Sunday, May 31, 2009
So, when Heliconis was ordered to worship Aesculapius she was ready to resist no matter what. Perinus demanded that she sacrifice to the idol even though it was her denunciation of idols that had landed her in his presence. She responded, "Hear me, and know that I am a servant of Christ; as for Aesculapius, I do not know who he is. Do what you will." So, Perinus had the woman beaten severely while other soldiers heated brands in a blazing fire. When the brands were ready, the soldiers burned and branded Heliconis' body without mercy at the command of Perinus. The soldiers never doubted the justice in what they were doing--torturing an unarmed and unresisting woman for the sake of causing pain--because they had learned that Rome's power was an absolute power that accepted no questioning. After torturing Heliconis cruelly for quite some time Perinus finally decided to lock her in a temple with a very large idol so that he might manipulate her into apostasy. They tossed her beaten body into the temple and locked the doors behind her.
They opened the doors much quicker than they expected, though, when they heard a thundering crash from within. As they looked into the temple they saw Heliconis grinning through her pain as she lie suffering on the floor and they saw the idol shattered around her. While they had waited outside the doors, Heliconis had summoned a thin remnant of her strength with a prayer and mounted the pedestal upon which the idol stood. With all that remained of her earthly might she pushed against it but it wouldn't move. She said a prayer and tried again but it only seemed to move a fraction of an inch. Fearing that the guards would soon come and take her from the temple, she prayed to God and insisted that if God wanted her to do this thing, then God would have to make it possible. With this faithful prayer she pushed once again and the statue fell forward. The idol broke on the floor and made an indelible statement to Perinus, the soldiers, and all to whom Rome might try to lie. None could believe that Heliconis made a sacrifice to the god she had shattered with the help of her own God. In a rage, Perinus commanded that she be beheaded for this crime and the soldiers were quick to comply because they knew that Perinus had the power to do the same to them. Heliconis died a martyr and a destroyer of gods.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Joan responded, "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me." Though this was a beautifully crafted response, in Joan's ears its beauty could not compare to the sound of the silence that followed it. Her accusers were dumbstruck by the careful precision offered in her words and were forced to take another route of accusation to arrive at the predetermined verdict of guilty and condemned to death. They condemned her for her visions and claimed she was an imposter wrapping herself up in the garments of the Church while serving a civil master. They condemned her for wearing men's clothing and armor as she led French soldiers to resist the abusive and land-destroying practices of the English invaders. She was ceaselessly questioned and housed in a prison guarded by English soldiers instead of in a monastery or convent as the law concerning ecclesastical trials demanded. So, when she wasn't being questioned and tricked by her accusers, she was held in a rough prison cell, forced to wear a flimsy dress that provided no protection from the cold, and "guarded" by the soldiers she had been fighting only weeks before.
After she was condemned--and her condemnation caused no surprise among anybody--she was asked to sign a statement renouncing the crimes with which she had been labeled. Being illiterate, she was duped into signing the statement under threat of immediate death and then this statement was replaced with one confessing her alleged crimes. With this final duplicitous act, she was condemned to be burned at the stake for heresy without it having ever been proved or rightly tried. She agreed to wear women's clothing to her execution but this plan changed after she was sexually assaulted in her cell before the day of her martyrdom. They did not return her torn dress to her and so, instead, she was marched to her death wearing the same clothes she had worn when she fought the English who now condemned her. She was tied to a stake and burned to death on the 30th day of May in the year 1431. As she died, two clerics held a cross before her so that she might focus on the instrument of execution that had robbed her savior of his life. After the flames died down, the coals were raked back so that the crowd would have no doubt that she had died in the flames and at the hands of the English. They took the remains, burned them twice more until they were but ash and then threw the ashes into the Seine river so that no relics might be obtained by those still loyal to Joan.
Friday, May 29, 2009
In that moment of quiet and wordless desperation Watchman felt another new feeling: undeserved and merciful forgiveness. As he knelt beside his bed he saw Jesus on the cross with arms wide open and blood flowing freely. He saw and knew God's love flowing from the wounds of God and knew with one sudden and startlingly clear moment that Jesus was calling him near. Though his arms were outstretched so that he might die it was clear to Watchman that those same arms were open to him to call him to life-giving and saving faith. Watchman heard Jesus say to him "I am here waiting to receive you." So, Watchman went to Jesus and committed himself to a faith that intimidated him but demanded all of him, as well. To the Jesus who stood with arms outstretched to accept all who might avail themselves of his furious love Watchman cried "Lord, You have really been gracious to me." With that, Watchman was converted and accepted a calling to a life of ministry and devotion--a life of sharing what he had received.
