Thursday 11 September 2014

Saint Loarn of Bright, September 11

September 11 is the feast of Saint Loarn of Bright, County Down. He is a saint known from Patrician hagiography and Canon O'Hanlon draws upon these sources in his account below which I've broken up into sections to help make it a little easier to digest:


OUR early Pastors and teachers were truly Apostolic men. The spiritual father, as a ghostly adviser and director of his people, always attracted his flock to the practice of virtues, which he preached, not less by word, than by example. Even after death, his influences remain, and affect religiously generations that survive. Colgan promised to treat about St. Loarn, on the day for his festival, which by Marianus O'Gorman and others has been placed, at the 11th of September. This intention he did not live to accomplish, and we are not aware, that any special acts of St. Loarn now exist. According to the O'Clerys, the present holy man was the son of Darerca, sister of St. Patrick's and consequently he was a nephew of the great Irish Apostle. However, we cannot place too much reliance on this statement. But few particulars have been preserved, in reference to him. Incidentally we are told, in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, that  when the Irish Apostle was in the North of Ireland, and returning from his unsuccessful visit to his old master Milcho at Slemish, he went to Saul, and thence set out southwards towards the residence of a chief named Ros, who was brother to his first convert, Dichu. That Ross or Rus lived in Derlus, to the south of Dun-leth-glaise, now Downpatrick. Whether Loarn lived there at that time or not seems doubtful; but, it is probable, that soon after the conversion of Ros, he was appointed to rule there in the capacity of a chorepiscopus. This saint is classed among the disciples of St. Patrick and, it is likely, he was a convert to the Faith, at an early stage of the Irish  Apostle's mission. The ancient fort of Ros, known as Durlas, formerly an earthen rath, probably stood where the Castle of Bright may now be seen.
The parish of Bright, in the County of Down, was formerly known as Brettain or Brettan. In old documents, this place is variously called Brict, Brich, Brett, Bratten, Brettain, and Brichten. We are informed, that the townland, in which the Protestant church of Bright was situated, is named  Ballintubber—the town of the Well—from a remarkable spring a quarter of a mile to the north of the church, and which is supposed to have been the ancient holy well, where Ros-mic-Trichim had been baptised. This church was built in 1745, by the distinguished Protestant Dean of Down, Dr. Patrick Delany,  and the friend of the still more celebrated Dean of St. Patrick's, Dr. Jonathan Swift. St. Loarn, who was contemporaneous with St. Patrick, presided over it, in the capacity of a bishop. The church of Bright stood beside the ancient fort called Derlus, where, it seems probable, the Anglo-Normans of Lecale afterwards erected the Castle of Bright. Colgan very incorrectly infers, that the author of St. Patrick's Tripartite Life must have lived contemporaneously with this saint, from an  equivocal phrase introduced. Archdall has it, that Loarne was bishop or abbot at Bretain.

In the Acts of our national Apostle, a curious legend is related regarding St. Loarn, who was present at the grave of St. Patrick, when the top, belonging to a boy who was there playing with other boys, rolled into a hole made in the holy man's sepulchre. One of these playmates endeavoured to draw forth the top, but found his hand firmly held. St. Loarn was sent for and he came to the spot. Then addressing St. Patrick, he cried out: "Why, O holy senior, do you hold the hand of this innocent child?" Immediately the boy's hand was loosed from this thrall.

The modern Protestant church of Bright occupies the original site of the ancient structure, and near it are the ruins of an old castle. The church itself was a dependency on the See of Down before the Anglo-Norman Invasion; and about A.D. 1178 John De Courcey confirmed its possessions to Malachy, Bishop of that See. Shortly afterwards, under the name of Brichten, Malachy annexed it to the Abbey of St. Patrick, of which he was ex officio abbot. The church and the grave-yard surrounding it are situated on a high natural bank of earth, from which the descent is very rapid on the north and south sides ; but the other sides are on a level with the adjacent fields.  The church-yard is about an acre in extent. A fosse, about twenty feet broad and ten or twelve feet deep, was on the northern side. This fosse extended from the western termination of the high bank to the end of that same bank. On the south side and with the banks, it enclosed about two and a half Irish acres.  Some notices of this church occur in our mediaeval rolls and annals.  In the Taxation of Pope Nicholas IV., the Church of Brich was valued at Eight Marks; or rather in that of Pope Clement V., and carried out A.D. 1306. During the Invasion of Ireland, by Edward Bruce, the Scots and Irish burned the Church of Bright, it being full of persons of both sexes at the time. After the Dissolution, the tithes of Bright were leased in 1583 to the Earl of Kildare. In 1609, Bright alias Beaten was annexed, by charter, to the Deanery of Down. In 1622, its church was returned by the Protestant Bishop as in ruins. These were removed when the Protestant church was built. In the adjoining fields stone-lined graves are frequently found.
According to the Martyrology of Donegal, a festival was celebrated at the 11th of September, in honour of Loarnn, Bishop of Cill Chunna. The only modern parish denomination we find resembling Cill Chunna is the present Kilcooney, in the barony of Clare and County of Galway; yet, it does not seem this had any special connection with the present Saint. In a passage of the Martyrology of Donegal, St. Loarn is called Bishop of Inrec Nechtain. However, the correct reading is Inrechan, or Inreathan. This is described as a "civitatula" or little city, and it has been identified with Breatain or Bright. The site of 'his ancient church is now occupied by the Protestant house of worship.
According to Colgan's conjecture, in all probability, St. Loarn did not survive beyond the middle of the sixth century, or the year 540; but as we have already seen, his opinion rests on the false supposition, that the second writer of St. Patrick's Life lived contemporaneously with Loarn. However, it seems likely enough, this holy man lived into the earlier part of the sixth century. At the iii. of the September Ides—corresponding with the present date—his feast is entered by Marianus O'Gorman, and in the local Calendar, compiled by the Rev. William Reeves.

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