Monday 31 March 2014

Saint Colman of Camachadh, March 31

March 31 is the commemoration of yet another Irish saint Colman, this one linked to two other saints by the great 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, but Canon O'Hanlon prefers to deal with him separately, as he explains in the third article at this date in Volume III of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

St. Colman, of Camachadh.

The brightest and fairest flowers bloom in solitude and soon wither, while they still perfume nooks, in which they grow, with delicious odours. So have bloomed and have beenforgotten the localities and memory of many holy persons. Thus, when introducing his commemoration of the three saints, Colman, Foilan, and Fethadius, at, the 31st of March, Colgan remarks, that he united their names, because he found little of a distinctive character, in their Acts; indeed, he observes, that although the Irish saints, venerated on this day, were not few in number, as many of our domestic Martyrologies proved, yet, very few records of their lives were to be discovered. We prefer, however, to distinguish those saints; and, hence, we begin with St. Colman's name, whichoccurs, in the Irish Martyrologies, at this day. However, Colgan confesses himself unable to discover the exact location of Camachadh, with which place, St. Colman appears to have had connection. There was a church, in the diocese of Ossory, which was called Camchluain; as, also, another in that of Derry, named Cambos, and Camus, in our Martyrologies, At this latter church, a St. Colman was venerated, on the 30th of October; but, whether he was a distinct person from our saint, Colgan had not been able to determine. Another church stood, in the region of Clannuadach, in Connaught, and it was named Cammagh, while its ruins are yet to be seen, Colgan conjectures this name to have more nearly resembled Camachadh, in sound and signification, than any of the former denominations. He interprets Camachadh, or Cammagh, by the Latin words, “campum procurvum," and it is Anglicized, "the very crooked plain." The year of our saint's death has not been recorded, nor even the age, in which he flourished. However, it must have been at a rather early period, since in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 31st of March, we find, Colman am (cam) Achaid. Also,Marianus O'Gorman and Cathal Maguire commemorate him. Colman, of Camachadh, occurs, in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day. The Bollandists briefly notice this saint, at the 31st of March. It is likely, this pious man sought an asylum in a solitude, which the proud and ambitious so much disdain, but which furnish tranquillity and enjoyment to the truly religious.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Saint Mochua of Balla, March 30

March 30 is the feastday of a well-travelled saint, Mochua or Cronan of Balla, County Mayo. The name Mochua is a hypocoristic form of the name Cronan (among others) and there are almost 60 saints of the name Mochua recorded in the list of homonymous saints. The saint of Balla has a surviving Life dating from the 14th or 15th century. Although he is now associated with the western province of Connaght, our saint is by birth an Ulsterman, who receives his monastic formation at the monastery of Bangor under the tutelage of its founder, Saint Comgall. Mochua is also linked in the hagiography to Saint Fechin of Fore before finally establishing his own foundation at Balla. The Life records various miracles, some of which involve the saint's abbatial emblems of authority - his bell and his baculus or staff- which Canon O'Hanlon is pleased to bring us in his account below, taken from Volume III of his Lives of the Irish Saints.

St. Mochua or Cronan, Abbot of Balla, County of Mayo.
[Sixth and Seventh Centuries ]

Among the saints of Connaught most venerated by its people—especially in Mayo—may be ranked the present holy man. The Bollandists have—in six chapters and twenty-one sections—the Acts of St. Mochua, or Cronan, of Balla, at the 1st of January. These were translated into Latin, from an Irish collection, and they were transmitted by Philip O'Sullevan Beare, from Madrid, in 1634. Not knowing the natal day of the present saint, these Acts were published, on the first day of the year. There are only a few verbal differences, between this and the version of it, as introduced by Colgan, in his work, at the present date.

To this legendary Irish Life, he has added some additional comments of his own, together with separate notes, illustrating the subject of his text. The father of our saint is called Becan, or Beggan, son of Barr, son to Nathi, son of Lugad, son to Dalann, in Ultonia, according to the Sanctilogy of the Irish Saints. His mother is called Comma—or according to another Manuscript Cumnea—the daughter of Conamal, son of Machtan, or Machadan, and she belonged to the Dalbuanican tribe. Besides two elder brothers, she had three sisters, Brusecha, Luchada, and Tudela. Somewhat more uncouth sickly, and lame, than their other children, the parents of Mochua formed a low opinion of his mental attainments, and they assigned to him the humble position of a shepherd. But, the Almighty, having regard to the virtues and future miraculous gifts of his servant, had other wise designs,which were destined to call him from his despised station, and to enrol him among the greatest men. Accordingly, when the justly-renowned Abbot and founder of Bangor, one day had entered Beccan's house—a vision of Angels flying over it attracting his attention—St. Comgall asked how many sons were in the family. The head of it replied, that only two boys were deserving of his notice, and two girls, while Mochua, then very young, was engaged in tending sheep. The Abbot desired to see him, nevertheless, and having a Divine intuition regarding his future sanctity, Comgall predicted, that Mochua should be promoted from his humble rank, to become a shepherd of men. Wherefore, the Abbot declared he should be transferred to the religious school of Bangor, and there he was brought up in a knowledge of sacred literature, and in a holy course of discipline. He wrought many miracles, likewise, as stated in the Irish Life. Among other favours granted, he prayed for a childless mother, and, soon afterwards, the conception of a holy son, called Dabius, took place.

While at Bangor, St. Mochua was greatly distinguished for his austerities, for his works of charity, and for his vigorous resistance to all the assaults of Satan. When thus tried sufficiently, Comgall ordered him to seek another place, and there to build a church and a monastery. Mochua asked his superior to indicate its proper site. Legendary, no doubt, is the statement, that St. Comgall pointed to a well, which was near, and directed that it should move to the spot, where Mochua was to establish his religious house; and, where it stopped, there it seemed to the holy Abbot, the Almighty should be pleased, if his disciple dwelt.

Having selected a colony of monks, and adopting the advice of St. Comgall, Mochua took leave of Bangor. The well seemed to rise in the guise of vapour, and to accompany the band in upper air, as if threatening to rain, while the atmosphere around was very bright and serene. The pilgrims stopped on their way, until the cloud preceded them. Mochua told his companions, they should follow it, and that they should only stop, wherever it rested. Accordingly, the cloud led them to the town, called Goelia, which was in the territory of Ferros. There Gabrenus, the Bishop, and the fellow-disciple of St. Mochua, lived. He was a most faithful friend, ready to resign his place to the visitor. But, because the cloud did not come down there, Mochua deemed it ineligible. Guided by the aerial sign,our saint next came to Fore, in Westmeath, where the celebrated Abbot Fechin then dwelt, with a great number of monks. The position of their monastery was beneath a dry hill, where a mill had been erected, by some workmen, while no water was found to turn it. It had just been finished,when Mochua arrived, and St. Fechin with other priests there thought, that through their visitor's merits, water must be supplied. After some consultation,it was resolved, that all should repair to Lough Lene, about two miles distant from the place. The architect, who had constructed that mill, was present, and he remarked, they had undertaken to accomplish a very arduous work. "To men, indeed, it seems difficult," said Mochua, "but to God, it is very easy." Then Mochua, with the end of his baculus slightly bored the ground, near the banks of the lake, while Fechin and the priests present acted in like manner. Immediately, the water began to pass through a subterranean channel, and under the adjoining hill, until it rushed out, with great force, on the opposite side. Thence, the stream was conveyed to the millwheels, which put in motion, both the upper and the lower grinding-stones.

However, Mochua had an intuition, that he must leave St. Fechin, and he then proceeded towards the Shannon river, which he crossed. There he was in the province of Connaught, and in the territory of Omania, or Hy-Many. There, too, he was very hospitably received by the queen, called Ballgela, and by her chiefs. They asked him to take up his residence with them, but he was obliged to visit Kellach, son of Ragallus, or Ragallach, who was King over Connaught, and who dwelt near the Lake Raminium. At this time, the king was engaged in the sport of hunting a stag, which driven to extremities bounded from a steep precipice, on the shore of the lake, and swam to a rock, which was surrounded by its waters. A singularly wild legend is then related, regarding a man, who, having heard from the lips of Mochua, that the Almighty could preserve from death, whosoever might swim after the stag he, with the concurrence of the king, plunged into the water, swam towards the rock, and killed the quarry. Afterwards, returning to the king, with his captive, the man was devoured by the lake monster, that was a cause of dread to all swimmers. The king reproached Mochua on account of the prediction he had given; but, the saint, betaking himself to prayer, the monster vomited forth unhurt that man he had swallowed, and thenceforth, no other person was ever known to have fallen within his jaws. The king and his attendants, greatly astonished at this miracle, gave thanks to the Almighty; and, thenceforward, Mochua was held in reverence and love, not alone by that ruler, but also by his successor, Kennfaela, the son of Colgan.

