ."
CHAPTER XXX. Of the Knife which the Saint blessed by signing it with the Lord's Cross.
AT another time, a certain brother named Molua, grandson of Brian, came to the saint whilst he was writing, and said to him, " This knife which I hold in my hand I beseech thee to bless." The saint, without turning his face from the book out of which he was writing, extended his holy hand a little, with the pen in it, and blessed the knife by signing it. But when the foresaid brother had departed with the knife thus blessed, the saint asked, "What sort of a knife have I blessed for that brother?" Diormit, the saint's faithful attendant, replied, "Thou hast blessed a knife for killing bulls or oxen." The saint then, on the contrary, said, "I trust in my Lord that the knife I have blessed will never wound men or cattle." This word of the holy man received the strongest confirmation the same hour; for the same brother went beyond the enclosure of the monastery and attempted to kill an ox, but, although he made three strong efforts with all his strength, yet he could not even cut the skin. When this came to the knowledge of the monks, they skillfully melted down the iron of the knife and applied a thin coating of it to all the iron tools used in the monastery. And such was the abiding virtue of the saint's blessing, that these tools could never afterwards inflict a wound on flesh.
CHAPTER XXXI. Of the cure of Diormit when sick.
AT another time, Diormit, the saint's faithful attendant, was sick even unto death, and the saint went to see him in his extremity. Having invoked the name of Christ, he stood at the bed of the sick man and prayed for him, saying, " O my Lord, be propitious to me, I beseech thee, and take not away the soul of my faithful attendant from its dwelling in the flesh whilst I live." Having said this, he remained silent for a short time, and then again he spoke these words, with his sacred mouth, " My son shall not only not die at present, but will even live for many years after my death." This prayer of the saint was heard, for, on the instant that the saint's prayer was made, Diormit was restored to perfect health, and lived also for many years after St. Columba had passed to the Lord.
CHAPTER XXXII. Of the cure of Finten, the son of Aid, when at the point of death.
AT another time also, as the saint was making a journey beyond the Dorsal Ridge of Britain (Drumalban), a certain youth named Finten, one of his companions, was seized with a sudden illness and reduced to the last extremity. His comrades were much afflicted OD his account, and besought the saint to pray for him. Yielding at once to their entreaties, Columba raised his holy hands to heaven in earnest prayer, and blessing the sick person, said, "This youth for whom you plead shall enjoy a long life; he will survive all who are here present, and die in a good old age." This prophecy of the blessed man was fulfilled in every particular; for this same youth, after founding the monastery of Kailli-au-inde (not identified), closed this present life at a good old age.
CHAPTER XXXIII. Of the boy whom the holy man raised from the dead, in the name of the Lord Christ.
AT the time when St. Columba was tarrying for some days in the province of the Picts, a certain peasant who, with his whole family, had listened to and learned through an interpreter the word of life preached by the holy man, believed and was baptized the husband, together with his wife, children, and domestics.
A very few days after his conversion, one of the sons of this householder was attacked with a dangerous illness and brought to the very borders of life and death. When the Druids saw him in a dying state they began with great bitterness to upbraid his parents, and to extol their own gods as more powerful than the God of the Christians, and thus to despise God as though He were weaker than their gods. When all this was told to the blessed man, he burned with zeal for God, and proceeded with some of his companions to the house of the friendly peasant, where he found the afflicted parents celebrating the obsequies of their child, who was newly dead. The saint, on seeing their bitter grief, strove to console them with words of comfort, and exhorted them not to doubt in any way the omnipotence of God. He then inquired, saying, "In what chamber is the dead body of your son lying?" And being conducted by the bereaved father under the sad roof, he left the whole crowd of persons who accompanied him outside, and immediately entered by himself into the house of mourning, where, falling on his knees, he prayed to Christ our Lord, having his face bedewed with copious tears. Then rising from his kneeling posture, he turned his eyes towards the deceased and said, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, arise, and stand upon thy feet." At the sound of this glorious word from the saint, the soul returned to the body, and the person that was dead opened his eyes and revived. The apostolic man then taking him by the hand raised him up, and placing him in a standing position, d him forth with him from the house, and restored him to his parents. Upon this the cries of the applauding multitude broke forth, sorrow was turned into joy, and the God of the Christians glorified.
We must thus believe that our saint had the gift of miracles like the prophets Elias and Eliseus, and like the apostles Peter, Paul, and John, he had the honour bestowed on him of raising the dead to life, and now in heaven, placed amid the prophets and apostles, this prophetic and apostolic man enjoys a glorious and eternal throne in the heavenly fatherland with Christ, who reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost forever.
CHAPTER XXXIV. Concerning the illness with which the Druid Broichan was visited for his detention of a female slave, and his cure on her release.
ABOUT the same time the venerable man, from motives of humanity, besought Broichan the Druid to liberate a certain Scotic female slave, and when he very cruelly and obstinately refused to part with her, the saint then spoke to him to the following effect: "Know, O Broichan, and be assured that if thou refuse to set this captive free, as I desire thee, that thou shalt die suddenly before I take my departure again from this province." Having said this in presence of Brude, the king, he departed from the royal palace and proceeded to the river Nesa (the Ness); from this stream he took a white pebble, and showing it to his companions said to them: "Behold this white pebble by which God will effect the cure of many diseases among this heathen nation."
