Chapters 6 to 10

6 The Uninhabited House

Brendan then embarked, the sail was spread and they began to steer westwards into the summer solstice. They had a favourable wind and, apart from holding the sail, had no need to navigate. After fifteen days the wind dropped. They set themselves to the oars until their strength failed.

Saint Brendan quickly began to comfort and advise them, saying:

‘Brothers, do not fear. God is our helper, sailor and helmsman, and he guides us. Ship all the oars and the rudder. Just leave the sail spread and God will do as he wishes with his servants and their ship’

They always had their food, however, at evening time. When they got a wind, they did not know from what direction it came or in what direction the boat was going.

When forty days were up and all the victuals had been consumed, an island appeared to them towards the north, rocky and high, When they came near its shore they saw a high cliff like a wall and various streams flowing down from the top of the island into the sea, Nevertheless they failed totally to find a landing-place where they could put in the boat. The brothers were greatly harassed by the lack of food and drink. So each took up a vessel to try to catch some of the fresh water. When Saint Brendan saw this, he said:

‘Do not do that. What you are doing is foolish. God does not yet wish to show us a place to land, and do you want to be guilty of plundering? The Lord Jesus Christ after three days will show his servants a landing-place and a place to stay, so that our harrassed bodies will be restored.’

When, then, they had circled the island for three days, on the third day about three o’clock they found an opening where one boat might enter. Saint Brendan stood up immediately and blessed the entry. It was a cutting with rock of remarkable height on either side, straight up like a wall. When they had all disembarked and stood outside on land, Saint Brendan forbade them to take any equipment out of the boat. As they were walking along the cliffs of the sea, a dog ran across them on a path and came to the feet of Saint Brendan as dogs usually come to heel to their masters. Saint Brendan said to his brothers:

‘Has not God sent us a good messenger? Follow him.’

Saint Brendan and his brothers followed the dog to a town.

On entering the town they caught sight of a great hall, furnished with beds and chairs, and water for washing their feet. When they had sat down Saint Brendan gave an order to his companions, saying:

‘Beware, brothers, lest Satan lead you into temptation. For I can see him persuading one of the three brothers, who came from our monastery to follow after me, to commit a bad theft. Pray for his soul. For his body has been given into the power of Satan.’

The house where they were staying had hanging vessels of different kinds of metal fixed around its walls along with bridles and horns encased in silver.

Then Saint Brendan spoke to the one who usually placed bread before the brothers:

‘Bring the meal that God has sent us.’

This man stood up immediately, found a table made ready and linen and a loaf for each of marvellous whiteness and fish. When all were brought before him, Saint Brendan blessed the meal and said to his brothers:

‘Give praise to the God of heaven who gives food to all flesh.’

The brothers sat back, therefore, and glorified God. In the same way they found as much drink as they wanted. When supper was over and the office of compline said, he spoke:

‘Rest now. There is a well-dressed bed for each of you. You need to rest, for your limbs are tired econ too much toil.’

When the brothers had fallen asleep, Saint Brendan saw the devil at work, namely an Ethiopian child holding a bridle in his hand and making fun with the brother already mentioned to his face. Saint Brendan got up immediately and began to thus spending the whole night until day. In the morning when the brothers had hurried to the divine office and later had gone to the boat, they saw a table laid out just like the day before. And so for three days and three nights God prepared a meal for his servants.

7 One Latecomer Dies

After that Saint Brendan with his companions set out again, saying to the brothers:

‘Make sure that none of you takes anything belonging to this island with him.’

But they all replied:

‘God forbid, father, that our journey should be desecrated by any theft.’

Then Saint Brendan said:

‘Look, our brother whom I referred to a few days ago has a silver bridle in his bosom given to him last night by the devil.’

When the brother in question heard this, he threw the bridle out of his bosom and fell before the feet of the man of God, saying:

‘I have sinned, father. Forgive me. Pray for my soul, that it may not perish.’

Immediately all prostrated themselves on the ground, praying the Lord for the brother’s soul.

As they rose from the ground and the holy father raised up the brother, they saw a small Ethiopian jump out of his bosom, wailing with a loud voice and saying:

’Why, man of God, do you expel me from my dwelling, where I have lived now for seven years, and make me depart from my inheritance?’

Saint Brendan replied to this voice:

‘I order you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ not to injure any man to the day of judgment.’

Turning again to the brother, the man of God said:

’Receive the body and blood of the Lord, for your soul will now leave your body. Here you will be buried. But your brother here, who came from our monastery with you, has his burial place in Hell.’

And so when the Eucharist had been received, the soul of the brother left his body, and before the eyes of the brothers was received by the angels of light.

His body, however, was buried on the spot by the holy father.

