16th February


No one helped God spread out the heavens or trample the sea monster’s back. … We cannot understand the great things God does; there is no end to the miracles God can do. Job 9: 8,10.

Berach, who was planning to sail the always risky journey from Iona to Tiree, asked Columba to bless this journey. Columba looked at him long and hard: ‘Take special care not to cross the open sea today in a straight course, otherwise you will meet an enormous monster who will terrify and well nigh overwhelm you. Go in a zig zag around the smaller islands.’

Berach set off, but, since everything looked fine, and it seemed so much easier to go direct, he disregarded Columba’s advice. Some time after this an immense whale rose up like a mountain in front of the crew, opened its jaws, gaping, full of teeth. They let down the sail in terror and rowed back for their lives. In future, they weighed God’s prophetic words more carefully.

Baithene had to make a similar journey, but unlike Berach, his impulses were in harmony with God. On the morning of their departure Columba told Baithene and his crew about the whale, but gave no advice. ‘That beast and I are both under God’s power’ said Baithene. ‘Go in peace’, said Columba, ‘your faith in Christ will defend you from this peril.’ They did see the whale and the crew was terrified, but Baithene himself was without fear. He raised both his hands and blessed the sea and the whale. At that precise moment the whale plunged under the waves and they did not see it again.

God aid me
God succour me
when near the reefs
The Son of God shield me from harm
The Son of God shield me from ill
The Son of God shield me from mishap
The Son of God shield me with power
The Son of God shield me with might.
Carmina Gadelica