So, Watchman followed after his Lord and found himself living on only a third of the money he made. He spent a third of his money on others and the final third was spent on reading material which he would read--and memorize large portions--and then give away to others. He read voraciously and applied his keen intelligence to the texts and scripture that he read with regularity. He began to start churches throughout China and insist that Christians were called to be a part of a caring community that accepted no division or separation even while accommodating doctrinal disagreements. For daring to start churches in a country that was quickly succumbing to the seduction of communist rule, he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to spend fifteen years in prison. He served his sentence and died in confinement on the 30th day of May in the year 1972 at the age of 68. In the wake of Watchman's ministry in China there were many Christians who had heard his story and were willing to carry on the ministry of preaching and spiritual direction that Watchman started.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Jesus replied, "Neither is to blame. He was born blind so that God's glory might be revealed through him, today. We have work to do and we should do it while we still can--there is a time coming when other things will take precedence. But until that dark day I am the Light of the World." As the disciples pondered what he had just said and tried to reconstruct their crumbling thought systems, Jesus stooped down and spat onto the dirt at his feet. He picked up the mud created by his saliva and fashioned two mostly round figures that wouldn't have been mistaken for eyes but must have aroused suspicion when Jesus placed them on the space where the man's eyes should have been. Then, Jesus said to him, "Go to the pool of Siloam and wash your face."
The man went and did as Jesus was told and in the moment that the water flowed over his eyelids the mud was changed to human flesh and the man was suddenly able to see out of his new eyes. With the spittle from his lips, Jesus had brought creation to 1st century Israel. When they saw him, all who had once seen the blind beggar asked each other, "Isn't that the guy who used to sit and beg? You know, the one without eyes?" Those who had known him couldn't agree on whether or not it was truly him even though he insisted that he was the man they were talking about. Finally, they asked him with exasperation, "Fine, then, why do you have eyes? How can you see?"
The man shrugged and responded, "The man they call Jesus made mud, put it here," indicating his eyes, "and told me to go to Siloam to wash. When I did, I could see. I can't explain it but I know it happened." The crowd was amazed and desperate to know where Jesus was. The man responded, honestly, "I don't know. I've never seen him."
All of this attention attracted the Pharisees who came and began to question the now-seeing blind man. It was the Sabbath when Jesus made eyes for the man and so the Pharisees were upset when they heard the beggar's story. "Ah ha" they crowed, "this man cannot be doing this by God's power because he doesn't observe God's Sabbath." This didn't settle the matter, though, like the Pharisees hoped it would. Some insisted that it was ludicrous to think of this healer as a sinner if he could work what was clearly God's power in the world.
As they argued one with another, one of the members of the crowd finally asked the formerly blind beggar: "Well, you're the one with the new eyes. What do you say he is?"
"He's a prophet, " the man said, "he tells the truth."
Many still couldn't believe and suggested that this man was not the same man as the blind beggar. They went and took the man to his parents' house and decided that they could surely put an end to this madness. One of them asked the parents, "Is this man your son--the one who was born without eyes? How can this man who sees be your son?"
The parents replied, "Oh, it's definitely our son and he was definitely born without eyes but anybody can tell he sees now. We know neither how he sees now nor who did this miracle." Then, because they were afraid of what it would cost them to confess Jesus as good, they continued, "Ask him. He's old enough to answer your questions."
13So, they asked him again and insisted, "Alright, you've had your fun but tell the truth. Jesus didn't do this, right? After all, we know that he's a sinner."
The man responded, "I can't tell you whether or not he's a sinner but I can tell you that I was blind and now I see." They asked him again how it was that Jesus had healed him and he became frustrated with their incessant questions. He snapped at them, "I've told you this already! Perhaps you just don't want to hear it." Then, coyly he continued, "Or is it that you want to become his disciples?"
This infuriated the Pharisees who spat back, "Oh, you're the one who is his disciple. We're the disciples of Moses--unlike you. Don't forget that we know God has spoken to Moses but nobody seems to know anything about this Jesus. We don't know by what power he works these signs."
