Friday, 2 October 2015

Saint Brigid and the Little Hostage

October 2 is the feast of Saint Giallán of Killelan, a Kildare saint with an interesting story attached to his name. There is a note appended to the margins of the Martyrology of Tallaght which explains that his name, derived from the Irish for a hostage, giall, was bestowed on him by Saint Brigid of Kildare. Our saint was originally a prince of Leinster called Onme who was given to Saint Brigid by another Leinster ruler to ensure the submission of Onme's father. The scribe's note tells us:
Onme (i.e. simul) or Omne son of the king of Leinster. And he was given as a hostage to the king of Leth Cuind, and he gave him into Brigit's hand that she might on his account obtain submission a patre suo, et aliquo die dixerunt discipulae Brigitae ei: ' 'tis lovely the little hostage (giallán) is to-day,' said they. 'Giallán will be his name for ever,' said Brigit. And that is the one who is in Cell Giallain in Ui Muiridaig.
It seems that the little hostage made quite an impression on Saint Brigid and her household! Professor Pádraig Ó Riain, in his 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints reveals that the saint is associated with the County Kildare locality of Killelan, probably originally Ceall Ghialláin. October 2 is the second of two feast days recorded for him, the first is at September 6. There is a post on Saint Giallán at my other site here.

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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Saint Colman's Vision of Saint Patrick

September 26 is the feast of the County Offaly saint, Colman of Lann-elo. At my other site I have recounted some of the miracles attributed to this holy man and below is another one relating to Saint Patrick:

Saint Colman's Vision of Saint Patrick
While in choir one day, the monks were engaged in singing the Hymn of St. Patrick, when their superior saw the great Apostle of Ireland standing in their midst. Colman ordered that hymn to be sung a second and a third time, but one of the elders objected to such a repetition, and proposed that another hymn should be substituted for it. " My brother," responded Colman, I ordered that Hymn to be repeated, because while singing it St. Patrick stood among you." No sooner had he spoken these words than the vision disappeared.

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Earth from Saint Ciarán's Tomb Saves Saint Colum Cille at Sea

We are told, on his hearing about St. Kieran's death, St. Columkille, Abbot of Iona, declared, that it was a providential circumstance, he had been called away from life at an early age; for, had he lived to an advanced term of years, the envy of many would be excited against him. It is said, that St. Columba composed a Hymn in honour of our saint. This seems to indicate, that he had been at Clonmacnoise, when it was written; since the successor of Kieran said to him: "O father, this is a beautiful and eulogistic hymn; what return can we make for its composition?" Columba answered, "Give me two hands full of earth, taken from the grave of Father Kieran, because that I desire and love, more than pure gold or precious stones." Wherefore, St. Columba, taking this earth from the sepulchre of St. Kieran, returned to his own island of Hy.

But, while on his voyage thither, a great sea-storm arose, which carried his ship towards a most dangerous whirlpool, known as Corebreacyn. While drifting towards this whirlpool, so much dreaded by mariners, St. Columba threw a portion of the earth taken from St. Kieran's tomb into the sea. Immediately, the waves subsided, the tempest was stilled, and the ship escaped from that menaced danger. Thereupon, St. Columba returned thanks to God, and called his fellow-passengers to witness what a favour had been obtained, through the relics of Blessed Kieran.

[Footnote: This account purports to be taken from the thirty-third chapter of an old Life of St. Kieran. It is not to be found in the Irish Life, contained in the Book of Lismore.]

Rev J. O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, Volume IX, (Dublin n.d.), 232-233.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A Collect for Saint Columba

To mark the octave day of the feast of Saint Colum Cille and to conclude the series of posts in his honour, below is a beautiful collect taken from the Mass for his feast day:

Breathe into our hearts, we entreat you, Lord, a longing for heavenly glory: and grant that we may bear in our hands sheaves of justice thither, where the holy abbot Columba shines with you. Through Our Lord.

Dom Gaspar Lefebvre, O.S.B., Saint Andrew Sunday Missal (Bruges, 1957), 856.

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Hagiography and Saint Colum Cille

Although the Life of Columba by Saint Adamnan is one of the most famous works of hagiography, it is not the sole one written about our saint. The Betha Colaim Chille, written by the sixteenth-century Donegal chieftain Manus O'Donnell, contains many stories and local lore not found in its more famous predecessor. The editors and translators of the 1918 edition made this observation about the hagiographical traditions relating to Saint Colum Cille as O'Donnell found them:

In the miracles, prophecies, and visions of Columcille, there is much that is of familiar hagiographical pattern. Those who loved his memory, like those who treasured that of other saints, would permit their favorite to yield to none in sanctity and power. Fair traceries from the shrines of many another holy man are borrowed to deck that of the beloved patron. There are stories of the holy men that were Columcille 's friends, and of those who were his teachers and pupils.  Visits to France and pilgrimages to Rome have been added, and other practices conforming to the habits of saints of later date. Local legends explain the origin of land grants and taxes which readers of the Life were paying—or neglecting to pay—to Columcille's successors. Many an anecdote testifies to the genuineness of relics in this place or that — the Golden Leaf in Iona, the Red Stone of Gartan, and not a few others.

