Readers of my blog will be getting familiar with St Feichín by now; I, myself, have taken a great fondness to this 7th century Irish saint.
He’s got all the powers of a super-hero without the noise of contemporary technology around him; he’s the perfect, early Christian, Jedi master. But better than that, he had all the wonderful traits: abstinent, pleasant, charitable, powerful, emaciated, just-worded, honest, pious, rich in sense, godly, affectionate, discreet, opportune, wise, prayerful………………………………………………..( from a medieval document via a seventeenth century rewriting); yet he was wonderfully contrary, when called back to confront St Ciaran, he walked backwards so as not to look him in the face. And, guess what, he died from a plague, he himself called down.
So here's my version of his call to convert the pagans of Omey.
The Angel and St Feichín
One night a very large bird settled on the roof of the cell in which St Feichín was sleeping; this event occurred at Easdara in the present day County Sligo.
Still there at dawn, the brilliance of the early sun reflecting off its magnificent plumage caused a crowd to gather. And as the morning progressed the crowd swelled further, to such a size, in fact, that their tumult distracted the saint who was at the time in a transport brought on by the deepest meditation. And so, it was not with little annoyance that he emerged from his hut to inquire as to why such a large crowd had gathered in that spot.
When the extraordinary bird saw Feichín, it started up a jabbering that amazed all those who were there. Feichín, for his part, recognizing the bird as a gannet, and knowing that they never travelled so far inland, moved closer to listen and soon found himself conversing in a language, the like of which he had no previous knowledge.
All marvelled at the bird: its gleaming white plumage, the extent of its wings whose span was greater than the width of the cell, the fierce grey eyes which never ventured from the saint’s face, its insistent natter.
The conversation continued for two hours; an engagement between man and bird that had the mouths of all present gaping like the black caves in the hills to the south. Never once were they deflected by the milling of the crowd around them nor stop to wet their throats nor, even once, did the flow of their communication wane.
And then, quite suddenly, around noon, to the amazement of all, the gannet rose with a great pumping of its wings, followed by Feichín who rose from the ground like a leaf gathered up in a gale. Into the sky, side by side, growing smaller and smaller, eventually two black dots like stars that went out, the gannet and Feichín disappeared into the clouds travelling in a southwest direction.
All those that gathered fell to their knees and, as one voice, emitted a howling that was partly extolment of the greatness of God and Feichín, partly lamentation at the taking of their saint.
But it was that same day that Feichín landed on the brightly flowered sward of Omey, and it is since that day that the people of Omey have their faces turned to the one God.