Thursday 3 December 2020

Irish Saints' Names - December

A selection of Irish saints' names as suggestions for naming children, this time those whose feasts fall in the month of December. Plenty of good names here for consideration, including a female saint who has been rediscovered in our times - Saint Samthann of Clonbroney. The Clonard theologian, Aileran the Wise is also on the list as is a reputed sister of Saint Colum Cille at December 23.

There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.


1. Nessan (Nessant), m.,  in Wexford, 7th century, also on March 17.
2. Cummin (Cummian), m., Durrow, 662.
3. Maccoige (Maccoige), m., Lismore.
4. Suairleae (Suarla), m., 773.
5. Senan (Senanus), m.
6. Breaccan (Braccan or Berchan), m., Ardbraecan.
7. Ollan (Ollan), m.
8. Brennan (Brendan), m.
9. Feidelm (Felima), f.
10. Modimog (Dimog or Dermot), m., Clonkeen, Tipperary.
11. Meltog (Eiltene), m., Kinsale.
12. Finnan (Finnian), m., Clonard, 549, also on 23rd February.
13. Colm (Colm or Columba), m., Terryglass, 552.
14. Cormac (Cormac), bp.
15. Mogain (Mogina or Mona), f., Clogher, 593.
16. Mobeoc or Beanus (Mobheog), m., Lough Derg and Wexford.
17. Crowmaol (Crunmael), m. Iona.
18. Finnian (Frigidian), m., Lucca, Italy, also on 10th December.
19. Samtann (Safana), f., Clonbrony, Granard, 735.
20. Fraoc (Fraech), m., Mohill, 6th century.
21. Flann (Flann), m.
22. Eimin (Evin or Eimeen), m., Monasterevin
23. Cuman (Cumania), sister of St. Colmcille.
24. Cuan (Cuan), m., Timahoe, also on 1st January.
25. Maolan (Mellan), m.
26. Moliba (Moliba), m., Annahilt.
27. Tiobrat (Tobrat), m., Moira.
28. Muiredeac (Murray or Muiredach), m., Armagh, 1007.
29. Aileran or Aireran (Aleran), m.,  Clonard, 665.
30. Ailbe (Elvi), bp., Emly, also on 12th September.
31. Lugna (Luna), m.

 Southern Cross, Friday 4 December 1914, page 15

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Tuesday 24 November 2020

The Women Saints of Ireland: A Schoolgirl's View

As November is the month to remember all the saints I cannot allow it to close without an acknowledgment of our Irish women saints. Below is a charming view of them as seen through the eyes of a 1920s Australian schoolgirl winner of an essay competition. The victorious Miss Ena Dalton provided short accounts of six of our best-known holy women - Saints Brigid, Ita, Attracta, Fanchea, Dympna and Lelia - and I note that her presentation of Saint Brigid is entirely a Christian one, without a single mention of a goddess. She concludes with a clarion call for "Irish and Australian maidens" to "revive the ancient glory" and carry the "faith and fame" of both countries to distant lands. I can think of no better illustration to accompany this essay than a post by another Irish woman blogger on the saints, Finola at Roaringwater Journal, whose Rejecting those Earthly Dignities: Irish Women Saints by Harry Clarke provides a visual feast. Read it here.



By Ena Dalton, Baddaginnie.

(Certified by F. Carroll, teacher.)

As the people of Ireland are noted throughout the world for their great faith and piety, Ireland can boast of a great number of women saints. Among these the best known are St. Brigid, St. Ita, St. Attracta, St. Fanchea, St. Lelia, and St. Dympna.

St. Brigid was born in Fochard, Ulster, about the year 453. She shares with St. Patrick the glory and sanctity of being first to form a community of nuns. Her success was miraculous, for many religious establishments were soon extended over the land.

She received her religious veil very early in life from the hands of St. Mel, nephew and disciple of St. Patrick. She built herself a cell under a large oak, thence called Killdara. Being joined soon after by several pious young virgins, she was at once acknowledged as their mother and founder. Like St. Patrick, Brigid spent much of her time travelling through Ireland, converting and instructing the people.

The fame of her miracles, her virtues. and her piety soon spread over the land, and many voung girls, inspired with similar religious zeal, hastened to join her in her great mission. Thus, there sprang up numerous religions communities, which were primitive in their manner of living, as also in the severity of their rules and discipline. Their time was spent in prayer, acts of charity, and acts of mortification.

Innumerable traditions of St. Brigid's charity and generosity have been handed down to us. The holy attainment she sought on earth was to do the will of God. His grace was her staff through life. All her labours and her sacrifices were rewarded, as the love of her Saviour alone filled her heart. She died in 525, after a very holy life. St. Brigid had the privilege of outward resemblance to Our Blessed Lady, and her great purity merits for her the title of "The Mary of Erin."

St. Ita, called the Brigid of Munster, is the Patroness of Limerick, where her memory is fondly cherished to this day. Immense crowds of people still assemble on her feast day at  Kileedy, where the ruins of her ancient church are still to be seen.

Ita was a direct descendant of Con of the Hundred Battles. She was born in A.D. 480 in County Waterford. The name conferred on her at baptism was Deirdre, or Dorothea; but owing to her longing desire for the gift of Divine love, she came to be called Ita, which signifies thirst, or longing. Even in her infancy, many miracles attested her sanctity. Once, we are told, the room in which she slept was filled with a flood of supernatural radiance. For some time after this the child's features were lighted up by a marked angelic beauty.

When Ita founded her convent at Hy-Connail, she was soon joined by many holy maidens eager to imitate her. Her whole life presents an example of affection and charity, which, we may say, are the most beautiful traits of our Irish saints. She died on the 15th January, A.D. 569, and was laid to rest within the little church of the monastery which she had chosen as her earthly habitation.

St Fanchea was the sister of St. Enda, and the daughter of Conall of Orriell. She lived about the fifth or sixth century, and was the abbess of her monastery. Being warmly attached to her brother, Fanchea had him to visit her constantly. Once, it is related, when Enda passed her convent with his clansmen she refused to see him till he assured her that he would never shed the blood of any man. Finally, she was the means of converting him, and he then entered religion.

When once he was visiting Fanchea's convent, he saw a beautiful young lady, who was under his sister's care. He immediately wished to marry her. Fanchea spoke to the young girl, and advised her to enter religion, and take a heavenly path in life. This she did, and this was the first step to Enda's conversion.

 St. Attracta, whose feast is on the 11th of August, was one of the numerous band of holy virgins who consecrated their lives to God while St. Patrick still lived. She devoted her time to the poor and the infirm. Even during her life, she worked many wonders. Among others, by her prayers she freed Connaught, her native province, from a wild beast, which was the terror of the inhabitants. Once, as the monster was rushing towards the sanctuary. Attracta went on her knees, prayed earnestly to God, and the wild beast was suddenly struck dead,

St. Dympna—The virgin, Dympna, born in Ireland of royal heathen parents, grew "as a rose amongst thorns." Despising the allurements of a pagan court, she secretly received baptism, and devoted herself to Christ.

Fleeing from a wicked man, who desired to be her lover, Dympna, in company with the blessed Gerebernus and others, took ship to Antwerp. From there they proceeded to Ghela, where, establishing a home, she gave herself up to Divine contemplation, and lived an angelic life.

After three months, the King, her father, followed her, and, after giving orders for the execution of Gerebernus. himself beheaded Dympna.

St. Lelia, so well known in the Diocese of Limerick, her native place, was a young virgin, whose feast is celebrated in her native county on the 12th of August.

Echoes of the lives of the women saints of Ireland still resound, not only through Ireland, but in our own Australia. Bride and Brigid, Ita, Fanchea, Lelia and Dympna are favourite names in many Catholic families. Colleges and schools are dedicated to St. Brigid and St. Ita, for these virgin saints excelled in learning as well as in sanctity. May Irish and Australian maidens revive the ancient glory, and carry the faith and fame of Erin and Australia to distant lands!

PRIZE-WINNER. (1923, April 12). Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 - 1954), p. 37. Retrieved April 25, 2020, from

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Saturday 21 November 2020

Pope Pius XI on Saint Columbanus


 November 21 is the feast of Saint Columbanus, one of the greatest of Ireland's missionary saints and the one who first awakened my own interest and pride in the Irish saints as a schoolgirl many years ago. I have already reprinted a number of articles on the saint, but below is a 1923 tribute from Pope Pius XI in which he acknowledges the contribution made to European civilization by our saint and restores a link to the monastic heritage of Saint Columbanus to the contemporary Bishop of Bobbio:


Pope Reviews Career of St. Columbanus 

(By Mgr. Enrico Pucci, Rome Correspondent, N.C.W.C.)

 The following is the Papal Brief addressed by his Holiness to Cardinal Ehrle, Legate a latere to the celebration of the 13th century of St. Columban at Bobbio, in which Pope Pius extols the virtues of the saint at whose tomb it was read: 

Our Beloved Son. Greetings and Apostolic Blessing. 