After leaving this place, he passed the river Rodba, or Robe, and came to the province of Keara. He was now in his thirty-fifth year, and he stopped at a town named Nemus Darbrechum, or Reo-Dairbrech. No longer did he observe the guiding cloud in the air, so that his anxious companions and himself began to look for the premised fountain, in that locality. While thus engaged, a rustic met them, and they were informed, that not far off, a well—never before discovered—had lately sprung up; and,as the Latin version has it, " Cinctum Balla, id est, lorica," got as a new name Balla, or Mochua Ballensis. Now it is known as Ballagh, or Ball, in Mayo County. Here, the saint and his companions recognised the subsiding well, which had moved from Bangor, in Ultonia, and giving thanks to God, they resolved on founding their monastery. However, the chieftain of Ofiachra, or Hy-Fiachra, and who is called Eacha Minnechus, was resolved on disputing his right, and with that intention, one hundred of his best men approached. But, while on their way, a multitude of beautiful Angels were seen flying over a grove, so that when they beheld the venerable Mochua himself, they were moved by his pious exhortations, and they willingly bestowed, not only the grove, but the adjacent fields, on God's holy servant, thus confirming the grant of King Kellach. There, Mochua caused a church to be built, and it was consecrated by three bishops. This place is distinguished, for the remains of a round tower, the upper part of which, although wanting, shows a measurement of fifty feet in height. The ruins of a small church are near it. The building stone and workmanship appear coeval with the tower. In one of the walls, an inscription of great antiquity is shown.

At Balla, or near it, our saint wrought many miracles. One of these was in favour of a woman, who complained that she was childless. Soon afterwards, she conceived and bore two sons: one was called Lukencaria and the other was named Scanlan. Another of his miracles caused four salmon, chased by sea-calves, to approach the nets of fishermen, who laboured in vain at their calling, before the arrival of our saint. Most of the miracles related are evidently of a legendary character, and could hardly deserve place in a serious narrative, save for some incidental statements, by which they are accompanied, and which have references to names of places and of persons, as also to old manners and customs. Thus, the use of his staff in drawing a line to separate sheep from their lambs, and his releasing from a ludicrous position the thief, who had stolen a great quantity of his wheat, and who had placed it in a sack on his back, but who could neither move a step, nor throw down his burden, may be instanced. Again, we are told, that Mochua had sent a messenger to one Felan. He was obliged to pass a long and narrow winding of the sea, having high and rocky precipices around it. Two fierce women, named Beca, daughter to Cuchorag, and Lithbena, daughter to Attreph, had each a basket, suspended by ropes, to intercept travelers passing one way or the other. Those viragos caught the letter-carrier of Mochua in their basket, about the middle of the recess, and then, they hauled it up from the ground. Being supernaturally admonished, regarding this misadventure of his servant, Mochua went thither to effect his release. For a time, the saint remonstrated with those women, and at last he redeemed the man from durance, Beca demanding his hood as a reward, while Lithbena did not require any price. The saint's exhortations, moreover, had the result of bringing those women and their fathers to a better course of life.

There was an island, called Inis Amalgaidh, Latinized, Insula Amalga, in the principality of Mogia, and this the holy man desired to enter, yet no boat was at hand. Praying to God, the land swelled to such a degree, that he was able to pass over with dry feet. He healed many persons, and among the rest, in the name of the Holy Trinity, he expelled a demon from a man long possessed. From Lathlech, son of Kennfaela, he removed a great and disagreeable tumour, which was transferred to his bell, and the man was healed. The yellow jaundice, or a great superabundance of bile in the system, was at that period a sort of plague, among the people of Muregide.The medical skill of all Ireland was tested, but without avail; wherefore, it was resolved by them, to implore the Divine aid, through the prayers ofMochua. No less than two thousand five hundred infected persons flocked to Balla. Their holy intercessor prayed; health succeeded, and the marked colour of their faces disappeared, having been transferred to the baculus of the saint. Thenceforward, it was known as "the pale staff." In token of gratitude, the Muregide and their posterity placed themselves under the protection of Mochua, in memory of their wonderful preservation and cure. A man paralysed was brought to the saint, who invoking the powerful name of Jesus restored him to the use of his limbs. Even Mochua is said to have brought to life a youth, who died, when he had prayed to the Almighty.

Having wrought these and other great wonders, in the sixty-fifth year of his age, the holy servant of God was called away, to enjoy the eternal reward of all his merits. His death is recorded, at A.D. 637, according to the Annals of Clonmacnoise. Those of the Island and of Senat Magh Nensis agree, in reference to the year. The Bollandists have a brief notice of Mochua de Balna in Kera regione de Conacie, at this date, as found in the Martyrology of Tallagh; while, they observe, he is called Mochua Balla primo Cronanus, by Marianus O'Gorman, In the published Martyrology of Tallagh. So we find, at the 30th of March, Cronan Balna, i Ceara, i Connachta. But, in the Franciscan copy, hardly so much remains legible, in connexion with his name and feast, at this date. St. Aengus in his Festilogy commemorates St. Mochua of Balla; so does the Calendar of Cashel, so does Marianus O'Gorman, and Cathal Maguire; and, all are agreed, in assigning his festival to this date. At the 30th of March, the Martyrology of Donegal records the feast of Mochua, Abbot of Balla, in Ceara, Connaught. This is all that can be related, and of an authentic character, regarding the present holy man.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saturday 29 March 2014

Saint Ferghas of Inis-Caoin, March 29

A saint from the beautiful lakeland county of Fermanagh is commemorated on March 29 - Ferghas, son of Enda, of Inis-Caoin on Lough Erne. Finding himself with little information about the saint, Canon O'Hanlon instead writes an enthusiastic account of the beauties of his locality:

St. Ferghas, son of Enda, of Inis-Caoin, Lough Erne.

Ferghas, son of Enda, of Inis-Caoin — now Iniskeen — in Loch Eirne, is set down, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having a festival, at this date. The place, with which he was formerly connected, was on an island of moderate dimensions, and this was situated a few miles from the town of Enniskillen, on the beautiful Lough Erne. That glorious sheet of water, including the River Erne, of rare beauty and magnificence, has a wide and winding extent of sliore, in the counties of Cavan, Fermanagh and Donegal. From various surrounding hills and mountains, its panoramic splendours are exhibited to the gaze, and in every possible novelty of colour and grouping. Over two hundred islands break the water surfaces. The Erne flows in a north-west course, almost centrally through the county of Fermanagh. It is supplied with many tributary streams, along the forty miles of its tortuous channel; being divided into the upper and lower lake.

About midway on an island in the Erne, the elegantly-built and thriving town of Enniskillen stands, two handsome bridges, having five arches each, connecting this borough with the mainland. The romantic scenery both above and below this town is unrivalled. The upper lake has numerous indentations along its margin, on either side, and so thickly are its islands grouped, that at first sight it would seem a matter of extreme difficulty for a pilot, to find the proper channel. Its course gives the tourist a general idea of an inundated country. The islands are usually very fertile and verdant, while many are richly wooded. Projecting headlands on the river banks are often covered with fine timber, rising with stately trunks and branching tops, from the low and often marshy grounds. Herons and aquatic fowl breed along the rush-lined shores. Nothing can exceed the variety of landscape features here introduced. Swelling hills and more distant mountains frequently give a grand, and, an undulating, outline, to the prospect. The lower lake has a greater expansion of water, unimpeded by islands; although the latter are found to be not less numerous, while descending its stream.

When St. Ferghas lived in Iniscaoin cannot be discovered; but, in the table, which is added to the Martyrology of Donegal, its compiler remarks, there is a parish church of St. Fergus of Iniscaoin, without cure of souls, because its rectory was secular or impropriate. The Bollandists barely allude to this holy man, as Fergussius, son of Ennius, of Inis-Caoin, in Lough Erne, and quote the Martyrology of Tallagh, as their authority yet, neither in the published work, nor in the Franciscan copy of that record, do I find any corresponding entry.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Friday 28 March 2014

Saint Sillan, March 28

On March 28 the earliest of the Irish calendars, The Martyrology of Tallaght, records the name of a Saint Sillan but without any further information. There are a number of Irish saints who bear this name, including an abbot of Bangor whose feast is commemorated exactly a month earlier on February 28.  Canon O'Hanlon can only note the barest details of March's saint:

St. Sillan.
The simple entry, Sillan, is found in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date. It is also an entry, in the Bollandists' work, and, on the same authority.

However, on the previous day, March 27, the Martyrology of Tallaght has the entry Adventus Reliquiarum Sellani to commemorate the translation of Saint Sillan's relics. Is this a reference to the same person? The Martyrology of Donegal on March 27 makes no reference to relics but does note the name of Sillan on this day. Below are Canon O'Hanlon's entries for March 27, in which he mentions that the 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, had given the name of a monk called Sillan who features in the hagiography of Saint Berach to the Bollandists. I have therefore appended the episode from the Life of Saint Berach in which this monk features.

