THE IRISH SAINT, FURSEY WHO GOT BURNT BY A DEMON
Fursey (died 648) was an Irish monk who helped to advance Christianity in both East Anglia and northern France. Precisely where and when Fursey was born is unknown.
The Venerable Bede records that Fursey experienced a vision, in which angels carried him out of his body to a great height. Looking down into a gloomy valley, he saw four fires. The first, an angel explained, was Falsehood; the next Covetousness; the third Discord, and the last Injustice. Gradually these fires drew together into one mighty conflagration.
Fursey became alarmed. The angel, though, reassured him: “It will not burn you because you did not kindle it; for although it appears as a great and terrible fire, it tests everyone according to his desert, and will burn away sinful desires.” Fursey did not entirely escape, for one of the demons who tortured fallen spirits in the flames thrust a victim against him, causing him to be burnt on his (presumably ghostly) shoulder and jaw.
Fursey recognized the man and remembered that he had appropriated some of his clothes after he died. Restored once more to his body, he found that he had a permanent scar on his shoulder and jaw.
Bede heard this story from a monk who had met Fursey. His informant recalled that, although it was a bitterly cold day when he saw the saint, who was but thinly clad, the holy man was sweating profusely – “either”, as Bede suavely observes, “because of the consolation or the terror of his recollections”.