Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of St. Columba (Colmcille, Columcille)

St. Columba was born on December 7, 521 in Gartan parish in County Donegal, in the very northernmost part of Ireland. He was born the great-great grandson of an Irish king, to the Clan O'Donnell. His name at birth was "Colum," meaning "Dove" -- in Latin "Columba" -- but is also known as "Columcille" -- where "cille" means "of the Church."

Our "Dove of the Church" was educated by priests, including St. Finnian, attending Movilla Abbey in Newtownards, County Down, in present-day Northern Ireland (the abbey is now in ruins).  He became a deacon there, and then went to Leinster, in the heart of Ireland, for a time, and then on to Clonard Monastery in Belfast, Northern Ireland to study under another man named Finnian -- one who'd been trained under St. David, now the patron saint of Wales. Here, he became a priest and one of a group that became known as the "Twelve Apostles of Ireland" because of how they came to spread the Faith over the Emerald Isle. He moved back north to his homeland and set up monasteries in Derry, Durrow, and Kells -- the last being the Abbey for which the famous illuminated early 9th century edition of the Gospels, the Book of Kells, is named. At some point while situated in Derry, he took a pilgrimage, ending up in Tours, France, where he got a copy of the Gospels that had lain on St. Martin of Tour's chest for the past century.

Now, during all this time, God used him to effect miracles. His biographer, St. Adamnan, writing about 100 years after Columba died, describes one after the other, including his raising a child from the dead, his turning water into wine, curing the sick1, turning unfavorable winds to favorable ones, being accompanied by angels that others saw as well, having visions of souls being carried to Heaven and to Hell, and being surrounded by a heavenly light that could be seen not just at night, but in the daytime. And, most ot all, he had the gifts of precognition and of reading souls.

When he was 44, he and 12 companions climbed aboard a coracle -- a boat made of wicker and animal hides -- and went off to Iona, one of the islands making up the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. No one is quite sure of the reason for this trip, but the two most commonly believed are that he went simply to evangelize, or that he got into a copyright issue that resulted in a battle: Columba  -- a great copyist who, by the end of his life, had copied around 300 manuscripts -- had copied a book of Psalms belonging to someone named Finnian, and Finnian then claimed that he had the right to the copy. Columba disagreed, but the king at the time decided in Finnian's favor. Then, when the king's men were engaged in some sort of battle, Columba prayed against him. After many died in that war, Columba felt remorse and made the move to Iona as penance.

In any case, he moved to Iona, and was sad about it. He stopped at a point marked by a hill known now as Carn-cul-ri-Erin, the "Cairn of the Back turned to Ireland" because it was at that spot that he could no longer see Ireleand when facing west. He wrote a poem about it -- his "Song of Farewell to Eire":

How rapid the speed of my coracle;
And its stern turned upon Derry;
I grieve at my errand o'er the noble sea,
Travelling to Alba of the ravens.
My foot in my sweet little coracle,
My sad heart still bleeding:
Weak is the man that cannot lead
Totally blind are all the ignorant.
There is a grey eye
That looks back upon Erin;
It shall not see during life
The men of Erin, nor their wives.
My vision o'er the brine I stretch
From the ample oaken planks;
 Large is the tear of my soft grey eye,
When I look back upon Erin.

Columba and his men set up a church and an abbey, and then got busy evangelizing the Picts of Scotland, starting with their king. He refused to admit them, but Columba made the sign of the Cross, and the bolts of the king's door unlatched and the doors opened "on their own," as it were. That in itself was enough to convince the King that Columba's God is the true God, and he converted.

Many stories come down to us from his time evangelizing Scotland. Two of the most famous are his encounter with the Loch Ness Monster, and his care for a sick crane. Both stories are told in Adamnan's biography:

How an Aquatic Monster was driven off by virtue of the blessed man's prayer

On another occasion also, when the blessed man was living for some days in the province of the Picts, he was obliged to cross the river Nesa (the Ness); and when he reached the bank of the river, he saw some of the inhabitants burying an unfortunate man, who, according to the account of those who were burying him, was a short time before seized, as he was swimming, and bitten most severely by a monster that lived in the water ; his wretched body was, though too late, taken out with a hook, by those who came to his assistance in a boat. The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from being dismayed, that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the coble that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin hearing the command of the excellent man, obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes, except his tunic, and leaping into the water. But the monster, which, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey, was lying at the bottom of the stream, and when it felt the water disturbed above by the man swimming, suddenly rushed out, and, giving an awful roar, darted after him, with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream Then the blessed man observing this, raised his holy hand, while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror, and, invoking the name of God, formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, "Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed." Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. Then the brethren seeing that the monster had gone back, and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians.

