A Page from the Irish Philokalia
One day St Columban asked St Dicuil: 'What makes you always smiling'. The answer was: 'Because no man can take God from me'.
When in 825 the Danes descended on Iona, Abbot Blathmac said: 'Those of you who can face death stay here with me; let the others save themselves while they can'.
St Luan said: 'I shall never offend God if I have the knowledge of God; for they who disobey Him are they who do not know Him'.
St Kevin lived as Adam did in Paradise: 'The birds used to come and alight on his hands and shoulders, and sing for him their sweetest songs, while the savage beasts fawned at his feet. The trees were like harps, whose melody lightened the toilsome routine of his life. When it was suggested that a large monastery be built there, he replied: 'I have no desire that any creature of God be moved or troubled because of me'.
It is said that so complete was the friendly sway that St Kenneth exercised over the animals that he used the antlers of a stag as a book-rest when he recited the Psalter.
On another occasion it is said that a blackbird laid an egg in St Kevin's outstretched palm when he was at prayer. So long was that prayer that his hand was held in that position until the egg was hatched. Indeed, it is said that he remained in this position for seven years.
It is said that squirrels came and played hide-and-seek in the folds of St Columban's cloak as he rested.
It is said that having taken a liking to a cave occupied by a bear, St Columban politely ordered it away and the bear meekly obeyed. On another occasion he yoked a bear to a plough to work for him.
It is said that St Gall had once found a place of solitude in the forest and proceeded to pass his first night of prayer there. Towards morning a bear descended from the mountain. The Saint threw him some bread, saying to him: 'In Christ's name withdraw from this valley. As for the mountains, we shall share them in common, but on condition that you do no further harm to man or beast'. So well was the agreement kept that the bear used to fetch and carry all the wood needed for the winter fire.
St Angus was well-known for holding converse with the angels, and for this reason he was called 'the wisest Irishman of his time'. However for all that he was sometimes taught a lesson by some humdrum village priest or other. Once when the Saint had turned aside to seek a night's rest in a village cemetery, he saw a vision in which a host of angels had gathered around the grave of a soldier buried in the churchyard. When he awoke, he asked the priest about the soldier: 'I suppose he was a bit of a saint, a great faster and ascetic', he said. 'No', came the answer, 'he was never one for that - he had quite enough of severe bodily deprivations, what with him being in the army and all. No, but I can tell you this: every single day of his life, he was in the habit of calling on all the saints he could think of'.
It is said that St Finnian always slept on a stone pillow, that which the Patriarch Jacob slept on when he had his vision of the ladder.
Once a certain monk was being persuaded to take just a little sleep. He replied: 'Persuade the angels to go to sleep'.
Once when St Ailbhe proposed to journey to Iceland to find solitude and spiritual health, the king had all the ports blockaded.
Of St Brigid, St Ultan wrote: 'In our island of Hibernia, Christ was made known to man by the miracles he performed through St Brigid'.
On one occasion three monks decided to devote themselves to the life of solitude. After one year of silence, the first whispered to the second: 'This is a good life we lead'. After another year, the second whispered his reply: 'That is so'. After another twelve months had passed, the silence was broken by the third hermit, who whispered: 'If I cannot find peace here with all this conversation, I shall return to the world'