16 October 2012

16 October - Saint Gall

Weather – If it is fine on St. Gall's day, it will be fine up to Christmas.
On St. Gall’s day, expect a late summer (Indian summer).
A dry St. Gall’s day betokens a dry summer.
After St. Gall, keep your cow in the stall


At Arbon, in Switzerland, St. Gall, abbot, disciple of blessed Columban.

Gall, or Gallus (c550 – c645), an Irish missionary trained in the school of St. Comgall in Bangor, accompanied St. Columbanus on his journey to the continent, stopping first in the dominions of Burgundy where they worked for the next twenty years and established three foundations, including that of Luxeuil.  The enmity of Queen Brunhild of Burgundy sent Columbanus into exile, and several of his monks, Gallus among them, elected to stay with him.  In an effort to skirt Burgundian lands and reach Italy, they made the long, arduous journey up the Rhine into Switzerland.  

Halting for a time at Lake Constance, they preached and evangelized, sometimes a little violently.  Here they burned places of idolatrous worship and tossed the offerings into the lake.  Finding a large vat full of beer that had been dedicated to the chief god, Columbanus cracked the vat and let all the beer flow away [a story which strikes the Widow to the heart].  As you might imagine, this was not very popular, and a plot was formed to kill Gallus and flog Columbanus.  Fortunately for them, the planned action did not succeed.  Columbanus cleansed the pagan temple near Bregenz and dedicated it as a church, with a monastery attached, where he and his missionaries lived and preached.  Gallus, among his other duties, was assigned the occupation of making nets and fishing.

In 612, Columbanus and most of his companions moved on to Milan, possibly because the fratricidal wars of the Frankish kings and the temporary success of the Burgundians made staying in Bregenz dangerous to him.  Gallus, who was suffering from a fever, stayed behind and resided with a priest friend in nearby Arbon, who cared for him until he was fully recovered.  Thereafter, he decided to retire to a solitary place and devote himself to the conversion of the pagan tribes inhabiting the area.  With help from his friend (or because he fell into a thorn bush and considered it a sign from heaven), he found a spot there in the forests to the southwest of Arbon near the River Steinach, where he built a small oratory and small cells for himself and twelve companions who had followed him, and who he trained assiduously to evangelize the surrounding population.

Renowned for his superior knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, his wisdom, humility, charity towards the poor, and singular sanctity, he was the first choice of the people when the see of Constance became vacant.  Wishing not to be involved in the cares of this world, he refused, instead suggesting one of his own disciples as a more suitable candidate, being a native of the area.  This man was accepted and consecrated as bishop, with Gallus preaching the sermon.  Thereafter, he advised and counseled the bishop for many years.

Some ten years later, the monks of his old home at the monastery of Luxeuil wished to elect him as their superior, but again, he stressed his desire for solitude, and refused to leave his chosen retreat.

He is said to have died at the age of 95 years on a visit to his friend in Arbon, and was buried in his hermitage where a small church was erected under his patronage.  This developed through time into the great Abbey of Saint Gall and the town of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

“That he was an assiduous preacher of the Gospel is well known; and his exertions both in that line, and in forming disciples capable of instructing the people, were such that he has been called the apostle of Switzerland.”

Statue of Saint Gall.  The bear accompanying him comes from a story that when the saint and his companions searched through the woods below Arbon for a suitable place of retreat, Gallus commanded the bear to fetch wood for their evening fire.  Another story says that the bear carried the wood used to build the little oratory.