The once-blind beggar responded, "Well, isn't that astonishing? You don't know how he does these miracles or where he comes from but he gave me eyes. You didn't. We know that God's power is demonstrated by God's people and that God listens to those who worship God and obey God's will. Something like this--giving eyes to a blind man--has never been done before. So, do the math: if this man wasn't doing God's work, then I wouldn't have eyes." In anger, the Pharisees picked up on that first strain of thought demonstrated by the disciples' question. They insisted that they wouldn't take instruction from a man who must have been born so deeply in sin that he had been born blind. They failed to appreciate what Jesus had said or the miracle that had happened in the man they quickly dismissed.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown the beggar out of town he went and found the man. He asked him, "Do you believe in the one who gave you sight?"
The man responded, "I'd like to but I need you to show me him."
Jesus said, "Use those new eyes of yours and look because it's me who did this thing." The man fell down to his knees and worshipped Jesus proclaiming his trust and faith in Jesus. There were some Pharisees nearby and so they heard him when he said, "I came into this world to turn things on their head and judge the hearts of men and women--believe me that those who cannot see will be made to see and those who can see will be blinded." The Pharisees scoffed at this and insisted that they surely weren't blind but Jesus overheard them and replied, "If you'd confess your blindness--that you don't get it--then you'd escape sin. Instead, you proclaim your sight and retain your sin."
Saturday, May 23, 2009
By day, the monks did what they were called to do. Each of them was acquainted with hard work and knew how to farm and coax the warm earth to give its life to the people who needed its sustenance. They grew their own food and planted their own gardens but they did far more than this, as well. They were eager and willing to teach their agricultural techniques--techniques that worked very well but may have been unpracticed by the local farmers in Algeria at the time--to any who was interested regardless of religious conviction or persuasion. They didn't practice hospitality and give the gifts of their knowledge because they hoped to convert the Muslims but because the Muslims were their neighbors and worthy of their love and care. Furthermore, the monastery's doors were open to those seeking refuge or medical care. Regardless of the injury or the need, the monks were willing to care for the one whom God had delivered into their benevolence. Perhaps most shocking was the time when they offered their sanctuary--the space in which they worshipped together--to some local Muslims whose mosque had been destroyed. These muslims met in the Christian space and worshipped as they desired because of the hospitality of the Christians with whom they disagreed theologically.
Christian and the monks got along well with the Muslims near Atlas and with the majority of those they met. But there were some who were repelled by the hospitality that Christian and his companions offered and desired for the monks to be removed from Algeria. If they would not go willingly or convert to Islam, then they would have to be killed. Twenty Muslim men stormed the monastery on March 26th, 1996, and took the first seven monks they found because they had been told to go and get "those seven monks." Christian was among the seven that were taken. They were taken away from their home and held captive for some time. While captive, they were accused of various crimes and punished for being Christian. Christian had written a letter in 1995 that began "If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country." He went to ask the reader to "associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity. My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value." The seven were killed on May 21st, 1996, and their deaths were announced on May 23rd, 1996.
In the final paragraphs of his letter, Christian addressed his would-be-murderer and wrote: "And you also, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing. Yes, for you also I wish this 'thank you'—and this 'adieu'—to commend you to the God whose face I see in yours. And may we find each other, happy "good thieves," in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen."
Friday, May 22, 2009
Eusebius was a merchant and did much business all around the Mediterranean Sea. He was not a Christian and, in fact, was willing to worship any of the gods of the peoples with whom he traded if it might help him make a little more money or gain a little more influence. Julia made the decision demonstrate the virtue of her faith in daily service to Eusebius. This did not make it likable or easy but it did give it an ultimate purpose and allowed her to connect her own story to that of other slaves who had escaped not only worldly chains but the more insidious mental and spiritual bonds--like Joseph, the son of Jacob. In only a short time, she was considered the greatest of all of Eusebius' servants. He was astounded at the love she showed even as he demanded service of her and treated her as a possession. When she wasn't working, she was praying or reading and drawing nearer and nearer to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This devotion frustrated Eusebius at first but when he realized how much she did for him he learned to overlook this irritation. On Julia's last trip with him they were sailing to the southern coast of what would be known as France with a ship full of expensive cargo. They landed on the upper peninsula of Corsica and as they were preparing the ship for the night, Eusebius noticed that there was a great sacrifice happening nearby. He gathered all of his people--all except Julia who refused to take part--and went to see the bull slaughtered by the governor of the region (a man named Felix).