Having thus spoken, he instantly added, "Broichan is chastised grievously at this moment, for an angel being sent from heaven, and striking him severely, hath broken into many pieces the glass cup in his hand from which he was drinking, and hath left him gasping deeply for breath, and half dead. Let us await here a short time, for two of the king's messengers, who have been sent after us in haste, to request us to return quickly and help the dying Broichan, who, now that he is thus terribly punished, consenteth to set the girl free."
Whilst the saint was yet speaking, behold, there arrived, as he had predicted, two horsemen who were sent by the king, and who related all that had occurred to Broichan in the royal fortress, according to the prediction of the saint--both the breaking of the drinking goblet, the punishment of the Druid, and his willingness to set his captive at liberty; they then added: "The king and his friends have sent us to thee to request that thou wouldst cure his foster-father Broichan, who lieth in a dying state.
Having heard these words of the messengers, St. Columba sent two of his companions to the king with the pebble which he had blessed, and said to them: "If Broichan shall first promise to set the maiden free, then at once immerse this little stone in water, and let him drink from it and he shall be instantly cured; but if he break his vow and refuse to liberate her, he shall die that instant."
The two persons, in obedience to the saint's instructions, proceeded to the palace, and announced to the king the words of the venerable man. When they were made known to the king and his tutor Broichan, they were so dismayed that they immediately liberated the captive and delivered her to the saint's messengers. The pebble was then immersed in water, and in a wonderful manner, contrary to the laws of nature, the stone floated on the water like a nut or an apple, nor, as it had been blessed by the holy man, could it be submerged. Broichan drank from the stone as it floated on the water, and instantly returning from the verge of death recovered his perfect health and soundness of body.
This remarkable pebble, which was afterwards preserved among the treasures of the king, through the mercy of God effected the cure of sundry diseases among the people, while it in the same manner floated when dipped in water. And what is very wonderful, when this same stone was sought for by those sick persons whose term of life had arrived, it could not be found. Thus, on the very day on which King Brude died, though it was sought for, yet it could not be found in the place where it had been previously laid.
CHAPTER XXXV. Of the manner in which St. Columba overcame Broichan the Druid and sailed against the wind.
ON a certain day after the events recorded in the foregoing chapters, Broichan, whilst conversing with the saint, said to him: "Tell me, Columba, when dost thou propose to set sail?" The saint replied, "I intend to begin my voyage after three days, if God permits me, and preserves my life." Broichan said, "On the contrary, thou shalt not be able, for I can make the winds unfavourable to thy voyage, and cause a great darkness to envelop you in its shade." Upon this the saint observed: "The almighty power of God ruleth all things, and in His name and under His guiding providence all our movements are directed." What more need I say? That same day, the saint, accompanied by a large number of followers, went to the long lake of the river Nesa (Loch Ness), as he had determined. Then the Druids began to exult, seeing that it had become very dark, and that the wind was very violent and contrary. Nor should we wonder, that God sometimes allows them, with the aid of evil spirits, to raise tempests and agitate the sea. For thus legions of demons once met in the midst of the sea the holy bishop Germanus, whilst on his voyage through the Gallican channel to Britain, whither he was going from zeal for the salvation of souls, and exposed him to great dangers, by raising a violent storm and causing great darkness whilst it was yet day. But all these things were dissipated by the prayers of St. Germanus more rapidly than his words were uttered, and the darkness passed away.
Our Columba, therefore, seeing that the sea was violently agitated, and that the wind was most unfavourable for his voyage, called on Christ the Lord and embarked in his small boat; and whilst the sailors hesitated, he the more confidently ordered them to raise the sails against the wind. No sooner was this order executed, while the whole crowd was looking on, than the vessel ran against the wind with extraordinary speed. And after a short time, the wind, which hitherto had been against them, veered round to help them on their voyage, to the intense astonishment of all. And thus throughout the remainder of that day the light breeze continued most favourable, and the skiff of blessed man was carried safely to the wished-for haven.
Let the reader therefore consider how great and eminent this venerable man must have been, upon whom God Almighty, for the purpose of manifesting His illustrious name before a heathen people, bestowed the gift of working such miracles as those we have recorded.
CHAPTER XXXVI Of the sudden opening of the door of the Royal Fortress of its own accord.
AT another time, when the saint made his first journey to King Brude, it happened that the king, elated by the pride of royalty, acted haughtily, and would not open his gates on the first arrival of the blessed man. When the man of God observed this, he approached the folding doors with his companions, and having first formed upon them the sign of the cross of our Lord, he then knocked at and laid his hand upon the gate, which instantly flew open of its own accord, the bolts having been driven back with great force. The saint and his companions then passed through the gate thus speedily opened. And when the king learned what had occurred, he and his councillors were filled~with alarm, and immediately setting out from the palace, he advanced to meet with due respect the blessed man, whom he addressed in the most conciliating and respectful language. And ever after from that day, so long as he lived, the king held this holy and reverend man in very great honour, as was due.