Many a miracle of Patrick or of Bridget, of the apostles and of Hebrew prophets, is told and retold of Columcille. Was he not like them in life and in works, and what the others did, should not he do also? And so Columcille, like other saints, strikes fountains from rocks, blesses stones and salt to heal maladies, illumines dark places with his hands, and by a thousand miracles already told a thousand times of other holy men, proves that indeed "there hath not come patriarch nor prophet, nor evangelist, nor apostle, nor martyr, nor confessor, nor virgin, that we may not liken Columcille to him or set him in some degree of perfection above all of them. "

Monday, 15 June 2015

Saint Colum Cille and Saint Brigid's Blessed Thought

107. On a time Brigid was going over the plain of Liffey. And as the holy virgin then beheld the fair plain before her, she said that if hers were the power over that plain, she would give it to God Almighty.

And that blessed thought of Brigid 's was made known to Colum Cille in his abbey church at Swords, and he cried with a loud voice, '' It is as much for the virgin to have that thought as to bestow the plain," said he.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Saint Columba's Case Book

Below is a commentary on Saint Colum Cille's life and work from a medical perspective which I first contributed as a post to the celt-list back in 2009.  The career of Saint Colum Cille is so multi-faceted that to see him described as 'one of Britain's early GPs' seems like just one more string to this great saint's bow. It is interesting though to see the healing miracles of hagiography subjected to scientific analysis and for the saint to emerge with the doctor's respect.

St Columba's case book

by Duncan L Hunter

British Medical Journal Feb 19, 2000

Was St Columba of Iona a doctor or a saint? St Columba was an early Christian saint who founded a monastery on Iona, but his Life, published at the end of the fifth century by Adomnan, suggests that he was also one of Britain's early GPs.[1] Written a century after his death, the stories rely heavily on Christian symbolism as they were based on tales circulating among the monks and were written by an abbot, about an abbot. However, if you ignore the miraculous hyperbole, Book II can be read as a description of early British medicine. Columba seems to have been a widely respected GP with some knowledge of public health medicine.

He investigated two epidemics, once by identifying a point source infection from a well (anyone who drank from the well or intentionally washed his hands or feet in it was struck down--people became leprous or half blind or were afflicted) and once by attempting to treat a possible smallpox outbreak (awful sores of pus on the bodies of people and on the udders of cattle) with penicillin (bread dipped in water). Columba can be forgiven for not recognising that the virus would not respond to penicillin, which in any case was not discovered for another 13 centuries. He was also unlikely to have heard of
trichinosis, but he knew enough to warn of the dangers of eating undercooked pork. One impatient farmer did not wait and slaughtered a pig too soon (he was impatient to have his first taste of the meat--as soon as a morsel of meat was cooked, he called for it to taste it), and he died.

Columba was ready to treat whoever showed up at his clinic and sometimes did house calls. A young woman stumbled on her way home and broke her hip in two; while Columba does not reveal the contents of his doctor's bag (a little pinewood box), the bone successfully mended. A young man presented with a chronic nosebleed, which Columba healed by applying pressure to the nostrils with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. A couple came for counselling when a patient complained that his wife would not sleep with him. She told Columba, "Do not make me share a bed with Luigne." Columba successfully recommended a combination of controlled dieting (fasting) and counselling. On another occasion, he was called out at night to attend a woman in labour who was suffering great pains during a difficult childbirth. Columba chose prayer or "watchful waiting."

Perhaps Columba's most interesting intervention came in cardiology. A middle aged man with type A personality (Broichan's heart was hard and unbending) suffered a heart attack, attributed to a heavy blow from an angel, which left him struggling for breath and near to death. Columba prescribed the cardiac drug of choice, perhaps a nitrate (a white rock dipped in water, that floated miraculously on the water like an apple or a nut). The patient took the draught and completely recovered. This miracle drug healed many people and was so effective that it was kept in the royal treasury until it was used up.

Little acknowledgement of Dr Columba's contribution to medicine remains today. A monastery on Iona still exists and is the destination to many persons seeking spiritual healing. Those requiring treatment for physical problems must travel by ferry across the Sound of Iona to Mull or await the Oban ambulance.

[1] Adomnan of Iona. Life of St. Columba [translated by Richard Sharpe]. London: Penguin Books, 1995.