8 A Youth Brings Food

The brothers then went with Saint Brendan to the shore of the island where their boat was. As they were embarking a youth came up carrying a basket full of bread and a jar of water.

He said to them:

‘Receive a blessing from the hand of your servant. A long journey lies ahead of you until you find consolation. Nevertheless neither bread nor water will fail you from now until Easter.’

Having received the blessing they began to sail out into the ocean. They ate every second day. And so the boat was borne through various places of the ocean.

9 The Island of Sheep

One day they saw an island not far from them. When they began to steer towards it, a favourable wind came to their help, so that they did not have to exert themselves more than their strength could manage. When the boat stood to at the harbour, the man of God bade them all get out of the boat. He got out after them. When they began to go round the island they saw large streams of water, full of fish, flowing from various springs. Saint Brendan said to his brothers:

‘Let us carry out the divine service here. Let us sacrifice the Spotless Victim to God, for today is Maundy Thursday.’

They stayed there until Holy Saturday. Walking round the island they found various flocks of sheep—all of one colour, white. The sheep were so numerous that the ground could not be seen at all. Saint Brendan called his brothers together and said to them:

‘Take what you need for the feast from the flock.’

The brothers, hurrying according to the command of the man of God to the flock, took one sheep from it. When they had tied it by the horns, it followed the brother who held the rope in his hand as if it were tame to the place where the man of God was standing. Again the man of God spoke to one of the brothers:

‘Take a spotless lamb from the flock.’

The brother hurried and did as he had been enjoined.

On Good Friday, while they were preparing for the service, a man appeared to them holding in his hand a basket full of bread, that had been baked under the ashes, and the other things that were necessary. When he placed these before the man of God, he fell prone on his face three times at the feet of the holy father, saying:

‘How have I deserved, O pearl of God, that you should eat, on these holy days, of the labour of my hands?’

Saint Brendan lifted him up from the ground, embraced him and said:

‘Son, our Lord Jesus Christ chooses a place for us where we can celebrate his holy Resurrection.’

The man replied:

‘Father, here you will celebrate Holy Saturday.

Tomorrow, however, God has ordained that you celebrate the Masses and the vigils of his Resurrection in the island that you see nearby.’

While he said this he prepared to serve the servants of God and do whatever was necessary for Holy Saturday.

When, on Holy Saturday, all was ready and brought to the boat, the man said to Saint Brendan:

‘Your boat cannot carry any more. I, therefore, shall bring to you after eight days whatever food and drink you will need until Pentecost.’

Saint Brendan said:

‘How do you know where we shall be after eight days?’

He replied:

‘Tonight and on Easter Sunday until mid-day you will be in the island that you see nearby. Afterwards you will sail to another island, which is not far from this one towards the west, and which is called the Paradise of Birds. There you will remain until the octave of Pentecost.’

Saint Brendan also questioned him on how the sheep could be so big there as, one could see, they were. They were indeed bigger than cattle. He replied:

‘No one takes milk from the sheep in this island, nor does winter put any strain on them. They stay in the pastures always, day and night. As a consequence they are larger here than in the parts you come from.’

They set out for the boat and began to sail, each party having blessed the other.

10 Jasconius

When they approached the other island, the boat began to ground before they could reach its landing-place. Saint Brendan ordered the brothers to disembark from the boat into the sea, which they did. They held the boat on both sides with ropes until they came to the landing place. The island was stony and without grass. There were a few pieces of driftwood on it, but no sand on its shore. While the brothers spent the night outside in prayers and vigils, the man of God remained sitting inside in the boat, For he knew the kind of island it was, but he did not want to tell them, lest they be terrified.

When morning came he ordered each of the priests to sing his Mass, which they did. While Saint Brendan was himself singing his Mass in the boat, the brothers began to carry the raw meat out of the boat to preserve it with salt, and also the flesh which they had brought from the other island. When they had done this they put a pot over a fire. When, however, they were plying the fire with Sis wood and the pot began to boil, the island began to ae be in motion like a wave. The brothers rushed to _ the boat, crying out for protection to the holy father. He drew each one of them into the boat by his hand. Having left everything they had had on the island behind, they began to sail. Then the island moved out to sea. The lighted fire could be seen R over two miles away. Saint Brendan told the brothers what it really was, saying:

‘Brothers, are you surprised at what this island has done?’

They said:

‘We are very surprised and indeed terror-stricken.’

He said to them:

‘My sons, do not be afraid. God revealed to me during the night in a vision the secret of this affair Where we were was not an island, but a fish — the foremost of all that swim in the ocean. He is always trying to bring his tail to meet his head, but he cannot because of his length. His name is Jasconius’.