August 4th is the feastday of yet another great Irish master of the ascetic life - Saint Molua. This saint was credited with founding many monasteries, having learnt the monastic life at the northern monastery of Bangor under the tutelage of Saint Comgall. Canon O'Hanlon devotes a very lengthy entry to the saint in Volume VIII of his Lives of the Irish Saints, from which the following has been distilled:
St. Lua or Molua, Abbot of Clonfert-Molua, now Kyle, Queen's County [Sixth Century]
Different forms of name have been applied to the present holy Abbot, called Lua, Molua, Lugid, Lugith. Lugaidh, and Luan, in Irish, and these have even received various Latin changes in termination. Several ancient writers have rendered the original name Lua, which in Irish stands for Molua —in English meaning " my Lua "—into Lugidus. Hence, Usher and also Ware speak of Luigidus, as being identical with Molua, Abbot of Clonfert Molua. St. Bernard calls our saint Luanus, in his Life of St. Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh. Colgan also mentions St. Molua, under the same name. Some Manuscript Copies of St. Molua's Acts are extant. There is a Latin Life of St. Molua, among the Burgundian Library Manuscripts, at Bruxelles. In the Manuscript known as the Codex Kilkenniensis, there is a Life of St. Molua. In a Manuscript, belonging to Trinity College, Dublin, there is another. The Bollandists have inserted this Saint's Acts in their great collection. His Life was found in an ancient Manuscript belonging to the University of Salamanca, and it was collated with other codices.
St. Molua or Luanus was son to Carthach, commonly called Coche, of the family of Corcoiche, and from the region of Hy-Fidhgente, in the province of Munster. A commentator on the "Feilire" of St. Oengus, and one who is very fond of retailing unreliable legends of the Irish Saints, relates, that when Comgall of Bangor, with his family, was wending his way, it came to pass, that they heard somewhat like the cries of a babe in a bank of rushes, while they saw a service of angels over it a little distance from the road. Then St. Comgall said to a monk of his order: "See thou what is there in that bank of rushes." The man went and giving a kick into the brake of rushes, he beheld a child in the midst, and he took it into his arm-pit. St. Comgall asked what he had found and what he had done. The monk replied, that he had found a babe, and that he had given it a kick. "Where is it," then enquired Comgall. The brother answered, that it was in his arm-pit. " This shall be its name," said Comgall, ''My-lua (kick) son of ocha (armpit);" and, it is added, that our saint was so named, either because of finding him in the rushes, or because of the kick, which that monk gave to the brake of rushes, in which the babe had been found. Afterwards, as we are told, he was reared by Comgall, so that he grew up very innocent. From the foregoing account, one might be induced to suppose, that Mo-lua had been a foundling ; but, it is evidently only another version of a circumstance in his life, and which occurred, when he was delivered up by his parents for tuition to the holy Abbot of Bangor, as hereafter related.
Even in his youth, the holy child was distinguished by the performance of many miracles. He is said to have healed his father Carthach from the effects of a cancer, which necessitated the amputation of his foot; but the son effected a perfect cure, which relieved his parent from all pain, and he even restored the limb. Angels were seen to have charge of the boy, at this early period of his life, and these are said to have been his special guardians in many instances. One day, St. Molua's mother brought him with her to the house of a certain man, to enquire about her cattle, which this person had in keeping. On that occasion, the boy appeared surrounded by a bright flame, to the great astonishment of that man. He requested the child's hand to be placed on his head, on account of his having given such early proofs of sanctity. When the mother brought her child to that pious person, the infant was observed to weep. These tears fell on the man's breast. Being afflicted with a grievous ulcer, and having pains in the head, that patient found instant relief from both maladies. He felt duly grateful for such a cure, while the fame of Molua's sanctity was spread throughout all that neighbourhood.
The earliest occupation of our saint was that of tending his parents' herds and flocks. As his Life informs us, those parents possessed cows, sheep, and swine. One day, while Lugid and his brothers were watching them beside a fire they had kindled, a storm of rain suddenly came on, and the flames were soon extinguished. However, holding one of the dead embers in his hand, an angel appeared and blessed it. Immediately the flame arose, and applied to the embers, these were again brought to a blaze, at which the children warmed themselves. The fire thus miraculously produced is said to have been divided among all the pious people living in that neighbourhood. To commemorate such remarkable event, a monument was afterwards raised on that spot, and this seems to have taken the shape of crosses. It is said, that while Molua and other boys were engaged as swine-herds, the swine strayed from them. However, one of his youthful companions having set out to seek them, he only saw with others a flock of sheep, and these were thought to indicate the future occupation of Molua, who was destined to become, not alone a pastor of sheep, but of men.
As we are informed, at one time, St. Comgall of Ulster visited the province of Munster. Our saint chanced to be sleeping in a field, near which he was passing. Owing to some miraculous circumstance, Comgall's attention was directed towards him. Full of prophetic knowledge, he requested our saint's parents to allow their son to become a student and disciple under his direction. The holy abbot then predicted, that Molua should afterwards found monasteries, and become a spiritual father over many children. Our saint's parents agreed to that request, which was in accordance with the wishes of their son. Accordingly, he set out with Comgall for the province of Ulster. It has been supposed, that Molua could not have become St. Comgall's disciple at an earlier period, than about the year 559. At this time, Molua must have been very young, since the holy abbot of Bangor, as we are informed, commenced his instructions, by requiring his pupil to write the alphabet. Afterwards, Comgall proceeded to teach him more advanced sciences. At one time, the holy abbot found an angel teaching his disciple. Thence forward, Molua was found to possess a penetrating intellect, as also to have well and wisely exercised it.
