Stories of the Saints - Grace Hall

St Deicolus and the Wild Boar

St deicolus was an Irish lad who had left home to follow St Columbanus when he went to East Anglia and thence to France. After Columbanus Shad, by the hatred of Queen Brunehaut of Burgundy, been driven from the monastery he had founded at Luxeul, Deicolus faithfully followed him again. Unable, however, to suffer the hardships by which Columbanus was undaunted, he begged to be allowed to remain behind, find some solitary spot where he might live as a hermit, and worship God in peace and tranquillity.

Columbanus, taking pity on the weariness of his less stalwart follower, clasped him to his heart, bade him farewell, gave him a tryst at the foot of the Heavenly Throne, and weeping departed.

Deicolus, left to himself, first prayed, placing all concern for himself in the hands of the Almighty, then, entering a tangled wood, set out in search of something which should fill the purpose of a habitation. The region was, however, utterly desolate, and search as he would he could discover no place where it was possible to find shelter.

He fortunately came upon a swineherd tending his pigs; of him he inquired if there were not some hut or cave of other "commodious spot" where he might take up his abode.

The swineherd said that there was indeed such a place, but it was far away near a little lake called Luthra.

"Lead me thither, I pray," begged Deicolus.

"I gladly would but I cannot drive my pigs to such a distance, nor dare I leave them."

"Have no fear for thy pigs," Deicolus assured him. "I will drive my staff into the ground, and I pledge my word thy swine will neither stray from it nor be stolen until thou return."

Such was the monk's engaging Irish smile that the swineherd took his word, and led him to the lake of Luthra, where there was a spring of clear water, and where a little chapel stood, dedicated to St Martin.

Charmed with the place, Deicolus built a hut of boughs in the forest, and made daily visits to the chapel, where he entered, knelt, and prayed.

This chapel had been built by a rich man, Weifhardt by name, who occasionally had services held there by his own chaplain, and this chaplain complained to him that a hermit who lived in the wood made use of the place of worship as if it had been his very own. Weifhardt ordered brambles and thorns to be placed over doors and windows to keep out the intruder. When these did not deter Deicolus from entering, he ordered his servants to search the woods for the hermit, and when they had found him to beat him soundly.

Deicolus suffered their ill treatment, yet when shortly after he heard that Weifhardt was seriously ill and needed his good offices, remembering the precept of the Master to render good for evil, he hastened to Weifhardt's bedside. When he had offered up prayers for his enemy's recovery, God heard him and made the sick man well.

In gratitude for this intercession Deicolus was given the farm of Luthra, the wood, and the little chapel in it.

His joy knew no bounds. Here for him was peace and delight for ever. He settled down to a life of calm contemplation.

One day, as the Saint was reading the Hours in his chapel, Clothaire II, King of France, came hunting in the forest. The chase was hot, the hounds were close on the heels of their quarry, when the poor beast, a wild boar, mad with fright and white with foam, nearly spent with the haste of its flight, dashed into the chapel and fell panting and quivering at the foot of the altar.

The man of God, standing over him, pity brimming from his eyes, spoke with shaken voice: "Believe me, friend, because thou hast sought refuge in the love of thy brother, thy life shall be spared to-day."

When the huntsmen and dogs arrived, the hermit barred their passage into the chapel. Then, the King himself arriving, discussion followed, with the happy ending that the King granted Deicolus not only the game in the wood and the fish of the waters, but some vineyards besides.

After this, other monks joined him in his retreat, and in time a monastery arose on the spot, over which Deicolus reigned with cheer and kindness as Abbot. The joy and peace of his simple heart which had painted themselves upon his countenance filled his days to the end of his life.