Since it is the custom to renew at certain intervals the memory of those who have gained eternal glory (and would that all should attain it), it is fitting, now that the opportunity has arisen, that we should call to mind with grateful heart the name and deeds of St. Columbanus the 13th centenary of whose death occurred during the war. Columbanus has a place among those great and extraordinary men whom Divine Providence gives us in times of crises to save us from ruin. It was through the special design of God that he succeeded, as it were, to St. Benedict, for he was born at about the same time that the patriarch of the monks began to enjoy eternal life. God has indeed given St. Benedict and his monks a vaster field to work in—a field that embraces far the largest part of Western Europe. Even the very regions which had been cultivated by Columbanus entered later almost by inheritance into the possession of the Benedictines. 

Yet wide flung were the countries in which this illustrious son of Ireland poured forth his zeal and his labors.  As the studies of the learned shed a clearer light upon the Middle Ages, it becomes all the more manifest that the rebirth of Christian knowledge and civilisation in various parts of France, Germany, and Italy was due to the labors and zeal of Columbanus. In this he showed the greatness, especially of Catholic Ireland. Many traces of pagan superstition remained among the customs of those regions, and the many invasions of the barbarians had clouded men's minds with error and brutalised their hearts. Christian civilisation had almost collapsed and the glory of the arts which are the ornament of civil life seemed to be gone forever. It is marvellous how Ireland, justly called the Island of the Saints and no less justly the home of the arts and the sciences, shone forth amid the darkness and the clouds of those days in her love of religion and civilisation. History tells us that the deep recesses of her valleys and forests echoed with the prayers and the work of her hermits and that there arose numerous monasteries which stood as so many schools of sanctity and, for those times, of perfect learning in every branch of knowledge. Thither eager young men hurried to learn literature and science.  

Migration of Columbanus. 

Excellently prepared in the various branches of learning, trained in the virtues, under the holy discipline of Cungallius and burning with the desire to accomplish great deedsand those were times which required his zeal— Columbanus, accompanied by a few associates, abandoned his fatherland and commenced those successive migrations from Ireland which down through the centuries have brought benefits innumerable to so many peoples. 

He laboured first in France. Renewing there the discipline of Bangor, he established monasteries first at Annegray, then at Luxeuil, and last at Fontaine. Among these the monastery of Luxeuil is the most celebrated for the number of its monks and its regular observance of the rule so that it came to be considered the chief seminary for the priests of France, and the principal centre of the conversion which was accomplished in the religious life arid the political institutions and customs of the people. While Columbanus seemed perhaps too fiery according to the genius of his race in imposing discipline in France, yet according to the testimony of Iona, he restored again the "medicine of penance and the love of mortification" which for some time had fallen into disuse. Yet it was not his fiery nature, but his virtue, that caused his expulsion from the confines of Burgundy. For having vigorously rebuked as a duty of conscience the vices of the court, he was torn from the embraces of his beloved brethren and was forced to change his country and abandon the harvest now ripening through his labors. God permitted him, however, to show his fervor and his love in another country. 

 As an exile with his followers from Ireland, he was obliged to pass from one region to another. On this, pilgrimage , he met at Meaux Burgondofora a woman who afterwards founded the Convent of Marmoutiers, which followed his rule. At Bregenz, on the Lake of Constance, where, in search of solitude, he remained for a time, he underwent incredible sufferings, was subjected to all sorts of privations and was looked upon with hatred by those inhabitants of the country who were still given over to idolatry. While he was planning there new journeys and thinking of converting to Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel, the Slav peoples of the Norico and Pannonia, the way was opened to him to enter Italy. Toward Italy he had long been drawn as by instinct, for it was in the design of Divine Providence that Italy should receive the last and ripest fruits of his labors and merits. His grief was great in starting upon this journey, for Gallus, his best beloved follower; would not come with him in spite of all his prayers, but would stay to preach the Gospel there. 

Thus, not without regret, this holy man, now grown old, went to Milan. There by the intercession of the pious Theodolinda, who made him forget the unpleasant memory of Bruenhilde, he obtained through the generosity of King Agilulf a site well adapted to build a monastery. Losing no time, he set to work with so much courage that he not only directed the construction of the monastery, but even helped the workers, though he was growing old, and carried great weights through the steep mountain passes. He was not permitted however, to see the monastery completed, for during the following year he was called to his heavenly reward. To his disciples whom he left in great numbers and whom he had animated with his own spirit, he entrusted the duty of completing the work he had started. 

The Beginnings of Bobbio.

Using all their resources his followers established the great Monastery of Bobbio, which was so celebrated for its nurturing of penance and the other Christian virtues and for its learning that it enjoyed a fame for many centuries in Northern Italy equal to that of Monte Cassino. The library at Bobbio will never be forgotten by the learned for having saved from ruin so many and such priceless monuments' to literature. Formed at the beginning of precious relics from the more ancient libraries and, above all, as some maintained, from the library which Cassiodorous had brought together for the use of his Vivarese Monastery, the library was increased by the daily toil and industry of the monks (thanks to which the Scriptorium Bobbienese is so much esteemed), and by the gifts of pious men, among whom the famous Dungal deserves special mention. So rich became the library that when during later adversities .the celebrated monastery had declined many Italian and foreign libraries secured from it conspicuous additions. In this regard we owe much to Paul V. and Frederick Borromeo, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, our predecessor, who in the Vatican Library and in the Ambrosian Library preserved great numbers of the Bobbian Codes with the greatest care and vigilance. 

If there are people who should preserve and religiously cultivate the memory of St. Columbanus they are, above all, the citizens of Bobbio, who owe everything to him. In him they have not only the author of their name and fame, but the founder as well of their city, and their principal patron before God. There is no one who does not know that the valley through which the River Bobbio flows was a wild and deserted land before St. Columbanus came, which no one penetrated except to gather wood and hunt the wild beasts. This was indeed the reason why this lover of solitude chose it as his dwelling. From the time, however, when the Monastery of Columbanus was built it underwent a change and houses and villages sprang up until finally it became an episcopal city. It is therefore fitting that the people of Bobbio, spurred on especially by our Venerable Brother Pietro, the Bishop, after having restored the vault in which St. Columbanus, with 26 of his holy disciples, lies buried, should prepare with great care to celebrate with splendour of ceremony the solemnity of his death. 

We wish to make this solemn feast still more august and more fruitful through the power of our apostolic authority, especially, so as to show how much we venerate this great luminary of the Catholic Church, how much love we have for the Irish people. Wishing to be represented at Bobbio during these happy days, we give this order to you, our beloved son, to assist at the solemnities in the capacity of our legate. After the Pontifical Mass is celebrated you will, with our authority, bless those present and announce to them the, plenary indulgence, which can be gained under the usual conditions.  We are desirous that all those who participate in the solemnities should gain this indulgence, and for that purpose we extend it to all those who will visit the sepulchre of St. Columbanus during the triduum or throughout the present year. 

Lastly, so that the memory of the Monastery of Bobbio may continue, we order it that the Bishop of Bobbio be called pro tempore by the title of honour, "the Abbot of St. Columbanus," and that on our behalf you notify our Venerable Brother Pietro, the Bishop, of this honour. We hope that St. Columbanus, jointly honored by the people of Bobbio and the Irish, will secure for both peoples the blessings of Divine Providence in an especial manner. As a sign of our favor and a testimony of our paternal benevolence we impart to them with all our  heart and first to you, our beloved son, and to the Bishop of Bobbio the Apostolic Blessing. 

Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, the 6th of August, 1923, the second year of our pontificate. 


Pope Reviews Career of St. Columbanus, New Zealand Tablet, Volume XLVIII, Issue 46, 22 November 1923.

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Friday 13 November 2020

An Irish School


According to the Martyrology of Gorman, November 13 is one of the days on which the memory of Colman i Maigh Éo is commemorated, his main feast falling on August 8. Saint Colman is also known as Colman of Lindisfarne and Colman of Inisboffin for he was the leader of those Irish-trained northern English saints who, finding themselves unable to accept the settling of the Paschal Dating Controversy in favour of the Roman date, relocated to the west coast of Ireland. This episode fitted very well with the nineteenth-century view of the 'Celtic church' as being intrinsically anti-Roman, but is read in a different context by modern scholars. In the report from an 1888 Australian newspaper below, the Archbishop of Melbourne takes the opportunity to bring Saint Colman's foundation of 'Mayo of the Saxons' to the attention of his Irish diaspora audience. I was interested to see how the contemporary efforts of religious orders to provide education for the masses are linked to this ancient monastic heritage in the final paragraph. One small point: it is claimed that Mayo translates as 'plain of the oaks' but this should read plain of the yews.

(Melbourne Advocate, June 30.)

