June 9 – David Gareji; Anna Maria Taigi

David Gareji (VI cent.) (დავით გარეჯი) was one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers who moved to Georgia from Mesopotamia, founding monasteries like there was no yesterday. When David and his companions got to Kartli, the place was partly under the control of Persian fire-worshippers, which wasn’t as hot as it sounds. David spent his days on his knees praying for the city, and his nights on the mountain blessing it. (The city, not the mountain.) Once a week he would take his disciple Lucian and go down into the city to preach (fire and brimstone? let’s not go there). To discredit David, the fire-worshippers got a pregnant prostitute to swear he was the father. David touched his staff to the woman’s belly and said, “You in there! Who’s your father?” A voice from the womb named the real father.

After that David and Lucian moved to the wilderness, where wild deer would let Lucian milk them. The first time David passed his hands over the milk and turned it into cheese, Lucian said, “Okay, I’m not going to worry about temporal stuff anymore.” When a wicked serpent moved into the cave next door and started eating the deer, David drove it away (he made it sit in the back seat). Word of these things naturally attracted a monastery’s worth of seekers, resulting in a seeker-filled monastery.

One year David gave Lucian the keys to the monk shack and joined a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As they neared the city, he suddenly felt unworthy to enter in, and so stayed on the “Ridge of Grace” and prayed. When the others rejoined him, he picked up three rocks as souvenirs and put them in his bag. That night an angel appeared to the Patriarch of Jerusalem and said, “Red alert! A monk has taken the virtue of Jerusalem,” and explained about the stones. The patriarch sent messengers to ask that David only take one stone and leave two behind. The stone that made it back to Georgia is implicated in many miracles, as are David’s relics (whose location I was unable to determine). When his hour came, David told the monks not to fall into confusion. After receiving holy communion, he died in peace.

Columba of Iona* (521-597) according to one of my sources was, of The Three Great Saints of Ireland[1] (with Patrick (Mar 17) and Brigid (Feb 1)), the Irishest, for the unconvincing reason that when he left Ireland for Scotland, by golly he really missed home.

In line for the throne of Ireland (although the line was pretty darned long), Columba (aka Columkille or Columcille, “church dove” (awww)) had other plans, and sought a religious life. Before you could sneeze (if it took you 15 years to sneeze) he had founded an oodle of parish churches and monasteries, including Derry, Durro, and “probably” Kells.

Back in those heady days he was a bit of a hothead, but the record shows that he mellowed with age. Living on a 3.4 square mile rock in the Irish sea can do that, I suppose. On said rock he and 12 companions (I couldn’t find their names) founded the famous Iona* Abbey[2]. From there he proselytized all over (southern) Scotland, earning himself the title, “Apostle of Ireland” (go figure). He was zealous for the Psalter, and was copying a copy of the Psalms when he reached the line “They that love the Lord lack no good thing,” laid down his pen, and told his disciple he would have to continue. He died the next day.

What would such an amazing saint’s life be without a miracle story? It is said a pagan Scottish king was keeping an Irish girl as a slave, and Columcille begged him to free her. The king refused, then got deathly ill. Columcille refused to see him until he freed the girl, whereupon the saint came and healed the king. In addition to Ireland, he is the patron of (inter alia) poets, bookbinders, and Pembroke, Ontario.

[1] Imagine these words being spoken with a lot of reverb.
[2] If you thought to yourself, “I own a abbey” you should be ashamed. That’s bad grammar.