St. Siollan.

A saint, bearing the name, Siollán, is mentioned, in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day, as having veneration paid to him. The Bollandists' have a passing notice, at this date, with an indefinite allusion to a St. Sillan, mentioned in the Acts of St. Berach, as furnished by Colgan.

Arrival of St. Sellan's Relics.

We find mentioned, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date, March 27th, Adventus Reliquiarum Sellani, or the Arrival of St. Sellan's Relics. Who this holy man was, we cannot ascertain; nor can we find, with what place he had been connected; nor is it permitted us to state, the occasion, the locality, or the year, referring to this translation of his relics. It is probable, however, the present festival is not different, from that commemorated in the Martyrology of Donegal, at this day, where the simple name, Siollan, is recorded. This appears to have been the opinion of the Bollandists, likewise, when alluding to the notices, contained in our Irish Calendars, at the present date.

From the Life of Saint Berach

xxix. (85) On one occasion when Berach was in Cluain Coirpthe, he sent a monk on an errand to Rathonn, Sillen by name. Nine robbers fell in with him, who had come from the East of Tethba to ravage in Connaught, and they killed the monk, and went between his head and his body. This was revealed to Berach, and he proceeded quickly to seek them, and found them (standing) over the corpse. When the robbers saw Berach, they resolved forthwith to kill him, and seized their spears with that intent. Their hands stuck to their spears, and their spears stuck to the rock near them, and the marks of their butt-ends will remain on it till doom. (86) They did penance, and said to Berach: 'Do not deprive us of heaven, and we will do all thy will, O Clerk,' Berach then spared them, and said to them: 'Fit the head to the trunk’; and they did so, And Berach took a rush from a rushy pool on the bank hard by, and made a prayer over it, and fitted it round the throat of the corpse, and he arose forthwith; and hence (these rushes) are (called) 'Berach's rushes' till doom, And Berach left great grace upon them, and (as a doom) to the robbers that their seed should never exceed nine, and that there should always be a servitor of them in Cluain Coirpthe, and that as long as there should be one, there should only be one man of them in succession to another. And this is what is still fulfilled, and will be fulfilled till doom. And a servitor went with Berach, and thus they parted.

'Life of Berach' in C. Plummer ed.and trans. Bethada Naem nErenn – Lives of Irish Saints, Vol II, (Oxford 1922), 41.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Saint Rupert of Salzburg, March 27

March 27 is the feast of Saint Rupert of Salzburg, a saint whose origins are not entirely clear but who some traditions link with Ireland. Canon O'Hanlon has no difficulty in claiming the saint as an Irishman and seems to relish the chance to lay out his impressive achievements in the account below, taken from Volume III of the Lives of the Irish Saints:

St. Rudbert, or Rupert, Bishop of Saltzburgh.
 [Seventh or Eighth Century.]

 This holy man was a great lover of chastity and temperance. His zeal for the conversion of souls was very great, and he was so charitable, that he always gave abundantly of his substance, thus impoverishing himself, in order to enrich the poor. Also, in fasting, in watching, and in other acts of mortification, he took care to ensure a victory over temptations. The record of this renowned saint is contained in a very ancient Life, said to have been written, by Arno, Bishop of Saltzburgh, who flourished in the year 800. His Acts are to be found, likewise, in the collections of Lippeloo, of Canisius, of Colgan, of Brunner, of Rader, of John Aventinus, of Jacobus Januensis, of Surius, of Cornelius Grazius, of Haruaeus, of Valentinus Leuctius, of Marcus Velsirus, of Wigulseus Hundius, of Petrus de Natalibus, of Arnold Wion, and of Petrus Cratepolius. Also, notices will be found, in the Chronicon Generale Mundi, in the work of Gaspard Brusch, in that of Le Cointef, of the Bollandists, of the Benedictines, of the Cistercian Monk, of Baillet, and of Alban Butler. According to several writers, St. Rupert was by birth a Frenchman. Other accounts have it, that his origin had been derived from the French kings, and from the chieftains of Scotia —interpreted, by most writers, to mean Hibernia. Several writers have asserted, that St. Rupert lived, during the fifth and sixth centuries. Bishop De Burgo has very particularly noted the year of his birth to be A.D. 537. Upon no slight grounds, Mabillon and Bulteau think this saint lived a whole century later than is generally supposed, and that he flourished in the seventh and eighth centuries. There are, no doubt, irreconcilable statements to be found in his Acts, which seem to have been derived from uncertain traditions, and all of which cannot be received as authentic. According to Dempster, St. Rupert descended from a race of chiefs, belonging to Scotia. However, most of the German writers, who have treated about their great Apostle—drawing their accounts from Bishop Arno of Saltzburgh, or from some anonymous disciple of St. Eberhard, Bishop of Saltzburgh,—have agreed, that their patron belonged to Ireland, and this also the more ancient accounts seem to establish. It is thought, moreover, that the foreign name Rupert, or Rudpert, may have been a modification, from the Irish name Robertach, or Rophartach. He was of royal blood, and the Acts attributed to Bishop Arno state, that he was baptized in Scotia, by St. Patrick.

However, our saint was still more illustrious for his faith and piety; as, likewise, for his ecclesiastical learning, and for the extraordinary virtues and self-abnegation he practised, from his youth, and as he grew to manhood. Despising riches and pleasures, leaving his parents and native country, he is said to have visited Rome, where he made a pilgrimage to the sacred places, with great devotion. There, too, he learned what places he should select, for his future mission and government. We are told, likewise, that his brother Trudbertus and his sister Erentrude were his companions, as they had resolved on missionary labours and sacrifices abroad, when leaving their own country. The time for separation from his brother and sister had now come; and Trudbert, leaving with them the bounds of Italy, came to a valley, called Prysgangia, or Brisgangia, not far from the River Rhine. Here, he had resolved on taking up his residence,and here, too, he began to cultivate some wild land, near his hermitage. But, soon it was destined to become the place of his martyrdom. Meantime, the holy Rupert and his angelic sister Erentrude continued their journey, along the bed of the Rhine, until they came to Bormacia, now known as Worms, on that great river.

