New Harmony: Ireland has other saints to reckon with

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

When people hear the words “Irish” and “saint,” their minds think “Patrick.”

St. Patrick tints all things Irish. His prayers and exploits even have other nations painting their streets green to celebrate his day.

The figure of St. Patrick casts such a long shadow, in fact, that other Irish saints get overwhelmed.

And how many other Irish saints are there?

Some Christian scholars count at least 200.

Today, however, I’ll pull just two or three of them into the light.

For openers, St. Brendan the Voyager is an Irish Catholic saint to reckon with. At one point he spent seven years at sea in search of the Garden of Eden. Some say he even made it to America (this was in the year 550 A.D.). And tales of those seven years at sea are still popular today. Irish folksingers still sing about them. J.R.R. Tolkein, author of “The Lord of the Rings,” wrote a poem about them.

Brendan has now become the protector of scuba divers. And at the U.S. Naval Academy, Brendan has his own stained glass window.

Apparently he made it to America after all.

Another Irish saint worth her salt is Brigit of Kildare. She was the original go-getter. She started an art school, several convents and was known as a great administrator. Not bad for a woman who began life as a slave.

A favorite story about Brigit has her asking the king if he will give her as much land for a monastery that her cloak can cover. The king laughs and agrees. Four people each take a corner of her cloak and stretch over several acres.

Brigit may have been the first person to wear Spandex.

Finally, a word must be said about St. Columba, also known as “The Dove of the Church.”

Columba was the first Irishman to go one-on-one with the Loch Ness monster. It seems several people feared crossing the River Ness because of the monster. So Columba told one of his followers to swim across the river. When the Loch Ness monster surfaced to gobble the swimmer up, Columba gave the beast a piece of his mind and told it to clear out. The monster was so shaken it has been hiding for 1,500 years.

Another of Columba’s gifts involves words.

It was said he could look at a book of Psalms and know immediately if one letter was missing or misplaced in the book.

A haphazard guy like me could make good use a man like that as a proofreader.

Email: jerjohn@desnews.com

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