The Hibernian Hall was well filled on Saturday night when a concert was given in aid of the building fund of St. Joseph's Hall and School, Port Melbourne, which is under the charge of the Carmellite Fathers. The Archbishop of Melbourne, the Very Rev. Prior Butler and the Rev. Father Shaffrey were present. During the interval the Archbishop delivered the following address : — 

His Grace said that as he was set down in the programme to deliver an address, and not allowed, as he desired, to remain a silent listener to the beautiful vocal and instrumental music, and to the admirable recitation, which filled the first part of the programme, he thought it would not be inappropriate— as this concert was given in aid of a Catholic school under the care of the Carmellite Fathers— to give a short chapter of history connected with a famous school, the very name and existence of which seemed to be unknown to general readers. He referred to the school of "Mayo of the Saxons." The history of this school carries us back over twelve centuries. The scenes are laid in far famed Iona, in Northumbria, in the lone island of Innisboffin, but, above all, in "Mayo of the Saxons," where this school flourished from the latter part of the seventh to the close of the sixteenth century, when its light was finally put out in the bitter strife which accompanied the attempted introduction of the Reformation into Ireland. Ethelfrid, grandson of Eda, who may be said to be the founder of the Anglo-Saxon race, being defeated in battle and slain, his sons, Oswald and Oswy, fled to the court of the King of Dalradia. By him they were sent for instruction to Iona, where during seventeen years they were taught by St. Columba'a monks secular science in addition to Christian virtue. After this long exile Oswald, having recovered the throne of his fathers, determined to rule over a Christian people. When he looked around for an apostle he naturally turned his eyes to Iona where he himself had received the faith from Irish monks. Sts. Aidan, Finan, and Coleman became in succession Bishops of Lindisfarne and succeeded in winning Northumbria permanently to the true Faith. The rule of St. Coleman was embittered by the disputes which arose between his Celtic and Saxon subjects regarding the proper time for celebrating the Easter festival. When the King sided with his Saxon subjects, St. Coleman, rather than abandon the traditions of the Irish Church, resigned his See, and taking with him the remains of his two immediate predecessors, all the Irish monks, and thirty of the Saxon monks, who had made their religious profession at Lindisfarne, sailed back to Iona. To provide a new home for his Irish and Saxon monks was his next effort. Sailing again from Iona he landed on the island of Innisboffin, off the western coast of Ireland. As the new monastery and the chapel and schools sprang up, the saint, no doubt, flattered himself that here would he end his days, and in death lie by the side of his two saintly predecessors in the See of Lindisfarne. But Saxon and Celt even then found it difficult to agree. So taking with him the Saxon monks, St. Coleman once more set sail and landed on the coast of Mayo. Here, in a large plain, covered with great oaks from which the place derived its name — Mayo means the plain of the oaks — he selected the site of the future monastery and school, which thus gets its name of "Mayo of the Saxons.'' That the school soon attained a European reputation we know from authentic history. We may not believe that Alfred the Great ever visited Mayo, or that he sent his son to be educated by Irish monks, or that Alfred's son, who is said to have died during his scholastic course, lies side, by side with the two sons of a French king beneath a mound which is still pointed out to the inquiring traveller. But the tradition of itself is a strong testimony to the fame which the school long enjoyed. We know enough from Venerable Bede, and from Adamnan, to convince us that few of the great Irish schools attained greater renown or success. Twice it was plundered, and twice burned down, but each time a new monastery and school arose from the ashes of the old. It was only in the reign of Elizabeth that it fell to rise no more. The moral which the Archbishop derived from the chapter of school history was that when an Irish monk or an Irish friar undertakes to build a school he receives great encouragement from the memory of the success of the great Irish schools of old, end when he makes on appeal for this purpose he has strong claims, not only on Irishmen, but also on the descendants of all those who in Irish schools, like that of "Mayo of the Saxons,'' received hospitality, gratuitous education, and the highest culture then attainable. 

AN IRISH SCHOOL.,New Zealand Tablet, Volume XVI, Issue 13, 20 July 1888

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Thursday 12 November 2020

Graves of Irish Exiles


As November is traditionally the month in which we remember the dead, this seems a fitting time to reflect on the many Irish saints and scholars whose graves are to be found far from our shores. Such was the theme of this 1905 article 'Graves of Irish Exiles', published anonymously in the New Zealand press. The author brings together many of the Irish saints who laboured in Europe and about whom accounts may be found on this blog. But by including many other famous churchmen and scholars from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it also unites this site to my new blog on the Irish martyrs. The early medieval monks may have left Ireland in different circumstances to those who founded the Irish Colleges in Europe during the Reformation period, but for the writer the pain of exile, expressed in typically romantic terms, remains the same:

Graves of Irish Exiles

Scarcely a Cathedral bell is rung on the Continent of Europe (says an exchange) that does not sound above the remains of some Irish priest or Bishop. Seldom a flower fades in the cloistered cemeteries along the banks of the yellow Tiber, or the castled Rhine, that some of its leaves do not touch the lonely grave of some monk or student from the green banks of the Shannon or the Liffey. The names of Irish Students are carved on the flagged floor of many an abbey chapel, and on the walls of many a famous shrine from the Tagus to the Garrone. St. Fridolen sleeps in his island city of Seckingen, in the abbey he himself founded for the Benedictines; the holy remains of St. Fiacre centuries ago were removed from the oratory of Breuil, and may now be found near the mausoleum of Bossiuet, behind the high altar in the Cathedral of Meaux; the noble martyrs Kilian, Colman, and Totnan are buried in the principal church of Wurtzburg; St. Frigidian, lies at rest in the church of 'The Three Holy Levites,' at Lucca, while Cataldus (Cathal) awaits the Resurrection not far from the blue waters of the fair bay of Taranto. Often the twelve knights of St. Rupert may be seen kneeling by the tomb of St. Virgillius, in Saltzburg. St. Caidoc and St. Fricor are interred in the abbey of Centule, in the territory of Ponthieu, Picardy. In the collegiate church of Lens, in the diocese of Arras, the body of St. Vulganus is honored. Marianus Scotus, the chronographer, was laid to pious rest in the Church of St. Martin, beyond the walls of the city of Metz. St. Tressan calmly reposes at Avenay, in Champagne. In a church guarded by the Fort of St. Andrew, at Salins, the relics of St. Anatolius are preserved in a silver shrine. St. Maimbodus securely sleeps in the shade of the castle rock of the valiant city of Montbelliard. The magnificent Cathedral of Mechlin is the tomb and monument of St. Rumold— prince, Bishop, martyr. 

But to come to a later period of Irish history. How many Irish students are laid to rest forever on the hill of St. Genevieve! How many of them sleep their long sleep in the Franciscan Convents of Louvain and Salamanca, in the Dominican garden of Madrid, and in the consecrated ground belonging to the Jesuits at Lisle, Antwerp, Tournay, St. Omer, Douay, and Pont-a-Mousson. Florence Conroy sleeps near the high altar in the Franciscan Church of St. Anthony of Padua at Louvain; Thomas Stapleton's ashes are mingled with the dust of Belgium's most gifted sons in the chapel of St. Charles Borromeo; Luke Wadding has been laid near Hugh O'Neill, on St. Peter's Mount, in Rome. In the Cistercian monastery at Alcala in Spain, William Walsh, from Waterford on the Suir, lies in peace. The grand-souled and patriotic Bishop of Ferns, Nicholas French, passed away from life's toil and troubles at Ghent, in Belgium. His venerated body was piously placed at the foot of the grand altar in the parish church of St. Nicholas in that city. A slab of purest marble, decorated with the Cardinal's hat and armorial bearings, has a beautiful and truthful inscription in honor of his memory. Ambrose Wadding, brother to the famous Luke Wadding, calmly rests at Dillingen; Bishop Edmond O'Dwyer, who governed the See of Limerick, silently lies in the subterranean chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, beneath the Church of St. James, in the city of Brussels. The pious pilgrim to Compostella will find in the world-renowned temple of St. James, Apostle of Spain, the Holy Remains of two Waterford Bishops— Thomas Strong, of the diocese of Ossory, and his nephew, the firm friend of Rinuccini, T. Walsh. The relics of Patrick Fleming and Matthew Hoar, martyred by the cruel followers of the Elector of Saxony, are treasured in the Franciscan convent of Wotiz, near Prague, in Bohemia. 

Ward, Colgan, Lombard, MacCaughwell, Edmund O'Reilly, and the Stanihursts, men whose names will ever live among the names of Ireland's most gifted and patriotic sons, are all in far foreign graves. The winds of Ireland never chant their mournful dirge around their tombs, the maids of Erin scatter no flowers over their graves, the faithful peasants never pray above their ashes. They fell where they have bravely fought with voice and pen for the land of their love. They died far away from the isle of their birth, with the great shadow of Ireland's suffering upon their breaking hearts. They sank to rest in the calm of silent convents, and they tranquilly rest either in the dim shades of old cathedrals, or in the peaceful aisles of chapels whose silence is never broken except by the prayer of some pious monk or nun.

Graves of Irish Exiles, New Zealand Tablet, Volume XXXIII, Issue 16, 20 April 1905

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Friday 6 November 2020

'Lives of Heroic Sanctity' - Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, November 6



 .....What could not be destroyed was the memory of the past; above all, the memory of those Irish men and women, whose lives of heroic sanctity won for them a place in the Martyrologies, in the Félire of Oengus, the Félire of Tallaght, the Félire of Gorman. Their number is about seventeen hundred, a goodly company, whose virtues Catholic Ireland of the centuries since has sought but rarely to emulate and has never been able to surpass.

John Ryan, S.J. Irish Monasticism - Origins and Early Development (2nd edition, 1972, reprinted Irish Academic Press, 1986), viii.

