Of Columcille and Pope Gregory

The Holy Ghost, depicted as a dove (columba), inspiring Pope St. Gregory the Great's dictation of the Gregorian Chant, Antiphonary of Hartker of the monastery of Saint Gall (Cod. Sang. 390, p. 13).
The Holy Ghost, depicted as a dove (columba), inspiring Pope St. Gregory the Great’s dictation of the Gregorian Chant, Antiphonary of Hartker of the monastery of Saint Gall (Cod. Sang. 390, p. 13).

Brandubh was killed on the morrow, and demons carried off his soul into the air. And Maedhog [abbot of Ferns] heard the wail of his soul as it was undergoing pain, while he was with the reapers. And he went into the air, and began to battle with the demons. And they passed over Hy; and Columkille heard them while he was writing; and he stuck the style [graib, graphium] into his cloak, and went to the battle to the aid of Maedhog, in defence of Brandubh’s soul. And the battle passed over Rome, and the style fell out of Columkille s cloak, and dropped in front of Gregory, who took it up in his hand. Columkille followed the soul of Brandubh to heaven. When he reached it, the congregation of heaven were at Celebration, namely, Te decet hymnus, and Benedic anima mea, and Laudate pueri Dominum; and this is the beginning of the Celebration of heaven. Columbkille did the same as the people of heaven. And they brought Brandubh’s soul back to his body again. Columbkille tarried with Gregory; and brought away Gregory’s brooch [dealc] with him, and it is the hereditary brooch [delg aidechta, literally testamentary brooch, being an heirloom in Hy, as the clog an eadhachta, or testamentary boll, was in Armagh] of the coarb of Columkille to this day. And he left his style with Gregory. “

Lib. Lecan, fol. 183 a., quoted in Reeves’ Life of St. Columba, 1874.

The legend is transferred from the Irish original in Manus O’Donnell’s Life:

By reason of that curse and of the promise that Columcille had made them that whoever misprized them, he would cut off his life, it befell that Brandubh came not further into Leth Cuinn, and in that same hosting was slain, and devils bare his soul up into the air with them, and they were tormenting it there.

And in that time Maedhog was with the reapers that were cutting corn for him. And he heard the cry of the soul in torment, and by the power of God he went up into the air after the demons. And he was battling with them for the soul of Brandubh.

And they came above Iona of Columcille in Alba. Columcille was writing at that time, and an angel of God revealed the thing to him. And he grieved for the soul in torment, albeit he it was himself that had obtained from God that the life of Brandubh should be cut off because he had not taken the counsel of the holy men of his household forementioned touching the making of peace with Leth Cuinn. And he fastened his cloak with his brooch, and leaped into the air to aid Maedhog to save the soul of Brandubh from the demons. And they were struggling thus until they came above Rome. The brooch of Columcille fell out of his mantle, and dropped to the ground before Pope Gregory. Gregory lifted it and recognized it. Soon the devils rose passing high into the air, fleeing before Columcille. Columcille followed them and went higher above into the ether, so that he heard the singing of the heavenly household. And these were the first words of the psalms they were singing in praise of the Lord: “Te decet u.,” and “Benedic a. m.,” and “Laudate pueri.

And Columcille caused his holy men and monks to recite them at the beginning of their office and singing from that time on. And Columcille obtained from God that the soul of Brandubh, that was all that time in torment from the demons, should be restored to his body again, and that he should repent of his crime, and be a good servant to God and to Columcille thenceforth, and should receive the sacrament from the hands of Maedhog Ferna in the hour of his death as he had promised him.

Columcille went to Gregory for his brooch. But the Pope kept it for himself and left his own brooch to Columcille afterward. And right marvelous were to Gregory the height of gifts, and the wealth of graces, and the multitude of miracles that God granted Columcille to do in that time. And afterward Columcille went back to Iona, and there he left that brooch of Pope Gregory’s to his successor in Iona in witness and in sign of these great miracles.

— Betha Colaim Chille, 219.

Curator: 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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