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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article171248198

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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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