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Catholic Heroes… St. Colman Of Kilmacduagh

September 26, 2017 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

Ireland, the Emerald Isle, a green country of lush fauna, friendly people, and beautiful views — if you can find a clear day — has a rich and troubled heritage. It is a land full of the lore of elves, fairies, and, most important, Catholic saints. Numerous books have been written about the many Irish saints and one of the most revered in Aidhne for nearly 1,400 years is St. Colman.
Before he was even born in 560, Colman’s existence caused much persecution for his mother. Colman’s mother, Rhinagh, descended from royalty, fled for her safety from her husband, Duagh, an Irish chieftain. Rhinagh, still pregnant with Colman, received a prophecy that her son’s holiness would surpass that of all the men in his lineage.
His father interpreted this to mean that Colman would be greater than his father in a worldly sense. Duagh, envious of such a claim, frightened Rhinagh so much that she feared for her life and fled from their home. However, a servant followed her, tied a stone around her neck, and threw her into the Kiltartin River.
The attempt failed and “by the grace of God Rhinagh was cast ashore.” Rhinagh gave birth to Colman. (The stone, still marked with the evidence of the rope, is kept in a church in Corker.) Immediately, Rhinagh tried to have her son baptized, but when she found a priest nearby there was no water.
Knowing that she could not return home with her son, she settled under a nearby ash tree pleading with our Lord to provide a means to baptize the boy. At once a spring burbled up near her, providing clear water for the Baptism. As at Lourdes, this spring still flows and is the site of many miracles since Colman’s days.
After her son’s Baptism, Rhinagh gave him to some monks to raise him. Colman received his early education at St. Enda’s monastery in Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, located about 15 miles off the west coast of Ireland near Galway. He continued his life on this island living as a hermit. He also built a church, Teampuill Mor Mhic Duagh, and a small oratory, Teampuill beg Mhic Duagh. (These were once part of the Seven Churches, most of which were destroyed by iconoclasts during the English Reformation.)
Some years after his education, Colman returned to Galway and settled in Keelhilla, a remote forested area about 12 miles west of Kiltartin. Specifically, he arrived in Burren around 590 with his servant. The hermitage was at the foot of a cliff known as Slieve Carran, and they stayed there for nearly seven years.
While living there, as sources report, Colman received the gift of unceasing prayer and lived like St. John the Baptist, wearing only deerskin and subsisting on herbs and water from a nearby spring. Thus he followed the example of many other Irish saints who modeled their eremitical ways after the Egyptian monks led by St. Anthony.
Like another saint, Francis of Assisi, he loved nature and lived in peace with the animals of the forest. According to hagiographers, his closest animal friends were a cock, a mouse, and a fly. Each of them served Colman in a different way. The cock crowed at night reminding Colman when it was time to pray the night office. The mouse would tickle his nose to wake him, ensuring that he only slept for five hours. The fly acted as a “bookmark.” Whenever Colman read sacred books, the fly would follow along and remind him where to pick up reading again by sitting on the first letter of the next sentence.
When the mouse had to work extra hard by biting Colman’s ear to wake him, he gave the mouse extra food. Likewise when the fly had to wait an extraordinarily long time for him to return to his reading, Colman also gave it special treats.
When the fly finally died, the cock and the mouse died soon after from grief. Colman wrote to St. Columba of Iona expressing his great loss; but she did not sympathize with him. Rather, she responded, “When you had these friends, brother, you were rich. That is why you are in sorrow now. Such sorrows come due to riches. So try not to have riches anymore.”
In the seventh year of his isolation, he had no food to celebrate the glorious feast of Easter with his companion. Colman told his servant not to worry because God would provide for their table. At the same time, his cousin, King Guaire Aidne mac Colmain, sat down with his men at a sumptuous Easter feast, and prayed to the Lord that the meal would go to some worthy person and, if our Lord so desired, that he and his men would sacrifice their meal for that person.
An angel came, gathered up the food and took it to Colman with the king’s men following to discover who this worthy person was. When the king met Colman and witnessed his way of life, he was so impressed that he gave Colman the land and the resources to build a monastery.
Thus Colman began serving people rather than spending all of his time in prayer, and his reputation for holiness, generosity, and miracles spread quickly. He cured many of their ills and brought comfort to many others. Soon the monastery and the land around it became known as Kilmacdaugh, or “church of the son Duagh.”
Colman became even further removed from his hermit way of life when he was appointed bishop. Dutifully he fulfilled the pastoral responsibilities of this office. He served the poor, tended the sick, and inflamed the hearts of his fold.
For seven years he labored as the shepherd of those people before he resigned his post in 625 and went to Oughtmama Valley in the Burren district. There he remained for the next seven years until he died on October 29, 632. His feast is celebrated on October 29.
Dear St. Colman, despite the ravages of our time and the persecutions of worldly persons, help us to maintain a pure prayer time, truly listening to God and following His will. Amen

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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