Thursday 9 June 2016

Saint Columba and the Woman Escorted by the Angels to Paradise

June 9 is the feastday of Saint Colum Cille [Columba] of Iona.  As I have previously noted on the blog, Iona's founder shares his feastday with his immediate successor and kinsman, Baithin. Canon O'Hanlon, however, has another feast to record for this day, one which comes directly from Book III of Adamnán's Life of Saint Columba:
Feast of a Holy Woman whose Name is unknown, and who was borne into Heaven by Angels. [Sixth Century.]

At this date, we find introduced into a Calendar the festival of a beatified woman, whose name is not known, but whose soul St. Columkille beheld ascending into Heaven. After a great struggle with demons, the Angels came to receive her into the mansions of everlasting bliss. This festival is noted by the Bollandists, among the pretermitted saints. 
The calendar to which Canon O'Hanlon refers is named in the footnotes as the 'Gynaeceo Arturi'. I was unable to find out any further information on this source. Below is the text from the Life of Saint Columba from which this feast is drawn. It is interesting to note that the witness to this miracle was a Saxon monastic who worked as a baker at the monastery of Iona:
[III 10] Of a vision, in which St. Columba beheld angels bearing to heaven the soul of a virtuous woman

Likewise, on another occasion, when St Columba was dwelling in Iona, one day he suddenly looked up towards heaven and said:

'Happy woman, happy and virtuous, whose soul the angels of God now take to paradise!'

One of the brothers was a devout man called Genereus the Englishman, who was the baker. He was at work in the bakery where he heard St Columba say this. A year later, on the same day, the saint again spoke to Genereus the Englishman, saying:

'I see a marvellous thing. The woman of whom I spoke in your presence a year ago today - look!- she is now meeting in the air the soul of a devout layman, her husband, and is fighting for him together with holy angels against the power of the Enemy. With their help and because the man himself was always righteous, his soul is rescued from the devils' assaults and is brought to the place of eternal refreshment.'
Richard Sharpe, ed. and trans., Life of Saint Columba, (Penguin Classics, 1991), 213.

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