« AnteriorContinuar »
of the day, and companionship with the greatest of his countrymen. His biographers relate many a miracle, angelic apparition, and prophetic revelation wherewith he was favoured, but the greatest miracle of all was the humility that accompanied them, his charity and meekness, his zeal against sin, his virgin purity, and the sweet spirit of lowliness in which he would perform the least act of thoughtful kindness to the 'least' of his 'little children,' as he called the monastic family of Iona. We do not wonder so much at any of his supernatural gifts when we think of the daily miracle of our own days, the answer to our prayers, for we are sure that prayer was the chief instrument he employed. He had a wonderful capacity for interesting himself in the concerns of others, and doubtless he often won souls by the exercise of what we call 'tact.' If he met a poor man, or when making a journey had to crave a night's lodging in a labourer's hut, that gentle and refined soul would talk to him of his affairs, knowing that they were of more importance in his eyes than the convulsions of the nations. He began by asking him how many cows he had, and would wish that God might be pleased to bless them till they became a goodly fold, only waiting for a convenient opportunity of putting in a never-to-be-forgotten word touching things of inestimable value. Likewise in the palace of the king of the Picts, whom he frequently travelled over the Grampians to visit in his remote dwelling near the Ness, he would equally adapt his conversation to his hearers, and find something to do for God. He showed great penetration in regard to the dispositions of young persons, and would teach them the peril of letting their talents run to seed, and do his best to draw them out, and make them fruitful. His humility was intense. The father and head of so many religious houses, the guide of so many souls, he whom all men revered as a living saint, and whose name was renowned not only through all Britain, but in Spain, France, and Italy, was wont to consider every man better than himself. His charity never failed, and he tried to teach every one this grace. We find him refusing to sit down to a rich man's feast until he had convinced him of his sin against charity, and made him promise better behaviour. Whenever he found any one carefully considering the poor and needy, he bestowed on them his special commendation, as on the death of a certain smith much addicted to almsdeeds, he said of him, 'Happy man, who with the labour of his hands hath obtained from God such everlasting heavenly rewards, for whatever by his trade he could make, that he gave to the poor, and now his soul is conducted by the holy angels to the glory of the celestial Paradise.' Some person once asked him to bless his dagger. 'God grant then,' said the saint, ' that it may never shed a drop of the blood of either man or beast.' A thief had come over to Mull with the design of stealing the seacalves belonging to the monks of Iona. Columba gravely asked him, 'Why do you transgress the Divine commandment, and take what is not yours? When you need aught, come to us and your wants will be supplied.' Whereupon he ordered some sheep to be killed, and given to him. We find that what of self-will yet remained in the saint was thus divinely broken. King Conall died in 571. At that time Columba was in the isle of Himba, and in a trance he saw an angel come to him holding in his hand the glass book of the ordination of kings.1 The angel placed the book in his hands, and he found it written that he was to anoint Aidan, the nephew of the late Conall, as king of the Scots. But Columba would not obey, because he had set his heart on that prince's brother,
Eogenan. Whereupon the angel smote him with a whip, saying,' Be assured that I am sent to thee by God, that thou mayest ordain Aidan to the kingdom, according to the words which thou readest, and if thou refusest I shall strike again.' Three successive nights the angel appeared with the book in his hand, and repeating the Divine message. At length Columba obeyed, returned to Iona, and there solemnly consecrated Aidan to the vacant throne. His love for the land of his nativity was undying. He frequently visited it, and received visits from his dear Irish friends; and in a poem attributed to him, he says, 'Three objects I have left, the dearest to me in this peopled world—Durrow, Derry, the noble angelic land.' This patriotic affection and his love for the lower animal creation are witnessed to in a story about a crane which, having flown across from Ireland, dropped down exhausted on the beach at Iona. He desired a brother to feed and cherish 'our stranger guest' for three days, till it should be able to return home,'because it comes from our own dear land.' The tender love between the abbot and his children is shown in the story of the foundation of Deer :—St. Columba arrived at Aberdour, a sheltered bay on the rocky shores of Buchan, accompanied by his pupil Drostan. After tarrying some time at Aberdour, and there probably founding a monastery, they came to another of the Mormaor's 'cities,' which being pleasing to Columcille, as full of God's grace, he asked it in gift. This the ruler declined. Thereafter his son became sick, and was all but dead, when the Mormaor besought the prayers of the clerics for his recovery, and gave them an offering of the 'town' which he had formerly refused. They complied with his request, and their prayers were heard in the recovery of his son. On the land thus granted, the clerics founded a monastery. 'After that, Columcille gave to Drostan that town, and blessed it, and left as his word that "whosoever should come against it, let him not be many-yeared [or] victorious." Drostan's tears came on parting with Columcille. Said Columcille, " Let Dear be its name henceforward."'1 Among all his works and undertakings of head and hand, he was specially devoted to prayer. He would continue in prayer for days and nights together, and by walking continually in the presence of God, even in his sleep he went on mentally praying. He sometimes retired to a thicket to pray, and in the cold winter nights would depart to solitary places to speak to his Maker. His biographers linger long round his last hours. Some time before he told his children that by their prayers four years had been added to his life. One day, in the month of May in the year 597, being then in his seventysixth year, he went in a car to visit some of the brethren who were at work at a distance. He told them very simply that he was glad he had not died at Easter, and thereby damped their Paschal joy. Then he bade them good-bye, and, turning to the east, where before him lay his little island, he lifted up his hands and solemnly blessed it. On the next Sunday, the 2d of June, the message for which he had waited all his life was received at the altar, when a sudden flush and ecstatic thrill betrayed the Divine visitation. 'The angel of the Lord has come to bring to God a deposit dear to Him,' he announced after mass to certain of the wondering congregation, referring to his own soul. On the following Sabbath, he and his dear servant Dermit went out for a last' walk together. 'This day,' said the saint, 'in the sacred volume is called the Sabbath, that is, rest, and will be indeed a Sabbath to me, for it is to me the last day of this toilsome life, for on this sacred night of the Lord, at the midnight hour, I go the way of my fathers; so my gracious Lord
hath vouchsafed to intimate, and all my desire and joy is to be with Him.' As they were pausing to rest, an incident occurred. His old white horse, seeing him, came up to him, and leaning his head upon his master's breast, groaned and even wept, as if he too knew that he would never see him again. St. Columba gave him his blessing—' My faithful and affectionate friend, may you be kindly cared for by Him who made you.' Having rested, Dermit helped him up a little hill, and he blessed his beloved monastery, and committed it to the keeping of Almighty God. When he returned to his cell, he proceeded with the copy of a Psalter he was engaged on, till, having written the words in the thirty-fourth Psalm, 'They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing,' he laid aside his book and his pen for his everlasting rest; the following words, 'Come, my children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord,' 'will better suit my successor than me,' he said. He assisted at evening service, and very early on Sunday morning was the first to enter the church, and kneel down before the altar. When Dermit followed him, the heavenly glory that irradiated the chancel vanished, and, scarcely perceiving him in the dawn of the summer morning, he cried, ' O my father, where art thou? my father, where art thou?' until the brethren coming in with lights, he found the saint, and laid his dying head upon his breast. Then lifting up his eyes, and signing the benediction he was too weak to utter, Columba fell asleep in Jesus before the altar.