Friday 10 May 2013

Vignettes from the Lives of the Irish Saints: Colum Cille Visits Comgall

On a certain occasion, when St. Columba had sailed in a vessel from Iona Island, to the monastery of Bangor; it happened, that one of his brethren died on board. When landed at the mouth of a river, and at a port, named Iniver Beg, the whole company hastened towards Bangor monastery, where they were received with much joy. Meantime, their deceased companion was laid with the baggage, in a secret part of the vessel. When the voyagers had received a kiss of peace, Comgall washed their feet, and asked, if they had any person, besides the assembled number, during the voyage. St. Columba replied, that one remained on board; Comgall requested, he might be sent for, that he might have an opportunity of enjoying their community's conversation and society. " For," said he, "after the labours of this voyage, the hands and feet of all must find rest, and the vessel with its effects must be taken under our care." St. Columba replied, " That brother will not come, unless you go to him." Without delay, Comgall went to the vessel ; but, not immediately finding the brother, he searched among the luggage, where he thought the monk might be sleeping. There, however, he was found dead. The servant of God was astonished, but betaking himself to prayer, Comgall said, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ arise, and hasten with me to thy brothers." As if awaking from sleep, the dead man arose, and coming with our Abbot to his monastery, the latter observed, that his companion was deprived of one eye. The saint declared, that as he had prayed to God for a perfect restoration, in all his limbs and body, the monk should not labour under such a defect. At the same time, a fountain of water sprung from the earth, whereon they stood. In its water, the Abbot ordered that monk to bathe his face, when he recovered the eye, which he before wanted. Its lustre continued undiminished, even in his old age.

While St. Columba remained with our saint, they entered a church together, to recite Hours. Afterwards, returning to the monastery for supper, St. Comgall ordered a brother to bring some food, which it was thought the house did not contain. But, on going to the cellar, that brother brought the required viands, which were placed before both great saints. These partook thereof, giving thanks. Knowing this to be the gift of God, St. Columba said to St. Comgall, "O holy father, this food is not to be taken with indifference, for it has not been provided by men, but by God's Angels." Those, who were present, immediately said, "Blessed be God for his gifts".

It is recorded, that on another day, while these two great saints were at table, they saw the devil placed in a seat reserved for the cook of the monastery. Surprised at this sight, the saints entertained suspicions, regarding the virtue of this cook. On being sent for, seeing his place occupied by a demon, the cook cried out with a stern voice, " Wretched demon, what brings you here? or what folly induces you to occupy this seat? Certainly, from my youth I have never served thee, and if otherwise, declare it: fly therefore to the sea-depths, or to the desert solitudes, where thou canst hurt no person." The demon then fled in silence. St. Columba and St. Comgall did penance for harbouring unjust suspicions, concerning that brother.

Note: A paper by Archbishop John Healy on the life of Saint Comgall and the monastery he founded can be found on my other blog here.

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