At this time, Hilpert, Hildebert, or Childebert, as variously written, was king over that part of the country—the people of which are called Vangiones,—and during the second year of his reign, St. Rupert arrived. He drew persons from the neighbourhood, as from remote provinces, to receive his doctrine, advice and instructions. He removed all their doubts and scruples. He comforted the afflicted, while he cured the sick. He healed the disorders of souls, and moved many by his great example. At tis time, he was in the fortieth year of his age. So distinguished were his merits, that these caused him to be elevated, with universal acclaim, to the Episcopal See, at Worms. However, a tyrant, named Borcharius, hating the Church and clergy, and ruling that people, among whom he lived—they being for the most part idolaters—could not bear the lustre of such sanctity, which condemned their irregularities and superstitions. About the year 580, it is said, they beat him with rods, loaded him with all manner of outrages, and then expelled him their city. This he bore with great meekness and patience.
For two years, he is said to have wandered, as an exile, and during this interval, he made a second journey to Rome, in the time of Pope Pelagius II. While here, he prayed to the Almighty for light to guide his future course, and feeling that Germany was destined to become the theatre of his labours, Rupert set out once more for that country. But God, who protected his servant, had prepared for him a rich harvest of souls. At that time, Theodo, or Theodon the Elder, was Duke of Bavaria. At this time, too, he was a Pagan chief. Hearing about the great reputation and miracles of St. Rupert, that ruler sent messengers to him. These noblemen earnestly besought our saint, in the name of Theodon, to come and preach the gospel to his people, the Baioarians, or Bavarians. The old Reginum, afterwards called Rigensbourg, and now Ratisbon, was the capital of all those provinces. This happened two years after Rupert's expulsion from Worms, and about A.D. 582. However,according to the Salzburg tradition, he came to Ratisbon, during the first half of the sixth century while several writers hold, that St. Rupert did not arrive there, before the time of Duke Theodo II., A.D. 696, and, in the second year of the reign of King Childebert III. When our saint approached the city, Theodo and all his courtiers came to meet him, and he was conducted to the court, in a sort of triumphal progress. Nevertheless, the Christian faith had been planted, in that country, two hundred years before, by St. Severinus. He was regarded, as the Apostle of Noricum, or Austria. After his death, heresies and heathenish superstitions prevailed. These had almost entirely extinguished the light of the Gospel, for a long interval. St. Valentine, Bishop of Passau, had also laboured, in those parts. Bagintrude, the sister of Duke Theodon, had been already a Christian. Therefore she had religiously disposed her brother; and, through his excellent example, that whole country was ready to receive the Christian faith. Soon Rupert found the hearts, both of the nobles and of the people, quite docile to the Word of God. Having the help of other zealous priests, whom he had brought with him, our saint instructed the chief. Having ordered a general fast, Rupert baptized Duke Theodon with the lords and people of that whole country. God confirmed his preaching by many miracles. At the chief's request, Rupert went afterwards on board a vessel, and he sailed down the Danube, through Norica, even to lower Pannonia. In the villages, towns, and castles, of these countries, the great herald of the Gospel proclaimed the glad tidings of salvation, and everywhere the empire of paganism began to crumble, while the practices of idolatry and superstition began to disappear.
 After Ratisbon, the capital, the second chief seat of his labours was Laureacum, now called Lorch, where he healed several diseases, by prayer, and where he made many converts. Through the Alpine region of Carinthia, he travelled and preached. The Duke and his subjects desired that St. Rupert should definitely fix upon a place, for his permanent residence, as a bishop. He came to a lake, called Walarius, otherwise, the Waller-zee. Here, he erected a church, in honour of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Thence, he went towards the River Juvavia, and he found there a romantic and mountainous region, very suitable for his purpose. That place was covered with woods, and, at the time, it was only sparsely inhabited, although formerly it was the site of a well-known city. Old Juvavia was then almost in ruins; but, it was soon rebuilt, and, afterwards, it was called Saltzbourg. Rupert is called the first Archbishop of this See, by Dempster. Here, the holy prelate built a church, dedicated to St. Peter, to which, afterwards, he added a monastery, and thus secured the permanency of his infant church. The Duke Theodon adorned and enriched it, with many magnificent donations. These enabled St. Rupert to establish clerics, and to found there several noble churches and monasteries. After that, Theodon became infirm. Before this prince's death, his son Theodebert, or Diotper, was called to his bedside, and strongly recommended to aid the good work commenced. His zeal and piety augmented considerably the revenues of the Church, in Salzburgh; and, Theodebert, in all things, obeyed the instructions of his father. Through his munificence, the church of St. Maximilian was established, having a large tract of wood, the village of Albina, and several possessions, to found a monastic house attached to it. With a view of spreading still more the reign of Christ, St. Rupert took a journey into his own country, in order to procure a new supply of able labourers. He brought back to Saltzbourg twelve holy missionaries, with his niece St. Erentrude, a virgin, consecrated to God. He built for her a great monastery, called Nunberg. Over this, she presided, as the first abbess. The illustrious prelate Rupert laboured, for several years, in this See; and, he travelled with a chosen band of disciples, over Norica. Wherever he preached the Gospel of Christ, numbers abandoned their errors and vices, acquiring charity, humility, and all other Christian virtues, in their stead.
This illustrious evangelist is said to have brought over the whole Bavarian nation to the faith, before his mission closed. He declared with a prophetic spirit to his disciples and friends, that the day of his departure was now fast approaching. This caused the most intense emotion and the deepest sorrow. But, recommending them, with the people of Salzburgh and of Norica, to Christ, Rupert most earnestly desired, that his successor should be chosen. Wherefore, a very holy man, called Vitalis, was elected. The Lent now approached, and he was attacked with febrile symptoms. Afterwards, exhorting his friends to be resigned, and to practise the virtues becoming Christians, the holy bishop felt that the supreme moment had come, when the morning of Christ's Resurrection from the grave had dawned upon him. After St. Rupert had celebrated the Easter Mass, he received the Holy Viaticum, while a number of his familiars stood in tears, by his bed-side. Certain religious men, who were present, saw Angels bearing his soul to Heaven, while they sang canticles. Easter-day fell that year, on the 27th of March; and, hence, this is regarded, as his Natalis. As we have seen, great differences of opinion prevail, regarding the year for his departure. In one instance, it is asserted, that he lived to the ripe age of eighty-six, and that he was honourably interred, in the church of St. Peter, at Saltzburgh. Some writers place his death, early in the seventh century, as at A.D. 623, or 628; others have it, between 705 and 710; while, the learned Mabillon asserts, that he died A.D. 718. There seems to be considerable variance, also, regarding the length of time he ruled over Saltzburgh, as bishop; for, while some writers set down twelve years, others again have it, that he was forty-two, forty-four, or even forty-six, years, in the episcopate of that See. It is said, he wrote a Book, On the True Faith, addressed to Theodo, Prince of the Bavarians, as also Epistles to different persons. If we credit Dempster, he wrote other works, but Colgan states, no other writer has mentioned these. At this day, the Roman Martyrology, and different other Martyrologies, commemorate him. The Carthusian Martyrology, in like manner, Molanus, Petrus Galesinus, Canisius, Felix, Hugh Menard, Arnold Wion, Ferrarius, Saussay, Dorgain, assign his chief festival to this date. In Convaeus' list of Irish Saints, St. Rudpertus is mentioned, as hereditary prince of the kingdom, first Bishop of Salzburg, and patron of Pannonia, Bavaria, and Norica, at the 27th of March. At this same date, he is set down by Dempster, who claims him as a Scottish saint. Bishop De Burgo prepared a Proper Office for him, and it has been compiled, from the Proper Offices, contained in the Breviaries of Salzburgh, of Vienna, of Herbipolis, and of Frisingen. This is not recited, however, in the Irish Church. Henry Fitzsimon's Catalogue enters him as Rudbertus, Bishop, at the 27th of March, on the authority of Molanus, Wolfang and Lacius. The latter states, also, that he was a son to the King of Hibernia. In the anonymous list of Irish saints, his name also appears, at the same date, as Rudbertus. The countries he has served justly celebrate his memory, in their own Proper Offices. In Ireland, his Office is recited as a Double, but with the Common Lessons, on the 27th of March. His feast is set down for this day, likewise, in the work of Stephen White, and it occurs in the "Circle of the Seasons."
  Great miracles were wrought, through his intercession, when he had been removed to life eternal. This great and holy man, as would appear from the earliest Bavarian records and traditions, was a native of Ireland, and therefore his Acts are very justly set down, in our collection. We should feel proud of the honour he conferred on our country, and grateful for the services he has rendered to the universal Church, in any alternative; for, he is regarded, as the Apostle of Bavaria, Austria, Pannonia, Styria and Norica. Into these pagan provinces, he brought the Gospel, and with it, the crowning work of Christian civilization.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Saint Mochta of Inis-Mochta, March 26

March 26 is the feast day of a 9th/10th-century County Meath saint, Mochta of Inis-Mochta. Canon O'Hanlon starts off by telling us that he is not to be confused with Saint Mochta of Louth, an earlier and much better-known figure whose feast is celebrated on August 19. I have followed up on one of O'Hanlon's references, to the work of diocesan historian Dean Anthony Cogan, who reproduced the references to Inis-Mochta from the Irish Annals. These give the impression that the island monastery must have been a foundation of some substance as both Viking and native invaders found it worth attacking. There is a particularly vivid description at the year 939 of the Vikings coming across the frozen lake to plunder the monastery on the ice. Our saint had already reposed by that time, as his death was noted some seventeen years earlier, but 'the miracles of God and the patron saint' are credited with preserving the island from being destroyed by fire in the year 1138. I will begin with the account of Saint Mochta by Canon O'Hanlon, taken from Volume III of his Lives of the Irish Saints and then proceed to the notes by Dean Cogan:

St. Mochta, of Inis-Mochta, now Inishmouthy, or Inishmot, County of Meath. 

[Ninth and Tenth Centuries]

Different from another celebrated saint of this name, and connected with Louth, is the present holy man. The Bollandists have a notice of him. We find, on this day recorded, in the Martyrology of Donegal, the name Mochta of Inis-Mochta. This locality has been identified with Inishmouthy, county of Meath, by William M. Hennessy. It is also called Inishmot, now a parish, in the barony of Lower Slane. The ruins of Inis-Mochta church are still to be seen, on a romantic spot of ground, containing about two acres. A solitary wall only remains, at the present time; and, latterly, the graveyard has been neglected for interments. This locality was formerly an island. At present, the site is surrounded by low, marshy ground, which is frequently covered with water, during the winter season. The name of this place maybe rendered, in English, "the Island of Mochta." His festival was celebrated here, on the 26th of March. This saint appears to have flourished, in the early part of the tenth century. The death of Mochta of the Island, son to Cearnachan, priest of Armagh, is recorded at A.D. 922. There can hardly be a doubt, but that he is identical with the present saint.
Inishmot, or Inis-Mochta, i.e., the Island of St. Mochta. A religious house stood here, dedicated to St. Mochta, whose festival was celebrated on the 26th of March. The Four Masters have the following notices of this place:

"922. Mochta of the Island, son of Cearnachan, Priest of Armagh, died.

"939. Unusual frost, so that the rivers and lakes were passible; and the foreigners (Danes) plundered Inis-Mochta on the ice.

"1025. An army was led by Flavertach O'Neill, and Maelseachlainn, into Meath, and they obtained hostages, and entered Inis-Mochta upon the ice, and plundered the island, then in the possession of the foreigners (Danes).

