Monday, 15 February 2016

Some Miracles from the Life of Saint Berach

February 15 is the feast of Saint Berach, a post on whose life can be found here. Below are some of the miracles attributed to the saint by his hagiographers and a final eulogy in his honour:

How Saint Berach got his name:

(16) Now St. Berach was born in the house of his mother's brother, Fraech the Presbyter, son of Carthach, in Gort na Luachra (the Close of the Rushes), near Cluain Conmaicne. And in that place there is (now) a mother-church and a cross, and the stone on which St. Berach was born. And Presbyter Fraech subsequently offered this estate to Berach. Presbyter Fraech too it was who baptized St. Berach, and fostered him till he was old enough to study. Now Berach's baptismal name was Fintan, as the learned man said in the verse :

Fintan a man pre-eminent, acute,
Though he were proud at Cluain Coirpthe
(Yet) he suffered, &c.

Berach (pointed, acute) however was the name he acquired by reason of his acuteness and the sharpness of his mighty works and miracles.

Saint Berach arrives at Glendalough:

xi.(29) After this Berach proceeded into Leinster to Glendalough, and went into the guest-house ; and his feet were washed there. At this time Coemgen's cook had died. Coemgen was troubled thereat, for he did not know who would be fit to superintend the monks' refection. And the angel said to him that he should entrust the task of preparing it night by night to the guests, till God should grant him some one suitable for it. And thus it was done by Coemgen ; and that night the duty was entrusted to Berach. And Berach divided the refection in two, and prepared one-half that night; and the monks were much better served that night than any night in the year.(30) The next night the refection of the monks was entrusted to Berach to prepare. Then said Berach to the attendant : Here is the half of last night's refection ready for the monks ; take it with thee. And he did so. And though (the refection) was good the first night, it was better far the last night. (31) So on the morrow St. Berach was taken to Coemgen. Coemgen gave him welcome, and asked him whether he were willing to superintend the monks' refection. And Berach said that he would do anything which Coemgen enjoined him. And he undertook to superintend the monks' refection. And Coemgen gave great thanks to the Lord for the good success which he gave to the monks refection through the grace of Berach. So that it was of this that Coemgen said:

Better than any refection is moderation,
When one comes to eat ;
Better is pain than the abundance
Which obtains eternal destruction.

Saint Berach expels demons from the monastery:

xii. (32) At this time there were many legions of demons in Glendalough, fighting against Coemgen and his monks, and they caused trembling and terror to weak men, and hurt them, and caused plagues and many sicknesses in the glen; and they could not be cast out till Berach came. Then Berach went round the city (monastery), and rang his bell, and sang maledictory psalms against the demons, and cast them out of the glen. And it was of this the poet sang:

The little bell of Berach, lasting the treasure,
Does battle against a perverse hundred ;
It was heard as far as Ferns of the hundreds ;
It chased demons from its sacred path.

And hence it is that the bell of Berach is carried daily round Glendalough; and no power of demons, nor plague, nor punishment shall be there so long as Berach's bell shall be therein. And the name of God and of Berach was magnified through this mighty work.

Saint Berach prevents infanticide:

xxvi. (78) Once upon a time great scarcity came to Erin. At that time Laegachan was in his island on Loch Laegachan, and had no provisions. He went then with his kernes to seek for food, and left his wife, who was pregnant, on the island with a single woman in her company; and he told her, if she should bear a child after his departure, to kill it, as they had no means of rearing it. And the woman bore a male child afterwards, and the woman who was with her asked her what was to be done with the boy. And she said : Kill it. The other woman said : It is better to take it to the clerk of the church here to the west, to be baptized, and let his service be offered to him in return for his maintenance. (79) This plan was agreed upon by them, and the child was taken to Berach, and he baptized it, and the name given to it was Ineirge, and its service in life and death, and the service of its seed and offspring till doom was offered to Berach in return for its nurture. And Berach said : Let the child be taken to its mother, and assistance of food and means will come to them. The child was taken to its mother as the clerk said. (80) As the women were there they heard a noise in the house(?). The woman went to see, but could not perceive anything there. [The same thing happened a second time.] A third time they heard the noise, and a third time the woman went to see, and there was a great salmon there, and an otter dragging it to land. And the woman went and dragged the salmon to land, and could not carry it for its size. And she called the other woman, and the two of them with difficulty carried the salmon, and they dressed it, and ate their fill, and the breasts of the mother of the child were filled with milk forthwith, and thus the child was saved.

A Final Eulogy to Saint Berach:

(88) However, not till the sand of the sea be numbered, and the stars of the heaven, and the grass and all the herbs that grow out of the earth, and the dew which grows or lingers on the grass and on the herbs, will all the mighty deeds of St. Berach be numbered. A righteous man was this man. He was all purity of nature like a patriarch; a true pilgrim in heart and soul like Abraham; gentle and forgiving like Moses; a psalmist worthy to be praised like David; a moon (or treasury) of knowledge and wisdom like Solomon; a chosen vessel to proclaim righteousness like Paul the apostle; a man full of grace and favour of the Holy Spirit, like John the youth; a fair garden with plants of virtue, a branch of a fruitful vine; a shining fire all aglow to cherish and warm the sons of life in kindling and inflaming love. A lion for might and power; a dove for gentleness and simplicity, a serpent for prudence and ingenuity for good; gentle, humble, merciful, lowly towards sons of life; dark and pitiless towards sons of death; an industrious and obedient slave to Christ; a king for dignity and power to bind and loose, to free and to enslave, to kill and make alive. (89) So then after these great miracles, after raising the dead, after healing lepers and blind and lame, and every other plague, after ordaining bishops, and priests, and deacons, and people of every other order in the Church, after teaching and baptizing many, after founding churches and monasteries, after overcoming the arts of idols and of druidism, the day of St. Berach's death and of his going to heaven drew near. And before he went thither there appeared an angel to him, and said to him, that the Lord had great care for him, and for his monks and for his monastery; and said that whoever should ask a righteous perfect petition of him, it should be granted to him; and revealed to him the day of his going to heaven. (90) Now Berach spent his life in fastings and prayer and almsgivings in the presence of the Lord. He received communion and sacrifice from the hand of Talmach [and commended] to him his inheritance and the headship of his monastery and of his young ecclesiastics. He sent his spirit to heaven, and his body was buried in the dark house (i. e. grave) with great honour and reverence, and with miracles and mighty works in this world ; but greater far will be (his honour) in the (great) Assize, when he will shine like the sun in heaven in the presence of the apostles and disciples of Jesus, in the presence of the Divinity and Humanity of the Son of God, in the presence of the sublime Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I pray the mercy of the Son of God Almighty through the intercession of St. Berach whose festival and commemoration are (observed) in many noble churches to-day, that we may attain, that we may merit, that we may inherit the kingdom in secula seculorum. Amen. Finis.

'Life of Berach' in C. Plummer ed.and trans. Bethada Naem nErenn – Lives of Irish Saints, Vol II, (Oxford 1922), 22-43.

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