Celtic and Old English Saints 3 February
* St. Colman of Kilmacduagh
St. Colman of Kilmacduagh, Bishop
In the Martyrology of Tallaght, St Colman is commemorated on February 3,
but in other Calendars and in Ireland today he is remembered on October
Born at Corker, Kiltartan, Galway, Ireland, c. 550; died 632. Son of the
Irish chieftain Duac, Colman was educated at Saint Enda's (f.d. March
21) monastery in Aran. Thereafter he was a recluse, living in prayer and
prolonged fastings, at Arranmore and then at Burren in County Clare.
With King Guaire of Connaught he founded the monastery of Kilmacduagh,
i.e., the church of the son of Duac, and governed it as abbot-bishop.
The "leaning tower of Kilmacduagh," 112 feet high, is almost twice as
old as the famous town in Pisa. The Irish round tower was restored in
There is a legend that angels brought King Guaire to him by causing his
festive Easter dinner to disappear from his table. The king and his
court followed the angels to the place where Colman had kept the Lenten
fast and now was without food. The path of this legendary journey is
called the "road of the dishes."
As with many relics, Saint Colman's abbatial crozier has been used
through the centuries for the swearing of oaths. Although it was in the
custodianship of the O'Heynes of Kiltartan (descendants of King Guaire)
and their relatives, the O'Shaughnessys, it can now be seen in
theNational Museum in Dublin (Attwater, Benedictines, Carty, D'Arcy,
Farmer, MacLysaght, Montague, Stokes).
Other tales are recounted about Saint Colman, who loved birds and
animals. He had a pet rooster who served as an alarm clock. The rooster
would begin his song at the breaking of dawn and continue until Colman
would come out and speak to it. Colman would then call the other monks
to prayer by ringing the bells.
But the monks wanted to pray the night hours, too, and couldn't count on
the rooster to awaken them at midnight and 3:00 a.m. So Colman made a
pet out of a mouse that often kept him company in the night by giving it
crumbs to eat. Eventually the mouse was tamed and Colman asked its help:
"So you are awake all night, are you? It isn't your time
for sleep, is it? My friend, the cock, gives me great
help, waking me every morning. Couldn't you do the same
for me at night, while the cock is asleep? If you do not
find me stirring at the usual time, couldn't you call me?
Will you do that?"
It was a long time before Colman tested the understanding of the mouse.
After a long day of preaching and travelling on foot, Colman slept very
soundly. When he did not awake at the usual hour in the middle of the
night for Lauds, the mouse pattered over to the bed, climbed on the
pillow, and rubbed his tiny head against Colman's ear. Not enough to
awaken the exhausted monk. So the mouse tried again, but Colman shook
him off impatiently. Making one last effort, the mouse nibbled on the
saint's ear and Colman immediately arose--laughing. The mouse, looking
very serious and important, just sat there on the pillow staring at the
monk, while Colman continued to laugh in disbelief that the mouse had
indeed understood its job.
When he regained his composure, Colman praised the clever mouse for his
faithfulness and fed him extra treats. Then he entered God's presence in
prayer. Thereafter, Colman always waited for the mouse to rub his ear
before arising, whether he was awake or not. The mouse never failed in
The monk had another strange pet: a fly. Each day Colman would spend
some time reading a large, awkward parchment manuscript prayer book.
Each day the fly would perch on the margin of the sheet. Eventually
Colman began to talk to the fly, thanked him for his company, and asked
for his help:
"Do you think you could do something useful for me? You
see yourself that everyone who lives in the monastery is
useful. Well, if I am called away, as I often am, while
I am reading, don't you go too; stay here on the spot I
mark with my finger, so that I'll know exactly where to
start when I come back. Do you see what I mean?"
So, as with the mouse, it was a long time before Colman put the
understanding of the fly to the test. He probably provided the insect
with treats as he did the mouse--perhaps a single drop of honey or crumb
of cake. One day Colman was called to attend a visitor. He pointed the
spot on the manuscript where he had stopped and asked the fly to stay
there until he returned. The fly did as the saint requested, obediently
remaining still for over an hour. Colman was delighted. Thereafter, he
often gave the faithful fly a little task that it was proud to do for
him. The other monks thought it was such a marvel that they wrote it
done in the monastery records, which is how we know about it.
But a fly's life is short. At the end of summer, Colman's little friend
was dead. While still mourning the death of the fly, the
mouse died, too, as did the rooster. Colman's heart was so heavy at the
loss of his last pet that he wrote to his friend Saint
Columba (f.d. June 9). Columba responded:
"You were too rich when you had them. That is why you
are sad now. Great troubles only come where there are
great riches. Be rich no more."
Troparion of St Colman of Kilmacduagh tone 8
Rejecting the nobility of thy birth, O Father Colman,/thou didst seek
God in the solitude of desert places./ Thy virtue, like a beacon, drew
men unto thee/ and thou didst guide them into the way of salvation./
Guide us also by thy prayers, that our souls may be saved.
May God's angels guard us
and save us till day's end,
protected by God and Mary
and *Mac Duach and Mac Daire
and Colm Cille
till days' end.
Aingil De dar gcoimhdeacht
's dar sabhail aris go fuin;
ar coimri De is Mhuire,
Mhic Duach is Mhic Daire
agus Colm Cille
aris go fuin.
*St. Colman MacDuagh
"An Duanaire 1600-1900: Poems of the
Photographs of KilMacduagh Monastery:
Martyrology of Tallaght:
( click on "Library" at page bottom)
Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, 2nd edition,
revised and updated by Catherine Rachel John. New York: Penguin Books.
Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate. (1966). The Book of
Saints. NY: Thomas Y. Crowell. Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey,
Carty, F. (1941). Two and fifty Irish saints. Dublin: James Duffy & Co.
D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most useful
book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author provides a great
deal of historical context in which to place the lives of the saints.]
Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. Oxford: Oxford
MacLysaght, E. (1972). Irish families. New York: Crown Publishers.
Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland. Guildford:
Billing & Sons.
Stokes, M. (1932). Early Christian art in Ireland. Dublin: Government
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