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.

In 597, when Columba was 76 years old, he knew his earthly end was near, and told his brethren. He went to bless the barn, and then had a beautiful moment with a horse. From his biography:

After this the saint left the barn, and in going back to the monastery, rested half way at a place where a cross, which was afterwards erected, and is standing to this day, fixed into a millstone, may be observed on the roadside. While the saint, as I have said, bowed down with old age, sat there to rest a little, behold, there came up to him a white pack-horse, the same that used, as a willing servant, to carry the milk-vessels from the cowshed to the monastery. It came up to the saint and, strange to say, laid its head on his bosom-inspired, I believe, by God to do so, as each animal is gifted with the knowledge of things according to the will of the Creator; and knowing that its master was soon about to leave it, and that it would see him no more-began to utter plaintive cries, and like a human being, to shed copious tears on the saint's bosom, foaming and greatly wailing. The attendant seeing this, began to drive the weeping mourner away, but the saint forbade him, saying: ‘Let it alone, as it is so fond of me, let it pour out its bitter grief into my bosom. Lo! thou, as thou art a man, and hast a rational soul, canst know nothing of my departure hence, except what I myself have just told you, but to this brute beast devoid of reason, the Creator Himself hath evidently in some way made it known that its master is going to leave it.’ And saying this, the saint blessed the work-horse, which turned away from him in sadness.

He then went into his monastery and transcribed the 33rd Psalm, quitting when he got to verse 12. After this, he went to church to pray Sunday's office, then to his cell, where he "spent the remainder of the night on his bed, having for his conch a bare flag, and a stone for his pillow; which at the present day stands as a kind of monument near his sepnlchre." He gave final instructions to his brothers, and went back to church to pray the office when the midnight bells tolled. After his prayers, he gave his brothers a blessing, and he died. "After his soul had left the body, his face still continued ruddy, and wore that wonderful expression of joy which was caused by his vision of the angels; in so much that it appeared like that, not of a dead man, but of one in a quiet slumber. Meanwhile the whole church resounded with lamentations."

At his death on June 9, visions were had by a number of people in Ireland and Scotland. One account related in his biography:

In the middle of this last night...Columba, the pillar of many churches, passed to the Lord; and at the moment of his blessed departure, I saw in the spirit the whole Iouan island, where I never was in the body, resplendent with the brightness of angels; and the whole heavens above it, up to the very zenith, were illumined with the brilliant light of the same heavenly messengers, who descended in countless numbers to bear away his holy soul. At the same moment, also, I heard the loud hymns and entrancingly sweet canticles of the angelic host, as his holy soul was borne aloft amidst the ascending choirs of angels.

And another:

On that night when St. Columba, by a happy and blessed death, passed from earth to heaven, while I and others with me were engaged in fishing in the valley of the river Fend the Finn, in Donegal–which abounds in fish–we saw the whole vault of heaven become suddenly illuminated. Struck by the suddenness of the miracle, we raised our eyes and looked towards the east, when, lo! there appeared something like an immense pillar of fire, which seemed to us, as it ascended upwards at that midnight, to illuminate the whole earth like the summer sun at noon; and after that column penetrated the heavens darkness followed, as if the sun had just set. And not only did we, who were together in the same place, observe with intense surprise the brightness of this remarkable luminous pillar, but many other fishermen also, who were engaged in fishing here and there in different deep pools along the same river, were greatly terrified, as they afterwards related to us, by an appearance of the same kind.

Columba was buried on Iona, but to be kept safe from Viking invaders, his relics were later taken to the Cathedral of Downpatrick, now in Northern Ireland, where they can be venerated with the relics of SS. Patrick and Brigid. The Abbey at Iona -- once one of the great centers of Christian evangelization -- still stands, but is now, sadly, an ecumenical center. His stone pillow is still there.

