Monday 9 June 2014

Saint Baithín of Iona, June 9

Saint Columba shares his June 9 feastday with his immediate successor and kinsman, Baithín mac Brenainn (Boethen, Baoithin, Baithenus). The Martyrology of Oengus records on this day:

"They went into the eternal kingdom,
Into eternal life of brightest splendour,
Baethine the noble, the angelical,
Columb-cille the resplendent."

and the two are also linked in the later Calendar of Christchurch, Dublin on this date:

In Hibernia; natalis sanctorum abbatorum Columbe et Boetheni successoris ejus.

In Ireland; the natalis of the holy abbot Columba and of his successor Boethen.

The following account of his life has been distilled from the entry in O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints, volume 6:

The immediate successor of the founder was his near relative and most particular favourite St. Baothin. There is a Latin Manuscript Vita S. Baithini preserved among the Archives of the Franciscan Convent, Dublin; also a Latin Manuscript Vita S. Baythini, at Bruxelles. There is also a fragment of an Irish Life of this saint, preserved in a Manuscript of Brother Michael O'Clery, and kept in the Burgundian Library, at Bruxelles. The Bollandists have given a Life of Saint Baithen, with a short preface, at the 9th day of June. This has been taken from a Salamancan Manuscript, which contained, likewise, the Acts of other Irish Saints. This holy man was nearly related to the great St. Columkille. They were the sons of two brothers, and consequently first cousins. Wherefore, St. Baithen or Baitheneus, also called Baithenus and Baithinus, was the son of Brendan, the son of Fergus, son to Conall Gulban. This latter was son to the celebrated Niall of the Nine Hostages. He was likewise called Comin Cominus. St. Baithen is said to have been born A.D. 536.

From his very infancy, he was diligently instructed by the illustrious Abbot, who impressed on his tender mind the words of Divine Wisdom. He is distinguished, as being a dalta, or alumnus of St. Columkille. According to his Acts, from the time he was a child, Baothen had been educated by St. Columba. Under his holy discipline, he learned how to wage a perpetual war with idleness. As his years advanced, he grew stronger and more perfect, in the exercise of all good works. However, being a junior, by several years, he used to be always along with Colum Cille, because they were close in consanguinity and friendship, as they were thoroughly allied in the practice of holy works. Baithen was always either reading, or praying, or serving his neighbour. Sometimes, for the latter purpose, his devotions were occasionally interrupted. When he used to eat food, he was wont to say, "Deus in adjutorium meum intende," between every two morsels. His devotions were so continually practised, that even when he was travelling, or working, or eating, or conversing with any one, this holy man would still be communing with God, and under his tunic, his hands were often clasped in prayer, without any one present knowing it. When he gathered corn along with the monks, he held one hand up beseeching God, while another hand was gathering the corn, as we are informed by the O'Clerys; and the same account is contained in his Latin Acts, where we are informed, he would not brush away the troublesome midges from his face.

In Ireland, Teach Baothin, now Taughboyne, in Cinel Conaill, or Donegal, is said to have been his chief church; but, whether he founded it, or lived there for any time, does not seem to be known. The transmission of the Iona abbacy in one family, and for ages after the time of St. Columba, is one of the most remarkable facts in connexion with his institute. The monks of old had no property in the church or monastery, however, but as servants and stewards to provide for its safe keeping. After the death of Colum Cille, from among the men of Erin the Abbot of Iona was chosen, and he was most frequently selected from among the men of Cinell Conaill, as the O'Clerys remark. Even the appointment seems to have vested in the one chief family of that province. According to this tribal custom, Baithen was now chosen, and St. Columba was immediately succeeded by him in the government of Hy, and consequently in the superintendence over the whole order or institution.

But, he did not long continue to govern the monastery and church at Iona, which must have disappeared ages ago, and long before the Eclus Mor or great Cathedral and Abbey Church of the Diocese of the Isles had been erected in the early part of the thirteenth century. The great master Columba had declared, that his disciple Baithen resembled St. John the Evangelist, the disciple of Christ, in his true innocence, in his perfect works, and in his prudent simplicity of character; but, that their respective teachers, bore no resemblance one to the other. To his last hour, notwithstanding the violent pains he suffered, Baoithen desisted not from his usual employments of writing, praying and teaching. Death surprised him, while praying at the altar, on a certain Tuesday, when a faintness seized upon him. The monks flocked around him in great lamentation, for they thought he was in the last agony. Then, the ministrator Diermitius cried out : "See brothers, between the feasts of both your seniors there is but a short interval." When he spoke these words, Baithen aroused from his sleep-swoon said : "If I have found favour in the sight of God, and if I have continued to please him by a perfect course to this day ; I trust in him, that I shall not die until the Natalis of my great senior." This his desire was actually accomplished, and for six days more his life was prolonged

According to some, Baoithin resigned his soul to Heaven, after three or four years of rule on the same day of the month, that Colum Cille went to Heaven. He departed this life in 595, according to the statement of some writers. It is supposed, by Archbishop Ussher and by Rev. Dr. Lanigan, that as immediate successor of St. Columba, his cousin St. Baoithen, survived him only for a year, neither more nor less, and that he died, A.D. 598. That the day was June the 9th— coinciding with the festival of the illustrious Columkille—is on record, and not doubted by any historical writer. Archbishop Ussher places the day of his departure on the "feria secunda," answering to Monday. He died A.D. 600 or 601, according to other authorities. He was interred at Iona, and most probably in the Relig Oran. His memory was venerated, both at Iona and at Teagh-Baithin, or Taughboyne, in Tir Enda, county of Donegal. He was reputed to be the founder of this latter church. From the bell of St. Baodain or Bothan, it is a common practice of the Donegal people to allow their herds to drink annually from the water of St. Bothan's river. The people too of that district admit the curative efficacy of quenching their thirst, with a draft of the river water, and taken from the bell.

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