Tuesday 15 January 2013

Saint Ite of Kileedy, January 15

January 15 is the commemoration of Saint Ite of Kileedy, 'the shining light of the women of Mumhan', as Saint Oengus the Martyrologist calls her. She is one of a handful of Irish female saints who have surviving Lives and in his account of Saint Ite below, Father Albert Barry has drawn on this rich hagiographical tradition to present a picture of her sanctity and her miracles:

Saint Ite was born in the year 480, and was of the Deise family. St. Patrick had preached the Gospel to the Deise a few years before her birth. '' Patrick then went into the southern Deise (Co. Limerick), and began to build a Church at Ard-Patrick”, Tripartite. The Deise afterwards went southwards towards the sea (Co. Waterford).

Ite was fond of fasting and prayer whilst she was still a child. The room where she slept seemed one night to be on fire, but when the inmates of the house rushed into it, they beheld a wonderful light shining from the face of the sleeping girl: and she looked like an Angel. 

An Angel gave her three precious gems, telling her that the three Persons of the blessed Trinity would in future watch over her.

Her father wished her to marry, but she would not, because she had consecrated her virginity to God. He was very angry with her, but she said to her mother, "Although my father now forbids me to give myself to Jesus Christ, he will one day tell me to go where I wish in order to give myself to God”. She fasted and prayed for three days that the holy will of God might be done in her. On the third day the devil came and said to her, "Alas, you will withdraw yourself and many others from me”. And an Angel at the same time said to her father, ''Why do you hinder your daughter taking the veil of virginity? Ite will be a great and holy virgin before God and His saints. You ought to let her go wherever she wishes. She will serve God in another part of this land." Her father, therefore, at once allowed her to go away.

Ite left her father's house, and on her way heard the devils saying: Woe to us, the Angels of God help her: she will snatch many souls from us.” She went to a neighbouring church and there got the veil of virginity from a Priest, and, led by an Angel, went to the west of Hy-Connail and built a house for herself and some companions at Cluain Creadhail, at the foot of Sliabh-Luachra (Killeedy, Co. Limerick.)

Ite and her Nuns prayed daily for the people of the place, and many blessings thereby flowed upon them. They, in turn, gave many gifts to her Convent. She had the gifts of prophecy and of working miracles, and she healed many sick persons by her prayers. She once told a holy friend that she had got these gifts from God, because from her youth she had always thought on holy things, and because she had so often prayed to the Blessed Trinity.

Ite spent many days at a time without food, prayed much, and earnestly strove to bring up young maidens in the fear and love of God. Cuinnen of Conneire says of her:

Ite loved much the bringing up of youth
Humility without sadness:
Her cheek to the floor she laid not:
Ever, ever for the love of the Lord.

Since she bound the girdle on her body.
And I know it since I’ve heard it,
She ate not a full or sufficing meal,
Such was Mide.

Aenghus, in his lives of the Irish Saints, also thus writes of her''Ite ever bore great sufferings, and was much given to fasting, and was the shining light of the women of Mumhan."

She was not only a teacher of youth, but even gave wise counsel to holy and learned men. S. Breanan and S. Mochoemoc owed much to her teaching. S. Breanan one day asked her to tell him what were the three works most pleasing to God. She said''Trustful resignation to God of a sinless heart: a guileless religious life: generosity with charity. These three works are most pleasing to God.” He then asked her to say what were the three things most hateful to Him. She answered: "Hatred of men: wickedness in the heart: too great love of money. These three things are very hateful to God.''

A Nun one day saw three bright balls of light over Ite's head as she was praying to the Blessed Trinity.

Ite prayed to God that she might, on a coming feast-day, get Holy Communion at the hands of a very holy Priest. Her prayer was heard, and she was led by an Angel to Clonmacnois, and there ate the heavenly Bread. The holy Priest who gave her Communion afterwards set out for Ite's Convent, and when he had come to it, asked her to give sight to a blind Monk then with him. She did so, and asked the holy Priest to sing Mass for her. After Mass she gave him a present of the vestments, but he would not take them, saying that he had been forbidden by his Abbot to take any gift from her. Ite then said, Your holy Abbot will not be angry if you take this towel as a gift from me; I will tell you why. One day he came to the Convent of the holy virgin Caireche and she asked to be allowed to wash his feet. Then this holy virgin washed the feet of your Abbot and wiped them with a towel. I give it now to you, and he will be glad to get it when reminded of this fact”. The holy Priest then took the gift, and having got her blessing, went back to Clonmacnois.

