Sunday 29 January 2023

Saints Báithéne, Ségéne & Crónán, The Three Clarenigh, January 29

I have always been intrigued by the adjective clárainech appended to the names of some of our Irish saints, most famously perhaps to Saint Mobhi of Glasnevin. The usual translation given is 'flat-faced' or 'table faced' and in the case of Saint Mobhi this is described as a result of his rather traumatic birth. He is not the only saint described in this way, however, and at January 29 we have no less than three clarinechs commemorated collectively, Saints Báithéne, Ségéne & Crónán. As Canon O'Hanlon observes 'why these three saints are venerated on the same day is a problem of difficult solution'. Yes, indeed. Below are his entries for all three from Volume I of his Lives of the Irish Saints, where he suggests that our three saints may have been brothers in the flesh as well as in Christ, and thus there might have been a genetic explanation for their unusual appearance:

 Article  VI. — St.  Baeithin.  

After  the  introduction  of  seven  foreign saints  at  this  day,  in  the  Franciscan  copy  of  the  Martyrology  of  Tallagh,  the Irish  saints  first  noticed  are  the  three  Clarenigh,'  i.e.,  Baithen,  Segin,  and Cronan. Baeithin,  is  separately  registered  in  the  Martyrology  of  Donegal, on  this  day.  He  is  also  entered  in  the  published  Martyrology  of  Tallagh, but  united  with  two  other saints.  Why  these  three  saints  are  venerated  on the  same  day  is  a  problem  of  difficult  solution.

Article  VII. — St.  Cronan.  

We  find  a  St.  Cronan  separately  recorded in  the  Martyrology  of  Donegal,  as  having  a  festival  at  this  date.  He  is  also entered,  but  not  separately,  in  the  Martyrology  of  Tallagh.  Towards  the close  of  life  he  might  repeat,  as  St.  Paul  did  to  the  Ephesians, "I  have fought  a  good  fight;  I  have  finished  my  course;  I  have  kept  the  faith." Therefore  was  he  a  ready  sacrifice  when  the  time  of  dissolution  was  at  hand.

Article  VIII. — St.  Seighin  or  Segin.  

The  Martyrology  of  Tallagh mentions  that  on  the  29th  of  January  a  festival  was  held  in  honour  of  St.Segin.   He  is  united  with  the  two  former  saints. "Na  tri  Clarenigh.  i  Baethini  ocus  Segini  ocus  Cronani,"  is  the  entry  found  in  this  record.  In  the Martyrology  of  Donegal  we  find  entered  on  this  day,  Seighin.  Immediately afterwards  follows  this  notice: — "The  three  Clairenechs  [flat-faced],  were Cronan,  Baeithin,  and  Seighin."  Perhaps  from  the  physical  peculiarity  attributed to  these  saints,  and  their  feasts  occurring  the  same  day,  we  may suppose  them  to  have  been brothers,  or  perhaps  to  have  been  descended from  some  common  progenitor.

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Friday 20 January 2023

All the Saints of Ireland on Radio Maria

I am delighted to say that Radio Maria Ireland has invited me to contribute to 'All the Saints of Ireland' - a new programme at 7pm (Irish time) on the second and third Fridays of the month. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to share the work I do here at the blog and to make more people aware of the rich heritage we have in our native saints. Tonight, January 20, I will be speaking on some of the monastic saints whose feasts fall in the month of January as well as on the Irish martyr, Blessed Francis Taylor. I will also be addressing the vexed question of our national patroness, Saint Brigid of Kildare's, alleged relationship to a pagan goddess of the same name. So I do hope you will join me and host Thomas Murphy on Radio Maria for All the Saints of Ireland tonight at 7pm. Details of how to listen to the show can be found at Radio Maria's website:


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Sunday 15 January 2023

Saint Ita: The Forgotten Princess

January 15 is the feast of Saint Ita of Killeedy. In 2006 County Waterford man, James Dunphy, published a book called  St Ita: the Forgotten Princess.  He brought together a collection of episodes from the saint's Life, the Vita Santae Ytae, interspersed with folklore, poems, prayers and photographs from a variety of locations identified with the saint. Among the stories Mr Dunphy collected is this one on pages 185-7 concerning the building of Gortroe Church, County Cork, from a lady born in 1907 and named in honour of Saint Ita:

Early one morning, Hannah O'Neill, grandmother of Ita O'Neill, had a dream, a vision about St. Ita. Many centuries ago, their ancestor and his people had lost their lives in a battle in Gortroe defending the young Ita from the 'Mad Prince'. Now, Ita, the Warrior Princess, wanted a church and school built on the site of the battlefield.

