Saturday 29 June 2013

Saint Cocca of Ros-Bennchuir, June 29

June 29 is the commemoration of Saint Cocca, who appears in the hagiography of Saint Ciarán of Saighir first as his nurse and later as the abbess of Ros-Bennchuir. She is the second saint of this name to be commemorated in the month of June as the feastday of Saint Cocca of Kilcock falls on June 6. The account below comes from Volume 6 of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints:


WE have to regret, that indications are not more clear, in reference to the pious female saint, whose celebration in our Calendars has been assigned to this day. However, we can only present, as we find them, the few particulars, that seem to be on record. This holy virgin has her name usually written Coca or Cocca; but, incorrectly, it has been converted into Concha and Cota. In an English Life of St. Kieran of Saighir we find this saint called "Coinche." In the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the iii. of the Kalends of July —June 29th— and included with that of other saints, there is a festival for Cocca, of Ruis Beandchoir. The greater portion of the Life of St. Cocchea is to be found interspersed and interwoven, so to speak, with the Life of the great St. Kieran, whose nurse and guardian it was her privilege to be. Owing to these circumstances, it appears to be altogether probable, that she was born, or at least, that she lived for some time, in the Island of Cape Clear, in the present county of Cork. She is stated to have been the nurse of St. Kieran of Saigir; and if so, her period should date to the beginning of the fifth century. She may have been converted from the errors of paganism, by receiving baptism at the hands of her Apostolic foster-son. St. Cocca is related, to have embraced a religious life, and to have presided over the monastery of Ros-bennchuir. That it was situated on the sea-coast appears from the Life of St. Kieran of Saigir, who was one of the principal coadjutors of St. Patrick, in the southern parts of Ireland. The principal work of St. Cocchea consisted in presiding over the education of noble virgins, who were entrusted to her care, some for a time, and others for life. St. Cocchea rendered the greatest assistance to St. Kieran, in propagating the Christian faith. The religious establishment of Ross-bennchuir was possibly situated on the western coast of Clare County, as has been stated, but on what ancient authority is not cited. Perhaps this place was identical with the townland of Ross, on the sea-shore, in the parish of Kilballyowen, in the barony of Moyarta, in the south-western part of the county of Clare. There St. Cocha's nunnery— according to one writer —was situated, about twelve miles W.S.W. from Kilkee, in that county, and within a few hundred yards of the Natural Bridges of Ross. The ruins, we are told, present no interesting architectural features. In the Life of St. Kieran, we are told, that he sent oxen each year from Saigir to this place; and, although the distance was considerable, it is said, they always went in a direct course to Ros-benchuir, without being even conducted by a driver. These oxen were sent to plough the lands of St. Cocca, and after the ploughing season was over each year, they returned again to Saigir.

There is a small ruined church in the townland of Ross, and which is called Teampull-an-naonmhar-naomh, i.e., the church of the nine saints. Of this edifice, the west gable and side walls remain to the full height, with 4 feet of the under part of the east gable. It measures 34 feet 4 inches in length, by 15 and a half in breadth. At the distance of 24 feet, south from the ruin, is what the peasantry call the grave of the nine saints. This grave measured 33 feet in length, from north to south, 7 feet 9 inches in breadth, and it was 2 feet in height. The sides were built up of loose stones, after the ordinary manner of graves.

We are also told, that on each festival of our Lord's Nativity, after the people had received Holy Communion from St. Kieran's own hands, in the monastery of Saigir, he was accustomed to proceed to the monastery of St. Cocca, at Ros-bennchuir, that he might again offer up the Holy Sacrifice there, and on the same morning. After St. Cocca and others had received communion from him, he returned again to Saigir, before the dawn of daylight. Relating these circumstances, the ancient writer of St. Kieran's Life remarks, that he and others knew not by what means this saint went and returned, as he concealed such matters from them —meaning his monks. We are informed, that there was a large stone on the sea-shore, which had been surrounded with water, near the monastery of Ros-bennchuir. To this the Abbess often retired, and it was called, "the stone of St. Cocca, because on it she frequently prayed. According to the English Manuscript Life of St. Ciaran of Saighir, this place was called "Carrig Conchy." As an old legend has it, St. Ciaran went one day on that Rock, and it floated over the waters with him, and returned to its own place again, it being Ciaran's wish it should so happen. The Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Cathal Maguire state, that the Natalis of this saint had been celebrated, on the 29th of June, in the church of Ros-bennchuir. We do not find her name occurring on this day, in the copy of the Irish Calendar, belonging to the Ordnance Survey Office, Phoenix Park. She is entered, however, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as Cocha, of Ros-Bennchair.

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