Columba is a co-patron Saint of Ireland (along with St. Patrick and St. Brigid), and patron saint of poets, bookbinders, publishers, editors, and authors. He's invoked against floods and against evil in general.


Some may prepare for this day by praying the Novena to St. Columba starting on May 31 and ending on June 8, the eve of this feast. For the day itself, the Litany of St. Columba would be good to pray, as would this shorter prayer attributed to the Saint himself:

Be a bright flame before me, O God,
a guiding star above me.
Be a smooth path below me,
a kindly shepherd behind me
today, tonight, and for ever.
Alone with none but you, my God
I journey on my way;
what need I fear when you are near,
O Lord of night and day?
More secure am I within your hand
than if a multitude did round me stand. Amen.

As to music for the day, this song's text is by St. Columba. It is sung by a group called The Priests:

Alone With None But Thee, My God

Alone with none but Thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear, when Thou art near,
O King of night and day?
More safe am I within Thy hand,
Than if a host did round me stand.

The child of God can fear no ill,
His chosen dread no foe;
We leave our fate with Thee, and wait
Thy bidding when to go.
’Tis not from chance our comfort springs,
Thou art our trust, O King of kings

My destined time is fixed by Thee,
And death doth know his hour.
Did warriors strong around me throng,
They could not stay his power;
No walls of stone can man defend
When Thou Thy messenger dost send.


My life I yield to Thy decree,
And bow to Thy control
In peaceful calm, for from Thine arm
No power can wrest my soul.
Could earthly omens e’er appal
A man that heeds the heavenly call!


The oak leaf is associated with St. Columba in the same way it is with St. Boniface, and likely for the same reason: as a symbol of his victory over paganism. Decorating with or wearing oak leaves is the thing to do today, just as we decorate with and wear shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day. If you don't have oak trees around, you can download oak leaf graphics and have your children cut them out: Oak Leaf Graphics (pdf)

And, of course, paper cranes would be a great ornament for the day given the lovely story told above: How to Make Paper Cranes (png)

As to foods, in parts of Scotland, it's traditional to make a bannock with a silver coin baked inside such that the person who receives the piece with the coin has good luck.

Oat Bannock

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk*
Silver coin, sterilized with alcohol or by boiling (make it a large one to help prevent choking)
Oil for greasing an iron skillet

Grind the oatmeal in a food processor or blender until fine. Mix together the ground oats, flour, soda, and salt. Then mix in the buttermilk to form a dough, adding a silver coin at some point. Knead the dough a few times on a floured surface and then shape into an 8" round, making sure the coin is hidden. Oil an iron skillet as if you were making pancakes, and put over low heat on the stove. Add the bannock and cook for about 10-15 minutes 'til browned on one side. Flip and cook the other side for approximately another 10 minutes. Be sure to tell everyone to bite gingerly lest they break a tooth.

*If you don't have buttermilk, add 3/4 TBSP white vinegar (or lemon juice or cream of tartar) to a measuring cup, and top with milk until you get 3/4 c. liquid total. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

St. Columba is also associated with fish in Scotland, especially salmon, so here is a Scottish salmon recipe for you to try:

Peppered Salmon with Whisky Cream Sauce

2 TBSP black peppercorns, crushed
1 TBSP white peppercorns, crushed
4 - 6 oz salmon steaks
2 tsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground sea salt
1 oz  butter
2 TBSP whisky
1/2 pint heavy cream
2 TBSP chopped fresh chives, plus extra to garnish

Mix together the crushed peppercorns. Smear the salmon steaks all over with the mustard. Mix together the peppercorns and press onto the salmon. Season with salt.

Heat a frying pan until hot. Add the butter and, as soon as it starts to foam, lay in the salmon steaks. Reduce the heat to medium and fry the fish for about 3 minutes on one side 'til browned.

Flip the salmon and cook on the other side. Set the fish aside. Turn up the heat a bit, and put the whisky in the pan and heat until it's half gone. Add the cream and stir, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Boil for a minute or two until the sauce starts to thicken, then taste and season as needed with pepper and salt. Stir in the chopped chives and pour over the salmon to serve. Serve with peas and mashed potatoes.