"1138. Under this year the Four Masters describe a war between the O'Conors of Connaught, the O'Ruarks of Breffny, and the O'Carrols of Orgial, on the one side, and the Leinstermen, the Meathmen, and the Danes, on the other. After reporting some military evolutions the annalists proceed:

"After this the Meathmen, Leinstermen, and the foreigners, proceeded to Inis-Mochta to plunder it, and a countless number of them went on rafts, and by swimming, on the lake, to reach the island; and a party of them did reach the island. The people of the island afterwards came to them in vessels, and numbers of them (the aggressors) were drowned and slain by them; and the party who were on the island fled from thence, not having been able to burn the island, through the miracles of God and the patron saint."

"1150. A royal journey by Murtogh O'Loghlan, with the chieftans of the North of Ireland, to Inis-Mochta, to meet O'Carroll and O'Ruark. The hostages of Connaught were brought him to that place without a hosting, through the blessing of Patrick, the successor of Patrick, and his clergy. He divided Meath on this occasion into three parts, between O'Connor, O'Ruark, and O'Carroll; and they banished Murrogh O'Melaghlann from Meath, through the curse of the successor of Patrick and his clergy."

Dr. O’Donovan justly remarks: "The ruins of the church of Inis-Mochta are still to be seen on a spot of ground containing about two acres, which was formerly an island, and is now surrounded by low, marshy ground, which is always flooded in winter."


Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

'Give your assent, Mary; you shall bear a beautiful son': The Feast of the Annunciation in Irish Sources

As today is the Feast of the Annunciation, I republish a 2010 essay from my former blog where I examine some of the Irish sources which record it:

Pictorial Lives of the Saints (1878)

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have been trying to gather together some of the Irish sources for this feast and turned first to the Martyrologies to see if the date of March 25 was that observed in the earliest Irish calendars. The entry for March 25 in the Martyrology of Oengus is an interesting one as it links this feast to not only the crucifixion of Christ but also to the martyrdom of the apostle James. Canon O'Hanlon supplies a translation from the Leabhar Breac copy of the Felire Oengusso:

“The Crucifixion and Conception
Of Jesus Christ, it is meet
On one feast with piety [to celebrate them]
With the passion of James”.

and comments:
The Incarnation and Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Martyrdom of the Apostle St. James. In the "Feilire" of St. Oengus, we find the foregoing festivals noted, as having been celebrated, on this day, in the ancient Irish Church. The feast of Christ's Incarnation is now usually called that of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There seems to have been a very generally received tradition, likewise, that the Crucifixion of Our Divine Saviour occurred on this day. Besides, the Martyrdom of St. James, the Apostle, who was beheaded by Herod, about the Feast of the Pasch, is celebrated in many ancient Martyrologies. Sometimes, the present Apostle is called "Frater Domini", and sometimes, "Frater S. Joannis Evangelistae." [1]

A more recent commentator, Father Peter O'Dwyer, looks at the Martyrology of Tallaght, which he describes as ' the immediate source of the Felire Oengusso' and records its entry for today:

Dominus noster Jesus Christus crucifixus est et conceptus et mundud factus est .... Et conceptio Mariae. (Our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and conceived and the world was made ... and the conception of Mary.)

Father O'Dwyer also notes that the Crucifixion and the Annunciation are linked in the Stowe Missal. In a footnote he adds:
The tradition concerning the coincidence of the two dates is recorded by St. Augustine PL, 42, Cols. 893-94 and is found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum on 25 March which is described as the anniversary of both events, the Annunciation and the Crucifixion. [2]

Thus it would seem that this double commemoration is not something unique to the early Irish Church.

Mrs Helena Concannon, who examined the history of Marian devotion in Ireland some fifty years before Father O'Dwyer, has an account of a sermon preached at the great Columban foundation of Bobbio:
A Bobbio sermon on the Annunciation has some beautiful passages. One reproduces a favourite Bobbio motif: the contrast between Mother Mary and Mother Eve:

“Satan by the serpent spoke to Eve, and through her and her hearing, brought death to the world. God by the angel uttered the word to Mary and poured out life on the whole world”.

And then it goes on: “Holy Mary was made the heavenly ladder, because God through her descended to the earth that, through her, mankind may deserve to ascend to the heavens. When the angel said Ave, he offered to her the heavenly salutation. When he said 'full of grace' he showed forth that now the wrath of condemnation was wholly set aside, and that the grace of full blessing was restored”. [3]

The Annunciation is also praised in Irish poetry. Scholar Andrew Breeze has published a number of articles on this feast. In one he looks at the theme of the Mother of God being the daughter of her Son. This motif, he suggests, is earlier than the one alluded to in the Bobbio sermon where the Ave of the angel reverses the sorrow brought by Eva 'Eve' to the world. Breeze locates the origins of the daughter of her Son motif in North Africa, and thus one automatically thinks of the writings of Saint Augustine as the most likely source for its dissemination into Ireland. Breeze, however suggests that it may have come directly from Spain, where the eleventh Council of Toledo in 675 declared Christ to have been both father and son to the Virgin Mary. It was a theme which had clearly reached the monastic poet Cú Chuimne of Iona (d. 747), for it is reflected in his Hiberno-Latin composition Cantemus in omni die (Let us sing every day) in praise of the Blessed Virgin. Stanza Eight as translated by Breeze reads:

Maria, mater miranda,
patrem suum edidit,
Per quem aqua late lotus
totus mundus credidit.

Mary, wondrous mother,
bore her own father,
through whom the whole world,
washed in water, believed. [4]

He then goes on to an interesting discussion of how this theme might have reached Cú Chuimne, which centres around the fact that Cú Chuimne was linked to a group of scholars at the monastery of Lismore, County Waterford. Lismore had a monastic library rich in Spanish texts, including those of the Council of Toledo. Further proof that this Council's texts were known soon after 675 in Ireland is shown by their quotation in the Hiberno-Latin scriptural commentary De Ordine Creaturarum, which  was written before 700.

The Iona link with this motif is maintained in an 11th-century poem attributed to Saint Columbcille, stanza eight of which reads, in the translation of Father Paul Walsh:

O victorious one, O founder,
O multitudinous, O strong one,
Pray with us to Powerful Christ,
The Father and thy Son. [5]

I close though with my personal favourite among the Irish poems, that of Blathmac, son of Cú Brettan:

151. Well did there come a stout messenger from God, the Father, to woo you! Well did you assume a modest sober countenance at the words of Gabriel!

152. ‘God be with you, Mary, full of grace’, said Gabriel (wondrous countenance!) – You are wholly blessed and the fruit of your holy womb’.

153. ‘The Lord has sent me on a journey’ said Gabriel, ‘concerning a message: that you will be the mother of Christ’ – fair tidings! – ‘a son that will save your race’.

154. ‘I declare that I know not man in the matter of cohabitation, holy bright one; true chaste virginity of body, this have I offered to God, the Father’.

155. Said Gabriel: ‘Give your assent, Mary; you shall bear a beautiful son; let Jesus be his name, he will be the saviour of the world.’

156. Then you conceived (clear telling!) on the eight of the calends of April; and you bore a son of whom I vaunt on the eight of the calends of January.

157. How well that you conceived Christ (victorious flame!) without marring of true virginity by the power of the Holy Spirit, a son that has caused great riches to us! [6]


[1] Rev. John O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, Vol. III, (Dublin, 1875), 952.

[2] Peter O'Dwyer, O.Carm., Mary: a history of devotion in Ireland (Dublin, 1988), 58-59.

[3] Mrs H. Concannon, The Queen of Ireland - An Historical Account of Ireland's Devotion to the Blessed Virgin (Dublin, 1938), 42-43.

[4] Andrew Breeze, 'The Annunciation I: Mary, Daughter of her Son' in The Mary of the Celts (Leominster, 2008), 1-3.

[5] Rev. Paul Walsh, 'An Irish Hymn to the Blessed Virgin', Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. XXIX., 172-178.

[6] James Carney, ed. and trans., The Poems of Blathmac Son of Cú Brettan - Together with the Irish Gospel of Thomas and a Poem on the Virgin Mary (Dublin, 1964).

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Monday 24 March 2014

Saint Lughaidh of Clonleigh, March 24

March 24 is the commemoration of a County Donegal saint, Lughaidh of Clonleigh. The calendars also record his patronymic and the locality associated with him. Canon O'Hanlon, in his account below, also notes that Saint Lughaidh may also have been related to Saint Colum Cille:

St. Lughaidh, son of Eochaidh, of Cluain-laogh, now Clonleigh, County of Donegal.
[Sixth Century.] 

