Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23 - St Columban

Today is the feast of St Columban, the great 6th century Irish saint and missionary who went about founding monasteries in France and Italy and converting the locals.

"Catholic Online" has reprinted the Rev Sabine Baring-Gould's wonderful Life of St Columban here. It has all those heroic stories full of marvels that the lives of the saints used to have.

Like this one:

A strange tale is told of a huge vat of beer, offered to the God Woden, which burst at the mere breath of Columban. S. Gall, his companion, set the temples at Tuggen on fire, and threw the idols into the lake. The monks were compelled to fly; and Columban left the pagans of that district with a most unapostolic malediciton, devoting their whole race to temporal misery and eternal perdition.

Or this one:

He lived there the simplest life with his companions, on the bark of trees, the wild herbs, the bilberries in the firwoods, and whatever the neighbors would give, out of charity. Often he separated himself from his companions to plunge alone into the forest. There, in his long and close communion with bare and savage nature, every living creature obeyed his voice. The birds came to receive his caresses, and the squirrels descended from the tree-tops to hide themselves in the folds of his cowl. He expelled a bear from the cavern which became his cell; he took from another bear a dead stag, whose skin he used for shoes for the brethren. One day, while he wandered in the depths of the wood, bearing a volume of Holy Scripture on his shoulder, and meditating whether the ferocity of beasts was not better than the rage of men, he saw a dozen wolves surround him. He remained motionless, repeating the words, "Deus in adjutorium." The wolves smelt his garments, and passed on their way without molesting him. He pursued his [way], and a few steps further on heard the voices of a band of Swabian robbers who wasted the country. He did not see them; but he thanked God for having preserved him from the maw of the wolf and the less merciful hand of man.

And my favourite from the beginning of his story:

He received a good classical education, and resolved early to embrace an ascetic life. But the good looks and winning ways of the Irish girls were a snare to him. He tried to forget their bright eyes by toiling (desudavit) at grammar, rhetoric, and geometry, but found that at least syntax and the problems of Euclid were a less attractive study than pretty faces, and that the dry rules of rhetoric failed altogether before the winsome prattle of light- hearted maidens. He consulted an old woman who lived as a recluse. She warned him that if he wished to maintain his purpose of self-conquest he must fly to a region where girls are less beautiful and seductive than Ireland. "Save thyself, young man, and fly!" His resolution was formed; he decided on going away.

Ah, yes. Be careful of those Irish girls. Some things don't change.