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21 May

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  • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
    Celtic and Old English Saints 21 May =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Barrfoin of Killbarron * St. Collen of Denbighshire * St. Godric
    Message 1 of 14 , May 21, 2013
      Celtic and Old English Saints 21 May

      * St. Barrfoin of Killbarron
      * St. Collen of Denbighshire
      * St. Godric of Finchale

      St. Barrfoin of Killbarron, Hermit
      (also Bairrfhionn, Barrindus)
      6th century. Few details are certain about the life of Saint Barrfoin.
      Saint Columba is said to have put Barrfoin in charge of the church he
      founded at Drum Cullen Offaly. Afterwards, Barrfoin lived at Killbarron,
      near Ballyshannon, in Donegal. He may have reached America on one of his
      missions by sea, and informed Saint Brendan of his discovery. Some say
      that he was a bishop (Benedictines).

      Troparion of St Barrfoin Tone 3
      O holy Barrfoin, Christ's missionary voyager/ like thy contemporary
      Saint Brendan:/ pray that we may have courage/ to venture for Christ, at
      His call,/ that we may receive His great mercy.

      St. Collen of Denbighshire
      (Gollen, Colan)
      7th century. Saint Gollen's name is connected with Wales, Glastonbury,
      and Rome. The name Collen means a hazel tree.
      A 16th-century vita in Welsh survives, but its historicity is
      questionable. This account has Gollen fight a duel with a pagan Saracen
      in the presence of the pope, go to Cornwall and Glastonbury, and deliver
      the people in the valley of Llangollen by killing a fierce giantess.
      Gollen gave his name to Llangollen (Clwyd) in Denbighshire, the church
      of Colan in Cornwall, and, perhaps, founded that of Langolen in
      Finistere in Brittany (Benedictines, Farmer).

      Another Life of Saint Collen

      The parish church of St Colan on the North Coast of Cornwall was rebuilt
      in the time of Bishop Branscombe of Exeter, about 1250, and given by him
      to the Canons of Glasney College which he had founded at Peryn. It is
      the only dedication to St.Collen in England but there is a church at
      Langolen near Briec in Brittany and he is the patron of Llangollen in
      Clwyd, where he is buried. His father was a Welshman but his mother,
      Ethni, was of Irish extraction.

      It seems that Collen was sent to Orleans for training and the Life,
      written in the sixteenth century, says that he became a great champion
      of the Christian Faith against the pagans. Although he actually lived in
      the seventh century, his biographer says that it was during the reign of
      Julian the Apostate, three hundred years earlier, that the Pope chose
      him to fight against a heathen Goliath called Bras, whom he defeated and
      persuaded to be baptised. In recognition of his victory the Pope
      presented him with the relic of a miraculous Lily, whose flower had
      witnessed to the virgin Birth of Christ, and this was preserved in
      Worcester during the Middle Ages.

      Collen, landing in Cornwall, came to Glastonbury where he was elected
      Abbot, continued his missionary teaching and eventually became a hermit
      on Glastonbury Tor. It was there that another conflict with paganism
      occurred, his adversary this time being Gwyn ab Nudd, the King of the
      Underworld and the Fairies. Collen was invited to dine at the top of the
      hill but he refused the magical food and drink, scattering the beautiful
      court by sprinkling them with holy water causing them all to vanish.

      Collen prayed that he might have a place to dwell for the rest of his
      life and God bade him journey until he met a horse which would take him
      to his sanctuary. So he came to Llangollen, called in the Life, Rhysfa
      Maes Cadfarch, the Charger's Field. His warfare against paganism was not
      over, for in the Vale of Llangollen there was an evil giantess who would
      kill and eat any who attempted to pass that way. Collen slew the
      giantess and washed his sword in the fountain known as Ffynnon Gollen.

      St. Collen it was who came across a group of the Fair Folk at their
      dancing, one of whom asked the good saint if he did not admire his
      particolored red and blue livery. The saint replied that it was most
      fitting, as the red stood for the fires of hell, and the blue for its
      ice. Then St. Collen made the sign of the cross, and the entire
      troupe vanished.

