St. Colman was the son of Queen Rhinagh and her husband the chieftain Duac, born in Kiltartan, now County Galway.
He was educated at St. Enda’s monastery in Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands and lived there as a hermit. He built a church, Teampuill Mor Mhic Duagh, and a small oratory, Teampuill beg Mhic Duagh, near Kilmurvy, part of a group known as the Seven Churches.
Seeking greater solitude, around 590 he moved to the Burren, which was then covered in forest, accompanied by a servant. Upon learning of the hermitage, king Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin was so impressed with Colman’s holiness that he asked him to take episcopal charge of the territory of the Aidhne. In 610, Colman founded a monastery, which became the centre of the tribal Diocese of Aidhne, practically coextensive with the See of Kilmacduagh. This is now known as the monastery of Kilmacduagh.
Although reluctant to accept the title, Colman was ordained a bishop. His associates included Surney of Drumacoo. He died Oct. 29, 632.
Legends abound about the life of the saint. While Colman’s mother carried the child in her womb, she heard a prophecy that her son would be great man and surpass all others of his lineage. The pregnant Rhinagh, fearing her husband would seek to harm the child, fled. The king’s men caught up to her and tried to drown her in the Kiltartin river by tying a stone around her neck; however, she was washed to shore.
Not long after she gave birth to Colman (c. 560), Rhinagh took her newborn to a priest to baptize, but they realized there was no water. Fearing to return home, the mother sheltered under an ash tree and prayed. A fountain bubbled up from the earth and Colman was baptized. That fountain is now the miraculous well of Colman mac duagh. Rhinagh entrusted her child to the care of monks.
Another tells of an unusual assistant. He had a pet rooster who served as an alarm clock at a time before there were such modern conveniences.
The rooster would begin his song at the breaking of dawn and continue until Colman would come out and speak to it. Colman would then call the other monks to prayer by ringing the bells. But the monks wanted to pray during the night hours, too, and couldn’t count on the rooster to awaken them at midnight and 3 a.m. So Colman made a pet out of a mouse that often kept him company in the night by giving it crumbs to eat. Eventually the mouse was tamed, and Colman asked its help:
“So you are awake all night, are you? It isn’t your time for sleep, is it? My friend, the (rooster), gives me great help, waking me every morning. Couldn’t you do the same for me at night, while the cock is asleep? If you do not find me stirring at the usual time, couldn’t you call me? Will you do that?”
It was a long time before Colman tested the understanding of the mouse. After a long day of preaching and traveling on foot, Colman slept very soundly. When he did not awake at the usual hour in the middle of the night for Lauds, the mouse pattered over to the bed, climbed on the pillow and rubbed his tiny head against Colman’s ear — not enough to awaken the exhausted monk. So the mouse tried again, but Colman shook him off impatiently.
Making one last effort, the mouse nibbled on the saint’s ear and Colman immediately arose — laughing. The mouse, looking very serious and important, just sat there on the pillow staring at the monk, while Colman continued to laugh in disbelief that the mouse had indeed understood its job.
When he regained his composure, Colman praised the clever mouse for his faithfulness and fed him extra treats. Then he entered God’s presence in prayer. Thereafter, Colman always waited for the mouse to rub his ear before arising, whether he was awake or not. The mouse never failed in his mission.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini