August 27 is one of the feastdays ascribed to Auxilius, one of a trio of bishops who is said, along with Secundinus and Isserninus, to have assisted the mission of Saint Patrick to Ireland. Canon O'Hanlon's generation accepted the basic historicity of the various Lives of Saint Patrick and of the elaborate family tree which the hagiographers constructed for our national apostle. Modern scholars, however, cast a much more critical eye over the entire gamut of Patrician studies, some would argue that the memory of these three bishops was taken from the Acts of his predecessor, Palladius. In the later Patrician hagiography Auxilius is depicted as Patrick's nephew, son of his sister Liemania and her husband Restitutus the Lombard. He is associated with a church in County Kildare at Killashee but is also claimed to have a link with a County Donegal church. The 17th-century Martyrology of Donegal records his feast at August 27, but the earliest of the Irish calendars, the Martyrology of Tallaght records two separate feastdays of saint Auxilius, one at 19 March and one at 16 September. Although Canon O'Hanlon believes that today's date represents the true natalis of Saint Auxilius and has an account of him as his lead article for this day, I have chosen to reprint the account by one of his clerical contemporaries, the Rev. Francis Shearman. Father Shearman produced a detailed compendium of the places associated with Saint Patrick, the Loca Patriciana, and usefully summarizes the main details from the traditions associated with Auxilius of Killashee:
AUXILIUS, the son of Restitutus the Lombard and Liemania, the sister of St. Patrick, was with the future apostle of Ireland at Ebmoria, or Ivrea, in Lombardy, when Augustine and Benedict came there on their way to Rome, with intelligence of the decease of Palladius in North Britain, and of his unsuccessful essay in Ireland. When St. Patrick heard this unexpected turn of events, he and his companions went out of their way to a man of wondrous sanctity, a chief bishop named Amator, dwelling in a neighbouring place, and by him St. Patrick was consecrated a bishop, "Lib. Arm.", fol.2, a, b. Another account, "Tr. Th.", p.9, states that this consecration took place in the presence of the Emperor Theodosius and Pope Celestine; on that same occasion Auxilius was ordained a priest, and Isserninus, who was also in the company, received Holy Orders, and was subsequently raised to the the priesthood (Vita 4ta, "Tr. Th.," cap. 31, p.39). They did not come immediately with St. Patrick to Ireland; their arrival in 438 is recorded in the "Chronicon Scottorum". The Annals of Innisfallen record "Secundinus Auxilius et Esserninus mittuntur in auxilium Patricii; nec tamen tenuerunt apostolatum nisi solus Patricius." As Isserninus was sent to Ireland by St. Germanus, Auxilius came also, it may be supposed, through the same agency, both being probably inder his care and instruction. Some years after the arrival of Auxilius, on the occasion of the conversion of the family of Dunlang, king of North Leinster, and the baptism of his sons, Auxilius was consecrated a bishop, and placed over a church near Naas, called from him Cill Ausaille, "Ecclesia Auxilii" in Magh Liffé, and now corruptly Killosy, pronounced "Killóshee". The Scholiast on the "Martyrology of Tamlaght", at March 19, thus writes: "Decimo quarto Calendas Aprilis Auxilinus Episcopus et Coepiscopus, et frater Patricii Episcopi; vel Auxilius nomen ejus. Patricius dixit; Auxilium nomen tuum apud nos; ordinatus es meus Comorbanus et amicus, filius sororis et Episcopus et spiritualis Pter. Septem filii Restituti de Longobardis, Secundinus Nectanus Dabonna, Mogornanus Dariochus Auxilius et Lugnath." The address of St. Patrick to his suffragan on the occasion of his consecration is perhaps the most valuable part of this record, as it tallies with what has been said of him in the "Annals of Innisfallen"... St. Auxilius was also connected with a church in Tir Conail in Ulster; its name was Cill O-m-Bard, and the compilers of the "Martyrology of Donegal", p.447, identify this church with him. He died, according to the "Annals of Ulster", in 460. The "Four Masters" and the "Annals of Clonmacnoise" refer that event to 454. Archbishop Ussher adopts the former date.
The natale of Auxilius is also a matter of uncertainty. The "Martyrology of Donegal" gives it at August 27, that of Tamlaght at March 19, and again at July 30; the former has "Cobuir, son of Goll," and Marianus O'Gorman "Cobair Mac Guill german", which a marginal note in the Brussels MSS. of the "Martyrology of Donegal" thus explains: "Cobair, son of Goll, a German". Cobair, as there suggested, is the Celtic for Auxilium, help or aid; Goll or Guill may be an equivalent for Gaul, the country of Restitutus; and German evidently refers to Morgornan, or Gorman his son, who became the first bishop of the Isle of Man. There are extant "Acts" of a synod held by Patrick and his bishops Auxilius and Isserninus; but as to their being genuine documents of this period, there is much controversy. The church of St. Auxilius us now a parish church in the diocese of Kildare; it became a celebrated monastic institution in subsequent ages, and the native annals make frequent records of its abbots, and its devastation both by the Irish as well as by the Danes.
Rev. J. F. Shearman, Loca Patriciana - An Identification of Localities, Chiefly in Leinster, visited by Saint Patrick and his Assistant Missionaries (Dublin, 1879), 145-146.
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