=CHAPTER XXXVII. Of a similar unclosing of the Church of the Field of the Two Streams (Tirdaglas, in the county of Tipperary).
UPON another occasion, when the saint was staying a few days in Scotia (Ireland), he went, on invitation, to visit the brethren in the monastery of the Field of the Two Streams (Tirdaglas). But it happened, by some accident, that when he arrived at the church the keys of the oratory could not be found. When the saint observed the brethren lamenting to one another about the keys being astray, and the door locked, he went himself to the door and said, '` The Lord is able, without a key, to open his own house for his servants." At these words, the bolts of the lock were driven back with great force, and the door opened of itself. The saint entered the church before all with universal admiration; and he was afterwards most hospitably entertained by the brethren, and treated by all with the greatest respect and veneration.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. Concerning a certain Peasant who was a beggar, for whom, the Saint made and blessed a stake for killing wild beasts.
AT another time there came to St. Columba a very poor peasant, who lived in the district which borders the shores of the Aporic lake (Lochaber). The blessed man, taking pity on the wretched man, who had not wherewithal to support his wife and family, gave him all the alms he could afford, and then said to him, "Poor man, take a branch from the neighbouring wood, and bring it to me quickly." The wretched man brought the branch as he was directed, and the saint, taking it in his own hand, sharpened it to a point like a stake, and, blessing it, gave it back to the destitute man, saying, "Preserve this stake with great care, and it, I believe, will never hurt men or cattle, but only wild beasts and fishes; and as long as thou preservest this stake thou shalt never be without abundance of venison in thy house."
The wretched beggar upon hearing this was greatly delighted, and returning home, fixed the stake in a remote place which was frequented by the wild beasts of the forest; and when that next night was past, he went at early morning dawn to see the stake, and found a stag of great size that had fallen upon it and been transfixed by it. Why should I mention more instances? Not a day could pass, so the tradition goes, in which he did not find a stag or hind or some other wild beast fixed upon the stake; and his whole house being thus filled with the flesh of the wild beasts, he sold to his neighbours all that remained after his own family was supplied. But, as in the case of Adam, the envy of the devil also found out this miserable man also through his wife, who, not as a prudent matron, but rather like one infatuated, thus spoke to her husband: "Remove the stake out of the earth, for if men, or cattle, perish on it, then thou and I and our children shall be put to death, or led into captivity." To these words her husband replied, "It will not be so, for when the holy man blessed the stake he said it would never injure men or cattle." Still the miserable man, after saying this, yielded to his wife, and taking the stake out of the earth, like a man deprived of his reason, brought it into the house and placed it against the wall. Soon after his house-dog fell upon it and was killed, and on its death his wife said to him, "One of thy children will fall upon it and be killed." At these words of his wife he removed the stake out of the house, and having carried it to a forest, placed it in the thickest brushwood, where, as he thought, no animal could be hurt by it; but upon his return the following day he found a roe had fallen upon it and perished. He then took it away and concealed it by thrusting it under the water in the edge of the river, which may be called in Latin Nigra Dea (not identified). On returning the next day he found transfixed, and still held by it, a salmon of extraordinary size, which he was scarcely able by himself to take from the river and carry home. At the same time, he took the stake again back with him from the water, and placed it outside on the top of his house, where a crow having soon after lighted, was instantly killed by the force of the fall. Upon this the miserable man, yielding again to the advice of his foolish wife, took down the stake from the house-top, and taking an axe cut it in many pieces, and threw them into the fire. Having thus deprived himself of this effectual means of alleviating his distress, he was again, as he deserved to be, reduced to beggary. This freedom from want was owing to the stake, so frequently mentioned above, which the blessed man had blest and given him, and which, so long as it was kept, could suffice for snares and nets, and every kind of fishing and hunting; but when the stake was lost, the wretched peasant, though he had been enriched for the time, could only, when too late, lament over it with his whole family all the rest of his life.
CHAPTER XXXIX. Concerning a Leathern Vessel for holding milk which was carried from its place by the ebb, and brought back again by the return of the tide.
ON another occasion, when the blessed man's messenger, who was named Lugaid, and surnamed Laitir, was at his command making preparations for a voyage to Scotia (Ireland), he searched for and found amongst the sea- going articles that belonged to the saint's ship a leathern vessel for holding milk. This vessel he immersed in the sea in order to moisten it, and put upon it stones of considerable size. He then went to the saint, and told him what he had done with the leathern bottle. The saint smiled and said, "I do not think that this vessel, which thou sayest thou hast sunk under the waves, will accompany thee to Hibernia on the present occasion." "Why," rejoined Lugaid, "can I not take it with me in the ship?" The saint replied, "Thou shalt learn the reason tomorrow, as the event will prove."