In the morning before rising, Hannah O'Neill made her husband promise he would do all in his power to carry out the saint's wishes and make them known to the people of Clonpriest and the surrounding area. Everybody agreed that as a people they should give it their best effort. Where was the money to come from, now that times were poor? God and St. Ita would provide when the time came, they said. So be it. was decided they they should go to Lord Ponsonby and ask him for a site. He was amenable towards the proposal and not only did he provide a site, he donated some money to start the effort going. It was suggested that anybody with relations in America should contact them and ask them to raise funds for their church too.

Most had relations in Boston, so some of the emigrants went to the Bishop there to ask for permission to raise funds. One such emigrant was Sean O'Donnacadha from Killbarrymeaden. He came from a parish and townland where St Ita was well known and had a job as a foreman in a construction company.

After two years or more, he had a significant amount of money raised, but now his troubles began. He had many begging letters from churches in Boston and his own county Waterford. His sister and her husband told him he should send money home to his mother and orphan daughter. He even got threats to hand over the money to some undesirables. The honourable man that he was, he refused to bow to any of the requests to him and sent the money home with a trustworthy man from Gortroe whose father had died.

When the work began, help came from all quarters. All the farmers gave a horse and cart and there were several stonemasons among the locals. ..John O'Neill was foreman and he devoted all his time to building St. Ita's church. It was finished in 1907, eight years after the Virgin Ita appeared to Hannah O'Neill. A beautiful stained glass window which was donated by Hannah and her husband John depicts our saint Ita and there is also an inspiring picture of St. Ita measuring 6ft by 4ft, which was presented by a young girl, Kate O'Neill. It cost the magnificent sum of five pounds at that time.

There is a photograph of this painting and it indeed looks most impressive, depicting the saint much as Saint Brigid appears in iconography of the period - as an abbess with her staff, holding a church in her hand. Nonagenarian Ita O'Neill, born in the same year as the church was completed, was looking forward to celebrating its centenary and I very much hope that she did.

What struck me about this account was that although these events took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they read like something straight out of the pages of medieval hagiography. All of the classic elements seemed to be there - the sense of place and link to the saint, her will revealed through a dream/vision and difficulties in fulfilling the saint's wishes overcome by the fidelity of the humble parishioners to the task they had undertaken. I found the sense of continuity with the medieval past in this modern narrative quite compelling.

Below are the details of the book from Amazon's US site:

Product Description

St. Ita: The Forgotten Princess is the result of inspiration James Dunphy received after the death of a dear friend some years ago. In the intervening time, he has spent many months in researching the story of this unique Saint, who was born a Princess, became a Holy Woman and Warrior and who was the cause of the conversion of many to Christianity. Her battles with the Druids; her ministry to the people of Munster and Leinster in the southern half of Ireland and the story of her own spirituality, form the basis of this fascinating story about a woman and Saint who is sometimes forgotten in this modern age, but reminders of whom appear regularly in churches and placenames around Ireland and in the lands where our Missionaries laboured for centuries.

Time and again, Princess Ita, daughter of King Kennfoelad and Queen Necta, born on the banks of the River Suir, and with Divine help, proved too powerful for the forces of darkness which opposed the introduction of Christianity to Ireland.

The story of St. Ita, her sister Eannaigh and her association with her fellow Saints of the time, Declan, Brendan, Mochoemog and Finnan is a fascinating one and guarantees that St. Ita will never be forgotten in her native place.

