During Pope Benedict XVI’s recent pastoral visit to Benin, in West Africa last November, he held a meeting with students for the priesthood in the seminary of St. Gall.
I was surprised to see that St. Gall was known in West Africa. St. Gall was one of the twelve monks who accompanied Saint Columban when he left Ireland in 570 A.D. to travel through Europe evangelizing and founding monasteries.
In these missionary activities of the Irish monks, Saint Gall was Columban’s assistant and closest associate. They founded many monasteries, and around the year 612 A.D. they came to Bregenz on the shore of Lake Constance. Columban was not happy with the situation at Bregenz, and decided to move on and enter Italy. Saint Gall pleaded ill-health, and asked to be excused. Columban was displeased at the request. He reluctantly allowed Gall to remain behind, but placed him under the prohibition not to celebrate Mass as long as Columban was alive.
Saint Gall humbly accepted the penance and observed the prohibition. Three years later, early one morning Saint Gall asked one of the young monks to prepare the altar and the Mass vestments, as he was going to offer Mass. The community then knew that Gall had somehow been made aware that Columban had passed from this world to his heavenly home.
Saint Gall is still remembered with affection in Bregenz. One of the cantons of modern day Switzerland bears his name.