On the following morning, therefore, Lugaid went to take the vessel out of the sea, but the ebb of the tide had carried it away during the night. When he could not find it, he returned in grief to the saint, and on his bended knees on the ground confessed his negligence. St. Columba consoled him, saying, "My brother, grieve not for perishable things. The vessel which the ebbing tide has carried away the returning tide will, after your departure, bring back to the spot where thou didst place it." At the ninth hour of the same day, soon after the departure of Lugaid from the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), the saint addressed those who stood near him, and said, "Let one of you now go to the sea, for the leathern vessel for which Lugaid was lamenting, when it was carried away by the ebbing tide, hath been brought back by the returning tide, and is to be found at the place from which it was taken." Upon hearing these words spoken by the saint, a certain active youth ran to the sea-shore, where he found the vessel, as the saint had predicted. He immediately took it out of the water, and with great joy hastened back at full speed to the holy man, into whose hands he delivered it, amid the great admiration of all the beholders.
In the two miracles which we have just recorded, and which regard such common and trifling things as a wooden stake and a leathern vessel, there may, nevertheless, be observed, as we noticed before, the gift of prophecy united with the power of working miracles.
Let us now proceed with our narrative regarding other things.
CHAPTER XL. The Saint's prophecy regarding Libran, of the Rush-ground.
AT another time, while the saint was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), a certain man of humble birth, who had lately assumed the clerical habit, sailed over from Scotia (Ireland), and came to the blessed man's monastery on the island. The saint found him one day sitting alone in the lodging provided for strangers, and inquired first about his country, family, and the object of his journey. He replied that he was born in the region of the Connacht men (Connaught), and that he had undertaken that long and weary journey to atone for his sins by the pilgrimage. In order to test the depth of his repentance, the saint then laid down minutely before his eyes the hardship and labour attending the monastic exercises. "I am prepared," he replied at once to the saint, "to do everything whatever thou cost bid me, however hard and however humiliating." Why add more? That same hour he confessed all his sins, and promised, kneeling on the ground, to fulfil the laws of penance. The saint said to him, "Arise and take a seat." Then he thus addressed him as he sat, "Thou must do penance for seven years in the Ethican land (Tiree); thou and I, with God's blessing, shall survive that period of seven years." Being comforted by the saint's words, he first gave thanks to God, and turning afterwards to the saint, asked, " What am I to do with regard to an oath which I have violated ? for while living in my own country I murdered a certain man, and afterwards, as guilty of murdering him, I was confined in prison. But a certain very wealthy blood-relation came to my aid, and promptly loosing me from my prison-chains, rescued me from the death to which I was condemned. When I was released, I bound myself by oath to serve that friend all the days of my life; but I had remained only a short time in his service, when I felt ashamed of serving man, and very much preferred to devote myself to God. I therefore left that earthly master, broke the oath, and departing, reached thee safely, God prospering my journey thus far." The saint, on seeing him very much grieved over such things, and first prophesying with respect to him, thus made answer, saying, "At the end of seven years, as I said to thee, thou shalt come to me here during the forty days of Lent, and thou shalt approach the altar and partake of the Lucharist at the great Paschal festival." Why hang longer over words? The penitent stranger in every respect obeyed the saint's commands; and being sent at that time to the monastery of the Plain of Lunge (Magh Lunge, in Tiree), and having fully completed his seven years' penance there, returned to him during Lent, according to the previous command and prophecy. After celebrating the Paschal solemnity, and coming at that time to the altar as directed, he came again to the saint to consult him on the above-mentioned oath. Then the saint gave this prophetic answer to his inquiry, "That earthly master of thine of whom thou hast formerly spoken is still living; so are thy father, thy mother, and thy brethren. Thou must now, therefore, prepare thyself for the voyage." And while speaking, he drew forth a sword ornamented with carved ivory, and said, "Take this gift to carry with thee, and offer it to thy master as the price of thy ransom; but when thou dost, he will on no account accept it, for he has a virtuous, kindly-disposed wife, and by the influence of her wholesome counsel he shall that very day, without recompense or ransom, set thee free, unbinding the girdle round thy captive loins. But though thus relieved from this anxiety, thou shalt not escape a source of disquietude arising on another hand, for thy brethren will come round and press thee to make good the support due to thy father for so long a time which thou hast neglected. Comply thou at once with their wish, and take in hand dutifully to cherish thine aged father. Though the duty may, indeed, seem weighty, thou must not be grieved thereat, because thou shalt soon be relieved of it; for from the day on which thou shalt take charge of thy father, the end of that same week shall see his death and burial. But after thy father's burial thy brethren will a second time come and sharply demand of thee that thou pay the expenses due for thy mother. However, thy younger brother will assuredly set thee free from this necessity by engaging to perform in thy stead every duty or obligation which thou owest to thy mother."
