Saturday 16 October 2021

Saint Gall and the Miracle of the Fishes

 October 16 is the feast of Saint Gall, the Irish Apostle to Switzerland. I have previously introduced him and his formidable monastic superior, Saint Columbanus, here. The relationship between the two was not always a harmonious one and they eventually went their separate ways. My earlier post includes an account of a posthumous miracle of healing attributed to the intercession of Saint Gall, now we can look at another miracle in which he features. This one involves the catching of fish and was recorded in the Life of Saint Columban by the Monk Jonas. In the healing miracle Gall appears as the aged and venerable Abbot of the monastery which bears his name, but here he is at an early stage of his monastic career under the authority of his own master, Columbanus. This miracle is rich in scriptural allusions and echoes the Miraculous Draught of the Fishes recorded in chapter five of the Gospel of Saint Luke. There the disciples have been unsuccessfully trying for a catch throughout the night and are sceptical when Jesus commands them to let down their nets, but obeying find that they catch so many fish they can hardly bring them ashore. The Apostle Peter is overcome by his sense of unworthiness but is told "Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men (Lk. 5:10). Since Columbanus and his companions had left Ireland to evangelize in continental Europe this analogy too is fitting. And, of course, when Saint Gall obeys his master the reward is great:

19. At another time he [Columban] was staying in the same wilderness, but not in the same place. Fifty days had already elapsed and only one of the brethren named Gall was with him. Columban commanded Gall to go to the Brusch and catch fish. The latter went, took his boat and went to the Loignon river. After he had gotten there, and had thrown his net into the water he saw a great number of fishes coming. But they were not caught in the net, and went off again as if they had struck a wall. After working there all day and not being able to catch a fish, he returned and told the father that his labor had been in vain. The latter chid him for his disobedience in not going to the right place. Finally he said, "Go quickly to the place that you were ordered to try." Gall went accordingly, placed his net in the water, and it was filled with so great a number of fishes, that he could scarcely draw it.

D. C. Munro, ed., Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol. II, Life of St. Columban, by the Monk Jonas, No. 7, (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press), p.12.


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