      Llangollen is internationally famous as a beauty spot, for its
      Eisteddfod and the 13th Century bridge, which is reckoned as one the
      Seven Wonders of Wales. The parish church has been much restored over
      the centuries but it still stands on the site of the Saint's tomb. In
      all the Welsh Calendars St.Collen is commemorated on May 21st but in
      Cornwall his parish keeps festival on the Sunday after the first
      Thursday in May. At Langolen in Brittany his Pardon is held on the
      second Sunday in August.



      The name of Llangollen signifies the church of Collen, and the vale and
      village take their name from the church, which was originally dedicated to
      Saint Collen, though some, especially the neighbouring peasantry, suppose
      that Llangollen is a compound of Llan, a church, and Collen, a hazel-wood,
      and that the church was called the church of the hazel-wood from the number
      of hazels in the neighbourhood. Collen, according to a legendary life, which
      exists of him in Welsh, was a Briton by birth, and of illustrious ancestry.
      He served for some time abroad as a soldier against Julian the Apostate, and
      slew a Pagan champion who challenged the best man amongst the Christians.
      Returning to his own country he devoted himself to religion, and became
      Abbot of Glastonbury, but subsequently retired to a cave on the side of a
      mountain, where he lived a life of great austerity. Once as he was lying in
      his cell he heard two men out abroad discoursing about Wyn Ab Nudd, and
      saying that he was king of the Tylwyth or Teg Fairies, and lord of Unknown,
      whereupon Collen thrusting his head out of his cave told them to hold their
      tongues, for that Wyn Ab Nudd and his host were merely devils. At dead of
      night he heard a knocking at the door, and on his asking who was there, a
      voice said: "I am a messenger from Wyn Ab Nudd, king of Unknown, and I am
      come to summon thee to appear before my master to-morrow, at mid-day, on the
      top of the hill."

      Collen did not go - the next night there was the same knocking and the same
      message. Still Collen did not go. The third night the messenger came again
      and repeated his summons, adding that if he did not go it would be the worse
      for him. The next day Collen made some holy water, put it into a pitcher and
      repaired to the top of the hill, where he saw a wonderfully fine castle,
      attendants in magnificent liveries, youths and damsels dancing with nimble
      feet, and a man of honourable presence before the gate, who told him that
      the king was expecting him to dinner. Collen followed the man into the
      castle, and beheld the king on a throne of gold, and a table magnificently
      spread before him. The king welcomed Collen, and begged him to taste of the
      dainties on the table, adding that he hoped that in future he would reside
      with him. "I will not eat of the leaves of the forest," said Collen.

      "Did you ever see men better dressed?" said the king, "than my attendants
      here in red and blue?"

      "Their dress is good enough," said Collen, "considering what kind of dress
      it is."

      "What kind of dress is it?" said the king.

      Collen replied: "The red on the one side denotes burning, and the blue on
      the other side denotes freezing." Then drawing forth his sprinkler, he flung
      the holy water in the faces of the king and his people, whereupon the whole
      vision disappeared, so that there was neither castle nor attendants, nor
      youth nor damsel, nor musician with his music, nor banquet, nor anything to
      be seen save the green bushes.

      St. Godric of Finchale, Monk Hermit
      Born at Walpole, Norfolk, England, c. 1065; died in Finchale, County
      Durham, May 21, c. 1170.

      [NB: This is a saint outside our timeframe of interest and post-schism]

      I came upon a contemporary biography of Godric, written by Reginald of
      Durham, which I'm sending in a separate post, and below I've taken
      excerpts from this and other biographies detailing some of the unusual
      stories about the saint.

      The short version is that Godric was a peddler who travelled extensively
      and, like Saint Brendan, was eventually attracted to the sea for 16
      years. He managed to purchase part ownership in several ships and even
      to captain one. One historian indicates that he may be the Gudericus
      pirate who carried Baldwain to Jaffa in 1102. In short, his life was not
      always a holy one. Having experienced many difficulties at sea, Godric
      was forever troubled on stormy night for ships at sea, even when he
      lived inland.

