21 The Clear Sea
It happened on one occasion that as Brendan was celebrating the feast of Saint Peter the Apostle in his boat, they found the sea so clear that they could see whatever was underneath them. When they looked into the deep they saw the different Kinds of fish lying on the sand below. It even seemed to them that they could touch them with their hands, so clear was that sea. They were like herds lying in pastures. They were so numerous that they looked like a city of circles as they lay, their heads touching their tails.
His brothers asked the venerable father to celebrate his Mass in silence, lest the fish would hear and come up to pursue them. The holy father smiled and said to them:
‘I am surprised at your foolishness. Why are you afraid of those fish when you were not afraid of the devourer and master of all the fish of the sea, sitting and singing psalms, as you often did, on his back? Indeed you cut wood and lit a fire and cooked meat there! Why then are you afraid of those? Is not our Lord Jesus Christ God of all fish, and can he not reduce all living things?’
When he said these things he began to intone as loudly as he could. Others of the brothers kept their eyes on the fish all the time. When the fish heard him singing, they came up from the bottom and began to swim in a circle round the boat — in such a way that the brothers could not see beyond the fish anywhere, so great was the multitude of the different fishes swimming. Still they did not come near the boat, but kept swimming at a distance in a wide arc. And so they kept swimming here and there until the man of God finished Mass. After this, as if they were taking flight, they all swam by different paths of the ocean away from the sight of the servants of God, It took eight days for Saint Brendan, even with a favouring wind and all his canvas stretched to the full, to cross the clear sea.
22 The Crystal Pillar
One day when they had celebrated their Masses, a pillar in the sea appeared to them that seemed to be not far distant. Still it took them three days to come up to it. When the man of God approached it he tried to see the top of it — but he could not, it was so high. It was higher than the sky. Moreover a wide-meshed net was wrapped around it. The mesh was so wide that the boat could pass through its openings. They could not decide of what substance the net was made. It had the colour of silver, but they thought that it seemed harder than marble. The pillar was of bright crystal.
Brendan spoke to his brothers:
‘Ship the oars and take down the mast and sail. Let some of you at the same time take hold of the meshes of the net.’
There was a large space, roughly about a mile, at all points between the net and the pillar, and likewise the net went down a similar distance into the sea. When they had done what they had been ordered, the man of God said to them:
‘Let the boat in through one of the meshes, so that we can have a close look at the wonders of our creator.’
When they had gone in and looked around here and there, the sea was as clear to them as glass, so that they could see everything that was underneath They could examine the foundations of the pillar and also the edge of the net lying on the sea bed. The light of the sun was as bright below as above the water.
Then Saint Brendan measured the four sides of the opening of the net: it was about six to seven feet on every side.
They then sailed throughout the whole day near one side of the pillar and in its shadow they could still feel the heat of the sun. They stayed there until three o’clock, The man of God kept measuring the one side. The measurement of cach of the four sides of that pillar was the same, namely about seven hundred yards. The venerable father was engaged for four days in this way around the four angles of the pillar.
On the fourth day, however, they found a chalice, of the same substance as the net, and a paten, of the same colour as the pillar, lying in a window in the side of the pillar facing the south. Saint Brendan took hold of these vessels immediately, saying:
‘Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us this wonder, and given me these two gifts, so that the wonder be manifested to many in order that they may believe.’
Then the man of God ordered his brothers to perform the divine office and then refresh their bodies, for they had had no slack time in which to take food or drink since they had seen the pillar.
When the night was over the brothers began to row towards the north. When they had passed through an opening in the net they raised the mast and sail, while some of the brothers still held the meshes of the net until all was made ready on the boat. When the sail had been spread, a favouring wind began to blow behind them so that they did not need to row but only to hold the ropes and rudder. So their boat was borne along for eight days towards the north.
23 The Island Of Smiths
After eight days they caught sight of an island not far away, very rough, rocky and full of slag, without trees or grass, full of smiths’ forges. The holy father said to this brothers:
‘I am troubled about this island. I do not want to go on it or even come near it. But the wind is bringing us directly there.’
As they were sailing for a moment beside it, a stone’s throw away, they heard the sound of bellows blowing, as if it were thunder, and the blows of hammers on iron and anvils. When he heard this the venerable father armed himself, making the sign of the Lord in all four directions, saying:
‘Lord, Jesus Christ, deliver us from this island.’
When the man of God had finished speaking, one of the inhabitants of the island was seen to come out of doors apparently to do something or other. He was very shaggy and full at once of fire and darkness. When he saw the servants of Christ pass near the island, he went back into his forge. The man of God blessed himself again and said to his brothers:
‘My sons, raise the sail higher still and row as fast as you can and let us flee from this island.’
Even before he had finished speaking, the same savage came to the shore near where they were, carrying a tongs in his hands that held a lump of burning slag of immense size and heat. He immediately threw the lump on top of the servants of Christ, but it did no hurt to them. It passed more than two hundred yards above them. Then the sea, where it fell, began to boil, as if a volcano were erupting there. The smoke rose from the sea as from a fiery furnace.
But when the man of God had got about a mile away from the spot where the lump fell, all the islanders came to the shore, each of them carrying a lump of his own. Some of them began to throw the lumps after the servants of Christ into the sea, the one throwing his lump over the other, all the while going back to the forges and setting the lumps on fire. It looked as if the whole island was ablaze, like one big furnace, and the sea boiled, just as a cooking pot full of meat boils when it is well plied with fire. All day long they could hear a great howling from the island. Even when they could no longer see it, the howling of its denizens still reached their ears, and the stench of the fire assailed their nostrils. The holy father comforted his monks, saying:
‘Soldiers of Christ, be strengthened in faith unfeigned and in spiritual weapons, for we are in the confines of Hell. So, be on the watch and be brave.’