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Thursday 5 November 2020

A Litany of Irish Family Patrons

Following yesterday's posting on the Litany of the Patron Saints of Irish Dioceses,  below is the second short litany of Irish saints, this time in their capacity as patrons of Irish families. One thing worth noting is that the families are not all of native Gaelic origin, as Norman 'Old English' surnames are equally well-represented. It is interesting too to see the decidedly non-Irish Saint Nicholas at the end of the list, but he has his place in the Official Litany of Irish Saints as a patron of Galway. I have no other information about this litany of family patrons, its author or its accuracy but it's an enjoyable read on this the eve of the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland:
Litany of Irish Saints.
The following interesting document, translated from the Gaelic, was among the papers of a cultured Irish lady who died recently in New York: — Many of the old clans, patriarchal races, and ancient Catholic families of Ireland have cherished a traditional devotion to certain local saints who have been regarded from time immemorial as their patrons, and to encourage this devout observance the following 'Litany of the Patron Saints of the Dioceses of Ireland' was compiled and approved by the ecclesiastical authorities. Subjoined is a list of some of the Irish families, who thus are clients of the saints invoked in this litany. There are many other Irish families, clans, towns, and localities who invoke the patronage of other illustrious local saints, whose names do not occur in this litany of Diocesan saints, to which the following list is confined: 
St. Malachi is patron saint of the O'Dohertys, O'Reillys, O'Neills, Mc Canns, Nugents, O' Ferralls, Maguires, and Mc Kennas. 
St. Laurence of the O'Tooles and Purcells. 
 St. Kevin of the Kilbrides, O'Byrnes, Murrays.
St. Albert of the Cullens, Ryans, and Bennetts.
 St. Jarlath of the Moores and Killeens.
St. Kieran of the O'Connors, Grehans, and Brownes. 
St. Columbkille of the O'Donnells and O'Loughlins. 
St. Conlath of the Mullens and Duffeys. 
St. Macartan of the O'Flynns, Macartans, O'Donnellys, Smiths, and Mc Guinnesses. 
St. Kyrans of the O'Brennans, Fitzpatricks, O'Donohoes, and Mahers. 
St. Aiden of the O'Kinselas and O'Farralls.
St. Ailbe of the Cullens and Nolans. 
St. Fachanan of the Fitzgeralds, Mc Namaras, O'Briens, Mc Mahons, Blennerhassets, Ennisses and O'Shaughnessys.
St. Finbar of the Mc Carthys and Barrys. 
St. Otteran of the Barrons, Wyses, and Walshes.
St. Ascium of the Frenches, Kelleys, and Dysarts.
St. Nicholas of the Blakes and Burkes.

 Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1942), Saturday 26 May 1900, page 5

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Wednesday 4 November 2020

A Litany of Irish Diocesan Patrons


Below is the first of two litanies of Irish saints which I came across in the digital archives of the New Zealand press. This one was published in 1920, a year before the official text of the Litany of the Irish Saints was issued as part of the establishment of the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, commemorated on November 6. I have already made that official text available here. The litany below is much shorter and links some of the saints to their patronage of Irish dioceses. It concludes with the collect for the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland, albeit in a different translation to that of the official text:


Lord, have mercy on us. 

Christ, have mercy on us. 

Lord, have mercy on us. 

Christ, hear us. 

Christ, graciously hear us. 

Holy Mary, Mother of God. 

St. Patrick, Apostle and Patron of Ireland. 

St. Brigid, Patron of Ireland. 

St. Columbkille, Patron of Ireland. 

St. Malachy, Patron of Armagh, Down, and Connor. 

St. Macanisius, Patron of Connor. 

St. Macartan, Patron of Clogher. 

St. Eunan, Patron of Raphoe. 

St. Felim, Patron of Kilmore. 

St. Mel, Patron of Ardaugh. 

St. Kyran, Patron of Clonmacnoise. 

St. Colman, Patron of Dromore. 

St. Eugene, Patron of Derry. 

St. Finian, Patron of Meath. 

St. Laurence, Patron of Dublin. 

St. Kevin, Patron of Glendalough. 

St. Aidan, Patron of Ferns. 

St. Kyran, Patron of Ossory. 

St. Canice, Patron of Kilkenny. 

St. Conleth, Patron of Kildare. 

St. Laserian, Patron of Leighlin. 

St. Albert, Patron of Cashel. 

St. Ailbe, Patron of Emly. 

St. Finbarr, Patron of Cork. 

St. Brendan, Patron of Kerry and Clonfert. 

St. Munchin, Patron of Limerick. 

St. Colman, Patron of Cloyne. 

St. Fachanan, Patron of Ross and Kilfernora. 

St. Flannan, Patron of Killaloe. 

St. Otteran, Patron of Waterford.

St. Carthage, Patron of Lismore. 

St. Jarlath, Patron of Tuam. 

St. Nathy, Patron of Achonry. 

St. Asicus, Patron of Elphin. 

St. Colman, Patron of Kilmacduagh. 

St. Muredach, Patron of Killala. 

St. Columban. 

St. Gall. 

St. Enda. 

St. Dympna. 

St. Ita. 

St. Attracta. 

All ye Holy Irish Martyrs. 

All ye Holy Confessors and Virgins of Ireland. 

All ye Saints of Ireland. 

Lamb of God, etc. (thrice). 

Let us Pray. 

Multiply Thy Grace, O Lord, in us who celebrate the Feast of All the Saints of our Island; that we who rejoice in being their fellow-countrymen on earth may deserve to share in Heaven the glorious freedom which by their good works they have purchased. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

New Zealand Tablet, 19 February 1920, Page 3
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Tuesday 3 November 2020

Irish Missionaries

As we approach the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland on November 6, below is a brief reminder of the part Irish saints played in the evangelization of other countries. These missionary saints were a source of great pride to the writers of the nineteenth century cultural revival, including Irish expatriates like Monaghan man John Joseph Lynch, C.M. (1816-1888), Archbishop of Toronto. At a time when mass emigration had aroused anti-Irish and anti-Catholic feeling it was no doubt comforting to take refuge in the achievements of an earlier golden age, when the Irish made a substantial contribution to European Christian civilization. This piece appeared in the New Zealand press in 1878 which syndicated items likely to be of interest to its own Irish population:


St. Patrick's bishops and priests were so ardent in their zeal that they carried the light of the gospel into England, Scotland, Germany, France, and even into Italy, regaining to the Church many of those people who had lost the faith on account of the incursions of barbarians, and the breaking up of the Roman Empire. These holy missionaries from Ireland are invoked as patron-saints in these countries. We have venerated their relics in cathedral churches, in monasteries, in rural parishes on the continent of Europe. We found St. Cataldus, the Apostle of Tarentum, near Naples; St. Sedulius famous for his fourteen books of commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul; St. Fridolin, who instituted religious houses in Alsace, Strasbourg, and Switzerland, and who is interred on an island in the Rhine, in a monastery built by himself; St. Columbanus, the founder of the celebrated monastery of Bobbio, near Milan, in Luxan; and Fontaine St. Gall, near Lake Constance, famous to the present time for its learned men and holy monks, the admiration of all travellers St. Fiacre, the Patron Saint of many churches in the diocese of Meaux and through Picardy, and whose relics are the objects of pious pilgrimages to the present day; St. Aidan, who preached the gospel to Northumbrians in England, and who was the first bishop of the See of Lindisfarne; St. Colman, who preached the gospel to the Northern Saxons, St. Fursey, especially invoked in numerous chapels built by him near Paris; St. Abrogast, Bishop of Strasbourg, buried on Mount Michael, where there was a monastery dedicated under his patronage; St. Maidulphus, who established the famous school of Ingleborne, now Malmsbury; St. Cuthbert, son of an Irish Prince of Kells, in Meath, Bishop of Lindisfarne, now invoked as an English saint; St. Killian apostle of Franconia, and first Bishop of Wirtzburg, who gained the crown of martyrdom, like St. John for having reproached the incestuous adulteress, Goilana, St. Virgilius, Bishop of Fiesole, preacher of the gospel to the Etruaians; St. Findin, Abbot of Richew, on the Rhine; St. Buo and St. Ernulphus, who carried the Gospel to Iceland and founded a church under the patronage of St. Columba. We have mentioned enough of illustrious names of the Irish nation to show how they fulfilled their mission on the continent of Europe in early ages. — Archbishop Lynch of Toronto.

IRISH MISSIONARIES.,New Zealand Tablet, Volume VI, Issue 271, 12 July 1878

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Monday 2 November 2020

Irish Saints' Names - November


Time for another instalment of the 1914 series on Irish saints' names as suggestions for naming children. The November selection contains some well-known saints, Columbanus, Malachy  and Lorcan O'Toole, for example but also many who are rather more obscure, including all of the female ones:
There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.