Having heard these words, the above-mentioned brother, whose name was Libran, received the gift, and set out enriched with the saint's blessing. When he reached his native country, he found everything exactly as prophesied by the saint. For when he showed and made offer of the price of his freedom to his master, his wife opposed his wish to accept it, saying, "What need have we to accept this ransom sent by St. Columba? We are not even worthy of such a favour. Release this dutiful servant without payment. The prayers of the holy man will profit us more than this price which is offered us." The husband, therefore, listening to his wife's wholesome counsel, set the slave free at once without ransom. He was afterwards, according to the saint's prophecy, compelled by his brethren to undertake the providing for his father, and he buried him at his death on the seventh day. After his burial they required him to discharge the same duty to his mother; but a younger brother, as the saint foretold, engaged to supply his place, and thus released him from the obligation. "We ought not on any account," said he to his brethren, " detain this our brother at home, who, for the salvation of his soul, has spent seven years in penitential exercises with St. Columba in Britain."
After being thus released from the matters which gave him annoyance, he bade farewell to his mother and brothers, and returned a free man to a place called in the Scotic tongue Daire Calgaich (Derry). There he found a ship under sail just leaving the harbour, and he called to the sailors to take him on board and convey him to Britain. But they, not being the monks of St. Columba, refused to receive him. He then prayed to the venerable man, who, though far distant, indeed, in body, yet was present in spirit, as the event soon proved, saying, "Is it thy will, holy Columba, that these sailors, who do not receive me, thy companion, proceed upon their voyage with full sails and favourable winds?"
At this saying the wind, which till then was favourable for them, veered round on the instant to the opposite point. While this was taking place, the sailors saw again the same man running in a line with them along the bank of the river, and, hastily taking counsel together, they cried out to him from the ship, saying, "Perhaps the wind hath suddenly turned against us, for this reason, that we refused to give thee a passage; but if even now we were to invite thee to be with us on board, couldst thou change these contrary winds to be in our favour?" When the pilgrim heard this, he said to them, "St. Columba, to whom I am going, and whom I have served for the last seven years, is able by prayer, if you take me on board, to obtain a favourable wind for you from his Lord." They then on hearing this, approached the land with their ship, and asked him to join them in it. As soon as he came on board, he said, "In the name of the Almighty God, whom St. Columba blamelessly serveth, spread your sails on the extended yards." And when they had done so, the gale of contrary winds immediately became favourable, and the vessel made a prosperous voyage under full sail to Britain. After reaching the shores of Britain, Libran left the ship, blessed the sailors, and went directly to St. Columba, who was staying in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona). The blessed man welcomed him with joy, and, without receiving the information from any one, told him fully of everything that happened on his way--of his master and the wife's kindly suggestion and of his being set free by her advice; of his brethren also, and the death and burial of his father within the week; of his mother, and the timely assistance of the younger brother; of what occurred as he was returning, the adverse and favourable winds; of the words of the sailors when first they refused to take him in; of the promise of fair wind, and of the favourable change when they took him on board their vessel. Why need I add more? Every particular the saint foretold he now described after it was exactly fulfilled.
After these words, the traveller gave back to the saint the price of his ransom which he had received from him; and at the same time the saint addressed him in these words: " Inasmuch as thou art free, thou shalt be called Libran." Libran took at the same period the monastic vows with much fervour.
And when he was being sent back again by the holy man to the monastery where he had formerly served the Lord during the seven years of penance, he received in farewell the following prophetic announcement regarding himself: "Thou shalt live yet a long time, and end this present life in a good old age; yet thou shalt not arise from the dead in Britain, but in Scotia (Ireland)." Hearing these words, he knelt down and wept bitterly. When the saint saw his great grief he tried to comfort him, saying, "Arise, and be not sad. Thou shalt die in one of my monasteries, and thy lot shall be among my chosen monks in the kingdom; and with them thou shalt awake from the sleep of death unto the resurrection of life." When he heard this unusual consolation from the saint he rejoiced exceedingly, and, being enriched by the saint's blessing, went away in peace. This truthful prophecy of the saint regarding the same man was afterwards fulfilled; for when he had faithfully served the Lord for many revolving years of holy obedience in the monastery of the Plain of Lunge (Magh Lunge, in Tiree), after the departure of St. Columba from the world, he was sent, in extreme old age, on a mission to Scotia regarding the interests of the monastery, and proceeded as soon as he landed through the Plain of Breg (Maghbreg, in Meath), till he reached the monastery of the Oakwood Plain (Derry). Being there received as a stranger in the guest-chamber, and suffering from a certain disease, he passed to the Lord in peace on the seventh day of his illness, and was buried with the chosen monks of St. Columba, according to his prophecy, to await the resurrection unto eternal life.
Let it suffice that we have written these truthful prophecies of St. Columba regarding Libran of the Rush-ground. He was called "of the Rush-ground " from his having been engaged many years in the labour of collecting rushes.
CHAPTER XLI. Concerning a certain little Woman who, as a daughter of Eve, was enduring the great and extremely dangerous pains of Childbirth.
ON a certain day during the saint's stay in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), the saint arose from reading, and said with a smile, "I must now hasten to the oratory to pray to the Lord on behalf of a poor woman in Hibernia, who at this moment is suffering the pangs of a most difficult childbirth, and is calling upon the name of Columba. She trusteth that God will grant her relief from her sufferings through my prayers, because she is a relation of mine, being lineally descended from the house of my mother's parentage."
