Saint Adamnan: Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy
Book I: Of His Prophetic Revelations
Chapter XXXV: The holy man's Prophecy regarding the two Noblemen who died of wounds mutually inflicted
Again, at another time, as the saint was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), on a sudden, while he was reading, and to the great surprise of all, he moaned very heavily. Lugbe Mocublai, who was beside him, on seeing this, asked the cause of such sudden grief. The saint, in very great affliction, answered him, "Two men of royal blood in Scotia (Ireland) have perished of wounds mutually inflicted near the monastery called Cellrois, in the province of the Maugdorna (Magheross, in Monaghan); and on the eighth day from the end of this week, one shall give the shout on the other side of the Sound, who has come from Hibernia, and will tell you all as it happened. But oh! my dear child, tell this to nobody so long as I live." On the eighth day, accordingly, the voice was heard beyond the firth. Then the saint called quietly to Lugbe, and said to him, "This is the aged traveller to whom I alluded, who now crieth aloud beyond the strait; go and bring him here to me." The stranger was speedily brought, and told, among other things, how two noblemen in the district of the Maugdorna, near the confines of the territory in which is situate the monastery of Cellrois, died of wounds received in single combat namely, Colman the Hound, son of Ailen, and Ronan, son of Aid, son of Colga, both descended of the kings of the Anteriores (the Airtheara, or people of Oriel in Ulster). After these things were thus narrated, Lugbe, the soldier of Christ, began to question the saint in private. "Tell me, I entreat of thee, about these and such like prophetic revelations, how they are made to thee, whether by sight or hearing, or other means unknown to man." To this the saint replied, "Thy question regardeth a most difficult subject, on which I can give thee no information whatever, unless thou first strictly promise, on thy bended knees, by the name of the Most High God, never to communicate this most secret mystery to any person all the days of my life." Hearing this, Lugbe fell at once on his knees, and, with face bent down to the ground, promised everything faithfully as the saint demanded. After this pledge had been promptly given he arose, and the saint said to him, "There are some, though very few, who are enabled by divine grace to see most clearly and distinctly the whole compass of the world, and to embrace within their own wondrously enlarged mental capacity the utmost limits of the heavens and the earth at the same moment, as if all were illumined by a single ray of the sun." In speaking of this miracle, the saint, though he seems to be referring to the experience of other favoured persons, yet was in reality alluding to his own, though indirectly, that he might avoid the appearance of vain-glory; and no one can doubt this who reads the apostle Paul, that vessel of election, when he relates the visions revealed to himself. For he did not write, "I know that I," but "I know a man caught up even to the third heavens." Now, although the words seem strictly to refer to another person, yet all admit that he spoke thus of none but himself in his great humility. This was the model followed by our Columba in relating those visions of the Spirit spoken of above, and that, too, in such a way that even Lugbe, for whom the saint showed a special affection, could hardly force him to tell these wonders after much entreaty. And to this fact Lugbe himself, after Saint Columba's death, bore witness in the presence of other holy men, from whom I learned the undoubted truths which I have now related of the saint.

Of Cronan the Bishop

At another time, a stranger from the province of the Munstermen, who in his humility did all he could to disguise himself, so that nobody might know he was a bishop, came to the saint; but his rank could not be hidden from the saint. For next Lord's day, being invited by the saint, as the custom was, to consecrate the Body of Christ, he asked the saint to join him, that, as two priests, they might break the bread of the Lord together. The saint went to the altar accordingly, and suddenly looking into the stranger's face, thus addressed him: "Christ bless thee, brother; do thou break the bread alone, according to the episcopal rite, for I know now that thou art a bishop. Why hast thou disguised thyself so long, and prevented our giving thee the honour we owe to thee?" On hearing the saint's words, the humble stranger was greatly astonished, and adored Christ in His saint, and the bystanders in amazement gave glory to God.

The Saint's prophecy regarding Ernan the Priest

At another time, the venerable man sent Ernan, his uncle, an aged priest, to preside over the monastery he had founded many years before in Hinba island (Eilean-na-Naoimh). On his departure the saint embraced him affectionately, blessed him, and then foretold what would by and by happen to him, saying, "This friend of mine, who is now going away from me, I never expect to see alive again in this world." After a few days this same Ernan became very unwell, and desired to be taken back to the saint, who was much rejoiced at his return, and set out for the harbour to meet him. Ernan also himself, though with feeble step, attempted very boldly, and without assistance, to walk from the harbour to meet him; but when there was only the short distance of twenty-four paces between them, death came suddenly upon him before the saint could see his face in life, and he breathed his last as he fell to the ground, that the word of the saint might be fulfilled. Hence on that spot, before the door of the kiln, a cross was raised, and another cross was in like manner put up where the saint resided at the time of his death, which remaineth unto this day.

