Chapters 26 to 29

The Island of Paul the Hermit.

But Saint Brendan and his comrades sailed towards the south, glorifying God in all. On the third day there appeared to them a small island far away to the south. When his brothers had begun to row faster and they had come near the island, Saint Brendan said to them:

‘Men, brothers, do not tire your bodies overmuch.’

You have enough toil. It is seven years to the coming Easter since we left our fatherland. You will now see Paul the spiritual Hermit, who has lived in this island for sixty years without any bodily food. For the previous thirty years he got food from an animal.’

When they had got to the shore they could not find a landing-place because of the height of the cliff. The island was small and circular — about two hundred yards in circumference. There was no earth on it, but it looked a naked rock like flint. It was as long as it was broad and as it was high. When they had rowed around the island they discovered a landing-place so narrow that it could scarcely take the prow of the boat and disembarkation was very difficult. Saint Brendan then said to his brothers:

‘Wait here until I return to you. You may not go on land without permission from the man of God who lives in this spot.’

When the venerable father had come to the top of the island, he saw two caves, the entrance of one facing the entrance of the other, on the side of the island facing east. He also saw a minuscule spring, round like a plate, flowing from the rock before the entrance to the cave where the soldier of Christ lived. When the spring overflowed, the rock immediately absorbed the water. When Saint Brendan had come near the door of one of the caves, the elder came out to meet him from the other, saying:

‘How good and joyful it is that brothers live together.’

When he said this he requested Saint Brendan to order all the brothers to come from the boat. As they embraced him and sat down he called each of them by his own name. When the brothers heard this, they greatly wondered not only at his power of divining, but also at his dress, For he was entirely covered by his hair from his head and beard and other hair down to his feet, and all the hair was white as snow on account of his great age. They could see only his face and eyes. He had no other clothing on him except the hair that grew from his body. When Saint Brendan saw this he was discouraged within himself and said:

‘Alas for me who wear a monk’s habit and have many owing allegiance to me by virtue of being monks: Here I see sitting before me a man already in the angelic state, untouched by the vices of the body, although he is still in human flesh.’

The man of God said to him:

‘Venerable father, how great and marvellous are the wonders that God has shown you that he did not show to any of the holy fathers! You say in your heart that you are not worthy to carry the habit of a monk. But you are greater than a monk!

A monk uses the labour of his hands with which to clothe himself, But God from his own secret supplies feeds and clothes both you and your companions for seven years. And I, unhappy, sit here like a bird on this rock, naked but for my hair.’

Saint Brendan then questioned him on his coming and where he came from and for how long he had endured such a life there. The other answered him:

‘I was brought up in the monastery of Saint Patrick for fifty years where I looked after the cemetery of the brothers. One day, when my director had pointed out to me the place to bury one who had died, an unknown elder appeared to me and said: “Do not make a grave there, brother, for it is the burial place of another.” I said to him:

“Father, who are you?” He said: “Why do you not recognize me? Am I not your abbot?” I said to him: “Saint Patrick, my abbot?” He replied: “I am he. I died yesterday. That is the place of my burial. Make the grave of our brother here and tell no one what I have told you. But go tomorrow to the sea shore. There you will find a boat. Embark in it and it will bring you to the spot where you will await the day of your death.”

‘In the morning I went, in accordance with the holy father’s command, to the shore and found exactly what he had told me I would find. When I had embarked, I sailed for three days and three nights. After that I let the boat go wherever the wind would drive it. Then on the seventh day this ait rock appeared to me. I got on to it immediately, letting the boat go and kicking it with my foot so that it would go back to where it came from. Straight away I saw it ploughing waves like furrows through the plains of the sea so as to return to its home. But I stayed here. About three o’clock in the afternoon an otter brought me a meal from the sea, that is, one fish in his mouth. He also brought a small bundle of firewood to make a fire, carrying it between his front paws while walking on his two hind legs. When he had put the fish and kindling in front of me he returned where he came from. I took iron, struck flint, made a fire from the kindling ae and made a meal for myself on the fish, Thus it was for thirty years — always every third day the same servant brought the same food, that is one fish, to do for three days. I ate a third of the fish each day. By God’s grace I had no thirst — but on Sunday a trickle of water came forth from the rock, and from this I could drink and fill my little container with water to wash my hands. Then after thirty years I found these two caves and this well. On it I live. For sixty years since, I have lived on this well without nourishment of any other food. | have been ninety ‘years on this island, living on fish for thirty years and on the food afforded by the well for sixty. I lived for fifty years in my native land. The sum of the years of my life until now is one hundred and forty. Here I have but to await in the flesh, as I have been assured, the day of my judgment. Go then to your native land, and bring with you vessels filled with water from this well. You must do this since you have a journey before you of forty days, which will take you till Holy Saturday. You will celebrate Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday and the holy days of Easter where you have celebrated them for the last six years. You will then, having received the blessing of your steward, set out for the Promised Land of the Saints. There you will stay for forty days and then the God of your fathers will bring you safe and sound to the land of your birth.’

