St Brendan The Navigator

It's a week of the feast of the Ascension and on Wednesday is the feast of one of my favourite saints, Saint BrendanThe Navigator, and so unsurprisingly a week where the theme of departures pervades many posts.

Dear God, may we take inspiration from the spirit of Saint Brendan
and the ancient monks as we navigate our way through this world of adventure, 
to encounters strange and beautiful; with all its sea monsters, 
playful dolphins and unexpected delights,
with the endless joys and sorrows to fashion our inquisitive
and restless pilgrims hearts.
May we learn to meet all the challenges given to us
and the companionship offered in encounters with discernment ,
faith, hope and love that we may find our way with your help
towards a safe and peaceful haven in your loving arms.

      Above a short video of St Brendan with music and scenes from places in Ireland associated with St Brendan

     Below a delightful animation of Brendan's life
 related by children

St Brendan's Life story here

A couple of my previous posts with prayers of St Brendan: 
Prayers From The Shore here and here

 I used the prayer below at the start of Lent and it resonates now as The Ascension and Pentecost draw near.
Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.

The Prayer of St. Brendan

The Latin texts of Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (The Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot) dating back to at least 800 A.D. tell the story of Brendan’s (c. 489-583) seven year voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to a new land and his return.

Image source Google
Convinced that the legend was based in historical truth, in 1976 Tim Severin built a replica of Brendan’s currach

Handcrafted using traditional tools, the 36-foot, two masted boat was built of Irish ash and oak, hand-lashed together with nearly two miles of leather thong, wrapped with 49 traditionally tanned ox hides, and sealed with wool grease. 

Between May 1976 and June 1977, Severin and his crew sailed the Brendan 4,500 miles from Ireland to Peckford Island, Newfoundland, stopping at the Hebrides and Iceland en route. 

He considered that his recreation of the voyage helped to identify the bases for many of the legendary elements of the story: the Island of Sheep, the “Paradise of Birds,” pillars of crystal, mountains that hurled rocks at voyagers, and the Promised Land. Severin’s account of the expedition, The Brendan Voyage, became an international best seller, translated into 16 languages.


You can read more here about the route taken by Brendan and remarkably how myth fuses and fascinates with facts.  

St Brendan is associated with a number of monastic sites close to the River Shannon and around the West Coast of Ireland.
He started monastic communities in Ardfert, and at Shanakeel or Baalynevinoorach, at the foot of Brandon Hill. This work took place over a period of almost 30 years. Brendan's many sea voyages brought him to Wales, Iona in Scotland as well as to France and other parts of mainland Europe.

Severin and his crew encountered similar dangers and experiences to those of Brendan. 

Many times they encountered large numbers of curious and surprisingly friendly whales around their boat, but were never touched or in any way endangered by the great creatures.

Read more about this beautiful 14 cm wood cut of St Brendan and the sea monsters by Robert Gibbings here
 More than 100 medieval Latin manuscripts of this Voyage of Brendan still exist today with many pointers to the very real possibility that it was in fact Saint Brendan who discovered North America, some 900 years earlier than Columbus.

Below are two videos from a series of five of Tim Severin's Brendan Voyage. I couldn't locate the other three on You Tube but there is a DVD.

Part Two

St Brendan the Navigator This modern statue to...
                                          Statue of St Brendan at Fenit Pier. Co. Kerry.
                                                                     Read more here
                                                      PhotoGallery of St Brendan here

                                                      St Brendan by Michael Carroll
More Beautiful Celtic Art by Michael Carroll on St Brendan here 

Mask of St Brendan here

"You are the veil that hides the paradise you seek."
 - Saint Brendan

Cynthia Bourgeault uses an icon of St Brendan by artist Siri Beckman for their site The Contemplative Society.

Here she explains the meaning of their logo :

"St. Brendan belongs to that glorious period in the history of Ireland when the island in the first glow of its conversion to Christianity sent forth its earliest messengers of the Faith to the continent and to the regions of the sea. 

Brendan's adventures that ensued were called the "Navigatio Brendani", the Voyage or Wandering of St. Brendan.

Stella Maris mosaic. Belfast Part of a large m...
Stella Maris mosaic in Garmoyle Belfast, part of a large mosaic by artist Des Kinney, depicting the voyage of St Brendan the Navigator. A donation by Irish Life. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to legend, Brendan sailed in circles for seven years, until he learned that reaching the land promised to the Saints "... is reached not only in physical space, but simultaneously in inner space..." as the eye of the heart is opened to recognize the land. The promised land is at the convergence of inner and outer worlds.*
* from Chanting the Psalms, by Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault 

Go HERE to read a blog posting by Cynthia describing the significance of St. Brendan to her personal spiritual journey where she says :

"Old men ought to be explorers,” T. S. Eliot wrote in his The Four Quartets (I am assuming that “men” is in this case a gender-inclusive term). 
He continues: 

Here and there does not matter. 
We must be still
And still moving, into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion…

Go here for a lovely prayer on St Brendan from Bonnie Thurstin

 and this found poem Nocturne by Kathleen Raine fits well with Brendan's
" inner and outer voyage"

Music by Chopin

Night comes, an angel stands
Measuring out the time of stars,
Still are the winds, and still the hours.

It would be peace to lie
Still in the still hours at the angel's feet,
Upon a star hung in a starry sky,
But hearts another measure beat.

Each body, wingless as it lies,
Sends out its butterfly of night
With delicate wings, and jewelled eyes.

And some upon day's shores are cast,
And some in darkness lost
In waves beyond the world, where float
Somewhere the islands of the blest.


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