Sunday 15 May 2016

Saint Dubhlitir of Finglas, May 15

May 15 is the commemoration of an eighth-century County Dublin saint, Dubhlitir of Finglas. In common with other monastics from this foundation his passing was recorded in the Irish Annals, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Dubhlitir, Abbot of Finglas, County of Dublin.

[Eighth Century.]

The death of Faelchu, of Finnghlais, is noticed at A.D. 758. He is supposed to have been identical with a saint similarly designated [feastday September 24]. Again, Caencomhrac, bishop of this place, died A.D. 786 [according to the Annals of the Four Masters]. Contemporaneously with this bishop, and possibly ruling over a monastery during his term of incumbency, Dublitir lived. When he began to govern the monks there has not been ascertained; or what age he had reached, at the date assigned for his death, must yet remain an open question. St. Dubhlitir appears to have lived as a contemporary with St. Aengus the Culdee. Tallagh and Finglas were not very distantly separated, and both of these holy men may have enjoyed the privilege and happiness of a personal acquaintance. As St. Aengus survived, however, it seems pretty certain, he must have known perfectly well the character of this deceased guardian over Finglas Monastery. In the "Felire of Aengus," as preserved in the "Leabhar Breac," and in that copy formerly belonging to St. Isidore's convent, at Rome, a special eulogy has been pronounced, in reference to this holy Abbot, in common with other saints, mentioned in the stanza. The original Irish rann has been obligingly copied and collated, while the English translation has been supplied, by William M. Hennessy, Esq., M.R.I.A.:-

"The grace of the seven-fold Spirit
Poured on great-bright clerics,
Timothy, the rich Saran,
On the festival of renowned Dubhlitir."

However fanciful etymological derivations of Irish names may be regarded, the present holy man's name can literally be Anglicized "black-letter." This term is usually applied to students, who closely apply themselves to books; and, in a double sense, it was most probably appropriate to St. Dubhlitir, whose feast has been assigned for the 15th May. This Dubhlittir, no doubt, was the person referred to in the following entry, in the "Annals of Ulster," at A.D. 779 (780): "An assembly of the synods of the Ui-Neill and the Leinstermen, where there were many anchorites and scribes, over whom Dubhlitter was President". He is briefly alluded to by Colgan, in the Bollandist collection, and also in Manuscript Book of "Extracts," among the Records for Dublin County, at present kept in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy. On this day, likewise, the commentator on St. Aengus, and also the Martyrology of Donegal, register Dubhlitir, Abbot of Finnglais-Cainnigh, near Ath-cliath. It must be regarded as the correct date for his death. The present saint's name occurs, at the 15th of May, in the published Martyrology of Tallagh. The year when his demise took place is set down, in the Annals of the Four Masters, as 791. The Annals of Ulster write it, at A.D. 795. His remains were deposited, probably, within the old church walls, or under some now unnoticed sod of the present cemetery, which rises high over the "bright stream," that rushes onward to join the classic Tolka River. The present holy man was also venerated in Scotland, at the 15th of May, as we find from the entry in the Kalendar of Drummond. A considerable share of misunderstanding has prevailed—while even distinguished Irish historians and topographers appear to have fallen into errors- in reference to the special Patron Saint of Finglas. The original name of this village seems to have been derived from the small, rapid, and tortuous "bright stream," that runs through a sort of ravine, beside the present cemetery. Towards the close of the eighth, or in the beginning of the ninth century— as we find in the "Feilire of Aengusa"—this place had been denominated Finnghlais-Cainnigh, after some earlier patron, called Cainnigh or Canice. He is generally thought to have been the Patron Saint of Ossory, as no other one, bearing such a name, can be found in connexion with this spot. Whether or not, a monastery had been founded by Cainneach, while under the tuition of Mobhi Clairenech, Abbot of Glasnevin, and who died in 544, can scarcely be determined. It seems probable, at least, that a cell, or monastic institute, had been here erected by St. Canice, and before the close of the sixth century...

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