      His conversion apparently came when he visited Lindisfarne and was
      touched by an account of the life of Saint Cuthbert. Thereafter he
      changed his ways. He immediately went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem,
      where he visited the Holy Sepulchre. Coming out of the Jordan River, and
      looking down at his feet, he vowed, "Lord, for love of Your name, Who
      for men's salvation walked barefoot through the world, and did not deny
      to have Your naked feet struck through with nails for me: From this day
      I shall put no shoes upon these feet." He kept this vow until his death,
      even in the snow.

      Returning to England via Santiago de Compostella, he became a house
      steward until he realised that the landowner was acting unjustly toward
      his poorer neighbours. Upon resigning he went on a pilgrimage to the
      shrine of Saint Giles in Provence and to Rome with his mother.

      In Cumberland he acquired a Psalter, which became his most valued
      possession, and learned it by heart. In 1105, he sold all his goods and
      travelled to Walsingham, where he joined up with an elderly hermit named
      Aelric, with whom he spent two years. After Aelric's death, Godric made
      another pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he lived for a time with the
      hermits of Saint John the Baptist and worked in a hospital for several

      In a vision, Saint Cuthbert promised Godric a hermitage in England, so
      he returned and spent some time in Eskedale and Durham, where he acted
      as a sacristan and went to school with the choirboys at Saint
      Mary-le-Bow. Then he found his hermitage in Bishop Flambard's hunting
      grounds on the River Wear near Durham.

      He spent the next 60 years in the Finchale forest living an austere life
      of mortification. At first he lived on berries and roots, but later he
      grew vegetables and milled and baked his own barley. He wore a hair
      shirt under a metal breastplate. Godric built a wattle oratory and later
      a small stone church dedicated to Saint Mary. Twice he nearly died, once
      when he was caught in a flood, and once when Scottish soldiers beat
      him on the assumption that he had hidden valuables.

      He lived mainly alone under the guidance of the prior of Durham, who
      supplied him with a priest to offer the Holy Sacrifice in his chapel and
      would send strangers to him to ask his advice. These visitors included
      Aelred and Robert of Newminster, and the monk named Reginald who wrote
      the included biography. Thomas a Becket and Pope Alexander III also
      sought his advice. Godric's sister Burchwen lived with him for a time
      but then became a sister in the hospital at Durham.

      Godric had the gift of prophecy. He foretold the death of Bishop William
      of Durham and Thomas a Becket--whom he had never met. He often saw
      visions of scenes occurring at a distance and was known to stop
      mid-sentence to pray for ships in danger of shipwreck.

      He suffered a long illness during which the monks of Durham nursed him,
      but he died after foretelling his own death. His biographer, Reginald,
      recorded four songs that Godric said had been taught to him in visions
      of the Blessed Virgin, his dead sister, and others. They are the oldest
      pieces of English verse of which the musical settings survive, and are
      the oldest to show the use of devices of rhyme and measure instead of

      Godric was remarkable for his austerities, supernatural gifts, and his
      familiarity with wild animals (Benedictines, Delaney, White).

      Saint Godric at Finchale
      Finchale is difficult to find: in a valley bound by the teeming Wear
      River on the east, north, and west, and by a dense wood in the south. In
      this valley "the man of God began to build the tiny habitations of his
      going out and coming in . . .[At his first coming he had built an
      oratory, and one day saw above the altar two young and very lovely
      maids: the one of them, Mary Magdalene, the other the Mother of God: and
      the Mother of God put her hand upon his head and taught him to sing
      after her this prayer:

      Mary Holy Virgin, mother of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Hold, shield and
      help thy Godric, Take him, bring him soon to the Kingdom of God with

      "Thereafter with more devotion than ever he served the Lord: and called
      upon the most blessed Mother of God, even as he had promised her, in all
      distress that came about him, and found her most swift to aid. A long
      time thus spent in solitude, his friends compelled him to take some one
      to wait on him, and have a better care of his outward affairs. For so
      intent was he upon his prayer, meditation, and contemplation that he
      would spend no labour on things out of doors.

