After his birth he was straightway taken to be baptised by Cruithnechán, son of Cellachán, the noble priest, and he fostered him afterwards, being so bidden by an angel of God.
Now, when came the time for him to read, the cleric went to a certain spaeman, who was biding in the country, to ask him when the boy ought to begin. When the spaeman had scanned the sky, he said, ‘Write for him his alphabet now.’ It was thereafter written on a cake, and in this wise Colombcille ate the cake, to wit, half thereof to the east of the water and the other half to the west of the water. The spaeman said, through the gift of spaedom, ‘So shall the territory of this son be, to wit, half thereof to the east of the sea, that is in Scotland, and the other half to the west of the sea, that is in Ireland.’
Not long thereafter he and his fosterer went at Christmas to Brugach son of Deg, the bishop, to the Ramparts of Mag Enaig in Tir Enda. It was entrusted to his fosterer the cleric to perform a priest’s duties in that place during the hightide. But bashfulness seized him so that he could not (chant) the psalm that came to him to chant: Misericordias Dei was that psalm. Howbeit the gifted son Colombcille sang the psalm in his fosterer’s behoof. And yet theretofore he had read his alphabet only. And God’s name and Colombcille’s were magnified through that great miracle.
At another time he, (Cruithnechán) went to watch by a sick person. As they were going through a wood, the cleric’s foot slipt on the path and thereof he suddenly died. Colombcille put his cowl under the cleric’s head, thinking he was asleep, and takes to rehearsing his lesson, so that certain nuns heard him as far as their cell. The learned compute that there was a mile and a half between them and the sound of his voice was often heard at that distance, ut dixit (poeta):—
- The sound of Colombcille’s voice—
Great (was) its sweetness above every train,
To the end of fifteen hundred paces,
Through great the distance, it was clear.
Then came the nuns and found the cleric dead before them, and they told Colombcille to bring the cleric back to life for them. Straightway went he to bring the cleric to life. The cleric arose out of death at Colombcille’s word even as if he had been asleep. Thereafter Colombcille offered (himself) to the Lord of the Elements, and begged three boons of Him, to wit, chastity and wisdom and pilgrimage. The three were fully granted him.
He then bade farewell to his fosterer, and the fosterer gave him leave and a fervent blessing.
– On the Life of St. Columba, Anonymous.