25th June

A Nursery Of Saints

Abraham is the spiritual father of us all. As the Scripture says: ‘I have made you a father of many peoples.’ Romans 4:16, 17

Is the faith community to which you belong like a museum or a nursery? Museums are painless, but also lifeless. Nurseries are messy, but they foster life. Ever since Abraham God has been in the business of nurturing people of faith. This is how a nursery of saints began in Ireland.

The day before St Comgall was born Mac Nisse of Connor heard a horse and carriage passing by and said to the people around him ‘That carriage carries a king.’ However, when they all went outside to have a look they could see only two occupants, neither of them royal, Sedna and his pregnant wife Birga. Had Mac Nisse got it wrong? He insisted that his first ‘seeing’ had not been mistaken.  ‘It is the baby that woman is carrying who shall be a king’ he said; ‘he will be adorned with all sorts of virtues and the lustre of his miracles will light up the world.’

So it proved to be. Comgall was to establish the famous community at Bangor at which, it was said, some four thousand monks were under the grace of God. Among the famous missionaries who trained there and went on to win countless disciples on the continent were Columbanus and Gall. The service book of the monastery, The Antiphonary of Bangor, survives in the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

Bangor became known as ‘The Vale of Angels’, and later Bernard of Clairvaux described it as being ‘truly sacred, the nursery of saints’.

Sometimes individuals develop their own little nurseries. St Ita, who died in January 570, was originally named Deidre. She adopted her new name as a pun which reflected her ‘hunger for divine love’. As a result of her great love and her powers of healing and prophecy she became known as ‘the foster mother of the saints of Ireland’. When Comghan was dying in a monastery he felt God tell him that if Ita laid hands upon him in prayer he would go straight to heaven. This she did.

Lord, I would like to be part of a nursery of saints.
Show me what needs to happen for this to be.
May my life be a seed-bed of prayer and of friendship
Lived out in fellowship with others of like mind.

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