      "At first, therefore, a little boy, his brother's son, came to wait upon
      him, and was with him for 11 years. At that time the only living thing
      he had about him was a single cow; and because the boy was yet but small
      and of very tender years, he would often be so drowsy with sleep in the
      mornings that he would forget to take the beast to pasture, or fetch her
      again in the evenings; or indeed perhaps the familiar task became a
      weariness to him.

      "So one day the man of God went up to the creature, and putting his
      girdle about her neck, spoke to her as if to one that had reason and
      intelligence. 'Come,' said he, 'follow me, and go on with me to thy
      pasture.' She went on, and the youngster, looking and listening,
      followed after them. And again the saint spoke. 'I command thee, in the
      Lord's name,' said he, 'that every day at sunrise thou shalt go forth
      alone, with no guide, to thy pasture; and every noon and evening at the
      fitting time, come home, with no servant to lead thee; and when thine
      udder with fullness of milk needs easing come to
      me, wherever I shall be, and when thou art milked, go lightened back to
      thy pasture, if yet there is time.'

      "And, marvel as it is, from that day and thence forward, the cow went
      and came at the proper hour, and whenever through the day she was heavy
      with milk she would come to him; and if by chance he were in church she
      would stand outside, by the door, lowing and complaining, calling him.
      And he, his hour of prayer ended, would come out and milk her, and she
      then go away, wherever he bade her. The boy who saw this, told it; for
      he grew up, and is now a very old man.

      "In after days, a little lad came to serve in the house of the man of
      God, and was set to these outside tasks. And not knowing that the cow
      was accustomed to obey the Saint's command, and finding her one day
      grazing in the meadow, he began to harry her and prod her with a goad.
      And she, incensed, turned on the youngster and catching him between her
      horns, charged off with him in a great heat of indignation, to the door
      of the house where the man of God was busy within. He came out, took the
      boy in his arms and lifted him from between her horns, rescuing him
      unhurt from the wrath of the irate beast.

      "In this are three works of God which we find singularly admirable:
      first, that the animal feared to injure or inflict any wound on the
      servant of her master, but, nonetheless, by terrifying his boldness and
      presumption, administered well-deserved punishment; second, that Christ
      Himself would not have the guileless and ignorant youngster killed, but
      preserved him by the help of His servant; third, that He made manifest
      to us the merits of the man of God, in that by his intervention he saved
      one set amid death from death's very jaws.

      "This same youngster, now indeed an old man, would often tell the story
      with thankfulness, praising God who so marvellously deigned to snatch
      him by the merits of his master from sudden destruction" (Reginald of

      Saint Godric's Garden and the Wild Deer
      There are other stories written of Godric. As a break from prayer,
      Godric grafted some cuttings from visitors' fruit trees to create an
      enclosed orchard. The sweetness of the crop drew all the local animals,
      who nibbled away at the tender shoots and destroyed Godric's painstaking
      work. "So one day coming out of his oratory he saw a wild stag from the
      cropping the tender leafage of his trees, scattering and spoiling with
      all its heart; and making his way towards the creature, he bade it with
      a crook of his finger not to run away from the spot, but to wait till he
      came, without stirring. Oh strange and stupendous mystery! The stag,
      this wild thing of the woods, that knew no discretion, understood the
      will of the man
      of God from his gesture alone, and standing still it began trembling all
      over, as if it knew that it had offended the soul of the man of God.

      "Its extreme tremor and fear went to his heart, and he checked the wrath
      in his mind and the blows he had meant to inflict; and the creature
      dropped on its knees as he came, and bowed its head, to ask pardon as
      best it could for its bold trespass. He ungirt his belt, and put it
      round the neck of the kneeling animal, and so led him beyond the bounds
      of his orchard, and there releasing him bade him go free wherever he
      willed. . . .