Paperback: 222 pages
Publisher: Trafford Publishing (January 27, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1412077788
ISBN-13: 978-1412077781



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Tuesday 10 January 2023

Saint Tuilelaith of Kildare

On January 10 Canon O'Hanlon brings us an an account of a ninth-century abbess of Kildare. The name of Saint Tuillelaith is recorded in the Irish annals rather than in the calendars.  Her memory was preserved in the works of  the seventeenth-century Franciscan hagiologists, Fathers John Colgan and Michael O'Clery.  The latter, in association with a team of other Donegal Franciscans, produced The Annals of the Four Masters, recording the history of Ireland from earliest times up to their own day. It simply records: 

The Age of Christ, 882 

...Tuilelaith,  daughter  of  Uarghalach, Abbess  of  Cill-dara,  died on the 10th of  January... 
Father Colgan undertook the mammoth task of researching and writing the Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae, but sadly only lived to produce the volumes for the first three months of the year.

 As the name of this successor to Saint Brigid is the only information we have about her, Canon O'Hanlon piously muses on the vocation of Abbess Tuilelaith in Article IV for this day in Volume I of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

Article IV. St. Tulelacia, or Tuillelaith, Abbess of Kildare. 
 [Ninth Century]
This holy superioress is called the daughter of Huargalach. Her tender soul eagerly imbibed heavenly doctrine, and was wonderfully affected with the things of God. After a time, when she had grown up, she dedicated herself to Him, and took delight in nothing else but in thinking, speaking, or hearing of her Heavenly Spouse, and entertaining herself with His Divine love. She was Abbess of Kildare; and, according to Colgan, she died on the 10th of January, A.D. 882. This date also agrees with one in the Annals of the Four Masters, where she is called Tuilelaith, daughter of Uarghalach. True virtue breathed around her an atmosphere of holiness which all her subjects felt. It seemed something marvellous to meet with one so pure-minded, and so unsuspecting of evil in a world of corruption.

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Monday 9 January 2023

Saint Baoithín, January 9


On January 9 the calendars record the name of a Saint Baoithín (Baithin, Baeithin), but without any further specific information he must remain elusive. Canon O'Hanlon gives this short account in Volume I of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

Article VIII. St. Baithin. 

The preservation of a saint's name is too frequently in our calendars the mere representation of a well-spent life. A festival, in honour of Baithin, is recorded in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 9th of January. Nothing more explicit occurs, where Baeithin is simply set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day. His place is not recorded.

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Thursday 5 January 2023

Saint Joseph of Tallaght, January 5

January 5 is the feast of an Irish Saint Joseph, a County Dublin saint associated with the monastery of Tallaght. The calendars record that he was a bishop, but alas, nothing else. Canon O'Hanlon in his account of Saint Joseph focuses for the most part on the monastery at Tallaght and the annual commemoration of its founder Saint Maelruain.  He ends by noting another episcopal bearer of the name whose death is recorded in the annals in the ninth century:

Article IV. St. Joseph, Bishop of Tallagh, County of Dublin.

Many old scenes of monastic life in Ireland are yet venerable and still endeared to popular recollection. Within the walled and enclosed graveyard of Tallagh, where, on a gentle eminence, stands the present Protestant church, the tall tower of a more ancient religious edifice may be seen. This formed the west entrance and porch to the more ancient church, the very foundations of which are now quite obliterated; although early in the present century the building itself had been used for Protestant services. The tower contains in the second story a bell; but above it are opes, in which probably a peal of three small bells had been formerly placed. It is connected by a covered passage with the Protestant church, the vestry of which is the under-part of this old tower. Not far from the site of the obliterated church, and on the southern side of the cemetery, is shown the pedestal of an old stone cross, bedded in the earth, and at the head of a high grave are the arms of an old granite cross, which at one time surmounted the plinth. The intermediate shaft seems to have been broken, nor are its fragments discoverable. Here, it is said, St. Melruan, the patron of Tallagh, lies interred. Every year, on the 7th of July, at Tallagh, and from time immemorial, the inhabitants have been accustomed to walk from the adjoining village in procession, bearing a long pole, crowned with natural flowers, to the site of St, Melruan's grave. The standard-bearer carries what is locally called "the garland", seven times in a walking circuit around the grave: then all the processionists return to the village, after prayers have been said at the spot. The pole is carefully set aside, until required for floral decoration the following year. This custom is probably but the remnant of an ancient processional and solemn religious service in memory of St.Melruan. The site of his grave is held to be sacred, and no person is allowed to be interred there. The people are accustomed to measure their family places of interment, as being so many feet or so many yards from the grave of Tallagh's holy patron.

