Sunday 13 November 2016

'Lasair, woman-saint beloved'

November 13 is the feast of Saint Lasair, an obscure female saint, despite the fact that she is one of a literal handful of Irish holy women to have a written Life still extant.  Lasair's Life, however, is not quite in the same league as Cogitosus's Life of Saint Brigid, as it was compiled in the seventeenth century. It may well be, however, that in 1670 David O'Duigenan had access to an earlier medieval text on which to draw.  Lucius Gwynn made a translation of the Beatha Lasrach which was published in the Royal Irish Academy's journal, Ériu, in 1911. Below is a tribute to the saint paid by her only brother. The Life of Lasair depicts our saint as one of the six daughters of Ronán, and as far as her brother Cobthach is concerned, she outshines her siblings:

Good were my six sisters,
fair, generous, vigilant,
Adhbhann, Esnad, Fuinche bright,
Lasair, Damhnad and Derbhile.

She is the best of those six women Lasair,
with greatness of boasting,
woman-saint who kept herself (a virgin),
never has been found her equal for sanctity.

Noble miracles wrought she
in the church above Ard Locha.
She took the priest out of imprisonment,
and saved the child from misery.

Jesus and all the saints
be with me and Mary lovingly,
and Damhnad of many miracles,
and Lasair woman-saint beloved.

Lucius Gwynn, ed and trans, The Life of St. Lasair, Ériu, Vol. 5 (1911), 83, 85.

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