Saturday 30 March 2013

Saint Tola of Disert Tola, March 30

The Irish calendars commemorate Saint Tola of Disert Tola on March 30. The following account of him has been distilled from Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints:


That the present pious servant of Christ was a useful worker, in his Master's vineyard, can hardly be doubted. Colgan has collected some particulars, with a view to supply his Acts, at the present date. The Bollandists merely notice him, also, as Tola, Bishop of Disert Tola, surnamed The Devout. His Acts had escaped the researches of Colgan; and, hence, very few circumstances, concerning his life, are recorded. However, that writer had no doubt, the Acts of our saint were extant, in his time, although he had been unable to procure them. For, not only his festival day, but his race, the places in which he had been venerated, and the year of his death, had been recorded, by our early Martyrologists and Annalists.

The father of this saint was named Dunchad. He was son to Ernin, son of Garuan, according to the Psalter and Calendar of Cashel. The latter even more fully traces his family line. The pedigree of St. Tola is drawn from the race of Kien, son to Olild Olum, and he descended from the illustrious Galengi family. This tribe, according to the supposition of Dr. Lanigan, inhabited some of those districts known as Galenga, or Gallen. There was a Gallen, or Galien, which comprised a great part of Carlow and Kildare counties, with some of the Queen's County. As the situation of that place, where our saint commenced his career, was not far removed from this latter district, according to the same authority, it is not improbable, Tola had his birth within that territory. It is likely enough, that he was born, after the middle of the seventh century. For many years, our saint led the life of a hermit, at a place called Disert Tola, or Tola's Desert. According to the Calendar of Cashel, that place was situated in Meath; but, other authorities place it within the Dalcassian territory, in the northern part of Munster. It was supposed to have been, in Dealbhna, or Delvin, and situated in the present Garrycastle barony. King's County. The true site, however, is said to have been at Dysart Taula, in the parish of Killoolagh, barony of Delvin, in the county of Westmeath. At this place, he lived an eremitical life, for some years; and, according to one account, he built a monastery, in the eighth century. Such was the fame of his sanctity, that many disciples were attracted thither; and, over these, he exercised the rule of Abbot. The site of this old church is still pointed out, but its walls have been uprooted.

Afterwards, St. Tola was assumed to a higher dignity, having been called upon to preside over Clonard see, in Meath. Colgan doubts not, but that his name had been venerated in Clonard church, over which he presided, although no mention of this circumstance occurs, as he states, in our Irish records.

Although, perhaps, a contemporary with Tola, Bishop of Ardbraccan, in Meath, who died a.d. 760, our saint was a different person. He also lived at a time, posterior to that, when flourished Tolua, or Toluan, Abbot of Clonmacnoise, in Meath, who died in the year 609. The death of our saint must be placed, at an intermediate period, to both these dates. The faithful servant of Christ departed this life, during 733, in the fourth year of the reign of Aidus, who was son to Fergal, and King over Ireland.

The Annals of Ulster place his death, at A.D. 737… his memory was revered, at Disert Tola, on the 30th of March—the assumed date for his death. According to no less than six different Martyrologies, this account has been given. Besides St. Mochua of Balla, the Feilire of Aengus commemorates St. Colman of Land Ligach, and St. Tola, at the 30th of March. The Martyrology of Tallagh enters the name, Tola; and Bishop of Craibdigh follows this designation, at the 30th of March. The Calendar of Cashel, and Marianus O'Gorman commemorate him. The Irish Genealogist, Duald Mac Firbis, enters Tola, bishop, from Disart Tola — said now to be Dysart O'Dea, county of Clare in Upper Dal-Cais, at March the 30th. Again, on this day, the Martyrology of Donegal registers. Tola, Bishop, of Disert Tola, in the upper part of Dal Cais, in Thomond. In Scotland, also, he was commemorated. Thus, the Kalendar of Drummond states, at March 30th, or iii. Kalends of April: In Hibernia, the Holy Confessors Mochua, Colman, and Tola, went to Christ. There was a St. Teloc, a disciple of St. Patrick. Colgan thinks it possible to identify him, either with the present St. Tola, or with Telleus of Tehelly, venerated the 25th of June. But, the chronology cannot accord for the present holy man.

A miracle, which took place, in the year 1034, is ascribed to the merits of St. Tola. Coirten Ua Maebuain, Lord of Dealbhna, was killed by some of his clansmen, on the threshold of Disert Tola church. In punishment for this sacrilegious and unnatural murder, the perpetrator of the crime was massacred, within that very same hour he perpetrated the treacherous act.

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