Having said this, the saint, being touched with pity for the poor woman, hastened to the church, and, on his bended knees, earnestly prayed for her to Christ, who was Himself by birth a partaker of humanity. Returning from the church after his prayer, he said to the brethren who met him, "The Lord Jesus, born of a woman, hath given seasonable help to this poor woman, and hath mercifully relieved her from her distress. She hath been safely delivered of a child, nor shall she die upon this occasion." That same hour, as the saint had predicted, the poor woman, by invoking his name, was safely delivered, and restored to perfect health, as we afterwards learned from travellers who came to us from that part of Scotia (Ireland) where the woman resided.
CHAPTER XLII. Of one Lugne, surnamed Tudida, a Pilot, who lived on the Rechrean island (either Rathlin or Lambay), and whom, as being deformed, his wife hated.
ANOTHER time, when the saint was living on the Rechrean island, a certain man of humble birth came to him and complained of his wife, who, as he said, so hated him, that she would on no account allow him to come near her for marriage rights. The saint on hearing this, sent for the wife, and, so far as he could, began to reprove her on that account, saying: "Why, O woman, dost thou endeavour to withdraw thy flesh from thyself, while the Lord says, 'They shall be two in one flesh'? Wherefore the flesh of thy husband is thy flesh." She answered and said, "Whatever thou shalt require of me I am ready to do, however hard it may be, with this single exception, that thou dost not urge me in any way to sleep in one bed with Lugne. I do not refuse to perform every duty at home, or, if thou dost.command me, even to pass over the seas, or to live in some monastery for women." The saint then said, "What thou dost propose cannot be lawfully done, for thou art bound by the law of the husband as long as thy husband liveth, for it would be impious to separate those whom God has lawfully joined together." Immediately after these words he added: "This day let us three, namely, the husband and his wife and myself, join in prayer to the Lord and in fasting." But the woman replied: "I know it is not impossible for thee to obtain from God, when thou askest them, those things that seem to us either difficult, or even impossible." It is unnecessary to say more. The husband and wife agreed to fast with the saint that day, and the following night the saint spent sleepless in prayer for them. Next day he thus addressed the wife in presence of her husband, and said to her: "O woman, art thou still ready to-day, as thou saidst yesterday, to go away to a convent of women?" "I know now," she answered, "that thy prayer to God for me hath been heard; for that man whom I hated yesterday, I love today; for my heart hath been changed last night in some unknown way--from hatred to love." Why need we linger over it? From that day to the hour of death, the soul of the wife was firmly cemented in affection to her husband, so that she no longer refused those mutual matrimonial rights which she was formerly unwilling to allow.
CHAPTER XLIII. The Prophecy of the blessed man regarding the Voyage of Cormac the grandson of Lethan.
AT another time a soldier of Christ, named Cormac, about whom we have related a few brief particulars in the first part of this book, made even a second attempt to discover a desert in the ocean. After he had gone far from the land over the boundless ocean at full sail, St. Columba, who was then staying beyond the Dorsal Ridge of Britain (Drumalban), recommended him in the following terms to King Brude, in the presence of the ruler of the Orcades (Orkneys): "Some of our brethren have lately set sail, and are anxious to discover a desert in the pathless sea; should they happen, after many wanderings, to come to the Orcadian islands, do thou carefully instruct this chief, whose hostages are in thy hand, that no evil befall them within his dominions." The saint took care to give this direction, because he knew that after a few months Cormac would arrive at the Orcades. So it afterwards came to pass, and to this advice of the holy man Cormac owed his escape from impending death.
After the lapse of a few months, whilst the saint was remaining in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), Cormac's name was mentioned one day unexpectedly in his presence by some persons in conversation, who were observing that it was not yet known whether the voyage of Cormac had been successful or otherwise. Upon hearing this, the saint joined the conversation and said: "You shall see Cormac, about whom you are now speaking, arrive here today."
And after about an hour, wonderful to relate, lo! Cormac unexpectedly arrived, and proceeded to the oratory whilst all expressed their admiration and gave thanks to God.
Having mentioned thus briefly the prediction of the blessed man regarding Cormac's second voyage, we have now to relate another equally remarkable instance of the holy man's prophetic knowledge regarding his third voyage.
When Cormac was laboriously engaged in his third voyage over the ocean, he was exposed to the most imminent danger of death. For, when for fourteen days in summer, and as many nights, his vessel sailed with full sails before a south wind, in a straight course from land, into the northern regions, his voyage seemed to be extended beyond the limits of human wanderings, and return to be impossible.
Accordingly, after the tenth hour of the fourteenth day, certain dangers of a most formidable and almost insurmountable kind presented themselves. A multitude of loathsome and annoying insects, such as had never been seen before, covered the sea in swarms, and struck the keel and sides, the prow, and stern of the vessel, so very violently, that it seemed as if they would wholly penetrate the leathern covering of the ship. According to the accounts afterwards-given by those who were there, they were about the size of frogs; they could swim, but were not able to fly; their sting was extremely painful, and they crowded upon the handles of the oars.
