Cursed to live as a bird and blown about Ireland, Sweeney comes to rest in a thorn-infested hawthorn bush.
Nearby was the hut of the hermit Mullin. He was a gentle man, and even the foxes came to him for food.
St. Mullin heard the harsh cry of the ugly bird, but in his ears no sound was ever harsh or ugly. The more he listened, the more he understood. All day long he listened to Sweeney, feeling all of the birdman’s pain and understanding the sorrow of the king.
St. Mullin sat patiently all day, whistling sweet tunes and offering crumbs of bread in his open hand. Slowly, the bird fluttered down from one branch to the next until he was at the end of the day, within Mullin’s reach.
Mullin then gently folded his hands over the wounded bird. He fed him from a bowl of milk, and gave him the crumbs of bread to eat.
In a few days, Sweeney returned to his human form. Mullin took him to a small spring and bathed him, dunking his head in the water three times.
Mullin asked God for the healing of Sweeney’s mental illness, and God listened. Sweeney’s first words were to bless the hawthorn that humbled him and the hermit who healed him.
Then the king, healed of his mental illness, set out on his journey home.
Next time: Thoughts on the healing of King Sweeney.