Saint Brendan’s Day, May 16th

By , May 16, 2010

Today is the Feast of Saint Brendan. Of all the saints I venerate, if that’s the proper term for my interest in them, Brendan is one of my favorites. He’s not that well known, but his legend is intriguing. This Irish abbot and some fellow monks supposedly went to sea in a leather curragh and crossed the north Atlantic, possibly arriving in North America in the 6th Century. Along the way he had many adventures and improbable encounters, including whales, monsters larger than whales, mermaids, fantastic islands, and finding Judas Iscariot on an iceberg, taking a vacation from hell! The adventure is described in a book called Navigatio.

Saint Brendan’s voyage has inspired moderns in various ways. Jeff Johnson composed a CD of the voyage, Prayers Of St. Brendan: The Journey Home, which has been released in two versions (and I own them both!); the Celtic group, Iona’s CD Beyond These Shores includes songs about Brendan. Best of all is Tim Severin’s project, in which he built a curragh as described in Navigatio, and sailed it with a crew to North America, just to prove that it was possible to do so. That adventure is described in his book, The Brendan Voyage: Across the Atlantic in a Leather Boat (check your local bookstore).

There are a lot of Saint Brendan’s Episcopal churches around the U.S., including one in Juneau, Alaska.

Because of the voyage, Saint Brendan is the patron of sailors, like Saint Nicholas. We keep icons of both on our sail boat. His feast day falls right at the time of year when we normally begin venturing out on the water with our sailboats again, which makes observing it particularly appropriate for our family.

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