Columcille’s Nettle Broth

Common -- or stinging-- nettle (Urtica dioica).
Common — or stinging — nettle (Urtica dioica).

Once when he was going round the graveyard in Iona, he saw an old woman cutting nettles for broth for herself. ‘What is the cause of this, poor woman?’ said Colum Cille. ‘Dear Father,’ said she, ‘I have one cow, and it has not yet borne a calf; I am waiting for it, and this is what has served me for a long time.’ Colum Cille made up his mind then that nettle broth should be what should serve him mostly from then on for ever; saying, ‘Since they suffer this great hunger in expectation of the one uncertain cow, it would be right for us that the hunger which we suffer should be great, waiting for God; because what we are expecting, the everlasting Kingdom, is better, and is certain.’ And he said to his servant ‘Give me nettle broth every night,’ said he, ‘without butter or milk with it.’ ‘It shall be done,’ said the cook. He hollowed the stick for stirring the broth and made it into a tube, so that he used to pour the milk into that tube and stir it into the broth. Then the people of the church noticed that the priest looked well, and talked of it among themselves. This was told to Colum Cille, and then he said, ‘May your successors grumble for ever! Now,’ said he to the servant, ‘what do you give me in the broth every day?’ ‘You yourself are witness,’ said the menial, ‘unless it comes out of the stick with which the broth is mixed, I know of nothing in it except broth alone.’ Then, the explanation was revealed to the priest, and he said, ‘Prosperity and good deeds to your successor for ever!’ And this has come true.

— Irish; author unknown; 11th century;
Whitley Stokes, On the Calendar of Oengus (Dublin, 1880), pp. c-ci.

Published by Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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