Tuesday 22 January 2013

Saint Colman of Lismore, January 22

On January 22 the Irish calendars commemorate one of Ireland's many Saints Colman, this one a teacher of the monastic school at Lismore, County Waterford. The calendars seem to agree that today was the date of the saint's repose, but also seem to record a possible second feast on July 25. Canon O'Hanlon gives this account of his life:

St. Colman, Bishop and Abbot of Lismore. 
[Seventh and Eighth Centuries.] 
The present saint, called also Choimoc, to which we sometimes find prefixed the endearing expletive "Mo," was son to Finnbar. He was a member of the Hua Beogna race, that ruled over Ith-Liathain territory, in the county of Cork. This region skirted the sea-coast, between Youghall and the principal city of that county, and bearing the same name. Here St. Colman was born, some time in the earlier part of the seventh century. Whilst our saint was yet a young man, he took the monastic habit in the celebrated Lismore Monastery. There he was distinguished for all those virtues of which he made profession. At this time, and long previous, Lismore, delightfully situated on the Blackwater, was a celebrated asylum of sanctity and learning. It was famous on this account, not only throughout Ireland, but even in Britain, and more distant countries on the Continent.'" An innumerable body of monks or scholars filled its cloisters and schools; while many holy prelates, abbots, and religious received their education and early training, as also laics, under the rectors and masters of this old university city. In the ancient litany of St. Oengus are likewise invoked eight hundred monks, who settled in Lismore with Mochuda, every third of them a favoured servant of God.
St. Hierlog or Jarlug ruled over the see and Monastery of Lismore, during the years of our saint's sojourn here, and he died on the 16th day of January, 698. St. Colman was immediately appointed his successor, both in the bishopric and in the abbey. During the time of his government, desirous of acquiring the knowledge that maketh wise unto salvation, with the learning which was destined to procure them distinction in other walks of life, many eager disciples flocked to Lismore, from all parts of the country. Among other distinguished personages, was the Dalcassian Prince Theodoric or Turlough, King of Thomond. He was held in the greatest esteem by our saint, who predicted what should take place with regard to him and his posterity. On all matters of moment, the abbot was consulted by this illustrious, but humble disciple. Whilst our saint presided over Lismore, the state of its schools was most flourishing; and the discipline of its religious establishment was maintained in the most healthful vigour. Its school is said to have attained a higher degree of reputation than any other in Ireland. Besides numerous holy men, who sought a refuge from the world in this retreat for wisdom and sanctity, and who lived in seclusion and penance within its monastery, many others were called forth from its enclosure, to adorn stations of dignity and importance in the Irish Church. Thus, our saint was the spiritual father of many monks, and an instructor of many prelates. These exhibited in their lives and actions the excellence of that discipline and training, to which they had been subjected.
At an advanced age, full of virtues and merits, our saint was called away to receive the reward of his labours, but after a short episcopate, and term of abbatial rule, lasting only four years. He died in the year of our Lord 702, on the 22nd day of January. The Martyrology of Tallagh registers him, and under the designation of Mocholmoc, Loismoir, mic h. Beona. The Festilogy of St. Oengus has a similar record. The following extract and its English translation have been furnished by Professor O'Looney :—
a. xi. kl. The death of Comghall's daughter
Colman son of Ua Beona
Varilius without ostentation
Felix who made the melodious journey.
The Calendar of Cashel coincides; but Colgan has incorrectly stated, it gives our saint another festival, which is assigned to the 25th of July. The Calendar of Cashel says: "S. Colmanus filius Hua Beogna in Lismora Mochuddoe." But the same Calendar of Cashel places a festival afterwards at the 25th of July, in this manner:
"25 Julii S. Mocholmocus, seu Colmanus O Liathain et S. Silanus duo Comorbani seu successores S. Mochuddoe Lismorensis.''
Colgan supposes this day last-named, to have been a festival relating to our saint's translation, or to some other commemoration.
In the Martyrology of Donegal, we find entered on the 22nd day of January, Colman, i.e., Mocholmog of Les-mdir, son of Ua-Bheonna. Marianus O'Gorman has a like statement - "S. Colmanus seu Mocholmocus Lismorensis filius nepotis Beonnae." His festival was celebrated on this day, at Lismore.

Archbishop John Healy in his book on the monastic schools of Ireland writes that the School of Lismore seems to have attained, 'the zenith of its celebrity towards the opening years of the eighth century under St. Colman O'Leathain'. He goes on to give a little more detail of the saint's dealings with his royal pupil, Theodoric:
Theodoric came secretly to St. Colman, and flinging off his royal robes, and renouncing his crown, placed himself amongst the humblest disciples of that saint. Though now an old man, he would not consent to be idle, but insisted on earning his bread with the labour of his hands, like the monks around him. The road to the monastery from the low ground was steep and uneven, so Theodoric, whose strong arms so often wielded the sword of Thomond in battle, got his sledge and hammer, and spent his time breaking stones to repair the road. With such zeal did he work that the streams of perspiration poured down from his body to the ground, and it is said a sick man was healed by washing in these waters of holy and penitential toil. With Colman's permission he returned to his kingdom to protect it from its enemies, whom he seems to have crushed as easily as he did the stones, and he then returned again to die in Lismore. 
St. Colman O'Leathain is sometimes called Mocholmoc, but as Colgan points out, it is really the same name — Colman and Colmoc being both diminutives of Colum, with the term of endearment prefixed in one case — mo-Cholmoc, which is the same as 'my dear little Colman.' This great saint died on the 22nd of January, A.D. 702, and was interred at Lismore.

Insula Doctorum et Sanctorum or Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars (6th edition, Dublin, 1912), 467-8.

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