Monday 7 April 2014

Saint Brynach of Carn Engyli, April 7

April 7 is the feast day of an early Welsh saint, Brynach of Carn Engyli. The details of this holy man's life are shrouded in obscurity, but one suggestion is that he may have started life as Brenach, an Irishman. This is a thesis that Canon O'Hanlon is happy to embrace in the April volume of his Lives of the Irish Saints. He begins by saying that the 12th-century Life of the saint has been published by Rees, this volume, Lives of the Cambro British saints, of the fifth and immediate succeeding centuries, from ancient Welsh & Latin mss. in the British Museum and elsewhere, with English translations, and explanatory notes, to give it its full title, is available at the Internet Archive here. There is also a ready-formatted translation from the 1944 work of A.W. Wade-Evans, Vitae Sanctorum Britanniae et Genealogiae, available here. This medieval Life depicts our saint as voluntarily renouncing the comforts of his high-born status in order to embrace the hardships of the peregrinatio pro Christo. It ends with this tribute:

With how many and how great miracles this saint shone, while he sojourned in the body, with difficulty could any one tell. At last it pleased the Most High to snatch his saint from this preparatory and unstable habitation, and to place him happily in celestial glory among his holy and elect ones. He passed from this world on the seventh day of April, and his body lies buried below the eastern wall of his church. Brynach, saint of God, rejoices in heaven, and great wonders are frequently done on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ performing them.

Canon O'Hanlon has this short account:

St. Brynach, or Brenach, of Carn Engyli, Wales.

[Fifth Century.]

His Life, which is to be found in a Manuscript, belonging to the British Museum, has been lately published by Rees. St. Brynach, as he is called by the Welsh writers, or Brenach, was an Irishman by birth. In Michael Alford's work, the name of Bernacus Abbas is entered, in his Index, as being among the Saints of Anglia; but, the reference to his place, in the Annals, finds only a counterpart in omission. The Bollandists notice him, at the 7th of April, as Abbot Bernacus; and, they state, that his place of abode was traditionally held to have been, in northern Cambria. But, as not having ascertained the genuineness of his Acts, nor his place in history, nor having had time to investigate properly his cultus, they pass over Bernacus Abbas, for want of better information- He is said to have flourished, before the middle of the fifth century. This saint performed great miracles. He lived in a solitary spot, on the banks of the Caman, where he erected a cell and a church. These were encompassed by hills. Here he served God faithfully, until summoned to his heavenly reward. He often ascended a high eminence, to enjoy the vision and discourse of Angels. It was afterwards called the "Mountain of Angels." It now bears the name Carn Engyli, and it overhangs the Nevern. At its foot was built a church. St. Brenach passed out of this world, on the 7th of April. His relics were placed, under the eastern wall of his church.

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