A holy man is recorded, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 24th of March, as Lughaidh, mac Eachach. He is classed, among the disciples of St. Columkille.  The Bollandists pass him over, with a few brief remarks. We are told, that Lugaid Mocu-Theimne, or "the son of Teimne," was the son of Eochaid, son of Ulan, son to Eogan, son to Niall of the Nine Hostages, as his paternal pedigree has been traced, in the Genealogies of the Irish Saints. He was a relation of St. Columba, and his companion, when the latter first set out on his voyage to the shores of Britain. As we are informed, by the Martyrology of Tallagh, this saint belonged to Cluain Laigh. This place is at present called Clonleigh, meaning the "pasturage,"  "lawn," or "insulated meadow of the calves." This parish is situated, on the western bank of the River Foyle, about two miles northward from Lifford, in the barony of Raphoe, and in the county of Donegal, formerly Tyrconnell. There was a monastery of considerable importance, in this place. Marianus O'Gorman and Cathal Maguire have this holy man, in their respective Calendars. On this day is entered, likewise, in the Martyrology of Donegal, Lughaidh, son to Eochaidh, of Cluain-laogh.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Saint Lassar, Daughter of Fintan, March 23

The earliest of the Irish calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght, records a female saint, Lassar, daughter of Fintan, at March 23. She is one of fourteen saints with this name found in the Irish calendars, most of whom are completely obscure figures. Canon O'Hanlon can bring us only the barest details regarding this one:

St. Lassair, or Lassar, Daughter of Fintain.

An entry appears, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 23rd of March, regarding St. Lassair, daughter of Fintain. On this day is registered, likewise, in the Martyrology of Donegal, Lassar, daughter of Fionntan. The Bollandists notice Lassara filia Fintani.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Saint Molocca, Son of Colman Finn, March 22

On March 22 the Irish calendars commemorate Saint Molocca, son of Colman Finn, of Lilcach. Having both a patronymic and a place name recorded with the saint does not do a great deal to help identify him, as Canon O'Hanlon's brief entry below shows. He quotes, however, the opinion of Father Anthony Cogan that the place name may refer to a monastic site in County Meath. Cogan cited the records from the Annals of the Four Masters recording the deaths of prominent holy men associated with this site but our saint does not feature among them. We can start with Canon O'Hanlon's account and then move to Father Cogan:

St. Molocca, or Molocus, son of Colman Finn, of Lilcach

Such is the description we find, regarding this almost unknown holy personage. He is entered, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 22nd of March, under the designation, Molocca mac Colmain find i Lilchaich. A notice of his feast occurs in the Bollandists' collection. Again, the name Molocca, son of Colman Finn, occurs in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having been venerated on this day. The exact locality of Lilcach, or Liolcach, has not been determined. It was near the Boyne, as we are informed; and, in all probability, not far removed from Slane, in the county of Meath.


The exact location of this monastery, called Liolcach, or Lilcach, has not as yet been identified. It was situated near the Boyne, and in all probability not far from Slane. The following notices of this place occur in the Four Masters:
512. Died, St. Erck, Bishop of Slane and Liolcach. 
723. St. Gall of Lilcach died. 
743. Cuan, Anchorite of Lilcach, died. 

 In the Martryology of Tallaght the festival of St. Cillene of Lilchaich is marked as having been commemorated on the 12th of March. 

Rev. A. Cogan, Diocese of Meath, Ancient and Modern, Volume 1, (Dublin, 1862), 229.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Friday 21 March 2014

Saint Momhanna, March 21

Another of our obscure female saints is commemorated on March 21. Canon O'Hanlon can bring us only the barest details from the calendars:

St. Momhanna, Virgin.

The name of St. Momhanna, a Virgin, occurs in the Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Donegal, as having a festival, on this day; while the Bollandists notice her, as Momanna Virgo.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 20 March 2014

Saint Aedhan of Cluain-Maelain, March 20

Another of our many obscure holy men is recorded in the Irish calendars at March 20. Canon O'Hanlon reckons that the locality Cluain-Maelain associated with the Saint Aedhan noted on this day is probably Clonmellon, County Westmeath:

St. Aedhan, of Cluain-maelain, probably, Clonmellon, County of Westmeath.

The Martyrology of Tallagh records this holy man, at the 20th of March. The place may be identical with that locality, formerly denominated Cluain-Milain, i.e., Milan's Lawn or Meadow, now Clonmellon, a small town in the barony of Delvin, and county of Westmeath. Marianus O'Gorman records Aedanus, of Cluain-moelain, at this date. We find the name, Aedhán, of Cluain-maeláin, also set down, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having a festival, at this date. The Bollandists enter his feast, likewise, on the 20th of March.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

'Jesu's Pleasant Fosterer'- Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19

Apart from looking at the actual Irish saints who are commemorated on our native calendars, it is also interesting to look at the commemorations of the saints of the universal church. March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph and he is noted in a quatrain in the Martyrology of Oengus along with the native Saint Lactean of Freshford and Saint Gregory. The latter may mark the feast of the ordination of Pope Gregory the Great, for whom the Irish had enormous regard and whose main feast occurs on March 12. Although he comes last in the line up of saints, Saint Joseph is certainly not least as the entry from the calendar shows:

19. My Lachtóc with Gregory,
the loveable champion who is higher:
Joseph, name that is nobler,
Jesu's pleasant fosterer.

to which the scholiast notes add:  
Joseph, i.e. Mary's spouse: it is nobler to call him 'Jesu's foster-father' than "Joseph."

This made me wonder if the practice of fosterage in ancient Ireland meant that our people would have been quite accepting of the notion of Our Lord having a foster father.

Canon O'Hanlon adds this brief entry in Volume III of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

The Feast of St. Joseph, Confessor, the Fosterer of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Such is the title given to the chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the "Feilire" of St. Aengus, at this date, which it seems was his festival day in the early Irish Church, as it is yet throughout Christendom. The Bollandists, various other hagiologists, and the ancient Fathers, treat largely and learnedly, regarding his race, vocation, and religious culture.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Saint Caemhán, the Holy, March 18

Yet another obscure Irish saint is recorded on the Irish calendars at March 18, Caemhán, the Holy. The seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, attempted to make a Patrician link, but Canon O'Hanlon remains unconvinced:

St. Caemhan, the Holy.

Caemhan, denominated the Holy, is set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having a festival, at this date. The Bollandists notice a St. Caimanus, a Bishop, occurring at the 18th of March, in two distinct Irish Martyrologies. Colgan thinks a disciple of St. Patrick, known as Coeman of Kill-rath, may be identified with the present saint. The same writer identifies the latter with a Coeman, Deacon, mentioned in St. Patrick's Acts.  There appears to be much confusion, in the short notes of writers, as relating to the present saint's identity.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Monday 17 March 2014

Saint Failtigern, March 17

March 17 is the feast day of the most widely-recognized Irish saint today, our national apostle, Saint Patrick. He also shares his commemoration with one of the most obscure, a holy woman, Saint Failtigern, know only from the recording of her name on this day in the Irish calendars, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Failtigern or Faoiltigern, Virgin.

An entry is found, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 17th of March, regarding St. Failtigern, a holy woman, whose personal history is involved in great obscurity. The Bollandists have a mere notice. Faoiltighem, Virgin, is registered, also, in the Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman, and in that of Donegal, as having had veneration paid her, on this day.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Saint Fethmec of Kiltoom, March 16

On March 16 Canon O'Hanlon brings us this entry for Saint Fethmec of Kiltoom, a locality which he places near to Castlepollard, County Westmeath:

St. Feithmech or Felmac, of Cill-Toama, now Kiltoom, County of Westmeath.

The Bollandists very briefly notice this saint, at the present day, but they style him, incorrectly, Tetmechus Episcopus de Kill-tuama. On the 16th of March, we read in the Martyrology of Tallagh,  he record, Esp. Felmac o Cill Cuanda (no Tuama). From the prefix, we must regard this saint, as having been a bishop. Yet, we find simply, Feithmech, of Cill-Toama, set down in the Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Donegal, as having been venerated on this day. Under the head of Cill Cuana, Duald Mac Firbis enters Fethmech, Bishop of Cill Cuana, i.e., Fethmech, Bishop of Cill Tuama, or (Cill) Toama. The former should now be written Kilquan, and the other Kiltoome. There are many places, in Ireland, bearing these names. The locality here indicated is thought to have been Kiltoom, near Castlepollard, county of Westmeath. During the eighth and ninth centuries, certain abbots of this place are recorded, in the Annals of the Four Masters; and, yet, we have not been able to find the present saint's name among them.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Saint Eoghan, March 15

March 15 is the feast day of a Saint Eoghan, about whom no other information seems to be known. As the Bollandists note, this is a common name although the scholiast on the seventeenth-century Martyrology of Donegal tried to suggest that he may be Eoghan, the son of Saran, to whom the monastic rule of Saint Ailbhe was addressed. The evidence seems less than convincing, but if you would like to read a translation of the text of the rule it can be found within the series on the Notes on the Life of Saint Brendan, roughly halfway down the page here.