1. Alltin (Eltina), f., Killinchy.
2. Bolcan (Bolcan), m., Lens, France, 650.
3. Maolmaodog (Malachy), bp., Armagh, 1148.
4. Tigearnac (Tigernach or Tierna), m., Killachy, Cavan, 806.
4. Colman (Colman), m., Glen Delmaic, Kells, Kilkenny.
6. Cronan (Cronan), m., Bangor, 688.
7. Fionntan (Fintan or FIorentius) m., Strasburg, 687.
8. Barrfinn (Finnbar or Barrinthus), m., in  Idrone.
9. Benen (Benen or Benignus), bp., Armagh, 467.
10. Aed (Aedh or Aidus), m., Killair, Westmeath. 589.
11. Coirpre (Carbry), m., Coleraine, 540.
12. Lioban (Livin), m., Ghent, Belgium, 656.
13. Cillin (Kilian), m., diocese of Arras, France, 7th century.
14. Lorcan or Labras O'Tuatail (Lawrence), bp., Dublin, 1180.
15. Connait (Connat or Kenneth), m., Lismore, 759.
16. Fionntan (Fintan), m.
17. Duileac (Doolagh), m. Baldoyle.
18. Ronan (Ronan), m., Drumiskin, Louth.
19. Aoldobar (Aeldore), m.
20. Froecan (Fraechan), bp., Bo-cluain. near Cloncany.
21. Columban (Columbanus), m., Bangor and Bobbio, Italy, 615.
22. Maedb (Meave), f., Ardagh. 
23. Roinne (Renna), m.
24. Ciannan (Cianan or Kianan), m., Duleek, 489.
25. Finnen (Finchu or Finchan), m., Brigown, Mitchelstown.
26. Siric (Siric), m., Fereall, W. Meath.
27. Feargal (Virgilius), m., Saltzburg, 785.
28. Laidgenn (Laidgen), m.
29. Fiadnot (Feenata), f.
30. Toman (Toman), m.

Southern Cross, Friday 6 November 1914, page 18

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Tuesday 27 October 2020

St Colman's Ducks

October 27 is the feast of Saint Colman of Seanbotha. He is associated with a miraculous flock of  ducks and a holy well which fed a lake where the ducks continued to thrive for centuries after his death. The story was told that the ducks could not be harmed and were impossible to use as a food source, although that didn't stop the foolish, the ignorant or the profane from trying!  I have already looked at the account of P.W. Joyce from 1911 here, but below is another telling of the legend of Saint Colman's ducks, this time from a 1920s newspaper. Here the story has been updated and repackaged for an Irish expatriate audience to feature an old wise woman called Brigid (what else?) and presented in the best Hiberno-English dialect:
Old Brigid Heffernan lived in a little cabin that stood among the ruins of the old abbey on the edge of the lake. There was a hole in the thatch of her roof, and yellow ragwort and house leeks growing round it, and there was not a neighbour to be heard or seen within an ass's bawl; but Brigid was not lonely. She was such a wise adviser that people would travel for miles to buy charms from her for the toothache, or to make the butter come, so  that she always had something in her pocket. As for company, after her customers had gone, she had the black Kerry cow, the chickens, and, choicest of all, a wild duck, a tiny teal, which had its nest among the rushes which fringed the dark crystal waters of the lake. When she called it it would come flying from far away, to follow her like a child.   
Brigid had a greater regard for the creature than she would tell, for hundreds of years ago the old hermit St. Colman used to live in the abbey, and he had flocks of teal which he tamed and blessed, and wonderful stories were told of them. "Who can tell whether my little pet is not a great-great-descendant of the Saint's blessed ducks?" Brigid used to say. 
One night very late someone came tapping at Brigid's door, and who would it be but a red-coated soldier. "I was told you were the most knowledgeable Wise Woman in the Four Provinces," said he, "and our regiment has need of your services. We have pitched our camp by the other end of the lake, and the curse which St. Patrick laid upon the kettles of the heathen seems to be on ours too. Our fires won't burn and our pots won't boil.  "Or maybe it's a fairy spell which is set upon them. Anyway, if you would come and bring them back to their duty it's yourself that would be welcome, and rewarded too." "I will come, but so will Christmas," said Brigid, shaking her head. "It's too old and lame I am to be shortening the way to the camp with you at this time of night." "Sure, it is not to be expected, said the soldier. "To-morrow I shall come with a side-car and the Captain's mare, and be driving you in style." 
At break of day he was there, still black with contending with the fires and the kettles. Before Brigid took the lead into the car she looked round and saw that the clear, glassy surface of the lake was muddy and a mist rising from it, and that the wild duck's nest in the reeds was empty. 
When they drew rein at the camp they took Brigid to the only fire they had got to burn. A big covered cauldron was swinging over it. "Do you see that pot?" asked the soldiers. "It has been hanging over the fire for an hour, and never a bubble has it let out of itself." "Take the cauldron from the fire," said Brigid. She lifted up the lid, and there in the midst of the cauldron floated a little yellow water-lily and the little teal. The flower was not faded and the bird was alive and well, for the water  was as ice-cold as when the soldiers dipped the cauldron into the lake in the dark, taking in as well, unbeknown to themselves, the little teal asleep on the ripple and the water-lily, folded in sleep, underneath. Brigid picked up the teal and held It between her hands, while it looked at her with jewels of eyes, keeping up a tender twittering.

"Sleepy head, to be caught napping like that I" said the Wise. Woman. "Your lake is troubled for the want of its guardian spirit. Away with you now to where you belong, St. Colman's blessed duck, and let the decent soldier boys' kettles come to the boil!" And she set it free.
 With a clapping of wings, as if a child were laughing, the little teal, so the old legend says, rose in the air and flew away.

Waikato Times, Volume 103, Issue 17314, 28 January 1928

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Thursday 1 October 2020

Irish Saints' Names - October


Time for another instalment of the series on Irish saints' names as published in the Australian press in 1914. Feasts in the month of October include some of the Irish holy men who laboured in Europe, as well as the name of Dubtac, associated with the father of Saint Brigid:
There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.
1. Clotra (Clora), f.
2. Odran (Oran), m., Latteragh, Tipperary, 549.
3. Modoilb (Modelv), m.
4. Finnan (Finan), m., Tiree, Scotland. 
5. Sinec (Sinech), m., Giohane, Tipperary.
6. Lugdac (Lua), m., Clonaheen, Rosenallis.
7. Dubtac (Duffy), m.
8. Maelcritoig (Melcriotan), m.
9. Dinertac (Dinerta), m., Clonmore. 
10. Greallan (Grellan), m.
11. Cainneac (Canice), bp., Aghaboe, Kilkenny.
12. Fiac (Fiach), m.
13. Colman (Colman), m., martyred at Meleth in Austria, 1012.
14. Colm (Colm), m., Inishkeen, Lough Melvin.
15. Cuan (Cuan), m., Ahascragh. Galway. 
16. Gall (Gall), m., patron of Switzerland. 
17. Maonae (Maena), m., Lyn, Lough Ennell. 720.
18. Molnairen (Lonan), m., in Co. Down. 
19. Crionan (Crinan), m., near Fermoy. 
20. Maelevin (Melone), m.
21. Finntan Munna (Fintan Munnu), m., Taghmon, Wexford, 635.
22. Donncad (Donogh or Donatus), bp. Fiesole, 863.
23. Cillian (Kilian), m., also on July 8.
24. Lonan (Lonan), m., Clontivren, Monaghan.
25. Gorman (Gorman), m., Kilgorman, Leinster.
26. Beoan (Beoan), m., Tamlacht Menain, Down.
27. Erc (Erc or Erca), m., Donaghmore, Kildare.
28. Dorbaine (Dorbaine), m., Iona. 714.
29. Luran (Luran or Lura), m., of Derryloran, Tyrone.
30. Ernae (Erna), m.
31. Failan. (Faelan). in., in France, 655.

Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 9 October 1914, page 17

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Saturday 12 September 2020

Translation of the Relics of Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy

Ireland witnessed a special occasion on September 12 1897 with the translation from Ivrea in Italy to Cork of the relics of the fifteenth-century Bishop, Blessed  Thaddeus (Tadhg) McCarthy (1455-92). This humble and saintly man had been appointed Bishop of Ross but was illegally deprived of his See and died in Italy before he could return, vindicated, to Ireland. An Australian newspaper report gave its Irish expatriate community a flavour of the excitement of the day on which he finally came home four centuries later:
Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy.
The Catholics of Cork celebrated with great pomp and ceremony the translation of the remains of the Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy, a former Bishop of the diocese of Cork, who flourished in the latter part of the fifteenth century, and was beatified by the Church twelve months ago. The remains have been resting for four centuries in the Cathedral of Ivrea in Italy, but now they are deposited beneath the altar of St. Mary's Cathedral, Cork. A procession consisting of the clergy representing the the various dioceses, with their Bishops in full canonical vestments accompanied the remains, which were enshrined in a golden sarcophagus, and borne on the shoulders of four canons through the streets to the cathedral. The route was lined by members of the various religious confraternities and was decorated with triumphal arches and banners. High Mass was celebrated, and in the evening there was a display of fireworks from the Cathedral Tower, while illuminations were displayed on a large scale throughout the city.
 W.A. Record (Perth, WA: 1888 - 1922), Saturday 30 October 1897, page 6

 Here at home the occasion was commemorated by a poem from Alice Esmonde in The Irish Monthly. Alice Esmonde was the pseudonym of Tipperary woman Margaret Mary Ryan, a regular contributor of verse to this magazine. Here she contrasts the sad circumstances under which Blessed Thaddeus left his homeland centuries earlier with the warm welcome which greeted his return:


From the sunshine and the rain
Of the exiled centuries,
From the blue Italian seas,
You have come to us again:
Home to us and dear old Ireland,
To the Land of Saints, your sireland,
And to-morrow and to-morrow,
By the Lee that saw your sorrow
And your pain,

You will rest with sheaf and crown,
Home amongst us evermore,
Fair you found the Irish shore,
When September fields were brown —
You had anguish ere you left us,
For dissensions tore and reft us;
Now the city runs to meet you,
And your kith and kin to greet you
With renown.