24 The Fiery Mountain
The Third Latecomer Taken By Demons
On another day there appeared to them, as it were through the clouds, a high mountain in the ocean, not far away towards the north. It was very smoky on top. Immediately the wind drew them very fast to the shore of that island until the boat stopped a little distance from the land. The cliff was so high that they could scarcely see the top of it. It was also the colour of coal and unusually perpendicular, just like a wall.
The one remaining of the three brothers, who followed after Saint Brendan from his monastery, jumped out of the boat and began to walk up to the base of the cliff. Then he cried out:
‘Alas for me, father, I am being snatched from you and am powerless to come back to you.’
The brothers straightaway began to turn the boat from the land and call on the Lord, saying:
‘Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.’
The venerable father and his companions saw how the unhappy man was carried off by a multitude of demons to be tormented and was set on fire among them. He said:
‘Alas for you, my son, that you have received such fate as you have deserved while living.’
Again a favouring wind brought them towards the south. When they looked back for a distance at the island, they saw that the mountain was no longer covered with smoke, but was spouting flames from itself up to the ether and then breathing back, as it were, the same flames again upon itself. The whole mountain from the summit right down to the sea looked like one big pyre.
25 Unhappy Judas
When Saint Brendan had sailed towards the south for seven days, there appeared to them in the sea the outline as it were of a man sitting on a rock with a cloth suspended between two small iron fork-shaped supports about a cloak’s length in front of him. The object was being tossed about by the waves just like a little boat in a whirlwind. Some of the brothers said that it was a bird, others a boat. When the man of God heard them discussing the matter among themselves, he said:
‘Cease arguing. Steer the boat to the spot.’
When the man of God drew near, the waves, glued as it were in a circle, kept them at a distance.
They found a man, shaggy and unsightly, sitting on a rock. As the waves flowed towards him from every side, they struck him even to the top of his head. When they receded, the bare rock where the unhappy man was sitting was exposed. The wind also sometimes drove the cloth hanging in front of him away from him, and sometimes blew it against his eyes and forehead.
Blessed Brendan questioned him as to who he was, or for what fault he was sent here, or what he deserved to justify the imposition of such penance?
‘The man replied :
‘I am unhappy Judas, the most evil trader ever.
I am not here in accordance with my deserts but because of the ineffable mercy of Jesus Christ. This place is not reckoned as punishment but as an indulgence of the Saviour in honour of the Lord’s Resurrection.’
That day was in fact the Lord’s day.
‘When I am sitting here I feel as if I were in a paradise of delights in contrast with my fear of the torments that lie before me this evening. For I burn, like a lump of molten lead in a pot, day and night, in the centre of the mountain that you have seen.
Leviathan and his attendants are there. I was there when he swallowed your brother. Hell was so joyful that it sent forth mighty flames —as it always does when it devours the souls of the impious. But here I have a place of refreshment every Sunday from evening to evening, at Christmas until the Epiphany, at Easter until Pentecost, and on the feasts of the purification and assumption of the Mother of God. After and before these feasts 1am tortured in the depth of Hell with Herod and aes and Annas and Caiphas. And so I beseech you through the Saviour of the world to be good enough to intercede with the Lord Jesus Christ that I be allowed to remain here until sunrise tomorrow, so that the demons may not torture me on your coming and bring me to the fate I have purchased such an evil bargain.’
Saint Brendan said to him:
‘May the Lord’s will be done! Tonight until the morning you will not be eaten by the demons.’
The man of God questioned him again, saying:
‘What is the meaning of this cloth?’
The other replied:
‘I gave this cloth to a leper when I was procurator for the Lord. But it was not mine to give. It belonged to the Lord and the brothers. And so it gives me no relief but rather does me hurt. Likewise the iron forks, on which it hangs, I gave to the priests of the temple to hold up cooking-pots. With the rock on which I sit | filled a trench in the public road to support the feet of those passing by, before I was a disciple of the Lord.’
When the evening hour had darkened the sea, an innumerable number of demons covered its surface in a circle, shouting and saying :
‘Go away, man of God, from us. We cannot come near our companion until you go away from him.
Neither have we dared to look on the face of our chief until we return his friend to him. You have taken our mouthful away from us. Do not protect him this night.’
The man of God said to them :
‘I do not protect him, but the Lord Jesus Christ allowed him to remain here this night until morning.’
The demons retorted:
‘How can you invoke the Lord’s name over him, when he is himself the betrayer of the Lord?’
The man of God said to them :
‘I order you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you do him no evil until morning.’
When, therefore, that night was passed, and when the man of God had begun to set out on his journey, an infinite number of demons was seen to cover the face of the ocean, emitting dire sounds and saying :
‘Man of God, we curse your coming as well as your going, since our chief whipped us last night with terrible scourges because we did not bring to him that accursed prisoner.’
The man of God said to them :
‘Your curse does not affect us, but rather yourselves. The man whom you curse is blessed; he whom you bless is cursed.’
The demons answered him :
‘Unhappy Judas will suffer double punishment for the next six days because you protected him in the night that has passed.’
The venerable father said to them:
‘You have no power over that, nor your chief:
God will have the power.’
And he added:
‘I order you and your chief in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ not to inflict on him more torments than before.’
‘They answered him:
‘Are you the Lord of all, so that we obey your words?’
The man of God said to them :
‘I am his servant, and whatever I order, I order in his name. My service lies in those matters which he has assigned to me.’
The demons followed him until Judas could no longer be seen. They then returned and lifted up the unhappy soul among them with great force and howling.