Saint Neot and His Animal Miracles
Contemporary records of Saint Neot’s life are limited, and in many cases vague and self-ambiguous. There are some surviving manuscripts that purport to describe his life, and writers in the last few centuries have arrived at different conclusions from them.
A Fox Stole Saint Neot’s shoe
There is a natural spring a short distance to the west of the church in the Cornish village of St Neot. This was likely the spring habitually used by Neot himself. It formed a small pond at the time, and Neot seems to have bathed in the pond. It was a secluded spot, and Neot liked to pray there, unobserved by others. He may have spoken his prayers while standing in the pond and washing. One day he was doing so when he heard the approach of some horsemen. To avoid contacting them, he hastened away to the dwelling where he lived to complete his prayers. He shed a sandal in his hurry to avoid the horsemen, and now he sent Barius to find it.
While Neot was absent from the spring, a fox passed and discovered the lost shoe, picked it up, and ran off with it. “So that the Saint might not be scandalized by so mean a thing, the fox was miraculously cast into a deep sleep, and died, having the thongs of the shoe in his mouth.” Barius found the shoe and took it to Neot, who made him promise never to tell the story during Neot’s lifetime.
A writer in the “Catholic Layman” tells us that an angel was involved: when the fox saw the shoe and decided to take it away:
An angel, who loved to hover in hallowed places and breathe an atmosphere sanctified by the devotions of God’s Saints, was present there invisibly and saw this thing. He would not want that St Neot should be molested even in so small a matter so that he had sent the sleep of death upon the fox, and Barius, when he came there, found him dead —- arrested at the instant of his theft —- yet holding the thongs of the shoe in his mouth.
The deer pulled the plow.
Although he had been a hermit, Neot farmed land at the monastery, and he used oxen to pull the plow. One night some thieves came and stole the oxen. There was a great herd of stags near the place, and Neot ordered them to be yoked to the plow like oxen to pull the plow. At the Saint’s command, the stags all left their pasture and came to bow their necks under the yoke. They were yoked to the plow and pulled it every day. They returned to their usual ranges in the evening but came back every morning for another day of plowing.
The thieves heard of this miracle and went to Neot and asked for forgiveness, which he promptly granted to them. Then, realizing that their life of crime was wicked, they asked to be admitted as monks, and they spent the rest of their lives in prayer. Then, as the oxen had been returned to Neot by the thieves, he commanded the stags to return to their natural life.
It is said that the stags progeny bore a mark recording the event, “a ring of white like a yoke about their necks, and on that part of the neck which used to bear the yoke.”
Hunting dogs were repelled.
One day Saint Neot was singing the psalms at the spring [note 14] when a doe was being chased by a huntsman’s dogs. She came in terror to Neot and lay down at his feet, and by her anxious pantings, implored his aid. The hunting dogs wished to tear her into pieces, and they showed the signs of their fury in the loudness of their barking. However, when they saw the doe at the feet of St Neot, they ran away, as if they had been struck with a stick or a spear, and Neot commanded the doe to depart calmy and in safety.
The huntsman was a noble gentleman; he went to Neot in submission and asked for advice on conducting his life. On St.Neot’s instruction, he too became a monk and joined the monastery.
The crows respect the Sabbath services.
Once, many crows began to eat the crops and everything they could from the fields, damaging them greatly. So people watched over their fields from Monday to Saturday and scared the crows away. However, on Sunday, the people went to church, and the crows took advantage of their absence and feasted on their crops.
So the people ceased to go to church on Sundays, preferring to guard their crops. Neot saw this, and he built a large compound of earth and granite and ordered the crows to gather in it every Sunday at the time of Liturgy. He explained that he was doing this because people should hear the Word of God and because it was bad to harm the fields. The birds obeyed immediately. As long as the Saint lived, they flew to the compound every Sunday and remained there till the end of the Holy Service. (There is a Roman or early British earthwork in Eynesbury connected with this miracle.)