St Brendan was born in Munster, ordained at the age of 26 and established several monasteries in Ireland and Scotland. He was drawn to the sea and is known to have sailed to Wales and Brittany and possibly further afield to the Azores, Iceland or America.
His most famous journey was a 7-year voyage with 14 companions to look for the ‘Isle of the Blessed.’ ‘The Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot’ is written in the style of heroic Irish seafaring folktales. As with many stories of the Celtic Saints, the line between myth and reality blurs, but we see with Jesus’ parables that fictional stories can contain layers of wisdom.
During the journey, thought to be an allegory of monastic life, the companions have many adventures, good and bad, some ordinary and some fantastical. At one point, they land on an island that, when they light a fire, turns out to be a great sea monster. In the end, guided by God, they find their destination and return to Ireland rejoicing.
c.484: born in in Tralee, Co. Kerry
c519: Ordained by Erc
c 512-530 Voyage to the Isle of the Blessed
c. 557: Established Clonfert Abbey
577: Died in Annaghdown, Connacht
c 780: Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot written
Quote from Saint
“Shall I take my tiny coracle across the wide, sparkling ocean?Prayer of St Brendan
O King of the Glorious Heaven,
shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?
O Christ, will you help me on the wild waves?
Mark 4:37-40 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised
37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’
Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40
He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?’
Thought for the Day
Use imaginative contemplation to pray with today’s material. Alternatively, recall your favourite fictional story or film and why you like it. Can you find similar themes in the Bible?
1 I feel the winds of God today;
today my sail I lift,
though heavy oft with drenching spray
and torn with many a rift;
if hope should light the water’s crest,
and Christ my bark will use,
I’ll seek the seas at his behest,
and brave another cruise.
2 It is the wind of God that dries
my vain regretful tears,
until with braver thoughts shall rise
the purer, brighter years;
if cast on shores of selfish ease
or pleasure I should be,
Lord let me feel thy freshening breeze,
and I’ll put back to sea.
3 If ever I forget thy love
and how that love was shown,
lift high the blood-red flag above;
it bears thy name alone.
Great pilot of my onward way,
Thou wilt not let me drift
I feel the winds of God today
Today my sail I lift.