You have won the victor's goal,
Kept your heart from earthly taint,
my Father, my Saint!—
Spotless, stainless, kept your soul.
How the bells ring out your glory
How the people tell the story,
As your ashes home they're bringing,
While the music and the singing
Proudly roll!

To God's Heaven when we pray,
You are there of our own kin;
Every Irish heart within,
There's a place for you alway.
How the people's hearts are swelling,
As with tears of love they're telling
Of your life so sad and holy.
Of the patience sweet and lowly
Of your day. 

Oh, the honours God pours down
On His victor in the strife!
Oh, the beauty of your life,
Oh, the glory of your crown!
Far away in glen and valley,
By the hill-side and the alley,
Tears of joy for you are stealing,
In the cabins where they're kneeling,
And the town.

Since you went in grief away,
Slow and slow the ages flow,
Full four hundred years ago —
Looking back seems yesterday —
Since on lonely deathbed lying
Far from home and Ireland dying,
In the still October even,
Angels bore your soul to Heaven,
Now we pray,

One dear hour to see your face.
Our sweet exile, our own Saint!
You whose lips made no complaint.
High of blood and brave of race.
Welcome, welcome home to Ireland,
To the Land of Saints, your sireland,
And we thank the Lord who crowned you,
For the glories that surround you.
For His grace.

Alice Esmonde

* Blessed Thaddeus, Bishop of Cork and Cloyne, died at Ivrea in Piedmont in 1492. His relics, which were kept there ever since with great reverence and with that fame of miracles, were deposited with joyful solemnity in the Cathedral of Cork, September 12th, 1897.

The Irish Monthly, Volume 25 (1897), 596-7.

The memory of this wonderful man, who so richly deserves to complete the path to official recognition of his sanctity, is cherished and upheld by the Blessed Thaddeus MacCarthy's Catholic Heritage Association. At their blog you can see pictures of the beautiful reliquary of Blessed Thaddeus in the Cathedral where he now rests.

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Wednesday 2 September 2020

Irish Saints' Names - September

Another selection of Irish saints' names as suggestions for Christian names for children, part of the series syndicated by the Australian press in 1914. This is the list of those saints whose feasts fall in the month of September. Usually we have a few female names but this time all are male: 


There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.


1. Sceallan (Scallan), m., Armagh.
2. Senan (Senanus), m., Laraghbrien, Kildare.
3. Aengus Mac Nisse (Aengus), bp., Connor, 506
4. Ultan (Ultan), m., Ardbraccan, 657.
5. Ciaran (Kieran), m., Clonmacnois, 549.
6. Cionnoit (Kenneth), bp., Lusk, 497.
7. Siollan. (Siollan), m.
8. Maolcoisne (Melcosny).
9. Maolatgen (Melathgen), m., Armagh, 890.
10. Segen Ua Cuinn (Segenius or Shane), m., Bangor, 663.
11. Conmael (Conmel), m., Oriel, 710.
12. Ailbe (Elvi), bp., Emly, 512.
13. Dagan (Dagan), m., Ehereilly, Wicklow, 640.
14. Caeman (Caeman), m., Russagh, Westmeath. 615.
15. Ainmire (Ainmire), m., Clonfad.
16. Teacan (Tegan), m., Ossory.
17. Rodan (Rodan), m., in France, 680.
18. Enan (Enan), m., Emlaghfad, Sligo, 540.
19. Fiontan (Fintan), m.
20. Aedan (Aedan), m.
21. Saran (Saran) m., Slieve, Gallion, 742. '
22. Ailoll (Elill or Erill), m., Angouleme, France, 876.
23. Adamnan (Adamnan or Eunan), m., Raphoe and Iona.
24. Ceallacan. (Callaghan), m., Clontibret, Monaghan.
25. Loean (Loehan), m., Cloyne, 623.
26. Colman Elo (Colmanelo), m., Lynally, Antrim, 610.
27. Finnian (Finnan), m., at Inis Conula.
28. Diarmaid (Dermot), m., Feenagh, Leitrim.
29. Nessan (Xessan), m., Ulster.
30. Conna (Conna), m., Clonard, 714.

Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 11 September 1914, page 6

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Monday 3 August 2020

Irish Saints' Names - August

Another selection from 1914 of Irish saints, this time of those whose feasts fall in the month of August, offered as suggestions for naming children:

There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.

1. Saran (Saran) m., Bangor, 742.
2. Comgan (Comgan) m.
3. Trea (Trea) f., Ardtrea.
4. Molua (Molua) m. Slieve Bloom and Killaloe, 623.
5. Moliba (Moliba) m., at Gort Cirbe.
6. Mocua (Mochua) m., Olondalkin, 631.
7. Cronan (Cronan), m., Moville, 650.
8. Daire (Dera), f.
9. Nati (Nahi), m., Leyney, Sligo, 618.
10. Cuimin (Cumman), m., Drumbre.
11. Donnan (Donnan), brother of St. Kevin.
12. Molaisse (Molaise), m., Inishmurray.
13. Eimear (Ivor), bp., Armagh, 1134.
14. Fachtnan (Fachtna), m., Ross, 588.
15. Aedh MacCarten (Aedh), m., Clogher.
16. Lugan (Luan), m.
17. Teimnen (Teinen), m., Annagaesan, Louth.
18. Ernin (Ernan), m., Rathnen, 635.
19 Mocta (Mochta), bp., Louth, 535,
20. Lasair (Lasara), f., in Co. Meath.
21. Sionac (Senach), m., Clonard, 588.
22. Aindrias (Andrew), brother of St. Donatus, Fiesole, Italy.
23. Ergan (Euginius or Owen), bp., Ardstraw, 618.
24. Rodan (Rodan), m., Murrisk.
25. Michen (Michan), m., Dublin.
26. Farlan (Farlan), m., Fartullagh,Westmeath.
27. Usaille (Auxilius), bp., Kilossy.
28. Fulimid (Felimy), King of Munster.
29. Vindic (Finnan), m., Tynan, Armagh.
30 Fiuria (Fiuchra or Fiacre), Meaux, France, 650.
31. Aedan (Aidan), Lindisfarne, England,

 Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 7 August 1914, page 8
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Friday 17 July 2020

Saint Golgus (Colgus of Iona), July 17

Some of the problems faced by hagiologists in their study of the saints are illustrated by Article VIII for July 17 in Volume VII of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints. He suggests that in the supposed feast on this day of an Abbot Golgus, we may be dealing with a case of mistaken identity. The error has been made by the seventeenth-century Scottish calendarist David Camerarius:
Reputed Feast of St. Golgus, Abbot.
At the present date, David Camerarius mentions a Golgus, Abbot, said to be alluded to by Adamnan, in his Third Book—assumed to be in his work Vita S. Columbae—and by other writers. While the Bollandists insert this reputed feast, on his authority, they remark, that under such form, they could not find his name, and therefore, they defer classing Golgus, Abbot, among the saints, until strengthened by further authority than that of Camerarius.
So, this raises the possibility that behind 'Golgus' lies a member of the Iona monastic community, Colgus.  Indeed, although he does not say so here, in the Introduction to Volume I of his magnum opus Canon O'Hanlon wrote that a 'St. Colgius or Colchuo, is said to have been author of a Treatise on the Miracles of his Master, St. Columkille'.

A footnote states plainly that
 In Dempster's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum," tomus i., lib. vii., num. 578, he is called "St. Golgus."
Thus it seems that Canon O'Hanlon had already concluded that Golgus is probably a misspelling of Colgus (Colgius), a Latinization of the Irish name Colga. He reiterates this conclusion in the final footnote to his article on the mysterious Saint Golgus:
Probably Camerarius meant to have written Colgius, who is mentioned by Adamnan, in lib iii., cap.20, but whose festival - if one he had - is not known.
Here is an account of Colga of Iona and one of the miracles of its founding saint to which was a witness from the classic translation of Bishop William Reeves:

Of another very similar Vision of great brilliancy.

ANOTHER night also, one of the brothers, whose name was Colga, the son of Aid Draigniche, of the grandsons of Fechrech mentioned in the first Book, came by chance, while the other brothers were asleep, to the gate of the church, and stood there for some time praying. Then suddenly he saw the whole church filled with a heavenly light, which more quickly than he could tell, flashed like lightning from his gaze. He did not know that St. Columba was praying at that time in the church, and after this sudden appearance of light, he returned home in great alarm. On the following day the saint called him aside and rebuked him severely, saying: "Take care of one thing, my child, that you do not attempt to spy out and pry too closely into the nature of that heavenly light which was not granted thee, but rather fled from thee, and that thou do not tell any one during my lifetime what thou hast seen."