      "It was not long after when lo! a herd of the woodland creatures came
      crowding again; they leapt across the fence, they tore off the tender
      flowers and delicate leaves, and every one of the slips of apple trees
      that he had watched over from the beginning and planted or grafted in
      his garden, they set themselves to root up and break off and trample

      "He came out of the house, and ordered the whole mob to leave the place;
      and seizing a rod, he struck one of them thrice on the flank and leading
      her to the trees that lay along the ground, he showed her rather by
      signs than by any spoken word what damage her herd had done to his

      "Then, raising both hand and voice, 'In the name of Jesus of Nazareth,'
      said he, 'be off and away as quickly as ye may, nor be so bold as to
      come near this garden of mine to its hurt, until these trees are full
      grown; for the slips of fruit trees that I have grafted on these trunks
      I meant for the food of men and not of beasts.' And so saying, he
      threatened the rest of the
      dumb creatures with the rod that he held in his hand. And thereupon the
      whole herd, with heads down bent and stepping delicately, went out; and
      where they had rioted, prancing here and there, and leapt in great
      bounds, they now went forth stepping as it were on tiptoe, with
      swift-hurrying hoofs.

      "He drove the whole herd to the depth of the forest; and such as lagged
      behind in weariness, he set his arms about and gently brought them out,
      making a way for them by lifting a hurdle from his fence. From that time

      forth never any forest creature dared to trespass the bounds which he
      had fixed. . . .

      "Bears, too, would come from the depths of the forest to eat the honey
      of his bees, and he would find them out and chastise them with the stick
      that he always carried in his hand. And at a word from him the unwieldy
      creatures would roar and run, and creatures that no steel blade could
      daunt would go in terror of a blow from his light rod" (Reginald of

      Saint Godric and Saint John the Baptist's Salmon
      "It was the serene and joyous weather of high summer, and the turning of
      the year brought nigh the solemn feast of Saint John the Baptist. And
      because the man of God had begged it, and it was the familiar custom,
      two brothers from the monastery at Durham were sent out to him to
      celebrate the divine office with all due honour. The office reverently
      said, and this most solemn Mass ended, the folk who had come for the
      Feast made their way home; and the brethren came to him to ask his
      blessing, and leave to return to their monastery. 'Ye may have God's
      blessing,' said he, 'but when Saint Cuthbert's sons have come to visit
      me, they must not go home without their dinner.' And, calling his
      serving-man, 'Quick, beloved,' said he, 'and set up the table, for these
      brethren are to eat with us this day.'

      "The table was set up, and oat cake laid upon it, such as he had, and
      bowls of good milk. Yet when he looked at the feast, it seemed to him
      but poor, and he bade the serving-man bring fish as well.

      "'Master,' said he in amaze, 'where should we get fish at a time like
      this, in all this heat and drought, when we can see the very bottom of
      the river? We can cross dry shod where we used to spread the seine and
      the nets.' But he answered, 'Go quickly and spread my seine in the same
      dry pool.' The man went out and did as he was told; but with no hope of
      any sort of catch.

      "He came back, declaring that the pool had dried up till the very sands
      of it were parched; and his master bade him make haste to fill the
      cauldron with water, and set it on the hearth to heat, and this was
      done. After a little while he bade his man go to the bank and bring back
      his catch; the man went and looked, and came back empty-handed; he did
      it again a second
      time; and then in disgust, refused to go any more. For a little while
      the man of God held his peace, and then spoke. 'Now go this time,' said
      he, 'for this very hour the fish has come into the net, that Saint John
      the Baptist promised me; for never could he break a promise by not doing
      what he said, although our sluggish faith deserved it little. And look
      you,' said he, 'but that salmon that is now caught in the seine is a
      marvellous fine one.'

      "So in the end his man went off, and found even as he had been told; and
      drawing it out of the net he brought the fish alive to where his master
      sat in the oratory, and laid it at his feet. Then as he was bidden, he
      cut it into pieces and put it into the pot now boiling on the hearth,
      and cooked it well, and brought it and set it before the brethren at
      table, and well were
      they fed and mightily amazed.

      "For they marvelled how a fish could come swimming up a river of which
      the very sands were dry; and, above al, how the man of God, talking with
      them and sitting in the oratory could have seen, by the revelation of
      the spirit, the very hour when the fish entered the meshes of the net.
      To which he made reply, 'Saint John the Baptist never deserts his own,
      but sheds the blessing of his great kindness on those that trust in
      him.' And so he sent them home, well fed and uplifted at so amazing a
      miracle; praising and glorifying God, Who alone doeth marvels, for all
      that they had seen and heard" (Reginald of

      Saint Godric and the Hare
      To feed the poor Godric had planted vegetables, which a little hare used
      to devour stealthily. One day Godric tracked down the culprit and bade
      the hare to stop as tried to bolt away. He chastised the trembling
      animal, bound a bundle of vegetables on its shoulder and sent it off
      with a warning, 'See to it that neither thyself nor any of thy
      acquaintance come to this place again; nor dare to encroach on what was
      meant for the need of the poor.' And so it happened (Geoffrey).

