Stories of Saints and Martyrs - Jetta S. Wolff

St. Machutus (S. Malo of Brittany)

Nov. 15; A.D. 565

St. Machutus was a Welshman and therefore of ancient British race. He was the child of his parents' old age, and they both loved him dearly. At this time there was much more learning and culture in Ireland than in any other part of the British Isles, and in order that he might be well taught, the boy was sent at an early age to an Irish monastery, there to be brought up under the care of a great and good Christian Abbot called St. Brendan.

The monastery was not far from the sea shore. One day the child Machutus was out playing with his schoolmates upon the sandy beach. Growing tired of his games, he strayed away from the other lads, and sat down to rest upon a bed of sea-weed. In a few moments the boy's head sank upon the soft bank, and lulled by the calm of the autumn evening, he fell sound asleep.

The other lads were too full of their play to miss little Machutus. Then the tide rose, and the children, driven back from the shore by the flowing waves, went home to the monastery. Now they began to look round for their comrade. He was nowhere to be seen. Abbot Brendan himself ran in haste down to the beach.

"Machutus, Machutus!" he cried. But there was no reply; only the swell and surge of the rolling waves fell upon the Abbot's ear. Darkness came on quickly, and he was obliged to return to the monastery. He spent all that night in lonely, earnest prayer. At day-break, with the first rays of light, St. Brendan was again on the shore. He climbed up on a high rock left bare by the tide, for it was low now, and looked with eager, searching gaze around. Across the waves he looked—at the jutting rocks which dotted the expanse of water. Perhaps he expected to see the dead body of the poor child stretched stiff and cold upon some crag to which he had clung as the tide rose upon him. But it was no such sight as this that met the Abbot's yearning eyes. There in the morning light, not very far off, was the lost boy standing alive and well on a mass of seaweed which seemed to float upon the waves; he was singing some of the hymns he had learned at the convent.

"My boy! my boy!" And then, Nay, stay where thou art! move not," he cried in an agony of fear, as the child, overcome with joy, seemed about to throw himself into the water, and try to swim to the Abbot.

So the little lad, used to obedience, stayed quietly on the bed of floating seaweed, and the two talked to each other across the space of sea, till in a little while the mass was borne by the waves close up to the shore.

Some years later, when St. Machutus was back in his parents' house in Wales, there came upon Britain the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons.

Among the many native Britons who, after the conquest of our islands, crossed the sea and made a colony in the corner of France since called Brittany, was our saint. Thence he made a journey to Luxembourg, seeking to be alone, and anxious to prepare himself to become a worthy Priest of GOD .

By-and-by the Christians of a place called Aleth, near to what is now the Cape of St. Malo, wanted to have him for their Bishop. He was at first unwilling to take so high a post, but they pressed him so hard that at last he consented, and he was Bishop of Aleth for forty years.

Yet things did not always go on smoothly there. St. Machutus had many troubles with his people, and at one time affairs were in so bad a state that he was obliged to leave Aleth. He took with him thirty-three monks and sailed away across the sea till he came to an island near Saintonge, where a good Bishop named Leontius gave the little company a grant of land.

But after driving away their Bishop, a dreadful pestilence fell upon the people of Aleth. Then they saw how wrong they had been, and how ill they had treated St. Machutus. So they sent and begged him to return to them. At first he held back; but one night, in his dreams, it seemed to him that angels came and told him he ought to forgive and yield. So he gave way, and went to rejoin his flock.

There are many stories told of St. Machutus, all showing his sweet and kind nature. We read that one day, a warm, sunshiny day in spring, the Bishop had laid aside his cloak and thrown it across the branch of a tree, where he left it for some hours. Soon down flew a little bird, made its nest in its folds, and there laid its eggs. In the evening St. Machutus came to fetch his coat, and saw the nest.

"Poor little bird," he said, creeping quietly away so as not to disturb it. He would not have the cloak touched, but did without it till the eggs were hatched and the little nestlings all fledged.

He is said to have lived till the age of 133 years. He went to pass his last days at the little island near Saintonge, where he had founded a home when forced to leave Aleth; there he died in the year 565.

"Sweet was the infant's waking smile,

And sweet the old man's rest."