When Cormac and his fellow-voyagers had seen these and other monsters, which it is not now our province to describe, they were filled with fear and alarm, and, shedding copious tears, they prayed to God, who is a kind and ready helper of those who are in trouble. At that same hour our holy Columba, although far away in body, was present in spirit with Cormac in the ship. Accordingly he gave the signal, and calling the brethren to the oratory, he entered the church, and addressing those who were present, he uttered the following prophecy in his usual manner: "Brethren, pray with all your usual fervour for Cormac, who by sailing too far hath passed the bounds of human enterprise, and is exposed at this moment to dreadful alarm and fright, in the presence of monsters which were never before seen, and are almost indescribable. We ought, therefore, to sympathize with our brethren and associates who are in such imminent danger, and to pray to the Lord with them; behold at this moment Cormac and his sailors are shedding copious tears. and praying with intense fervency to Christ; let us assist them by our prayers, that God may take compassion upon us, and cause the wind, which for the past fourteen days has blown from the south, to blow from the north, and this north wind will, of course, deliver Cormac's vessel out of all danger."
Having said this he knelt before the altar, and in a plaintive voice poured forth his prayers to the almighty power of God, who governeth the winds and all things, After having prayed he arose quickly, and wiping away his tears, joyfully gave thanks to God, saying, "Now, brethren, let us congratulate our dear friends for whom we have been praying, for God will now change the south into a north wind, which will free our associates from their perils, and bring them to us here again." As he spoke the south wind ceased, and a north wind blew for many days after, so that Cormac's ship was enabled to gain the land. And Cormac hastened to visit Columba, and in God's bounty they looked on each other again face to face, to the extreme joy and wonder of all. Let the reader, then, carefully consider how great and of what a character the blessed man must have been, who possessed such prophetic knowledge, and who, by invoking the name of Christ, could rule the winds and the waves.
CHAPTER XLIV. How the venerable man made a Journey in a Chariot which was not secured with the proper linch-pins.
AT another time, while the saint was spending a few days in Scotia (Ireland), some ecclesiastical object required his presence, and accordingly he ascended a yoked car which he had previously blessed; but from some unaccountable neglect the requisite linch-pins were not inserted in the holes at the extremities of the axles. The person who on this occasion performed the duty of driver in the carriage with St. Columba was Columban, a holy man, the son of Echud, and founder of that monastery which is called in the Scotic language Snam luthir (now Slanore, in Granard, county of Longford). The distance they rode that day was very long, and the jolting severe, yet the wheels did not come off the axles nor even stir from their proper places, although, as was mentioned before, there were no linch-pins to secure them. But divine grace alone so favoured the venerable man that the car in which he was safely seated proceeded without being upset, or meeting any obstacle to retard its progress.
Thus far we may have written enough regarding the miracles which the divine omnipotence wrought through this remarkable man while he lived; we shall now mention also a few out of many well-authenticated miracles which the Lord was pleased to grant to him after his death.
CHAPTER XLV. Of the Rain which, after some months of drought, the Lord bountifully poured out upon the earth in honour of the blessed man.
ABOUT fourteen years before the date at which we write, there occurred during the spring a very great and long-continued drought in these marshy regions, insomuch that the threat denounced against sinners in the Book of Leviticus seemed to impend over the people: "I will give to you the heaven above as iron, and the earth as brass. Your labour shall be spent in vain, the ground shall not bring forth her increase, nor the trees their fruit," etc.
We therefore, reading these words, and fearing the impending calamity, took counsel together, and resolved that some of the senior members of the community should walk round a newly ploughed and sowed field, taking with them the white tunic of St. Columba, and some books written in his own hand, that they should raise in the air, and shake three times the tunic which the saint wore at the hour of his death; and that they then should open the books and read them on the little hill of the angels (now called Sithean Mor), where the citizens of the heavenly country were occasionally seen to descend at the bidding of the blessed man. When these directions had been executed in the manner prescribed, then, strange to relate, the sky, which during the preceding months of March and April had been cloudless, was suddenly covered with dense vapours that arose from the sea with extraordinary rapidity; copious rain fell day and night, and the parched earth being sufficiently moistened, produced its fruits in good season, and yielded the same year a most abundant harvest. And thus the invocation of the very name of the blessed man, by the exhibition of his tunic and books, obtained seasonable relief at the same time for many places and much people.
CHAPTER XLVI. Of the unfavourable Winds which, through the intercession of our Saint, were changed into propitious breezes.
OUR belief in the miracles which we have recorded, but which we did not ourselves see, is confirmed beyond doubt by the miracles of which we were eye-witnesses; for on three different occasions we saw unfavourable gales of wind changed unto propitious breezes.
On the first occasion we had to draw over land long boats of hewn pine and oak, and to bring home in the same way a large quantity of materials for building ships. In order to obtain from the Lord a favourable wind for our voyage, we took counsel and put the books and garments of the blessed man upon the altar, and at the same time fasted, chanted psalms, and invoked his name. And this was granted to the holy man by God's favour, for on the day that our sailors had made all their preparations, and were ready to convey the wood for the purposes above mentioned in curachs and skiffs, the wind, which for several days before had been contrary, suddenly changed into favourable breezes. They blew steadily the entire day, by God's blessing, and enabled the whole fleet of boats to make their long and dangerous passage to the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), with safety and expedition.