St. Eugenius or Eoghan.

The Martyrology of Tallagh enters a festival for S. Eugenius, simply, at the 15th of March. The Bollandists have merely the name, with an observation, that it is one often met with in the Irish Calendars. The Martyrology of Donegal this day records, Eoghan. "I think," remarks the writer, "this is Eoghan, son of Saran, of Cluain Caolain, for whom Ailbhe, of Imleach lobhair, composed the very hard rule, which begins, 'Say for me to the son of Saran,' &c. For every other person of the same name, that is in the Martyrology, has some title, or church, which he possessed, except the Eoghan, who comes at this day." In a subsequent page of the Martyrology of Donegal, Dr. Todd places Cluain  Coelain, in the county of Tipperary.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Thursday 13 March 2014

Saint Conchenna of Killevey, March 13

Grave of St Moninne at Killevey (2013)

On March 13 the Irish calendars commemorate the memory of Saint Conchenna, a holy woman of the monastery founded by Saint Moninne at Killevey, County Armagh. Her death is noted in The Annals of the Four Masters:
The Age of Christ, 654, "Coincenn, of Cill-Sleibhe, died."
Not much more appears to be known of her life, but Canon O'Hanlon's account notes that Conchenna was said to have been a sister to Saint Fintan Munna and the subject of one of his miracles. He also wonders if Saint Conchenna was abbess of the community or merely a member of it, but having raised this question he goes on to answer it by noting that the Annals usually only mark the passing of the superiors of religious houses:
St. Conchenna, Conchend, or Coincheand, Virgin, of Kill-Slebhe, or Killevey, County of Armagh. [Seventh Century]

Colgan endeavours to evolve some incidents regarding this holy virgin, at the 13th of March. The Bollandists have only a short notice of St. Conchenna. This saint was daughter to Tulchan, and her mother was Fethlemidia. She was a sister to St. Fintan Munnu, who is venerated at the 21st of October. Thus was she descended, from the noble Hy-Niall race of Ulster. This holy virgin embraced a religious life, in a nunnery, which had been founded by St. Monenna, at Kill-Slebhe, now Killevey, at the foot of Sliabh Cuilinn, or Slieve Gullion, in the southern part of the county of Armagh. Here she lived a very holy life, and illness which caused her death happened. But she was brought to life again, by her holy brother St Munnu, and at the request of their mother. There seems to be a doubt, as to whether she was abbess over the community, at Kill-Sleblie, or a simple member of it. She finally departed this life, A.D. 654; and, although the Four Masters give her no distinctive title, yet, Colgan remarks, they scarcely ever note the death of holy persons, not distinguished as presiding over religious houses. The Martyrologies of Tallagh and of Marianus O'Gorman register the name Conchend, at the 13th of March. Also, on this day, the festival of Coincheand was celebrated, as we read, in the Martyrology of Donegal.
Note: This post first published in 2014 has been revised in 2022.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Saint Flannan of Cill-Ard, March 14

March 14 is the commemoration of Saint Flannan of Cill-Ard. As Canon O'Hanlon explains below, identifying both the holy man and his locality is difficult, as all we have to rely on is the recording of both in the Irish calendars, beginning with the earliest, the Martyrology of Tallaght:

St. Flannan of Cill-Ard.

On the 14th of March, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, we find the name of Flanan, Cille aird. Many places, called Killard, are known, in different parts of Ireland. The Bollandists, who barely notice St. Flannanus, at this date, also assert, that, probably, his Kill-aird—formerly called Druimard—was at Hy-Garchon, in Lagenia. For this statement, however, they quote Colgan's authority, in his Acts of St. Aidus. Under either name, it is not to be found on the Ordnance Survey Maps for the county of Wicklow; although, it was called Killaird there, in the time of Colgan. There was a Cill-airidh—said to be known at present as Killerry, in the barony of Tirerrill, county of Sligo—where there appears to have been an ecclesiastical establishment, in the middle of the fourteenth century. The ancient name for Kilworth, in the county of Cork, is said to have been Cill Uird. Marianus O'Gorman and Cathal Maguire have notices of this saint, in their respective Martyrologies. Flannan, of Cill Ard, is mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day. The time when he flourished does not appear to have been ascertained.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Grigoir Belóir - The Irish Church and Pope Gregory the Great

Below is a reprint of a short essay on the admiration of the Irish Church for Pope Saint Gregory the Great. I first published this piece on my former blog, Under the Oak and also at the Saint Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association site.  March 12 is the date of Pope Gregory's death and as such was his traditional feast day.  In the modern Church he is commemorated on September 3, the day of his episcopal consecration.

March 12 is the feastday of one of the most revered figures of the early Irish Church, Pope Saint Gregory the Great. In the Leabhar Breac copy of the Martyrology of Oengus the entry for this day reads:

Before arriving in his country,
For Christ he mortified his body,
The slaughter [er] of an hundred victories
Gregory of Rome, the intrepid.

This notice is but one example of the esteem in which Pope Gregory was held by the Irish, and so I will try to draw together some of the other strands to illustrate what an important figure he was for our native Church. Let's begin with a brief summary of the Pope's life by Luned Mair Davies:
Gregory the Great... was pope from 590 to 604. Since the eighth century he has been regarded as one of the four Fathers of the western Church. Gregory has been referred to as the master of spiritual exegesis. According to Beryl Smalley, for him 'exegesis was teaching and preaching', and it was the didactic element in his works which made Gregory's strongest impact on medieval biblical study. Gregory was born c.540 in Rome to a senatorial family, and in 573 he was prefect of Rome for a year. He founded seven monasteries in all and in 585 he became abbot of the monastery of St Andreas in Rome, one of his foundations. Pope Benedict I named him as one of the seven regional deacons of the city of Rome and in 579 Pope Pelagius II sent him as apocrisarius to the emperor's palace in Constantinople, where he remained for six years. In 590 he himself became pope. Before his death in 604 his achievements included organising the Patrimonium Petri, attempting to convert the Lombards and sending a mission to the Anglo-Saxons. [1]
The details of Gregory's election to the Papacy were recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters:
The Age of Christ, 590. St Gregory of the Golden Mouth was appointed to the chair and successorship of Peter the Apostle, against his will.
to which John O'Donovan, in his edition of the Annals, added:
The memory of this Pope was anciently much revered in Ireland, and he was honoured with the title of Belóir i.e. of the Golden Mouth.

The Irish held the memory of this Pope in such veneration that their genealogists, finding that there were some doubts as to his genealogy, had no scruple to engraft him on the royal stem of Conaire II, the ancestor of the O’Falvys, O’Connells, and other families. His pedigree is given as follows by the O’Clerys in their Genealogies of the Irish Saints:

“Gregory of Rome, son of Gormalta, son of Connla, son of Arda, son of Daithi, son of Core, son of Conn, son of Cormac, son of Corc Duibhne [the ancestor of the Corca Duibhne, in Kerry], son of Cairbre Musc, son of Conaire”.

The Four Masters have given the accession of this Pope under the true year. Gregory was made Pope on the 13th of September, which was Sunday, in the year 590, and died on the 12th of March, 604, having sat thirteen years, six months and ten days. [2]
Not content with turning a Roman aristocrat into a Kerryman, the Irish also applied an epithet more usually associated with the great Eastern saint John Chrysostom to Pope Gregory. That this happened early on is shown by the reference to the golden-mouth in the Paschal Epistle of Cummian, who, writing in the 630s, cited Pope Gregory to help make his case for the Roman computation of the date of Easter:
I turned to the words of Pope Gregory, bishop of the city of Rome, accepted by all of us and given the name 'Golden Mouth', for although he wrote after everyone, nevertheless he is deservedly to be preferred to all. [3]
It seems that this Irish tradition of referring to Pope Gregory as the golden-mouth was something that was passed on to Northumbria. Patrick Sims-Williams sees evidence of it in an anonymous Vita of Gregory the Great produced at the Monastery of Saint Hilda at Whitby:
In ch. 24 the Whitby writer asserts that the Romans called Gregory ‘golden mouth’ (os aureum) because of the eloquence that flowed from his mouth

‘Ut a gente Romana que per ceteris mundo intonat sublimius proprie (sic) de aurea oris eius gratia, os aureum appellatur’ (Life of Gregory, ed. Colgrave, pp.116-18). Colgrave translates ‘therefore he was called the “golden mouthed” by the Romans because of the golden eloquence which issued from his mouth in a very special way, far more sublimely and beyond all others in the world’.