Life of Saint Columba, founder of Hy. Written by Adamnan. Edited by William Reeves (Edinburgh 1874), 92.
Knowledge of Colga of Iona seems to be confined to this source and I have not been able to find another recorded feast day for him. Ó Riain's A Dictionary of Irish Saints does not mention this saint in connection with the Golgus recorded on the Scottish calendars at July 17 but suggests that he may be identical with Saint Colga of Kilcolgan, County Galway.

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Wednesday 1 July 2020

Irish Saints' Names - July

Another selection of Irish saints' names as  suggested to readers of the Southern Cross in Adelaide, Australia in 1914. This selection relates to saints whose feasts occur in July and the more obscure among them are well represented.

There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.


1. Ailioll (Elill or Erill), nr., Armagh, 536.
2. Ternoc. or Mernoc (Ernan. or Marnoc),m.
3. Maolmuire (Myles, or Melmary), m.,12th century.
4. Finnbarr (Finnbarr), m., Little Island, Waterford, 657.
5. Etaoin (Aideen, Edeana, or Moduena),f., Moylurg, Connacht.
6. Eitne (Eithne, Enny), f.
7. Maolruian (Melruan), m.. Tallaght, 792.
8. Cillin (Killian), m., Wurtzburg, Germany, 689.
9. Garban (Garvan), m., Kinsale.
10. Cuan (Cuan), m., Wexford, 8th century.
11. Failbe (Falvy), m., Westmeath.
12. Ultan (Ultan), m.
13. Greallan (Grellan), m., Tallaght.
14. Maeldegar (Maldegar), m., 677.
15. Ronan (Ronan), m.
16. Maolodran (Meloran), m., Brimult, King's Co.
17. Craohnat (Craevnata), f.
18. Mianac (Mianach), f.
19. Feargus (Fergus), m.
20. Cuirbin (Cuirbhin), m.
21. Curcac (Corca), f.
22. Buadan (Bodan), m., Culdaff.
23. Banbnat (Banavnat), f.
24. Blatmac (Blathmac), m., Iona, 824, feast also on 19 January.
25. Neassan (Nessan), m., Mungrit, 552.
26. Toman (Toman), m., Mungret.
27. Guiare (Guiare), m.
28. Furodran (Furoran), m.
29. Gailan (Caelan), m., Scattery Island.
30. Mooltuile (Miltille), m., Dysart, Westmeath.
31. Naal (Natalis, Nael), m., Kilnamanagh, Kilkenny, 564.

 Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), Friday 10 July 1914, page 8

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Saturday 20 June 2020

New Blog on the Irish Martyrs

Today, the Feast of the Irish Martyrs, I am launching De Processu Martyriali, a new blog dedicated to all those who gave their lives for the Catholic faith in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I will be taking the same approach as I do here and hope to bring a mixture of classic accounts and insights from  modern scholarship. I am particularly interested in uncovering the stories of the less well-known martyrs. The new blog takes its name from a catalogue of Irish Martyrs by David Rothe, Bishop of Ossory (1573-1650) and you can visit it here.

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Monday 1 June 2020

Irish Saints' Names - June

A selection of suggestions for naming children, this time for the month of June. Note that at June 2, Saint Colman is associated with Kilchief in Down, that is a typo for Kilclief. I am impressed by the number of lesser-known saints whose names feature in these monthly lists, but not surprisingly the most famous saint whose feast falls in this month, Colum Cille, hasn't been overlooked.

Irish Saints' Names.

There are many who think that the Irish saints are only a few, and so their choice of names for their children is very small. Week by week, a list will be given. The name will be spelt as in Irish and the English equivalent will be given in brackets. The sex is marked m. for males, and f. for females. Only one name is given for each day, but more could be given. Year of death as below.


1. Cuimin (Cummian), m., Rathlin.
2. Colman (Colman), m., Kilchief, Down.
3. Caoimgen (Kevin), m., Glendalough, 618.
4. Faitlen (Fallan), m.
5. Findlug (Finlu), m.
6. Iarlait (Jarlath), m.. also on December 26.
7. Colman (Colman), m., Dromore, 515.
8. Luaitren (Luarena), f., feast also on May 1.
9. Colm-cille (Colmcille), patron of Ireland, born at Gartan, Donegal, on December 7, 521, died at Iona, 597.
10. Iolladan (Iollan), m., Fircall, 6th century.
11. Aengus, or Eogan Maccail (Aengus), bp. Kilcullen, 549.
12. Giolla Criost, or Criostan (Gilchrist), brother of St. Malachy.
13. Caireall (Carrol), m., Ballyhale.
14. Ciaran (Kieran), in., Castlekieran, Kells, 770.
15. Sineall (Sineall), m.
16. Setna (Setna), m.
17. Moling (Moling, or Mullen), bp. Ferns, 697.
18. Furodran (Furoran), m.
19. Caslan (Caelan), m.
20. Faelan (Faelan), m., Kilcolumbane, Queen's Co.
21. Cormac (Cormac), m., Barrymore.
22. Cronan (Cronan), m., Ferns.
23. Mocaoi (Mohee), m., Mahee Island, Down, 496.
24. Romoel (Rumold), m., Malines, Belgium, 775.
25. Lugaid (Lewy), m., 589.
26. Soadbar (Soadbar), m., Inishnag, Thomastown, 889.
27. Dioman (Diman), m.
28. Cruimine (Crumeen, or Crumian), m., Lecan, Westmeath.
29. Faoldobair (Feldore), m.. Clogher, 702.
30. Failbe (Falvy), m., at Cell Eo., in Connacht.

Irish Saints' Names. (1914, June 5). Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved May 31, 2020, from

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Saturday 16 May 2020

The Sailor Saint of Erin

May 16 is the feast of Saint Brendan of Clonfert. I have already reproduced a rather voluminous account of his life which can be accessed from the tab on the home page, but it is useful to have a shorter reminder of his illustrious career too. Below is one of the syndicated articles which appeared in the New Zealand press in 1923 and is a part of their Papers Past digitized collection. In it the author draws together many of the most famous episodes from the hagiography of Saint Brendan and reminds us that the account of his voyaging was something of a medieval blockbuster. The work Brendaniana mentioned in the article is also available online through the Internet Archive. Finally, I suspect that the 'Minniah of Loch Erue', listed in the opening paragraph as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland is a typo for Ninnian of Loch Erne.

The Sailor Saint of Erin

(By P. D. Murphy, in the Missionary.)

To the average Catholic St. Brendan is a shadowy, indeed, a mythical figure, who lived, if he lived at all, in a remote corner of Ireland hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But in his native land he is a very real personage, the patron saint of two important dioceses, and one of that group of zealous missionaries, known as the Twelve Apostles of Erin, the others being his namesake of Birr, Ciaran of Clonmacnoise, Ciaran of Saigher, Columba of Tir-da-Glass, Columba or Columbcille of lona, Mobhi of Glasnevin, Rodan of Lorrha, Senanus of Iniscarthy, Minniah of Loch Erue (sic), Lasserian, and St. Canice of Kilkenny. Brandon Hill in Kerry is called after him; so too, is Kilbrennan in Scotland. There was a church dedicated to him in Forfarshire, and in Teneriffe is a shrine which bears his name. He is mentioned in the Lives of the Saints, a copy of which reposes in the Burgundian Library in Brussels. A manuscript life of the saint is one of the most cherished possessions of the family of the Duke of Devonshire. There is a copy of Brendan's acts in the famous Book of Kilkenny, and there are various entries concerning him in the still more famous Book of Lismore. The Navigatio Brendani was in popular demand in the Middle Ages, and copies of it still preserved in European libraries are of almost priceless value. There is also a work entitled Brendaniana, compiled by a Kerry priest, which is full of interest to those who are interested in the lives of early pillars of the Church in Ireland.

Brendan, surnamed "the navigator," partly no doubt because of his passion for the sea, and partly to distinguish him from Brendan of Birr, who was known as "the prophet," was born in the last quarter of the fifth century in the County of Kerry, near where the town of Tralee now stands. Like many of the early Irish saints, he was of noble birth, being descended from Fergus Mac Roy, who was King of Ireland in the first century. His parents, Finnlugh and Cara, were devout people who lived under the religious rule of Bishop Erc, "the sweet-spoken brehon (i.e., lawgiver) of Patrick." According to tradition, shortly before the saint was born one Becc Mac De, a prophet, paid a visit to Airde, a wealthy man of the neighborhood, and on being asked, "What unknown event is soon to happen here?" he replied: "There will be born this night, between you and the sea, your true and worthy king, whom many kings and princes will devoutly honor, whom he will bear with him to heaven." Next morning Airde set out to find the new-born babe, and coming to the house of Finnlugh he was ushered into the child's presence. Airde at once knelt down and presented Brendan with thirty cows newly-calved and their thirty calves. It is also recorded that the night the child was born Bishop Erc saw a strange light, and many angels passing on their Avay to the house of Finnlugh, whereupon the learned Bishop visited the child, and, taking him in his arms, said: "O man of God, receive me thy faithful votary, and many will rejoice at thy birth, as my heart and soul now greatly rejoice thereat."

