The Legend Of St. Brendan’s Stone

by March, Saints

What is the legend of St. Brendan’s Stone? Enjoy an imaginative retelling of this Irish folklore and an inspiring Saint!

St. Brendan’s Stone

Where the green ground of the Emerald Isle met the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, a man stood along the coastline, looking westward. The sea didn’t call Brendan; God did. Even at a young age, Brendan showed a longing to follow God’s will in his life. In his youth, he wanted to serve God and grow in prayer. His Christian faith blossomed under the teaching of such holy men and women like St. Ite of Killeedy and Finian of Clonard. 

As a priest, he had already traveled through his native Ireland, building monasteries there and off the coast in the Aran Islands. Now he felt called to embark upon a dangerous new quest. He would journey to seek the Garden of Eden. He had heard from another holy man that this wondrous Biblical paradise could be found by traveling westward from island to island. In this place could be found beauty and holiness beyond imagination, and he greatly desired to see it for himself.

After much prayer and fasting, Brendan had a boat made of wood and animal skins. With a group of monks from his monastery, he set off in the name of the Holy Trinity. Through calm waters and raging seas did these courageous and faith-filled men voyage. Days passed into weeks and weeks into years. 

When spring came, these holy monks sought a place to land to celebrate the blessed day of Easter. They spotted a small island, large enough to celebrate Mass, and together shared the Eucharist. After Mass ended, the men lit a fire to cook their breakfast. Suddenly, Brendan and his companions were startled when the ground began shaking. The island on which they had landed appeared to be moving! Hastily, the men scurried back to their boat, diving in just as the island sprung from the water’s surface in a massive leap. Not only was the island moving, but it was alive. A giant sea monster, covered not with rocks as the monks had first thought, but with boulder-like scales, towered over the small ship. The frightened men prayed to the Lord for deliverance, and out of the depths of the sea came a larger creature. This creature devoured the other and disappearing back into the dark sea, leaving the monks’ boat floating safely in the water. 

After that peril, some of the monks wanted to turn back, but Brendan wouldn’t hear of it. With great determination, the brave band continued their exploration. Seven years did they traverse the dangerous waters, facing unusual challenges and strange creatures—islands filled with giants, larger-than-life sheep, and talking birds. Finally, one day they caught sight of an island that appeared rich in vegetation. They could smell its sweet aroma from leagues away. Surely this must be the legendary island they sought!

The priests landed on the lush island, praising God for bringing them to this paradise. For forty days they explored it, eating of its abundant fruits. At the end of these forty days, an angel appeared to Brendan, commanding him to return to his homeland. “This land which you have discovered will remain hidden until the end of time,” the angel told him.

Reluctantly, the monks filled their boat with essentials for the trip home, gave thanks to God for His bounty, and set off for Ireland. The return trip was much easier than the voyage west, and they soon found themselves within sight of the Emerald Isle. Brendan ordered his crew to make landfall at the Aran islands off the coast, where years before, another great saint, St. Enda, had built a monastery. Here, Brendan again praised the Lord for the safety and success of his voyage and left a gift there—the one thing he had brought back from his travels. It was a stone, given to him by a dwarf he encountered on an island. The dwarf listening patiently as Brendan told him about Christ and believed. Then he gave Brendan the stone, saying it would point him toward his destination. The stone was said to float in water and pointed toward St. Brendan’s Isle, the paradise discovered by the great saint, which remains hidden to this very day.

St. Brendan the Navigator trusted in God’s providence, never straying from the course set out for him. He allowed the wind to push his boat to the places God led him to, and in God’s providence, he was able to return safely to Ireland to continue the work God entrusted to him. In his later years, he traveled to Wales and Scotland, evangelizing wherever he went. Stories of his journeys have spread throughout Ireland, making him almost more legend than man. Yet today, St. Brendan serves as the patron saint of mariners and the U.S. Navy, as well as a model for Christians everywhere to put their faith and trust in a loving God, who longs to demonstrate his greatness and love for all.

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Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliek1967/14866924169

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