At first, Felix was very happy to have unexpected guests who would come and pay homage to the gods he worshipped. However, word got back to Felix that not all of Eusebius' servants had come to the sacrifice. He inquired after the one that remained on the ship and found out that she was a Christian and refused to have any part in the festivities. Not knowing that Genseric had already failed at the task, Felix resolved to convert Julia to his own evils. He asked Eusebius if he wouldn't command her to come and he said that he had decided long ago that her service was so excellent that he'd rather not risk any damage to her. Felix volunteered to give Eusebius any four of his female slaves for Julia but Eusebius laughed it off and insisted that he wouldn't accept everything Felix owned for Julia. Eusebius was a Roman citizen and so he was protected from any direct assaults upon his property from Felix, so Felix pretended as if it was over and offered Eusebius another drink. In only a little while Eusebius was thoroughly intoxicated and he passed out. As Eusebius fell to the ground in a stupor, Felix sent his men to bring Julia to him.
Julia came in chains and was commanded by Felix to make a sacrifice to his gods. She refused and so he made her an offer: perform one sacrifice and I will set you free as governor. Indeed the power to do so rested squarely in his hands but Julia was uninterested and responded, "My liberty is the service of Christ, whom I serve every day with a pure mind." In other words, she claimed that she was as free as anybody could be and it was Felix who was in need of release from slavery--slavery to that far more deadly master: sin. Because of her refusal, Felix had her beaten severely by some of his strongest men. When that proved unsuccessful at securing her apostasy, he had her hair torn out slowly and painfully. She was asked if she would now renounce her faith to save herself further pain and eventual death. She responded that Jesus had been wounded and killed for her and it was appropriate that she be willing to do the same for him. So, they nailed her to a cross and crucified her. She died a martyr who was a slave that was more free than any.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Rita gave birth to two sons by her husband Paolo: Giangiacomo Antonio and Paolo Maria. Regrettably, life with her husband was not easy or pleasant. He was verbally abusive to her and nearly everyone with whom he came into contact. He was nominally Christian but his faith extended no further than his occasional words and meager attendance on Sunday. But Rita knew that love was a transforming force and so she endeavored to love him even when he was unlovable. Furthermore, she spent her life raising Giangiacomo and Paolo Maria in the faith in which she had been raised. Day in and day out her love had a slow and steady effect on those around her. It took nearly eighteen years but eventually Rita's husband came to profess a vibrant and saving faith that changed his outlook and approach to life. Rita's love had led Paolo to God's love and this transformed Paolo's corruption into redemption. Yet, tragedy was right around the corner and soon after his conversion he was murdered by those he worked with--perhaps because of the chance that had occurred in his life. Giangiacomo and Paolo Maria were both adults by this time and so they vowed a vendetta against the murderers of their father.
Rita knew well the spiritual carnage that would be wrought in the lives of her sons if they followed through on their disastrous vendetta. She begged them to renounce it and abandon the lie that said vengeance would "make things even." Rita knew well that more violence would not solve the problem and would only amplify the tragedy and in this she knew the power and value of peace. When Giangiacomo and Paolo Maria refused to abandon their awful course, Rita did the only thing she knew to do: pray. She prayed that God's will would be done and that he sons would be saved from spiritual death because of their haste and fury. They were Christians and so she prayed that--no matter the cost--they not be allowed to destroy their faith with rash actions. Within the year Giangiacomo and Paolo Maria died of natural causes and with a sudden unexpectedness. Rita understood this to be God saving her sons from impending sin and destruction. Following the death of Giangiacomo and Paolo Maria, Rita worked hard to reconcile the rest of her family with her husband's murderer. She was successful in this and retired to a convent as a nun and spiritual leader.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Slowly--very slowly at first--Michael began to see abandonment as a path unworth of traveling and so he considered the path of reformation. Indeed, there were those in the Church who were misguided but Michael became increasingly aware that the Church was not made up of the sainted and would always have more than its fair share of hypocrites. How could it not? After all, if the Christian Gospel was the highest of callings, then it made the most room for hypocrisy within its ranks. So, slowly at first Michael began circulating in reformer circles--particularly among the Anabaptists--and advocating for reformation of the One Church. Because of this controversial stance he and Margaretha were forced to flee to Switzerland. While he served as a minister and theologian among the Swiss brethren he relearned a way of spiritual life and leadership that was life-giving to him. In Schleitheim they convened a council of Christians who drafted a confession of faith (now known as the Schleitheim Confession) and Michael was the leader of the party that wrote the document. Both within their lives and within their document they resisted coercion within the Church, denounced the use of violence for Christians, forbade the swearing of vows on the basis of the Sermon on the Mount, called for an increasingly intentional approach to the Faith, and denied the ability of civil power to serve in the Church's place among other things. They published this document under the title "Brotherly Agreement of Some Children of God." They sought reformation but they were labeled heretics. They sought unity through healing but were labeled the disease.
