The Legend of St. Gall and the Bear

I’m in St. Gallen, Switzerland, a town named for Gall, one of the twelve Irish monks who came to this part of the world with Columbanus, who became ill and stayed here as a hermit, while Columbanus and other monks crossed the Alps to Bobbio.

I’ll be sharing more about St. Gallen later, but I learned yesterday that a bear had found its way into a tree at my church at home in Fort Collins, Colorado, and by coincidence, St. Gall also had a bear encounter, at least according to the account of one of his biographers, Wilifred Strabo, a monk from nearby Reichenau.

One evening, after wandering alone in the Swiss woods, Gall stopped and made a fire to warm himself. Even as he was enjoying its glow, a bear emerged from the woods and charged him. Having powers over man and beast, Gall told the bear to halt. And of course, the bear did so, and then he slunk off into the woods…

and then he collected firewood for St. Gall, returned to the fire, and enjoyed the saint’s company. Apparently, the bear continued to visit with the saint throughout the rest of his life and became a regular companion of the Irishman.

I hope that the tranquilized and relocated bear in Fort Collins is safe and happy, and that he doesn’t try to hang around anyone at Plymouth.