      Godric's kindness, however, extended even to the reptiles. "For in
      winter when all about was frozen stiff in the cold, he would go out
      barefoot, and if he lighted on any animal helpless with misery of the
      cold, he would set it under his armpit or in his bosom to warm it. Many
      a time would the kind soul go spying under the thick hedges or tangled
      patches of briars, and if haply he found a creature that had lost its
      way, or cowed with the harshness of the weather, or tired, or half dead,
      he would recover it with all the healing art he had. . . .

      "And if anyone in his service had caught a bird or little beast in a
      snare or a trap or a noose, as soon as he found it he would snatch it
      from their hands and let it go free in the fields or the glades of the
      wood. So that many a time they would hide their captive spoils under a
      corn measure or a basket or some more secret hiding-place still; but
      even so they could never deceive him or keep it hidden. For without
      telling, and indeed with his serving- man disavowing and protesting, he
      would go straight to the place where the creatures had been hidden; and
      while the man would stand by crimson with fear and confusion, he would
      lift them out and set them free.

      "So, too, hares and other beasts fleeing from the huntsmen he would take
      in, and house them in his hut; and when the ravagers, their hope
      frustrated, would be gone, he would send them away to their familiar
      haunts. Many a time the dumb creatures of the wood would swerve aside
      from where the huntsmen lay in wait, and take shelter in the safety of
      his hut; for it may be that by some divine instinct they knew that a
      sure refuge abided their coming" (Reginald).

      Saint Godric and the Hunted Stag
      "In the time of Rainulf, Bishop of Durham, certain of his household had
      come out for a day's hunting, with their hounds, and were following a
      stag which they had singled out for its beauty. The creature, hard
      pressed by the clamour and the baying, made for Godric's hermitage, and
      seemed by its plaintive cries to beseech his help. "The old man came
      out, saw the stag shivering and exhausted at his gate, and moved with
      pity bade it hush its moans, and opening the door of his hut, let
      it go in. The creature dropped at the good father's feet but he, feeling
      that the hunt was coming near, came out, shut the door behind him and
      sat down in the open; while the dogs, vexed at the loss of their quarry,
      turned back with a mighty baying upon their masters.

      "They, nonetheless, following on the track of the stag, circled round
      about the place, plunging through the well-nigh impenetrable brushwood
      of thorns and briars; and hacking a path with their blades, came upon
      the man of God in his poor rags.

      "They questioned him about the stag; but he would not be the betrayer of
      his guest, and he made prudent answer, 'God knows where he may be.' They
      looked at the angelic beauty of his countenance, and in reverence for
      his holiness, they fell before him and asked his pardon for their bold

      "Many a time afterwards they would tell what had befallen them there,
      and marvel at it, and by their oft telling of it, the thing was kept in
      memory by those that came after. But the stag kept house with Godric
      until the evening; and then he let it go free. But for years thereafter
      it would turn from its way to visit him, and lie at his feet, to show
      what gratitude it could for its deliverance" (Reginald).

      In art, Saint Godric is depicted as a very old hermit dressed in white,
      kneeling on grass, with a stag by him (Roeder, White). He is venerated
      especially at Finchdale, County Durham, and Walpole, Norfolk, England


      Baring-Gould, S. & Fisher, J. (1907) The Lives of the British
      Saints. 4 volumes. Charles J Clarke.

      Benedictine Monks of Saint Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
      (1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

      Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
      Saints of the British Isles Complied from Ancient Calendars.

      Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
      Oxford: Oxford University Press.

      Fletcher, H.L.V. The Queen's Wales - North Wales.

      Stafford, D.G. A Brief History of Saint Colan Parish Church.

      These Lives are archived at:
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