Thursday, June 07, 2007

300? Not Spartans, But St. Colmans

The Butler's Lives of the Saints June 7 entry starts with a great line; "There are about three hundred Irish saints named Colman." Three hundred saints named Colman? Wow! Of course, there is a corollary; "... so their history ... full of extravagant legends ... becomes easily confused." Still, today's Saint Colman, Colman of Dromore, is celebrated to this day in nearly every diocese in Ireland, so his story is worth deciphering as best we can.

Colman was the son of Daire of the royal line of kings of Cashel. He received his early training at Mahee Island under the tutelage of St. Ailbhe of Emly (himself one of the last disciples of St. Patrick) and became a brilliant scripture scholar. Still, after his studies were done, he was unsure which road to take, so he asked his friend and spiritual advisor St. Macanisius. After praying to the Holy Spirit, Macanisius decisively answered his young understudy, "It is the will of God that you build a monastery within the bounds of the Coba plain." This is exactly what Colman did, and in 514, on the river Lagan, which passes through Druim Mor (Dromore) Colman established one of the greatest monastic communities the Irish ever had.

Colman soon became bishop, and while his stories of miraculous cures and conversions are difficult to ascertain, his teaching legacy (St. Finnian of Movile is counted among his prized pupils) is well established.

While it is hard to imagine a time and land where so many saints existed (not to mention so many with the same name!) to the medieval Irish it was not. If selfishness begets sinners, surely holy selflessness begets saints, and St. Patrick seems to have produced a country where sanctity was as natural as breathing, and saints were as common as kings. I'm not sure how the "Colman 300" would have fared against the theatrical Spartan "300" of recent movie fame, but if those three hundred warriors could defeat one million Persians, I have no doubt three hundred Irish monks named Colman could convert a million Irish natives—with a few English and Scottish thrown in as well.

Today is a good day to pray for an old Irish high school friend of mine, the formidable Larry Coleman. We are both 1977 graduates of Montini High School in Lombard, and as our thirtieth reunion is approaching (are you comin', Coleman?) I remember how in high school Larry was as much of a wild man as I, and while Our Lady and St. Augustine have since led me to my (re)conversion, the last I've heard is that Larry has had no such similar revelation. So perhaps it's time to unleash today's saint and the "Colman Three Hundred" on my high school buddy, and perhaps this heavenly clan will produce some good news when we get together in September.

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