Monday 24 November 2014

Saint Colman of Cloyne, November 24

November 24 is the commemoration of a poet-saint, Colman of Cloyne. Below is a short account of his life taken from the Moran revision of Archdall's famous text on the monasteries of Ireland, the Monasticon Hibernicum, serialized in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record.


Cloyne. The account given by Archdall of this ancient and venerable see is meagre in the extreme. The see of Cloyne was founded by St. Colman Mac Lenin, who was closely allied by blood with the reigning family of Munster. His genealogy in the Book of Lecan traces back his family to Mogha Nuadhat ; but the Martyrology of Donegal leaves us in uncertainity as to whether he was descended from that Prince, or from another distinguished chieftain named Lughaidh Lagha. In his early years he was famed for his rare poetic talents, and was honoured with the title of Royal Bard of Munster. In after times he dedicated his minstrelsy to religion, and composed several poems on sacred subjects a fragment of one of these, being an elegant metrical Life of St. Senanus was known to Colgan, who describes it as "stylo vetusto et pereleganti patrio sermone conscriptum." (Acta SS., page 339). In the Book of Lismore, there is another short poem in Irish, composed by St. Colman, in praise of St. Brendan. It thus begins:

"Brendan, flame of victorious lightning ;
He smote the chafer, he ploughed the waves
Westward to the populous assemblative place
The fair-sided Land of Promise."

At the request of St. Ita, St. Brendan, on a certain occasion, went forward to meet the youthful Colman, and admonished him to enter on a life of penance, saying " God has called thee to salvation, and thou shalt be as an innocent dove in the sight of God." Colman, throughout the remainder of his life, was docile to the inspirations of grace, and became illustrious among the saints of Ireland by his learning and virtues. Towards the close of his earthly pilgrimage, hearing of the fame of the school of Lough Eirce, he wished, though himself a master in the paths of perfection, to visit that monastery, and to enrol his name among the disciples of St. Finbarr. Our annalists do not mark with precision the year in which St. Colman founded the Monastery of Cloyne. It was certainly not before the year 550, for it is recorded that, at the inauguration of Aodh Caomh, King of Cashel, about that time, our saint took part as the royal minstrel of Munster.

There seems, however, no ground for doubting the acccuracy of the statement made by O'Halloran in his History of Ireland (vol. 3rd, page 76) on the authority of the Psalter of Cashel that Eochaidh, Monarch of Ireland in the year 560, founded the Church of Cloyne for St. Colman.

According to the Annals of The Four Masters, St. Colman died in the year 600 (i.e., 601 of our present computation), and the 24th of November is the day on which his festival is marked in all the ancient calendars, and on which it is still observed in the Diocese of Cloyne. Our patron of Cloyne must not be confounded with another St. Colman, who was honoured on the same day : both these saints are thus commemorated by St. Oengus in his Felire, at the 24th November:

"With Cianan of Daimliac,
A beautiful ear of our wheat.
Mac Lenine the most excellent,
With Colman of Dubh-chuillenn."

The Martyrology of Donegal preserves the following quatrain, from the ancient poem Naemhsheanchus, on the Saints of Ireland:

" Colman, son of Lenin, the full,
And Mothemneog, son of Cerban,
Were of the race of two brothers
Oilioll Oluim, and Lughaidh."

The old Latin Life of St. Brendan passes the following eulogy on St. Colman:

"This Colman, the son of Lenin, was for learning and a holy life chief among the saints. He founded the Church of Cloyne, which is at this day a cathedral, and famous throughout the province of Munster."

Monasticon Hibernicum in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Volume 7 (1871) 436-437

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