Few other antique monuments are now to be seen, although there is a tradition, that very ancient Irish inscriptions had been read on tombs and crosses there during the last century. These have all disappeared, but many are probably buried in the soil beneath.

This day the published Martyrology of Tallagh registers a festival in honor of Joseph, Bishop of Tamlachtan. In addition to this entry of the calendar, having its origin at his own locality, we read in the Martyrology of Donegal,  that Joseph, Bishop of Tamlacht-Maelruain, set down on this day, was venerated among our national saints. This name was no unusual one, in the early period of our Christian history. It is pleasing to discover, that the chaste spouse of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary gave name to this holy man.

Under the heading of Tamlacht, Duald Mac Firbis enters the present Joseph, Bishop of Tamlacht Maolruain, for January the 5th. In the Irish Ordnance Survey Extracts for Dublin County his name occurs.

Another distinguished ecclesiastic of this name is found in our Annals. Under the head of Claun-uais, Duald Mac Firbis and the Four Masters enter Joseph of Ros-mor, who was an eminent bishop and scribe of Cluain-uais. He died in 839. He presided over other churches.

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Monday 2 January 2023

Saint Lochaid of Moville, January 2

On January 2 the Irish calendars commemorate Saint Lochaid (Lochait) an abbot of Moville, County Down, the monastery founded by Saint Finnian, who was described in the Life of Saint Comgall as 'the bishop who sleeps amid many miracles in his own city of Magh Bile'. Not a great deal of information has survived about today's saint, for as Canon O'Hanlon notes below his death is not recorded in the Irish annals:
Article IV. St. Lochaid or Lochait, Abbot of Magh Bile or Moville, County of Down. 
The religious community presided over by this saint was situated near the head of Strangford Lough. It lay about an English mile to the north-east of Newtown Ards. We learn from the "Martyrology of Donegal," that the feast of Lochait, Abbot of Magh-bile, had been celebrated on this day.  A similar entry is met with in the "Martyrology of Tallagh," at the 2nd of January. Although our annals have deaths of various bishops and abbots of Maghbile, yet this holy man's name does not appear among them. It is difficult, in consequence, to assign his exact place in the local and abbatial succession.

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Sunday 1 January 2023

Saint Colmán Muilinn of Derrykeighan, January 1


We start the new year with a feast of one of the many Irish saints Colmán to be found on the calendars. Colmán Muillin, Colmán of the mill, is an early saint from County Antrim whom genealogical sources claim was a grandson of Mílchú or Míleac, the man who held Saint Patrick in slavery. The calendar entry in the Martyrology of Donegal tells us that it was in a mill that he used to make obeisance to his brethern and thus acquired his name. Pádraig Ó Riain's Dictionary of Irish Saints tells us that Colmán Muillin was also reputed to have been part of 'a marauding group of laymen' whose leader was none too pleased when he opted to follow Saint Colmán Éala of Lynally instead. Below is Canon O'Hanlon's account of the saint taken from Volume I of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

Article IV. St. Colman Muilinn, of Derrykeighan, County of Antrim. [Fifth or Sixth Century.]

 From various accounts, it would appear, the Church of Derrykeighan must have been one of the oldest foundations in Ireland. Its first administrator is stated to have been brother to St. Mochay, who died towards the close of the fifth century. The name of this place seems to have been derived from doire 'an oak wood' and from chaochain, a proper name, and also meaning, "purblind." Foundations of the original church remain in the old churchyard. Upon them stand the roofless walls of an old building.

Colman Muilinn is simply entered in the "Martyrology of Tallagh" on this day. He belonged to a place known as Derrykeighan, in the county of Antrim, and within the diocese of Connor. Further particulars concerning him we read in the "Martyrology of Donegal." There it is stated that Colman Muilinn, of Doire-Chaechain, belonged to Dal-Riada, in Ulster. Bronach, daughter of Milchu, son to Buan, is said to have been his mother. We are informed, likewise, that it was in a mill St. Colman used to make obeisance to the brethren. No clue to the date of his death can be found in our Annals.

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