Friday 31 May 2013

Saint Feradacius of Iona, May 31

We close the month of May with the commemoration of a ninth-century abbot of Iona, Saint Feradacius, although as Canon O'Hanlon admits, we have only the authority of the 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, for this feast day as a saint of this name is also commemorated on May 18:


FOR centuries after the time of St. Columkille, our Island sent several holy men as colonists and missionaries to his greatly frequented monastery at Iona. The place had a renown for holiness; and, from Ireland, from Scotland, as also from distant Norway, there came, during successive centuries, many royal funerals to its shores. At this day, by far the most interesting remains upon the Island are those curious and beautiful tombstones, which lie in Reilig Odhrain, They belong, even the most ancient of them, to an age removed by many hundred years from Columba's time. But, they represent that lasting reverence, which his name has inspired during so many generations, and that desire of along succession of chiefs and warriors through the Middle Ages, and down almost to our own time, to be buried in the soil where he had trod. However, it is only in the past ages we can seek for its historic greatness.

St. Feredacius was son to Corbmac, and we may assume he was of northern Irish descent, as of birth. He is supposed to have been born, about the beginning of the ninth century; but, where he was educated or by whom does not appear. Yet, it seems very probable, that stirred by the celebrity of that flourishing institute established by St. Columba, at Iona, he went thither at an early age to embrace the rule and conform to the discipline of that monastery. Of his earlier career, little seems to be known. He became Abbot of Iona; most probably, on the death of Abbot Cellach. This took place, A.D. 863, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, or in the year 864 according to those of Ulster. However, in that valuable "Chronicon Hyense," postfixed to the Rev. Dr. Reeves' work, the death of this Abbot is referred to the year 865. If such were the case, it must have been during our saint's presidency, the shrine of St. Columkille was removed to Ireland, lest it should become a prey to the Danes. This removal happened, as variously stated, in the year, 875, 877, or 878. Our saint only survived such an occurrence, for one or two years. However, if we are to credit the Annals of Inisfallen, Ferediach Abbot of Iae Columkille died A.D. 866; but, these Annals are known to be ante-dated. He died, during the year 877, 879, or 880, according to the other Irish Annals. It must be confessed, we have no authority for assigning this saint's festival, to the 31st, in preference to the 18th of May, as Colgan only says, that a different St. Feradachrichus was venerated on both days. He is of opinion, that either was perhaps identical with St. Feradacius Abbot of Iona.

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