Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Friday, December 03, 2004

Columba and the Big Skull

The Life of Colum Cille (Columba), written in Irish by Manus O'Donnell and written in 1532, contains the following episode:

"Once when Colum Cille was walking beside the river Boyne a human skull was brought to him. The size of the skull was much bigger than the skulls of the people of that time. Then his followers said to Colum Cille, "It is a pity we don't know whose skull this is, or the whereabouts of the soul that was in the body on which it was." Colum Cille answered, "I'm not leaving this place until I find this out from God for you."

"Then Colum Cille prayed earnestly to God for that to be revealed to him, and God heard that prayer so that the skull itself spoke to him. It said that it was the skull of Cormac mac Airt, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, king of Ireland, and an ancester to himself, for Colum Cille was tenth generation after Cormac. And the skull said that although his faith wasn't perfect, he had a certain amount of faith and, because of his keeping the truth and that as God knew that from his descendents would come Colum Cille who would pray for his soul, He had not damned him permanently, although it was in severe pain that he awaited these prayers.

"Then Colum Cillle picked up the skull and washed it honorably, and baptized and blessed it; then he buried it. And Colum Cille did not leave that place until he had said 30 masses for the soul of Cormac. And at the last of the masses, the angels of God appeared to Colum Cille, taking Cormac's soul with them to enjoy eternal glory through the prayers of Colum Cille."

- O'Donnell, The Life of Colum Cillle, transl. B. Lacey, Dublin 1998


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