St. John's Wort is gathered today as it is on St. John's Day, and Thursdays are said to be special to St. Columba, so if his feast falls on a Thursday, it's considered propitious.

Finally, for information's sake, I provide three 19th c. fairy tales about St. Columba. The three tales -- The Festival of the Birds; The Sabbath of the Fishes and the Flies; and The Moon Child -- are known collectively as "The Three Marvels of Iona." Be warned, though, they were written by Fiona Macleod, who was actually the Scottish writer, William Sharp, a neo-pagan. The Three Marvels of Iona (pdf)

To learn more about the actual St. Columba, read St. Adamnan's biography: The Life of St. Columba (pdf). The Rule attributed to him can also be found in this site's Catholic Library.


Poems by St. Columba

Song of Trust

Alone am I in the mountain, O royal Sun of prosperous path, nothing is to be feared by me, nor if I were attended by sixty hundred.

If I were attended by sixty hundred of forces, though they would defend the body, when once the fixed period of my death arrives, there is no fortress, which will resist it.

Though even in a church the reprobates are slain, though in an island in the middle of a lake, the fortunate of this life are protected, while in the very front of a battle.

No one can slay me, though he should find me in danger, neither can I be protected the day my life comes to its destined period.

My life! Let it be as is pleasing to my God, nothing of it shall be wanting, addition to it will not be made.

The healthy person becomes sick, the sickly person becomes sound, the unhappy person gets into order, the happy person gets into disorder.

Whatever God has destined for one as he goes not from this world until he meets it, though a prince should seek more, the size of a mite he shall not obtain.

A guard one may bring with him on his path, but what protection, what -- has guarded him from death?

An herb is cut for the kine after their coming from the mountain; what induces the owner of the kine not to cut an herb for himself?

No son of a man knows for whom he makes a gathering, whether it is a gathering for himself or a gathering for another person.

Leave out penury for a time, attend to hospitality, it is better for thee, the son of Mary will prosper thee; each guest comes to his share.

It is often the thing which is spent returns, and the thing which is not spent, although it is not spent, it vanishes.

O living God, alas for him who does evil for any thing; the thing which one sees not come to him, and the thing which he sees vanishes from his hand.

It is not with the sreod our destiny is, nor with the bird on the top of the twig, nor with the trunk of a knotty tree, nor with a sordan [humming, clapping, animal] hand in hand. Better is he in whom we trust, the Father, the One, and the Son.

The distribution for each evening in the house of God, it is what my King has made; He is the King who made our bodies, who will not let me go tonight without aught.

I adore not the voice of birds, nor the sreod,2 nor a destiny on the earthly world, nor a son, nor chance, nor woman. My Druid is Christ, the Son of God.

Christ, the son of Mary, the great abbot, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. My estates are with the King of kings, my order is at Cenannus and Moen.

Columkille fecit

Delightful would it be to me to be in Uchd Ailiun
   On the pinnacle of a rock,
That I might often see
   The face of the ocean;
 That I might see its heaving waves
   Over the wide ocean,
When they chant music to their Father
   Upon the world's course;
That I might see its level sparkling strand,
   It would be no cause of sorrow;
That I might hear the song of the wonderful birds,
   Source of happiness;
That I might hear the thunder of the crowding waves
   Upon the rocks;
That I might hear the roar by the side of the church
   Of the surrounding sea;
That I might see its noble flocks
   Over the watery ocean;
That I might see the sea monsters,
   The greatest of all wonders;
That I might see its ebb and flood
   In their career;
That my mystical name might be, I say,
That contrition might come upon my heart
   Upon looking at her;
That I might bewail my evils all,
   Though it were difficult to compute them;
That I might bless the Lord
   Who conserves all,
Heaven with its countless bright orders,
   Land, strand, and flood;
That I might search the books all,
   That would be good for any soul;
At times kneeling to Beloved Heaven;
   At times at psalm-singing;
At times contemplating the King of Heaven,
   Holy the Chief;
At times at work without compulsion;
   This would be delightful.
At times plucking duilisc from the rocks;
   At times fishing
At times giving food to the poor;
   At times in a carcair [solitary cell].
The best advice in the presence of God
   To me has been vouchsafed.
The King whose servant I am will not let
   Anything deceive me.