For daring to suggest that the Church had problems they were targeted by the civil arm of the Church. Those in power within the State took up arms against Michael and the Swiss Brethren. He was given a trial but was not asked to defend his arguments for the need of healing and reformation within the Church--that was never considered a possibility by those within power. Rather, he was given a chance simply to deny all he had said. He refused. So, they decreed: "Michael Sattler shall be committed to the executioner. The latter shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, and then forge him fast to a wagon and there with glowing iron tongs twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic." As they prepared to kill him he cried out, "Almighty and eternal God you art the way and the truth. I have not been shown to be in error and, so, I will--with thy help--on this day testify to the truth and seal it with my blood."And so they made a martyr of a reformer of the One Church. Two days later they also killed Margaretha by drowning her.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Actually, he smelled her before she ever entered the room as the breeze that preceded her carried her scent to him on a wave. It was a refreshing and enticing thing and so he looked up to ask her how he could help her and the words caught in his throat. She was gorgeous and he found he could not look away. The way she moved entranced him and reminded him of the many days he had spent in indecision about a potential vow of celibacy--he had remained unconvinced for quite some time until finally he fell under a conviction that God was calling him to the eremitic, monastic life. She leaned forward in an alluring way and it was only then that he realized how provocatively she was dressed. It wasn't that she was scantily clad or garishly risque by any means--that would be far too obvious--but as he looked upon her he noticed several things about her that seemed to call softly to his lust. It was in the little things like the turn of the collar of her dress, the gentle wave of her long, chestnut hair, the purse of her lips as she considered some clever thing to say to Dunstan, and the apparent honesty in her eyes. By Dunstan's estimation she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and he was enchanted as she coyly conversed with him. Each pose and stance she struck seemed effortless and without forethought but maddeningly attractive and innocently unaware. There seemed to be so much right about her.
But there was something about the way she flirted with him that made him hesitate. He was eager to join with her in "harmless fun" but became aware that there was something else at work. Though the illusion of the gorgeous woman had been fundamentally persuasive at first its sincerity faded as his lust cooled. Those soft and genuine looks began quietly to whisper sex and not sincerity. The way she turned her body to walk to another point in the shop revealed some desire in her to be lusted after. With each passing second, Dunstan became more and more aware that she knew exactly what she was doing and that there was poison beneath the sweetness. He realized with startling clarity that only that which was evil would dare masquerade as the beautiful and in this realization he began to see all the things his lust had blinded him to. He picked up the tongs that had so recently held the chalice being set aside for God's use and turned to the woman as she twirled her skirt--and perhaps gave too much of her true nature away. With stunning speed he reached out and grabbed her nose with the tongs knowing that she was no woman and only a dark spirit sent to bewitch and undo him. The story goes that the woman begged and pleaded with him at first but could not convince him that she was not the devil himself. Under the pressure, the facade began to slip and Dunstan's captive--perhaps the devil himself--began to cry out in pain and beg to be released. Finally, Dunstan let him go and the poor thing ran as fast as its legs would carry it with the tattered rags that had masqueraded as a comely dress flowing behind it. Recognizing the temptation for what it was, Dunstan knew that even the sweetest of poisons was still deadly.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Eventually, Rome shut down the building where the Christians met. By forbidding entrance to anyone, those drunk with imperial lies masquerading as power thought they were closing the Church! In reality, they were only moving it and so for some time it met in the inn that Theodotus owned and operated. This increased his visibility to the empire and likely shortened his days. When he realized this he let the priest know that soon he expected to join the martyrs because he didn't suspect that the empire would continue to overlook his presence and his activities. Soon after Theodotus' conversation with the priest, seven women were arrested for being Christian. These women had committed themsevles to celibacy and a life of singleness so that they might focus on seeking the will of God and taking care of the poor and sick. The rulers whose minds had been warped by the twisted values of the empire and the world felt that these women should be raped and then murdered as punishment for their convictions and values. The youths who were given the charge of raping the seven women refused when they met the women and one of them had gray hair--perhaps they couldn't get past the idea of raping a woman who could be their mother and in shock their twisted values had been exposed to them. So, the prefect ordered heavy stones tied to their legs and each of them was dropped into the lake to drown.
