16 The Devouring Beast
The Venerable Father and his companions sailed out into the ocean and their boat was carried along for forty days. One day there appeared to them a beast of immense size following them at a distance. He spouted foam from his nostrils and ploughed through the waves at a great speed, as if he were about to devour them.
When the brothers saw this they called upon the Lord, saying:
‘Deliver us, Lord, so that that beast does not devour us.’
Saint Brendan comforted them, saying:
‘Do not be afraid. You have little faith. God, who always defends us, will deliver us from the mouth of this beast and from other dangers.’
As the beast came near them he caused waves of extraordinary height to go before him right up to the boat, so that the brothers were more and more afraid. The venerable elder also raised his hands to heaven and said:
‘Lord, deliver your servants, as you delivered David from the hand of Goliath, the giant. Lord, deliver us, as you delivered Jonas from the belly of the whale.’
After these three pleas asking for deliverance, a mighty monster passed near them from the west going to encounter the beast. He immediately attacked him, emitting fire from his mouth. The elder spoke to his brothers:
‘Look, my sons, at the great deeds of our Saviour! See how the beasts obey their creator. Wait presently for the outcome of this affair. This battle will do us no damage. It will redound to the glory of God.’
When he had said this the wretched beast that pursued the servants of Christ was cut into three pieces before their eyes. The other returned after his victory to where he had come from.
Another day they saw at a distance a very large island full of trees. While they were drawing near its shore and disembarking from the boat, they saw the end portion of the beast that had been slain. Saint Brendan said:
‘See what wished to devour you! You now shall devour it! You will stay a long while in this island. Take your boat, therefore, out of the water high up on the land and look for a place in the wood where your tent can stand.’
The holy father himself determined the spot where they were to stay.
When they had carried out the order of the man of God and had put all the utensils in the tent, Saint Brendan said to his brothers:
‘Take your provisions from that beast, enough for three months. For tonight its flesh will be devoured by beasts.’
They were engaged until vespers in carrying up as much flesh from the shore as they required, in accordance with the instruction of the holy father When the brothers had done all this, they said:
‘Abbot, how can we live here without water?’
He answered them:
‘Is it more difficult for God to give you water than food? But go to the southern part of the island and you will find a clear well and many plants and roots. Bring me the proper amount of supplies from there.’
They found everything as the man of God had foretold. Saint Brendan, therefore, remained three months, because there was a storm at sea and a strong wind and variable weather with rain and hail
The brothers went to see what the man of God had said about the beast. When they came to the place where the body was before, they found nothing but bones. They hurried back to the man of God and said:
‘Abbot, it is as you said’
He replied to them:
‘I know, my sons, that you wanted to test me, to see if I spoke the truth or not. I shall tell you another sign: a portion of a fish will come there tonight, and tomorrow you will eat of it.’
On the following day, indeed, the brothers went out to the place and they found as the man of God had said. They brought back as much as they could carry. The venerable father said to them:
‘Keep it and preserve it carefully with salt. You will have need of it. For God will make the weather fine today, tomorrow and after tomorrow. The swell of the sea and the waves will fall. Then you will leave this place.’
When these days were over Saint Brendan ordered his brothers to load the boat, to fill the containers and other vessels and collect plants and roots for his own use. For the father from the time of his ordination to the priesthood tasted nothing in which the spirit of life drew support from flesh. When all was loaded into the boat, they raised the sail and set off in a northerly direction.
17 The Island of the Three Choirs or Anchorites
A Latecomer Stays
One day they saw an island a long distance away from them. Saint Brendan said:
‘Do you see that island?’
He said to them:
‘Three choirs of people are in that island: one of boys, another of youths, a third of elders. And one of your brothers will remain on pilgrimage there.’
The brothers asked him which of them it was.
As they were preoccupied with the thought and he saw that they were sad, he said
‘There is the brother who will remain here!’
The brother indicated was one of the three who had followed after Saint Brendan from his monastery. When they were embarking in the boat in their fatherland, he had spoken of their future,
They approached the island until the boat put in at the shore. The island was extraordinarily flat, so much so that it seemed to them to be level with the sea. It had no trees or anything that would move with the wind. It was very spacious and covered with white and purple fruit. There they saw the three choirs, as the man of God had foretold. The space between one choir and another was about the throw of a stone from a sling. They moved continuously here and there, one choir, however, at a time standing in one place and chanting:
‘The saints will go from strength to strength and they will see the God of gods in Zion.’
While one choir finished this versicle, another choir stood and began to chant the same song, and this they did without any intermission. The first choir was made up of boys in white garments, the second choir was clothed in blue garments, and the third in purple dalmatics.
It was ten o’clock when they put in at the landing-place on the island. When mid-day came all the choirs began to chant together, singing:
‘May God be merciful to us…’ to the end of the psalm, and ‘Be pleased, O God, to deliver me…’ and likewise the third of the psalms for sext: ‘I kept my faith…’ and the prayer for mercy as above
Likewise at three o’clock they chanted another three psalms: ‘Out of the depths’ and ‘Behold how good’, and ‘Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem’.