In fact, of course, the Romans called Gregory no such thing – ‘golden mouth’ was rather the epithet of St John Chrysostom – and the writer is probably drawing, directly or indirectly, on an Irish source. In Ireland, as early as c. 632, Gregory was commonly styled os aureum; in vernacular texts this is bel óir or gin óir which suggests that the epithet had its origin in an etymological interpreation of Grigoir, the Irish form of Gregorius, which might be associated with Latin os, oris ‘mouth’ and with Irish óir ‘of gold, golden’. In Anglo-Saxon England, however, the epithet only reappears in the Old English version of Gregory’s Dialogi by Alfred’s assistant, Werferth, bishop of Worcester c. 873 – c. 915, who similarly speaks of a stream of eloquence issuing from Gregory’s ‘golden mouth’ (gyldenmup) and says that the Romans call him Os Aureum, the Greeks Crysosthomas. [4]
Irish interest in the writings of Pope Gregory started during the Pope's own lifetime, as Luned Mair Davies explains:
Gregory’s writings are copious and diverse, although less abundant than those of Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine; some of them reached insular circles at an early date. The 848 letters which he left us in his Registrum Epistolarum are the primary historical source for this period….Gregory also left a collection of homilies, 40 on the Gospels and 22 on the Book of Ezekiel… Gregory enjoyed enormous popularity and prestige among seventh-century Irish ecclesiastics. Columbanus requested the Homilies on Ezekiel in his first letter to Gregory:

Wherefore in my thirst I beg you for Christ’s sake to bestow on me your tracts, which, as I have heard, you have compiled with wonderful skill upon Ezekiel.

In the same letter Columbanus refers to Gregory’s Regula Pastoralis. This work Gregory had written in 591, in response to a communication from Archbishop John of Ravenna, as a directory for bishops and priests. Columbanus also asked Gregory for more of his writings. His letter to Gregory shows how rapid was the dissemination of Gregory’s works in monastic circles.

The Regula Pastoralis was one of the books by Gregory which were especially influential in the Middle Ages. Another was the Dialogi, a collection of popular edifying stories about Italian saints written by Gregory in the years 593-4. In his Vita Columbae, Adomnan, although he makes no explicit mention of the Gregorian Dialogi, in at least three places clearly borrows phrases from the Dialogi to weave into his own narrative.

The evidence of manuscript transmissions shows that of Gregory’s works the Moralia in Job had geographically the widest circulation: this work also was known early, and used early, in Ireland. The earliest known abridgement of Gregory’s commentary on the Book of Job (the Egloga) was Irish, composed about 650 by Lathcen or Laidcend, the son of Baeth, who is most probably to be identified with the Laighden whose obit is given in the Annals of Ulster under the year 661. [5]
Davies has made a particular study of the use of Pope Gregory's work in the Irish Collectio Canonum hibernensis (CCH). The CCH is a collection of excerpts from biblical and medieval sources, divided into over sixty books which cover the behaviour appropriate for a Christian under various subject headings. It survives in a number of manuscripts and a Breton version attributes it to Ruben of Darinis and Cú-Chuimne of Iona. Both of these reputed authors are known to history, the Annals of Ulster record the death of Ruben in 725 and Cú-Chuimne, called sapiens died in 747. Davies continues:
Five of Gregory’s works are quoted in the CCH. They are: the Pastoral Care (Regula Pastoralis), the Homilies on Ezekiel (Homiliae in Hiezechihelem), the Homilies on the Gospels (Homiliae in Evangelia), the Registrum Epistolarum and the Dialogues (Dialogi)… Of the extracts in the CCH from the Dialogi, five are introduced as in vita patrum, four as Gregorius, one as in vita monachorum and three as De dialogo Gregorii et Petri. Of the eleven other extracts from Gregory the Great in the CCH, four are introduced as by Gregorius Romanus and seven as by Gregorius. The epithet Romanus used for Gregory the Great may reflect the fact that the Romani party in the early Irish Church, who followed Rome’s directives in the dating of Easter, looked to Gregory the Great for guidance. [6]
The Pope's homilies were also influential as Davies explains:
Gregory’s Homiliae were a collection of homilies on selected passages from the Gospels written down in the last decade of the sixth century. They were addressed to Roman audiences on various feast-days of the Roman Church. The texts of Homiliae 32 and 37 were quoted in another sermon, the bilingual Old-Irish-Latin Cambrai Homily, which was copied into one of the manuscripts of the CCH. The Latin parts of the homily contain the scriptural quotations and the patristic authority; they are paraphrased in the Old-Irish part to clarify them for an Irish audience who perhaps did not understand Latin. The Cambrai Homily has been dated to the seventh century. How soon after their composition Gregory’s Homiliae reached Ireland is uncertain. In the first decade of the seventh century Columbanus used them on the continent. [7]

In addition, the Pope's works are cited in the collection of sermons known as the Catechesis Celtica. The Irish Liber Hymnorum contains a collection of extracts of the Psalms of David which are attributed to Gregory. His work is also referred to in The Book of Armagh and the Codex Maelbrighde.

Finally, the Irish regard for Pope Gregory is also reflected in the hagiographical record as the lives of a number of saints seek to associate their subjects with the great Pope. Saint Findbarr's tutor, Mac Cuirb, was described as a pupil of Gregory in the Vita Sancti Barri. The formidable seventh-century Irish theologian, Cummian Fota, was likened to Gregory in the list of parallel saints. The entry in the Annals of the Four Masters recording Cummian's death in 661 includes a poem which says:

" If any one went across the sea,
To sit in the chair of Gregory the Great.
If from Ireland no one was fit for it,
If we except Cummian Fota."

Cardinal Moran has written of another Irish saint, Dagan, a disciple of Molua, who also claimed a link to the Pope:
St. Dagan is designated in our martyrologies by the various epithets of the warlike, the pilgrim, the meek, and the noble. He was one of the most ardent defenders of the old Scotic computation of Easter, and as such is commemorated by Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History. About the year 600 he visited Rome, and sought the approbation of the great pontiff St. Gregory, for the rule of his own master, St. Molua, in whose life we thus read –

" The abbot, Dagan, going to Rome, brought with him the rule which St. Molua had drawn up and delivered to his disciples; and pope Gregory having read this rule, said in the presence of all: ‘the saint who composed this rule has truly guarded his disciples even to the very thresholds of heaven.' Wherefore St. Gregory sent his approbation and benediction to Molua.”

St.Dagan, however, was not the only one of our sainted forefathers that sought the sanction of the Holy See for the religious rule which they adopted. In the Leabhar-nah-Uidhre, it is incidentally mentioned that "St. Comgall, of Bangor, sent Beoan, son of Innli, of Teach-Dabeog, to Rome, on a message to pope Gregory (the Great), to receive from him order and rule.” [8]
Even if one is sceptical about the historical value of hagiographical accounts, one Irish saint we can be sure had a demonstrable link to Pope Gregory is Saint Columbanus. John Martyn has published a most interesting paper on Pope Gregory the Great and the Irish in which he examines the correspondence between the two. Columbanus, like Dagan, was a committed supporter of the Irish Easter and didn't hesitate to let his illustrious correspondent know it. In the nineteenth century, some Protestant scholars tried to argue that the robust style of Columbanus was proof that the Irish did not hold the Papacy in high esteem. Martyn, however, feels they rather missed the point:
Pope Gregory the Great's apparently close links with Columban and the Irish clergy between 592 and 601 are revealed through five of his letters: 2.43 (July 592), an encyclical sent to the Irish clergy, almost certainly including Columban; 4.18 (March 594) about an Irish priest valuable to the Pope in Rome; 5.17 (November 594) about Columban's reception of Gregory's 'Pastoral Care'; 9.11 (October 600) praising Columban; and 11.52 (July 601) about an Irish Bishop Quiritus. My version of Columban's letter to the Pope follows, with brief analysis of his irony, word-play and literary style. It shows how the Irishman's erudite and very rhetorical letter would have tickled the Pope's fancy rather than offend him. [9]
Thus there can be no doubt of the very high esteem in which Grigoir Belóir, Gregory of the golden-mouth, was held by the early Irish Church.


[1] Luned Mair Davies The ‘mouth of gold’: Gregorian texts in the Collectio Canonum hibernensis in Próinséas Ní Chatháin & Michael Richter, eds., Ireland and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: texts and transmissions (Dublin, 2001), 250-251.

[2] John O’Donovan, ed. and trans. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, Vol. 1 (2nd edition, Dublin, 1856), 214-215.

[3] Maura Walsh and Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, eds., Cummianus Hibernus, De controversia Paschali, 83. Online version at

[4] Patrick Sims-Williams, Religion and Literature in Western England, 600-800 (Cambridge University Press, 1990), 186-187.

[5] Davies, op.cit., 251-252.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Rev. P.F. Moran, Essays on the Origin, Doctrines and Discipline of the Early Irish Church (Dublin, 1864), 148.

[9] John R.C. Martyn, 'Pope Gregory the Great and the Irish' in Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, Volume 1 (2005), 65-83. Online version at

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2015. All rights reserved.