Friday 10 June 2016

The Common Father and Patron of the Poor and Needy

We begin a series of posts to honour the octave of the feast of Saint Colum Cille with this vignette illustrating his charity, from a nineteenth-century biography by the minister of Campbeltown:

In one of the accounts of his life, published by Colgan, we are told, that after he had erected the monastery of Durrough, he ordered a hundred poor persons to be served with victuals every day at a certain hour, and appointed an almoner for that purpose. One day a mendicant came to apply for a share of this charity, but was told by the almoner that he could have nothing, as the appointed number had been already served. He came the second day, and was told in like manner that he was come too late, and that for the future he must come earlier, if he expected his share of the charity. The third day, however, he came as late as before, and when the almoner gave him the same reply as formerly, he bade him go and tell from him to the abbot that he ought not to limit his charity by any precise rules which God had not prescribed, but always to give while he had, in whatever number, time, or manner, the poor should apply to him. Columba, upon receiving this message, ran hastily after the mendicant, who had then assumed a heavenly form; which gave him to understand to whom he was indebted for the counsel. From that day forward he laid aside his rules, and gave to all objects, at all times, provided he had any thing to bestow. If at any time he had not, his tears would flow, till God enabled him to relieve their wants. Hence, adds the writer, he was esteemed, what he really was, the common father and patron of the poor and needy.

Rev. J. Smith,  The Life of Saint Columba, The Apostle of the Highlands (Glasgow 1824), 129-130.

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