There is a well in the neighborhood where it is popularly believed the infant was baptised. This spring is known as Tubber-na-molt, or Wethers' Well, because, according to legend, three sheep arose from its waters during the ceremony.

When Brendan was a year old he was, in accordance with the custom of the time, put out to fosterage, his foster-mother being St. Ita, the Brigid of Munster. Fosterage, it may here be remarked, was a tribal custom which had existed in Ireland for centuries. It was not a system of baby-farming, but an institution recognised by law and adopted by rich and poor alike as a means of knitting the clan more closely together. The old Brehon Code clearly defined the duties of foster-parents, and penalties were imposed on all who failed to discharge these duties. Boys of the peasant class were instructed in farming and kindred pursuits, while their sisters were taught household management and plain needlework. The sons of parents more generously endowed with the world's goods were trained to the use of arms, and their daughters were initiated into the mysteries of domestic science and delicate embroidery.

Brendan spent five years with St. Ita, who "gave him exceeding love, for she saw the ministering of angels about him, and the grace of the Holy Ghost manifestly upon him."

Then along with his sister Briga, who later became a nun, he was placed under Bishop Erc for a further period of five years. At the end of that time, when Brendan had been instructed in the Old and New Testaments, he set out to study in the monasteries, which even at this early period were attracting students and ecclesiastics from the continent of Europe.

Having visited his first teacher, St. Ita, with whom he remained three days, he crossed the Shannon into Connacht, which at that time included all the land west of the river. Here he met a soldier named Mac Lenin, whom he converted, and who afterwards became known as St. Colman, patron of the diocese of Cloyne. Brendan spent some time under St. Jarlath at Tuam, and then journeyed. into Roscommon. On the way he is reputed to have raised a dead man to life, and the matter reaching the ears of the King the young student was summoned to the palace, where an offer of a tract of land was made to him. But Brendan declined the offer and continued his journey in the pursuit of knowledge. When at length he felt he had acquired all that he had set out to learn be returned to Bishop Erc, by whom he was shortly afterwards ordained.

"Thenceforth," says the manuscript life of the Saint, "the love of the Lord grew exceedingly in his heart, and he desired to leave his country and land, and parents and family, and he earnestly besought the Lord to grant him some place, secret and retired, far apart from men. While he slept that night be heard the voice of an angel from heaven saying to him: 'Arise, O Brendan, for God will grant to thee what thou hast prayed for —even the Land of Promise.' Brendan then retired to the mountain called Sliabh-Diadche, and there fixed his future abode."

From this quiet retreat he exercised spiritual jurisdiction over all that territory from Tralee in Kerry to the shores of Lough Corrib in Galway. His fame spread abroad and students from far and near came to study under him. He gave himself freely to the work, but solitude had an irresistible attraction for him. Throughout his life, whenever it was at all possible, he sought the secluded glen rather than the beaten highway, and there passed his time in prayer.

Some years later, when he was living at Ardfert, a visiting priest told him of a wonderful island out in the Atlantic to which Mernac, an Irish monk, had withdrawn for solitude. Brendan pondered over the story, and finally made up his mind to set out in search of the romantic isle. He took the members of his little community, 14 in number, into his confidence, and one and all agreed to accompany him on his voyage. In preparation for the journey they spent 40 days in fasting and prayer. Then when everything was ready they sailed for Aran to take leave of St. Enda, Brendan's faithful friend. Their boat, according to Brendaniana, had wicker sides and ribs, over which was fastened cowhide tanned in oak. St. Enda heartily approved the project and the party returned to Kerry, where they took on board provisions for 40 days and an adequate supply of cooking utensils. Then Brendan blessed the vessel, and all embarked in the name of the Blessed Trinity.

For 12 days and nights they pursued their course, and then a calm set in. The crew took to the oars and exerted themselves to the utmost. When nearly four weeks later their provisions had almost run out, and the members of the expedition were in the last stages of exhaustion, land was sighted away to the north. It proved to be an island, the character of whose coast was such as to chill the hearts of Brendan and his companions. It was rocky and precipitous, and for three days they sailed round it hoping to discover a landing place. When it became apparent there was none they headed the boat into a cove surrounded by high cliffs. Brendan blessed the place and managed to get the party ashore, where they were met by a dog which led them to a mansion "laid out with couches and seats and water for washing the feet." After they had eaten the repast which they found awaiting them, all except Brendan retired, and he, we are told, spent the night in prayer. Three days later they resumed . their hazardous undertaking, and after a short voyage landed on another island, where they celebrated the Easter festival. Again they put to sea and in due time reached what appeared to be a barren tract. Here they spent the night and next morning, after Mass, some members of the party set about preparing breakfast. All at once they were amazed to notice that their camping ground was moving. In great alarm they ran to Brendan and informed him of their discovery, but the Saint set their fears at rest when he told them it was not an island they were on, "but a fish, the largest of all that swim in. the ocean."

Pentecost found them on another island, which they called the Paradise of Birds. Then followed three months at sea, tossing about at the mercy of the wind, suffering much from exposure and hardship. They discovered many other islands, but were eventually driven back to the Paradise of Birds. Here one day, while Brendan was praying near his boat, a bird appeared and perched on the prow of the vessel. The little creature clapped his wings loudly and then delivered this message to the intrepid navigator:

"The Almighty and Merciful God has appointed for you four different places, at four different seasons of the year, until the seven years of your pilgrimage will be ended. On the festival of the Lord's Supper you will be each year with your procurator; the vigil and festival of Easter you will celebrate on the back of the great whale; with us here you will spend the Paschal Time until the Octave of Pentecost; and on the island of St. Ailbe you will remain from Christmas until the festival of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After those seven years, through many, and divers perils, you will find the Land of Promise of the Saints which you are seeking, and there you will abide for 40 days; then God will guide your return to the land of your birth."

And so it turned out to be. For seven long years Brendan and his companions sailed the seas in their frail craft, visiting many strange islands, and enduring great hardships. And at the end of that time they reached the Land of Promise of the Saints, which in the opinion of many competent scholars was none other than the great continent of America. They found the country rich and fertile, with great woods and many rivers. In the course of their wanderings they came one day to a river larger than any they had hitherto encountered, and while they lay on the bank a heavenly messenger appeared and confided to the Saint that his mission was at an end.

"This is the land you have sought after for so long a time," the messenger continued, "but you could ..not hitherto find it, because Christ Our Lord wished first to display to you His divers mysteries in this immense ocean. Return now to the land of your birth, bearing with you as much of those fruits as your boat can carry, for the days of your earthly pilgrimage must draw to a close when you may rest in peace among the saintly brethren. After many years this land will be made manifest to those who come after you, when the days of tribulation may come upon the people of Christ."

Without further ado, Brendan and his little company returned to their ship and set sail for Ireland, which they reached in due course. The Saint re-established himself in his little cell on the bleak side of Slaibh-Diadche to which he repaired after his ordination. Solitary though he was by nature, he soon realised that there was work for him to do in the conversion of those of his own countrymen who had not yet been brought into the Fold. For fifteen years he labored in Munster and Connacht, and then about the year 540 he extended his mission into Britain, where he was welcomed by Gildas, the distinguished ecclesiastic who was an alumnus of the great school at Armagh. He travelled widely in Britain, visiting Wales, Scotland, and the Orkney Islands. His mission in Scotland preceded that of Columbcille by some 20 years, and that he cherished an affection for that country is evident from St. Adamnan's life of the Apostle of Iona, wherein it is recorded that four great founders of monasteries came to visit the first and greatest of the Irish missionaries in his self-imposed exile. "These were," says Adamnan, "St. Comgall, founder of the great monastery and school of Bangor; St. Canice, founder of Aghaboe and Kilkenny; St. Cormac, a disciple of St. Columba; and St. Brendan of Clonfert, the greatest founder of monasteries of them all."

Altogether he spent ten years in. Britain, after which he returned to Ireland, where he built several churches and monasteries. But the outstanding event of his career was the great establishment he set up at Clonfert, which, according to the Annals of Innisfallen, he began on the very date of the battle of Cooldrooney, as the result of which Columbcille, the Dove of the Church, went into voluntary exile in Iona. At this time Brendan was verging on 80 years of age, but still full of mental and bodily vigor. He addressed himself to his new task with that enthusiasm which characterised all his labors. The monastery grew apace and even during the lifetime of its founder, was recognised as one of the great schools of Ireland. Some idea of the magnitude of Clonfert may be gathered from the fact that it housed no fewer than three thousand monks who instructed thousands of students, both native and foreign.

Brendan ruled over Clonfert for many years, and desired to be buried within its hallowed precincts. When he saw that his end was approaching he went down to his sister Brigda, at the convent of Annaghdown, and there some days later he passed away. At his own request his remains were conveyed back to Clonfert, and there they were interred in the presence of "a great multitude of holy men assembled from all quarters on the occasion."

The Sailor Saint of Erin,New Zealand Tablet, Volume L, Issue 4, 25 January 1923

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