Sunday 8 June 2014

The Death of Saint Columba

The biographer of St. Columba of Iona, who died in 597, aged seventy-seven, after thirty-four years of missionary work, says that on feeling the hand of death he was, at his own request, carried out of doors in order to visit the working brethren; and then he announced to them his departure, and blessed them and the island and its inhabitants. On the following Saturday he told his friends that that would be the last day of his life. He begged them to take him out, that he might bless the barn, and the crops of corn which were the supplies of their food. On going back to the monastery, the old white pack-horse that used to carry the milk-pails came up to the Saint, laid its head on his bosom and "uttered plaintive cries, like a human being. The attendant began to drive away the beast; but the Saint forbade him, saying: "Let it alone: let it pour out its bitter grief. Lo, thou who hast a rational soul canst know nothing of my departure — only expect what I have just told you; but to this brute beast, devoid of reason, the Creator Himself hath evidently in some way made known that its master is going to leave it." And saying this he blessed the poor work-horse, which turned away from him in sadness. The Saint then ascended a hillock overhanging the monastery, and stood musing and looking round; and said that, small as that place was, it would be held in after-times in great honor by kings and foreign rulers and saints of other churches.

On returning to the monastery, he sat in his cell and transcribed part of the thirty-third psalm. The rest of the night he lay on the bare ground, with a stone for his pillow. He discoursed to the brethren on the blessing of peace, harmony and charity among themselves. When the bell rang at midnight a heavenly light was noticed to surround him, and the brethren knew that his soul was departing; and, after giving them his benediction, he calmly breathed his last. The matin hymns being finished, his sacred body was carried to the church, the brethren chanting psalms; and, being wrapped in fine, clean linen, was buried after three days and nights. A violent storm had been raging all this time, preventing any person, crossing the sound; but after the burial the storm ceased and all was calm.

The Ave Maria, A Catholic Family Magazine Devoted to the Honor of the Blessed Virgin, (Volume 43, 1896), 284.

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