Adiutor Laborantium

Ah! Helper of all workers and
Blessed Ruler of all good; You stand
Continuous guard throughout the land,
Defending every faithful man,
Extending lowly ones Your hand,
Frustrating those who in pride stand;
Great Ruler of the faithful and
Hosts who in sin prefer to stand;
In justice ruling every man,
Condemning sin by Your command;
Cascading light on every hand,
Light of the Father of lights, and
Magnificent throughout the land;
No one will You Your helping hand
Or strength deny, who in hope stand:
Please, Lord – though I am little and
Quail wretchedly before Your hand,
Resisting stormy tempests and
Strong tumults and temptations grand –
That Jesus may reach out His hand
Unto me, I implore – His land,
Verdant and lovely, be my land!
Yes, make my life a hymn to stand
Zealous against those You withstand.
Please grant that paradise my land
In Jesus Christ by grace may be,
Both now and in eternity.

Noli Pater

O Father, hear our earnest plea,
that we may not unsettled be:
Loud thunder’s threats let us not fear,
nor lightning’s fire when it comes near.

We fear You, God, the dreadful One;
besides You, other gods are none.
As angels raise their voice in praise,
we sing with them through all our days.

Let heaven praise You from the heights,
and roaming lightning’s brilliant lights.
O loving Jesus, King of kings,
Your righteousness creation sings.

Altus Prosator

The High Creator, the Unbegotten of days,
was without origin of beginning, limitless.
He is and He will be for endless age of ages,
with whom is the only-begotten Christ, and the Holy Spirit,
co-eternal in the everlasting glory, but say one God,
saving our faith in three most glorious Persons.

He created good angels and archangels, the orders
of principalities and Thrones, of Power and of Virtues,
so that the goodness and majesty of the Trinity
might not be unproductive in all works of bounty,
but might have heavenly beings in which He might greatly
show forth his favours by a word of power.

From the summit of the Kingdom of Heavens, where angels stand,
from his radiant brightness, from the loveliness of his own form,
through being proud Lucifer had fallen, whom He had formed,
and the apostate angels also, by the same sad fall
of the author of vainglory and obstinate envy,
the rest continuing in their dominions.

The great Dragon, most loathsome, terrible and ancient,
which was the slippery serpent, more cunning than all beasts
and than all the fiercer living things of the earth,
dragged down with him a third of the stars to the pit
of infernal places and sundry prisons,
fugitives from the true light, hurled down by the Parasite.

The Most High, planning the frame and harmony of the world,
had made heaven and earth, had fashioned the sea and the waters,
and also shoots of grass, the little trees of the woods,
the sun, the moon and the stars, fire and necessary things,
birds, fish and cattle, beasts and living creatures,
and finally the first-formed man, to rule with prophecy.

At once, when the stars were made, lights of the firmament,
the angels praised for His wonderful creating
the Lord of this immense mass, the Craftsman of the heavens.
With a praiseworthy proclamation, fitting and unchanging,
in an excellent symphony they gave thanks to the Lord,
not by any endowment of nature, but out of love and choice.

Our first two parents having been assailed and led astray,
the devil falls a second time, together with his retinue,
by the horror of whose faces and the sound of whose flying
frail men might be dismayed, stricken with fear,
unable to gaze with their bodily eyes on those
who are now bound in bundles in the bonds of their prisons.

Driven out of the midst, he was thrust down by the Lord;
the space of air is choked by a wild mass
of his treacherous attendants, invisible
lest, tainted by their wicked examples and their crimes
-no fences or walls ever concealing them-
folk should sin openly, before the eyes of all.

Clouds bear wintry floods from the fountains of the Ocean,
from the three deeper floods of the sea,
to the expanse of the sky, in azure whirlwinds,
to do good to the cornfields, the vines and the shoots;
driven by the winds emerging from their treasuries
which dry up the corresponding sea-marshes.

The momentary glory of the kings of the present world,
fleeting and tyrannical, is cast down at God’s whim.
See, giants are shown to groan in great affliction beneath the waters,
to be scorched by fire and in torment,
and stifled by the swelling whirlpools of Cocytus,
covered with rocks, they are destroyed by billows and sharp stones.