The Saint's prophecy regarding the Family of a certain Peasant

At another time, when the saint was staying in that district which is called in the Scotic tongue Coire Salchain (Corrie Sallachan, now Corry, in Morvern), the peasants came to him, and one evening when he saw one of them approaching he said to him, "Where dost thou live?" "I live," said he, "in that district which borders the shore of Lake Crogreth (Loch Creran)." That district of which thou speakest," replied the saint, "is now being pillaged by savage marauders." On hearing this, the unhappy peasant began to lament his wife and children; but when the saint saw him so much afflicted he consoled him, saying, "Go, my poor man, go; thy whole family hath escaped by flight to the mountains, but thy cattle, furniture, and other effects the ruthless invaders have taken off with their unjust spoils." When the poor man heard these words he went home, and found that all had happened exactly as the saint foretold.

The Saint's prophecy regarding a Peasant called Goire, son of Aidan

At another time, in the same way, a peasant, who at that time was by far the bravest of all the inhabitants of Korkureti (Corkaree, in Westmeath), asked the saint by what death he would die. "Not in the battle-field shalt thou die," said the saint, "nor at sea; but the travelling companion of whom thou hast no suspicion shall cause thy death." "Perhaps," said Goire, "one of the friends who accompany me on my journey may be intending to murder me, or my wife, in her love for some younger man, may treacherously kill me." "Not so," replied the saint. "Why," asked Goire, "wilt thou not tell now the cause of my death?" "Because," said the saint, "I do not wish to tell more clearly just now the companion that is to injure thee, lest the frequent thought of the fact should make thee too unhappy, until the hour come when thou shalt find that my words are verified. Why dwell longer on what I have said?" After the lapse of a few years, this same Goire happened to be lying one day under his boat scraping off the bark from a spear-handle, when he heard others fighting near him. He rose hastily to stop the fighting, but his knife, through some neglect in the rapid movement, fell to the ground, and made a very deep wound in his knee. By such a companion, then, was his death caused, and he himself at once remembered with surprise the holy man's prophecy. After a few months he died, carried off by that same wound.

The Saint's foreknowledge and prophecy concerning a matter of less moment, but so beautiful that it cannot, I think, be passed over in silence

For at another time, while the saint was living in the Iouan island (Hy, now Iona), he called one of the brothers, and thus addressed him: In the morning of the third day from this date thou must sit down and wait on the shore on the western side of this island, for a crane, which is a stranger from the northern region of Hibernia, and hath been driven about by various winds, shall come, weary and fatigued, after the ninth hour, and lie down before thee on the beach quite exhausted. Treat that bird tenderly, take it to some neighbouring house, where it may be kindly received and carefully nursed and fed by thee for three days and three nights. When the crane is refreshed with the three days' rest, and is unwilling to abide any longer with us, it shall fly back with renewed strength to the pleasant part of Scotia (Ireland) from which it originally hath come. This bird do I consign to thee with such special care because it cometh from our own native place." The brother obeyed, and on the third day, after the ninth hour, he watched as he was bid for the arrival of the expected guest. As soon as the crane came and alighted on the shore, he took it up gently in its weakness, and carried it to a dwelling that was near, where in its hunger he fed it. On his return to the monastery in the evening, the saint, without any inquiry, but as stating a fact, said to him, "God bless thee, my child, for thy kind attention to this foreign visitor, that shall not remain long on its journey, but return within three days to its old home." As the saint predicted, so exactly did the event prove, for after being nursed carefully for three days, the bird then gently rose on its wings to a great height in the sight of its hospitable entertainer, and marking for a little its path through the air homewards, it directed its course across the sea to Hibernia, straight as it could fly, on a calm day.