At vespers they chanted: ‘A hymn is due to thee, O God, in Zion’, and ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, O Lord my God’, and the third of the psalms for vespers: ‘Praise the Lord, children’, They then chanted, while seated, the gradual psalms.
When they had finished this chant, a cloud of extraordinary brightness covered the island, but now they could no longer see what they had seen, because of the denseness of the cloud. Nevertheless they continued to hear the voices of those singing their ordinary chant without interruption until matins. Then the choirs began to chant, singing:
‘Praise the Lord from the heavens’, then ‘Sing to the Lord’, and the third of the psalms of matins:
‘Praise the Lord in his saints’. After that they chanted twelve psalms in the order of the Psalter.
When day dawned the island was cloudless, and immediately they chanted the three psalms: ‘Have mercy on me, O God’, ‘God, my God, from the dawn I keep watch for thee’, and ‘Lord, my refuge’.
At terce they chanted another three psalms, that is: ‘All peoples’, and ‘God, in your name’, and the third: ‘I have loved, because’ with the Alleluia.
They then offered up the Spotless Lamb and all came to communion, saying:
‘Take this holy body of the Lord and blood of the Saviour for everlasting life.’
When the sacrifice was over, two members of the choir of youths carried a basket full of purple fruit and placed it in the boat, saying:
‘Accept fruit from the Island of Strong Men, give us our brother, and set forth in peace.’
Then Saint Brendan called the brother to him and said:
‘Embrace your brothers and go with those who summon you. It was a good hour that your mother conceived you, seeing that you have deserved to live with such a community.’
When he had embraced all, including the holy father, Saint Brendan said to him:
‘Son, remember the great favours God conferred on you in this life. Go, and pray for us.’
He immediately followed the two youths to their school.
The venerable father and his companions set sail. When it was three o’clock, he ordered his brothers to refresh their bodies with the fruit of the Island of Strong Men. As he said this the man of God took one of them. When he saw its size and that it was full of juice, he expressed wonder and said:
‘I have never seen or gathered fruit of such size.’
They were all of equal size and like a large ball. The man of God then asked that a vessel be brought to him. He squeezed one of the fruits and got a pound of juice from it, which he divided into twelve ounces. The holy father gave an ounce of the juice to each of the brothers. One fruit, therefore, fed one brother for twelve days so that he always had in his mouth the taste of Honey.
18 The Island of Grapes
After some days the holy father prescribed a fast for three days. Then when the three days were over a great bird was seen flying near the boat, carrying a branch of an unknown tree. At the tip of the branch was a cluster of grapes of extraordinary redness. The bird dropped this cluster from its beak into the saint’s lap. Then Saint Brendan called the attention of his brothers and said:
‘Look at the meal that God has sent you. Take it.’
‘The grapes of this cluster were as big as apples.
The man of God divided them, one each among his brothers, and so they had food until the twelfth day.
Again the man of God renewed with his brothers the same fast for three days, Now on the third day they saw an island not far from them, covered completely with densely planted trees bearing the same crop of grapes of such incredible fertility that all the trees were bent down to the ground, with the same fruit of the same colour. No tree was barren, nor was there a tree of any other kind in that island. The brothers then put into harbour. The man of God disembarked and began to walk round the island. It had a perfume like that of a house filled with pomegranates. Meanwhile the brothers were waiting in the boat until the man of God should return to them. All the while the breeze bore in on them a sweet perfume, so that they were tempted to be heedless of their fasts. The venerable father found six copious wells full of flourishing plants and roots of many kinds. He then returned to his brothers, carrying with him some of the first fruits of the island and said to them:
‘Disembark, pitch your tent and refresh yourselves with the good fruits of this land that the Lord has shown us.’
And so for forty days they fed on the grapes and on the plants and roots of the wells. But at the end of that time they embarked, bringing with them as much of the fruits as their boat could carry.
19 The Gryphon
When they had gone on board, the boat’s sail was hoisted to steer where the wind directed. After they had sailed, the bird called the Gryphon appeared to them, flying from far away towards them. When his brothers saw it they started saying to the holy father:
‘That beast has come to devour us.’
The man of God said to them:
‘Do not be afraid. God is our helper. He will defend us on this occasion too.’
The bird stretched her talons to seize the servants of God, Just then, suddenly, the bird which on the earlier occasion brought them the branch with the fruits, flew swiftly up to the Gryphon, which immediately made to devour her. But that bird defended herself until she overcame and tore out the eyes of the Gryphon. The Gryphon then flew high up into the sky so that the brothers could scarcely see her. But her killer pursued her until she killed her. For the Gryphon’s body fell into the sea near the boat before the eyes of the brothers. The other bird returned to her own place.
19 The Community of Ailbe Again
Not many days afterwards, Saint Brendan and his sailors caught sight of the Island of the Community of Ailbe. There he celebrated Christmas with his brothers. When the feastdays were over, the venerable father received the Pee blessing of the abbot and his community and then sailed round the ocean for a long time — except for the feasts mentioned, that is Easter and Christmas For during them he rested in the places mentioned.