The Lord often sifts down the waters bound in the clouds,
lest they should all at once break out, their barriers broken,
from whose most plentiful streams, as if from breasts,
slowly flowing across the tracts of the earth,
freezing and warming at different times,
the rivers flow everywhere, never failing.

By the divine powers of the great God is hung
the globe of the earth, and the circle of the great deep placed about it,
held up by the strong hand of almighty God,
with columns like bars supporting it,
promontories and rocks as their solid foundations,
fixed firm, as if on certain immovable bases.

It seems doubtful to no one that there is a hell down below
where there are held to be in darkness, worms and dreadful animals;
where there is sulphurous fire burning with voracious flames;
where there is the screaming men, weeping and gnashing of teeth;
where there is the groaning of Ghenna, terrible and ancient;
where there is the horrible fiery burning of thirst and hunger.

Under the earth, as we read, we know there are inhabitants
whose knee bends in prayer to the Lord,
but for whom it was impossible to open the written book
sealed with seven seals according to the warnings of Christ,
which he himself had unsealed after he had risen as victor,
fulfilling the prophets’ foreseeing of his Coming.

Paradise was planted from the beginning by the Lord,
as we read in the most noble opening of genesis,
from whose fountain-spring four rivers flow,
in whose flowery midst is also the Tree of Life
whose leaves, bearing healing for the nations, do not fall;
whose delights are indescribable and abundant.

Who has climbed Sinai, the appointed mountain of the Lord?
Who has heard the immeasurable thunders sounding?
Who has heard the clamour of the mighty war-trumpet echoing?
Who has also seen the lightning flashing all around?
Who has seen the flashes and thunderbolts and crashing rocks,
except Moses, the judge of the people of Israel?

The day of the Lord, most righteous King of Kings, is at hand:
a day of anger and vindication, of darkness and of cloud,
a day of wonderful mighty thunders,
a day also of distress, of sorrow and sadness,
in which the love and desire of women will cease
and the striving of men and the desire of this world.

We shall stand trembling before the Lord’s judgement seat,
and we shall render an account of all our deeds,
seeing also our crimes placed before our gaze,
and the books of conscience thrown open before us.
We will break out into most bitter weeping and sobbing,
the possibility of repentance being taken away.

At the blast of the First Archangel’s wonderful trumpet,
the strongest vaults and tombs shall break open,
the chill of the men of the present world melting away,
the bones gathering to their joints from every place,
their ethereal, souls meeting them,
returning once more to their own dwelling places.

Orion wanders from his turning point at the hinge of heaven-
the Pleiades being left behind, most splendid of the stars-
across the boundaries of the sea, of its unknown eastern rim.
Vesper, wheeling in its fixed circuits, returns by the its former paths,
rising after two years in the evening.
These things employed as types are understood figuratively.

When Christ, the most high Lord, comes down from the heavens,
the brightest sign and standard of the Cross will shine forth.
The two principal lights being obscured,
the stars will fall to earth like the fruit of a fig-tree,
and the face of the world will be like the fire of a furnace.
Then armies will hide in the caves of the mountains.

By the singing of hymns eagerly ringing out,
by thousands of angels rejoicing in holy dances,
and by the four living creatures full of eyes,
with the twenty-four joyful elders
casting their crowns under the feet of the Lamb of God,
the Trinity is praised in eternal three-fold exchanges.

The raging anger of fire will devour the adversaries
who will not believe that Christ came from God the Father.
But we shall surely fly off to meet him straight away,
and thus we shall be with him in several ranks of dignities
according to the eternal merits of our rewards,
to abide in glory from age to age.

Who can please God in the last time,
the noble ordinances of truth being changed,
except the despisers of this present world?


And, perhaps, he was a great physician in addition to bringing about miraculous cures. Duncan Hunter, assistant professor in community health and epidemiology in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, wrote in the British Medical Journal a little article called "St. Columba's Casebook" (ignore his "if you ignore the miraculous hyperbole"):

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 j you ignore the miraculous hyperbole, Book II can be read as a description of early British medicine. Columba seems to have I 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 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 (Broichans 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 for 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

Source: Hunter, Duncan. “St Columba’s Case Book.” BMJ: British Medical Journal 320, no. 7233 (2000): 494–494.

2 "Sreod" means "sneeze," which was seen as an omen, as were certain bird calls.

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