The Island of Sheep, Jasconius and the Paradise of Birds Again

Saint Brendan, therefore, and his brothers, having received the blessing of the man of God, began to sail towards the south for the whole of Lent. Their boat was carried hither and thither, and their only food was the water which they had got on the island of the man of God. This they took every third day and, remaining untouched by hunger or thirst, all were joyful.

Then, as the man of God had foretold, they came to the island of the steward on Holy Saturday. As they arrived at the landing-place he came to meet them with great joy, and helped each of them out of the boat on his arm. When they had finished the divine office for the holy day, he spread supper before them, When evening came they embarked in their boat and the steward came with them.

When they had set sail they found the fish immediately in his usual place. ‘There they’ sang praise to God all night and Masses in the morning.

When Mass was over, however, Jasconius began to go his own way, and all the brothers who were with Saint Brendan began to call on the Lord, saying:

‘Hear us, God, our Saviour, our hope throughout all the boundaries of the earth and in the distant sea’

Saint Brendan comforted his brothers, saying :

‘Do not be afraid. You will suffer no evil. Help for the journey is upon us.’

‘The fish went in a straight course to the shore of the island of the birds, There they stayed until the octave of Pentecost.

When the season of feast-days was over, the steward, who was with them, said to Saint Brendan:

‘Embark in your boat and fill your water vessels from this well. This time I shall be the companion and guide of your journey. Without me you will not be able to find the Promised Land of the Saints.’

As they embarked in the boat, all the birds that were on the island began to say as it were with one voice:

May God, the salvation of all.of us, prosper your journey.’

The Promised Land Of the Saints

Saint Brendan and those who were with him sailed to the island of the steward, who was with them, and there they took on board provision for forty days, Their voyage was for forty days towards the east. The steward went to the front of the boat and showed them the way. When the forty days were up, as the evening drew on, a great fog enveloped them, so that one of them could hardly see another. The steward, however, said to Saint Brendan :

‘Do you know what fog that is?’

Saint Brendan replied :

‘What?’

‘Then the other said:

‘That fog encircles the island for which you have been searching for seven years.’

After the space of an hour a mighty light shone all around them again and the boat rested on the shore.

On disembarking from the boat they saw a wide land full of trees bearing fruit as in autumn time. When they had gone in a circle around that land, night had still not come on them. They took what fruit they wanted and drank from the wells and so for the space of forty days they reconnoitred the whole land and could not find the end of it. But one day they came upon a great river flowing through the middle of the island. Then Saint Brendan said to his brothers:

‘We cannot cross this river and we do not know the size of this land.’

They had been considering these thoughts within themselves when a youth met them and embraced them with great joy and, calling each by his name, said:

‘Happy are they that live in your house. They shall praise you from generation to generation.’

When he said this, he spoke to Saint Brendan:

‘There before you lies the land which you have sought for a long time. You could not find it immediately because God wanted to show you his varied secrets in the great ocean, Return, then, to the land of your birth, bringing with you some of the fruit of this land and as many of the precious stones as your boat can carry. The final day of your pilgrimage draws near so that you may sleep with your fathers. After the passage of many times this land will become known to your successors, when persecution of the Christians shall have come. The river that you see divides the island. Just as this land appears to you ripe with fruit, so shall it remain always without any shadow of night. For its light is Christ’.

Saint Brendan with his brothers, having taken samples of the fruits of the land and of all its varieties of precious stones, took his leave of the blessed steward and the youth. He then embarked in his boat and began to sail through the middle of the fog. When they had passed through it, they came to the island called the Island of Delights. They availed themselves of three days’ hospitality there and then, receiving a blessing, Saint Brendan returned home directly.

Return Home and Death of Saint Brendan

The Brothers received him with thanksgiving, glorifying God who was unwilling that they should be deprived of seeing so lovable a father by whose absence they were for so long orphaned. Then the blessed man, commending them for their love, told them everything that he remembered happening on his journey and the great and marvellous wonders God deigned to show him.

Finally he mentioned also the speed of his approaching death — emphasizing its certainty — according to the prophecy of the youth in the Promised Land of the Saints. The outcome proved this to be correct. For when he had made all arrangements for after his death, and a short time had intervened, fortified by the divine sacraments, he migrated from among the hands of his disciples in glory to the Lord, to whom is honour and glory from generation to generation. Amen. End.