A man, broken-hearted, through the death of his son, came to the Convent, and weeping very much, begged her to bring him back to life. He said: "I will not give over weeping, nor will I leave this house until you bring him back to life." She answered gently: What you ask is above my merits, and is a work fit only for the Apostles and holy men like them”. But he said: '' I am, above all, sorry because my son lost the use of his speech, so that he was not able to confess his sins; I, therefore, beseech you to get from the Holy Trinity that he may come back to life even for one day." Ite then said: '' How long do you want him to live if the good God should have pity on you and bring back your son to life?”  The father answered: I will be glad if he lives even for one day.” Ite said: '' He will live for more than seven years from this time.” She prayed earnestly to God, and her prayer was heard, and the child came to life again.

Her uncle died, and his sons by her wish came to the Convent. She said to them: "My uncle, your father, is dead. Alas, he is now suffering for his sins. We ought to do something to lessen his sufferings. Let each one of you give bread and meat and butter to the poor every day for the next year for the good of his soul. Then come back to me." They did as she bade them and then came back to see her. Ite said to them: ''Your father has been freed from much suffering through your alms and my prayers. Now go and do the same thing during the coming year and then come back again." When they had come back at the end of the year Ite said: ''Your father is now freed from his sufferings, but give clothing to the poor and come back once more. They did so, and having come to her again, she told them that their father had at last gone to heaven: '' Your father now enjoys everlasting happiness through your alms, my prayers, but above all through the mercy of God; keep always from the sinful pleasures of this world, that you may not suffer for your sins as he did.” They thanked God and their holy cousin and went home.

In the year 546 the clan of the Corcoiche of Hy-Figeinte (Co. Limerick), made war on the people of Hy-Connaill. Ite told the soldiers to do penance for their sins before going to battle. They did so, and she prayed whilst they fought, and the small and weak army of Hy-Connaill, through her prayers, won the battle.

One of her nuns fell into sin and God made it known to Ite. She said: Today one of our family has fallen into sin; I wish to know who among you has become the prey of the ravening wolf?”  Each denied it, but Ite drove the guilty one from the house. However, she took her back afterwards, and, helped by Ite, this nun, led henceforth a blameless life, and did great penance until her death.

Ite suffered great agony from a cancer that ate away her side, but she bore it gladly from her love for Jesus Christ.

In the year 569, Ite became very sick, and crowds flocked from all sides to the Convent on hearing of her illness, and, kneeling outside, prayed for a happy death for her whom they loved so much.

When she was dying she prayed earnestly to the holy Trinity to bless the Priests and people of Hy-Connaill, and with a prayer to the blessed Trinity on her lips she slept in the Lord.

Holy Mass was solemnly sung for her, and she was buried in presence of a great crowd of weeping people. Many miracles were worked by her both then and afterwards, and she was taken by the people of Hy-Connaill as their patron and protector. She has ever since been called The Brigid of Munster.”

Her feast-day is kept January 15th.

Rev. Albert Barry, Lives of Irish Saints (Dublin, n.d.)

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Anonymous said...

I noticed a newspaper clipping about Ita under the scanned record for Killeedy. It also mentions Kilmeedy.

Also, I searched the terms Deise and Déise on your blog. You might want to cross-reference the two.

Anonymous said...

ditto Desii

Marcella said...

Thanks for the links. Yes, the different ways in which Irish names have been transliterated is problematic but I prefer just to let the work of older writers stand. If I were writing for publication in print I would have to be a lot stricter editorially. It is a problem, but one which I hope isn't too off-putting for the reader. Logainm is a wonderful resource which is well worth exploring.