The blessed man's foreknowledge regarding the Battle fought many years after in the fortress of Cethirn, and regarding the Well near that place

Another time, after the convention of the kings at the Ridge of Ceate (Druim Ceatt) that is, of Aidan, son of Gabran, and Aid, son of Ainmure the blessed man returned to the seacoast, and on a calm day in summer he and the Abbot Comgell sat down not far from the above-named fort. Then water was brought in a bronze vessel to the saints from a well that was close by to wash their hands. When Saint Columba had received the water, he thus spoke to Abbot Comgell, who was sitting at his side, "A day shall come, O Comgell! when the well whence this water now poured out for us was drawn will be no longer fit for man's use." "How?" said Comgell; "shall the water of this spring be defiled?" "From this," said Saint Columba, "that it shall be filled with human blood; for thy relatives and mine that is, the people of the Cruithni and the race of Niall shall be at war in the neighbouring fortress of Cethirn (now called the Giant's Sconce, near Coleraine). Whence, at this same well, an unhappy relative of mine shall be slain, and his blood, mingling with that of many others, shall fill it up." This truthful prophecy was duly accomplished after many years, for in that battle, as is well known to many, Domnall, son of Aid, came off victorious, and at that well, according to the saint's word, a near kinsman of his was slain.

Another soldier of Christ, called Finan, who led the life of an anchorite blamelessly for many years near the monastery of the Oakwood Plain (Derry), and who was present at the battle, in relating these things to me, Adamnan, assured me that he saw a man's dead body lying in the well, and that on his return from the battlefield the same day to the monastery of Saint Comgell, which is called in the Scotic tongue Cambas (on the river Bann, in diocese of Derry), and from which he had first set out, he found there two aged monks, of Saint Comgell, who, when he told them of the battle he saw, and of the well defiled with human blood, at once said to him: "A true prophet is Columba, for he foretold all the circumstances you now mention today regarding the battle and the well, many years indeed before they occurred; this he did in our hearing to Saint Comgell, as he sat by the fort Cethirn."

How the Saint was favoured by God's grace with the power of distinguishing different Presents

About the same time Conall, bishop of Culerathin (Coleraine) collected almost countless presents from the people of the plain of Eilne (Magh Wine, on the Bann), to give a hospitable reception to the blessed man, and the vast multitude that accompanied him, on his return from the meeting of the kings mentioned above.

Many of these presents from the people were laid out in the paved court of the monastery, that the holy man might bless them on his arrival; and as he was giving the blessing he specially pointed out one present, the gift of a wealthy man. "The mercy of God," said he, "attendeth the man who gave this, for his charity to the poor and his munificence." Then he pointed out another of the many gifts, and said: "Of this wise and avaricious man's offering, I cannot partake until he repent sincerely of his sin of avarice." Now this saying was quickly circulated among the crowd, and soon reaching the ears of Columb, son of Aid, his conscience reproached him; and he ran immediately to the saint, and on bended knees repented of his sin, promising to forsake his former greedy habits, and to be liberal ever after, with amendment of life. The saint bade him rise: and from that moment he was cured of the fault of greediness, for he was truly a wise man, as was revealed to the saint through that present.

But the munificent rich man, called Brenden, of whose present mention was made above, hearing the words of the saint regarding himself, knelt down at his feet and besought him to pray for him to the Lord. When at the outset the saint reproved him for certain other sins of which he was guilty, he expressed his heartfelt sorrow, and purpose of amendment. And thus both these men were cured of the peculiar vices in which they were wont to indulge. With like knowledge at another time, on the occasion of his visit to the Great Cell of Deathrib (Kilmore, in Roscommon), the saint knew the offering of a stingy man, called Diormit, from many others collected in that place on his arrival.

To have written thus much in the course of this first Book selecting a few instances out of many of the prophetic gifts of the blessed man, may suffice. Indeed, I have recorded only a few facts regarding this venerable person, for no doubt there were very many more which could not come to men's knowledge, from being hidden under a kind of sacramental character while those mentioned were like a few little drops which oozed out, as it were, like newly fermented wine through the chinks of a full vessel. For holy and apostolic men, in general, in order to avoid vain-glory, strive as much as they can to conceal the wonders of God's secret working within them. Yet God sometimes, whether they will or no, maketh some of these known to the world, and bringeth them into view by various means, wishing thus, as He doth, to honour those saints who honour Him, that is, our Lord Himself, to whom be glory for ever, and ever.

Here endeth this first Book, and the next Book treateth of the wonderful miracles, which generally accompanied his prophetic foreknowledge.
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