The year was 477, AD. The location, some untamed an unnamed section of the barbaric European wilderness.
Mac Creiche was a
Peregrini monk and student of the (later to be dubbed 'Saint')
(Not to be confused with Saint Mac Creiche, nor Saint
Brendan the Navigator, respectively.)
It can be common to
think of all monks as inwardly-focused and cloister-bound. The
Irish Peregrini were anything but. Though commonly poor and
always celibate, these decisions more out of a practical necessity
that their dangerous mission demanded.
Brendan and his team of
twelve young disciples had set out from Ireland some years earlier
with the intention of ministering in England. After a
reasonably short boat trip they made landfall in England, ready and
anxious to begin. Yet plans were already about to change for
them. They were surprised upon arrival to encounter the heresy
of Pelagianism running rampant through Londinium's muddy
These people preached that man's sinful nature was
nothing more than a myth. An error as rudimentary as this
should be simple enough to correct with a mild dose of scripture - a
nice, clean way to ease into their missionary life. (Or, so
thought young Mac Creiche.)
He soon learned that lies may be
easy to refute, but when that happens, the liars turn nasty!
team barely escaped with their lives from the hands of the heretics
in control. Many would literally bear the scars of that
incident to their dying day.
Finding themselves trapped on the
far side of the town, with an angry mob between them and home, they
took the only path open to them: forward. They found
themselves swept up with the tide of native Britons, escaping from
the isle that bore their name, and crossed the English channel to the
The relative peace the Britons had enjoyed
under Roman rule was now over and the Saxons had no remorse about
driving them off their land. To one group's thinking, the land
was yours because you were born to it. To the other, the land
was yours because you conquered it.
After landing in
modern-day Brittany in the central coast of modern-day France, the
group wandered and preached their way across the barbarian
continent. They left a series of churches and
monasteries behind them like bread crumbs to mark the way.
Those few churches already in wild Gaul were also revived from being
irrelevant and stagnant political pawns to living and life-changing
The Peregrini life was crushing work, often done on
empty stomachs, but they blazed a trail through the physical and
spiritual wilderness that was ancient Europe.
As the years
went by, the disciples of Brandan matured to the point where, they
too, were ready to strike out on their own. Brandan explained,
"Just as every seed grows up t' be like its parent, so all
Disciples grow t' become the next Teachers. From thence comes
great forests and churches." Following his example, the
new Teachers drew Disciples of their own from the converted
barbarians. Twelve, plus one more to fill the newly-created
vacancy in Brandan's retinue.
Soon Mac Creiche found himself
the only Irishman remaining out of the original twelve.
day, his own time would come. Quite unexpected, it was.
He just settled down for his breakfast: a hand-torn hunk of plain
brown bread and a slice of cheese. A pull of mulled cider
(lovingly made from apples the nearby monastery) made it a finer meal
than a monk could ask for.
Of course, the prayer of thanks for
such abundant fare had to be long-winded.
As he prayed,
the monk lifted his eyes heavenward and was greeted with the sight of
a lone, snow-white goose. East, it flew, "Towards th'
blessed city, all 'eaven be praised!", he commented aloud as the
thought struck him.
He had been taught by his mentor to always
be aware of the signs and revelations from the Lord Most High, but
now that he had seen one, he doubted. "What say ye,
Lord?", he cried aloud to the clear blue sky, "Be this your
hand, or but a bird like any other?"
Many other things he
cried as well, calling to the heavens for answers to this perplexing
new experience. He got no response.
Once he finished
beating his breast and ranting against the clear blue, the man looked
down and smiled. Just as patient as the Lord, the goose sat
calmly watching the man vent his frustrations.
The new smile
slowly drained from his face, however, when he realized that the
animal had used the opportunity to nibble his bread down to nothing
"Infernal beast!" he declared, making a
move to shoo it away.
Then he thought better of it. "Ah,
well. I suppose e'en answers to prayer need t' eat."
threw the goose his cheese, too.