Conversion of the Robber Chief, Macaldus

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

A district adjoining the Boyne was infested by a band of robbers, under the command of a chief named Macaldus.

Some of these had been converted from their evil ways by the missionaries, and their chief was very wroth in consequence against St. Patrick.

Hearing that he was to pass along a road in their neighbourhood on a certain day, he and some of his band took up a position by its side, intending to murder him; but as they caught sight of him slowly approaching, and apparently sunk in profound contemplation, they found themselves deprived of all desire to injure him.

Still they would not let the opportunity pass without endeavouring to bring ridicule on him by some stratagem.

So one of them lay down by the side of the woodland path as if dead, and Macaldus, as the saint passed by, besought him to restore his dead comrade to life.

“I dare not intercede for him,” said the saint, and passed on.

Though very well inclined to offer him some insult, they could not muster resolution for the purpose, and, when he had gone on a little way, Macaldus ordered the man to rise.

But while the poor wretch had been feigning death, life had really deserted his body, and consternation and remorse now seized on his comrades.

Macaldus, foremost in wickedness, was first to feel repentance.

Following St. Patrick, and throwing himself on his knees before him, he besought him to return and intercede for his comrade’s restoration, acknowledging the deception they had attempted, and his own readiness to undergo the severest penance the saint might impose.

The Apostle, retracing his steps, knelt by the dead body, and did not cease to pray till the breath of life entered it again.

All the band present vowed on the spot to embrace the faith preached by Patrick, and Macaldus besought the imposition of some most rigorous penance upon himself.

Patrick conducted him to the Boyne, and taking a chain from a boat lying by the bank, he flung it round him, secured the ends by a padlock, and threw the key into the river.

He then made him get into the boat, and trust his course to Providence.

“Loose not your chain,” said he, “till the key which now lies at the bottom of this river is found and delivered to you. Strive to maintain (with God’s help) a spirit of true sorrow; pray without ceasing.”

He then unmoored the hide-covered canoe; it drifted down the river, out by the old seaport of Colpa, and so into the open sea.

In twenty hours it was lying by a little harbour in Man, and those who assembled wondered much at the robust form of the navigator, his dejected appearance, and the chain that bound his body.

On making inquiry for the abode of a Christian priest, he found that the bishop of the island lived near.

He went to his house, told him his former life and present condition, and besought instruction.

This was freely given, and the man’s conversion found to be sincere.

Feeling a strong vocation for the clerical office, he studied unremittingly, and at last came the eve of the day on which he was to receive holy orders.

On that evening the cook, suddenly entering the room in which the bishop and postulant were conferring, cried out, “Behold, O my master, what I have taken from the belly of a fish just brought in.”

Macaldus catching sight of the key in the cook’s hand, at once recognised it as the one with which St. Patrick had secured his chain.

It was at once applied to its proper use, and he had the happiness of being ordained next day, unencumbered by spiritual or material bonds.

At the death of his kind patron and instructor, he was raised to the dignity of Bishop of Man.