That night a guard was posted at the shore because the bodies of the Christians had been missing far too often and if they were receiving burials then Rome's powers to frighten and terrify were weakened. The eldest of the women appeared to Theodotus in a dream and so the following night he went with a dear friend--Polychronius--to the lake to rescue the bodies of all seven women. As they approached in prayer, the guard received a vision of a Christian martyr commanding him to leave. In fear, he abandoned his post and Theodotus and Polychronius were able to do the hard work of releasing the bodies from their submerged prison. They took the bodies back and buried them but their actions were found out the next day when the seven women no longer rotted in the lake. Polychronius and Theodotus were arrested and tortured. Under torture, Polychronius broke and told his accusers that it had all been Theodotus' idea. Polychronius was set free after he made the sacrifice of his own faith--sacrificing that of inestimable value for a cheap trinket--but Theodotus was condemned to death. He was martyred and his body joined those of the other martyrs who were rescued from desecration not because they "needed it" by any means but because they deserved it.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
With each passing person, Paschal either found a willing tutor for a moment or yet another person unconcerned with the face he doesn't know. Person by person Paschal slowly learned to read. Every lesson he received was an act of charity that produced knowledge in his own mind and good fruits in the soul of the one who spared their time and attention for the other. Some would have been ashamed to ask those who passed by for help and assistance but Paschal knew a very important thing: he wasn't the only one who benefitted from these lessons. In accepting an act of charity, he was helping the other to grow and mature spiritually. Soon, he had repeat tutors coming by to teach him "a little more." When there was no tutor and nobody coming down the road, Paschal tried to read the book he carried with him and it grew progressively easier and easier as time went on and his knowledge increased. Eventually, he had learned to read and so he applied to be a lay brother among the nearby Franciscans. But, once again, he did something shocking: he only spent time in the especially poor monasteries.
Paschal was certain that poverty was formative and healing for him and so he refused to abandon it by residing in a monastery of some comfort and means. He is recorded as insisting, "I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance." He had found the powerful road that led through poverty into spiritual formation and growth. He had learned the power of asking others to be charitable and giving others the opportunity to prove their allegiance to a Kingdom not-of-this-world. The rest of his life was lacking in riches and filled with prayer and opportunities for charity. His many mystical and ecstatic experiences only confirmed his calling in his heart until he died on May 17th, 1592.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
After several years at the knee of Ita he was sent back to receive the remainder of his education and training from the hand of Erc in Tralee. This was a powerful experience for Brendan but as he aged and began to experience the strengthening of his own calling he desired to travel and study under yet more great Christian leaders and teachers. Erc gave his approval but made one significant request: Brendan should return for his eventual ordination. Brendan honored Erc's request after several more years of study under the great Irish minds including Finnian of Clonard, Enda of Aran, and Jarlath of Tuam. He was ordained at the age of twenty-six and went out into the Irish countryside with missions in mind and monasteries to build. Because of his masterful education he soon became a master in his own right and attracted many disciples to himself. They built monasteries in several places (including Ardfert, Shanakeel, and at the foot of Brandon Hill) and Brendan oversaw their development and expanding mission. He even appointed his sister as abbess over one of the monasteries. He became known throughout Ireland as a master of Christian spirituality and a peer of Patrick and Brigid.
Near the end of his life he had a vision in which God called him to do something preposterous: to travel far from Ireland. For a man with as much influence in Irish life as Brendan had this seemed to be a disastrous idea. To travel far away would be to abandon the work he had done for a people who would not know him and who would not give him any of the respect or attention that he naturally received in Ireland. But, he was loyal to God's will and willing to do God's work. So, he gathered to himself sixty of his closest disciples and prepared a boat for travel. Their first voyage was a colossal failure so they stopped to regroup. After praying and fasting for forty days, they set out again and traveled for nearly seven years aboard their boat. They landed in Iceland and Greenland and may have gone as far as the North American continent. Though this seems unlikely, recent tests have even proven that it's possible with the ship that they built. Along the way, they shared the faith that motivated them and expanded the Kingdom of God into places where it had never seen the light of day. As his days drew short, he returned to Ireland (stopping first in Scotland and Iona) and founded yet one more monastery at Annaghdown. It was in this monastery where he finished his days teaching his disciples and guiding the shape of Christianity in an increasingly new world.