On the second occasion, which was a few years after the one just mentioned, our monastery was requiring repairs, and some oak-trees were to be taken from near the mouth of the river Sale (the Seil, in Lorn), in twelve vessels which we brought for the purpose. Our sailors then rowed out to sea with their oars, the day being calm and the sea tranquil, when suddenly a westerly wind, which is also called Zephyr, sprang up, and we betook ourselves to the nearest island, which is called in Scotic Airthrago (probably Kerrera), to seek for shelter in a harbour in it.
But in the meantime we began to complain of this unfavourable change in the wind, and in some measure even to blame our Columba, saying, "Doth our unfortunate detention in this place please thee, O saint? Hitherto we had hoped that we might receive from thee some aid and comfort in our labours through the divine favour, seeing we thought that thou wert honoured and powerful in the sight of God."
No sooner had we thus spoken, than, wonderful to relate, the unfavourable west wind ceased, and immediately, in the course as it were of one minute, behold a most favourable south-eastern breeze sprang up. The sailors were then directed to raise the sail yards in the form of a cross, and spread the sails upon them; thus putting to sea with a steady and favourable breeze, we were enabled, without the slightest fatigue, to reach our island that same day, rejoicing in our cargo of wood, and in the company of all who were engaged in assisting us in the ships. Thus the chiding with the holy man, slight though it was, in that complaint assisted us not a little; and in what and how great esteem the saint is held by the Lord is evident from His hearing him so quickly and changing the winds.
Then the third instance was in the summer, after the celebration of a synod in Hibernia, when we were detained by contrary winds for a few days among the people of the tribe of Loern (Lorn), and had reached the Sainean island (Shuna). There the vigil and the feast of St. Columba found us extremely sad and disconsolate, because we wished to celebrate that joyous day in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona). Accordingly, as on a former occasion, we began to complain and to say, "Is it agreeable to thee, O saint, that we should spend tomorrow, thy festival-day, among strangers, and not celebrate it in shine own church? It is easy for thee in the morning of such a day to obtain from the Lord that the contrary winds may become favourable, and that we may be able to celebrate the solemn mass of thy birth in shine own church. On the following morning we arose at daybreak, and seeing that the adverse winds had ceased, we went on board our vessels and put to sea in a profound calm, when, lo! there suddenly sprung up a south wind, which was most favourable for the voyage. The sailors then joyously raised the sails, and on this occasion also without any exertion on our part, so quick and so favourable was our passage, owing to the mercy of God to the blessed man, that we reached the landing-place of the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), after the third hour, according to our previous anxious desire. After washing our hands and feet we entered the church at the sixth hour in company with our brethren, and celebrated at once the holy services of the mass of St. Columba and St. Baithene, whose festivals occurred on that day, at the daybreak of which, as we said above, we started: from the distant Sainean island (Shuna).
And as to the truth of this story I have now related, there are yet living, not merely one or two witnesses as the law requires, but hundreds and more who can bear testimony.
CHAPTER XLVII. Concerning the Plague.
WHAT we are about to relate concerning the plague, which in our own time twice visited the greater part of the world, deserves, I think, to be reckoned among not the least of the miracles of St. Columba. For, not to mention the other and greater countries of Europe, including Italy, the Roman States, and the Cisalpine provinces of Gaul, with the States of Spain also, which lie beyond the Pyrenees, these islands of the sea, Scotia (Ireland) and Britain, have twice been ravaged by a dreadful pestilence throughout their whole extent, except among the two tribes, the Picts and Scots of Britain, who are separated from each other by the Dorsal mountains of Britain. And although neither of these nations was free from those grievous crimes which generally provoke the anger of the eternal Judge, yet both have been hitherto patiently borne with and mercifully spared. Now, to what other person can this favour granted them by God be attributed unless to St. Columba, whose monasteries lie within the territories of both these people, and have been regarded by both with the greatest respect up to the present time? But what I am now to say cannot, I think, be heard without a sigh, that there are many very stupid people in both countries who, in their ignorance that they owe their exemption from the plague to the prayers of the saint, ungratefully and wickedly abuse the patience and the goodness of God. But I often return my most grateful thanks to God for having, through the intercession of our holy patron, preserved me and those in our islands from the ravages of the pestilence; and that in Saxonia also, when I went to visit my friend King Aldfrid, where the plague was raging and laying waste many of his villages, yet both in its first attack, immediately after the war of Ecfridus, and in its second, two years subsequently, the Lord mercifully saved me from danger, though I was living and moving about in the very midst of the plague. The Divine mercy was also extended to my companions, not one of whom died of the plague, or was attacked with any other disease.
Here must end the second Book recording the miracles, and it is right for me to draw attention to the fact, that many well-authenticated miracles have been omitted in order not to fatigue the reader.
Here endeth the Second Book.
Source: Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy. Written by Adomnán, ed. William Reeves, ( Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874) This text was taken from the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
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