Many other miracles are recorded of our saint, during the time he remained with St. Comgall. At length, this judicious guardian persuaded him to take holy orders. Having received the several grades, Abbot Comgall then told him to return into his own country, and to take some disciples with him, for that there he should found many establishments... Receiving the benediction of the abbot and of his monks, Molua left Bangor. Taking some brothers with him, he came to a certain place, which was called Druim Sneachtn, now known as Drumsna, a parish where an ancient cemetery in the Barony and County of Monaghan indicates that site, where Molua founded a monastery.
Thence, Molua set out for Leix territory, and towards that part of it, bordering on the confines of Leinster and Munster... There, on the borders of Leinster and Munster, and between the regions of Heli, Ossory and Leix, was built the monastery of Clonfert Molua which signifies, it is said, the "Miraculous Retreat of St. Molua." It was thus named, because of the miracles which were wrought by him there, during his life, and through his intercession after death...
The O'Clerys inform us, that Molua was Confessor to David of Cill-muine; as also to Maedhedg, to Mochaemhog, and to Comhgall, according to an ancient quatrain.
Molua was Confessor
To David across the tranquil sea,
And to Maedhog and Mochamhog,
And to Comghail."
The holy Archbishop of Leinster, Moedhog or Aedan, at one time desired making a voyage to Wales, where he might consult with St. David, at Kill-Muini, regarding the person he should adopt as his confessor in Ireland. However, the winds were contrary, and he was admonished by an angel not to venture on the sea, but to select Lugid or Molua, the son of Coche. On this, the prelate, with seven other companions, paid our saint a visit, who hospitably entertained them ; and the archbishop having made choice of Molua, as spiritual director, returned with joy to his home, after both saints had given the kiss of peace...
When St. Molua was advanced in years, one of his teeth having fallen out, he said to a brother in attendance: "My son, take charge of this tooth, a day shall come, when it may be required, and do not bury it with me." He had a foreknowledge of what should happen. After the death of Molua, some monks visited Ireland, to collect the relics of its saints. When they arrived at Clonfert Molua, to seek for some souvenir of its chief patron, the people felt unwilling to open the reliquary of our saint. However, that brother, in possession of St. Molua's tooth, presented it to those monks, who came in search of some memorial relating to the holy abbot.
A short time before the death of our saint, he paid a visit to St. Dagan. From this holy man he learned, that St. Lactan should succeed him in the government of Clonfert Molua monastery. The holy abbot felt greatly pleased at such announcement.
After these admonitions, our saint resolved on paying a visit to St. Cronan, who dwelt in the Island of Cre, or at Roscrea. The Bollandist Life of our saint states, that Cronan was then living in the cell, known as Sen-Ruis or Sean Ross, which is said to have been near the lake, now known in its dried-up state as Monahincha. On telling the holy man, that his end was near, St. Molua received Holy Communion, at his hands. After prayer, and exchanging the kiss of peace, while tears fell down his cheeks, our saint resolved on returning towards Clonfert Molua, which he commended to the care of St. Cronan, that he might defend it against all aggressors. A bog now intervened on the way, and Molua turned a little out of his course towards a cell, which was called Tuaim Domhnaigh. Being wearied, he sat down, on the eastern side of that bog, extending from Roscrea to Clonfert Molua. There addressing a companion, named Stellan, who accompanied him, the Blessed Molua said: "If one should see the family of earth and heaven, at the same time, to which ought he go?" Stellan replied," To that of Heaven." Then said Molua: "Dearly beloved son, give me therefore the Holy Sacrament, for I see the family of Heaven awaiting my departure, so that I may go with them." The saint then received the sacrifice of the Lord's Supper, from the hand of his disciple Stellan. Afterwards, he departed from earth on the day of the Sabbath, according to that Life of our saint, as published by the Bollandists. However, his decease has been very generally assigned to the 4th day of August, and which has been always regarded as his chief festival. The death of St. Molua is referred to A.D. 605, in the Annals of the Four Masters; and Colgan follows their computation. The Annals of Ulster place his departure, at A.D. 608; while Archbishop Usher has the same date.
It is certain, that our saint must have departed this life, in the early part of the seventh century. A St. Lugidus is referred to, in the Paschal Epistle of Cummian, and he is there numbered among the fathers of the Irish Church. This saint, with apparently also a Lugeus, named in the second class of Irish Saints, is said to have been identical with St. Molua or Luanus. It was of some Molua, among those bearing the same name, that Cuimin of Coindeire, gives the character, that he used to obey the desire and bidding of his tutor, or master. He did the will of his father and mother and of everyone with whom he was in relation, he also was truly penitent for his sins. It should seem, however, that the praises here bestowed have reference solely to the present saint:
Molua, the fully miraculous, loves
Humility, noble, pure,
The will of his tutor, the will of his parents,
The will of all, and weeping for his sins."
In the "Feilire" of St. Oengus, St. Molua Mac Ocha's feast is entered, with a glowing panegyric, at the 4th day of August.
"Blithe is he after arriving (in heaven):
great is my confidence in him, the holy,
kingly champion, Molua mac Ocha."
A commentary, with some legendary stories, is found annexed. In the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 4th of August, the simple entry appears of Molua Mac Ochei, Cluana Ferta. He is more fully described in the Martyrology of Donegal, at the same date, as Molua, son of Oche, Abbot of Cluain-ferta- Molua, and of Sliabh Bladhma, and of Druimsnechta, in Fernmhagh. In the anonymous Calendar of Irish Saints published by O'Sullivan Beare, at the 4th of August, there is a Motua—evidently a mistake for Molua. On this day, also, the festival of Luanus, Abbot, appears in the Circle of the Seasons. The commemoration of St. Molua was observed, likewise, in Scotland, on the 4th day of August. Thus, the Kalendar of Drummond has it Prid. Non. Aug.
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