Friday 31 May 2013

Saint Feradacius of Iona, May 31

We close the month of May with the commemoration of a ninth-century abbot of Iona, Saint Feradacius, although as Canon O'Hanlon admits, we have only the authority of the 17th-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, for this feast day as a saint of this name is also commemorated on May 18:


FOR centuries after the time of St. Columkille, our Island sent several holy men as colonists and missionaries to his greatly frequented monastery at Iona. The place had a renown for holiness; and, from Ireland, from Scotland, as also from distant Norway, there came, during successive centuries, many royal funerals to its shores. At this day, by far the most interesting remains upon the Island are those curious and beautiful tombstones, which lie in Reilig Odhrain, They belong, even the most ancient of them, to an age removed by many hundred years from Columba's time. But, they represent that lasting reverence, which his name has inspired during so many generations, and that desire of along succession of chiefs and warriors through the Middle Ages, and down almost to our own time, to be buried in the soil where he had trod. However, it is only in the past ages we can seek for its historic greatness.

St. Feredacius was son to Corbmac, and we may assume he was of northern Irish descent, as of birth. He is supposed to have been born, about the beginning of the ninth century; but, where he was educated or by whom does not appear. Yet, it seems very probable, that stirred by the celebrity of that flourishing institute established by St. Columba, at Iona, he went thither at an early age to embrace the rule and conform to the discipline of that monastery. Of his earlier career, little seems to be known. He became Abbot of Iona; most probably, on the death of Abbot Cellach. This took place, A.D. 863, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, or in the year 864 according to those of Ulster. However, in that valuable "Chronicon Hyense," postfixed to the Rev. Dr. Reeves' work, the death of this Abbot is referred to the year 865. If such were the case, it must have been during our saint's presidency, the shrine of St. Columkille was removed to Ireland, lest it should become a prey to the Danes. This removal happened, as variously stated, in the year, 875, 877, or 878. Our saint only survived such an occurrence, for one or two years. However, if we are to credit the Annals of Inisfallen, Ferediach Abbot of Iae Columkille died A.D. 866; but, these Annals are known to be ante-dated. He died, during the year 877, 879, or 880, according to the other Irish Annals. It must be confessed, we have no authority for assigning this saint's festival, to the 31st, in preference to the 18th of May, as Colgan only says, that a different St. Feradachrichus was venerated on both days. He is of opinion, that either was perhaps identical with St. Feradacius Abbot of Iona.

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Thursday 30 May 2013

Saint Madelgisilus of Picardy, May 30

May 30 is the feastday of an Irish hermit who laboured in seventh-century France, having gone there as one of the companions of Saint Fursey. Known in the Latin sources as Saint Madelgisilus and Mauguille in French, this holy hermit worked many miraces both during and after his lifetime. Canon O'Hanlon has consulted the continental sources and brought a full and interesting account of this saint to Volume 5 of his Lives of the Irish Saints:



It was Father John Colgan's intention to treat about St. Madelgisilus, at the 30th of May. The life and actions of this saint were written after his death, by a monk of Centule, named Hariulfe, who flourished in the eleventh century. Mabillon and D'Achery have a Life of St. Madelgisilus, in thirteen chapters, with some previous observations. The Bollandists, at this date, furnish the Acts of St. Madelgisilus, as written by Hariulphus, and giving a previous commentary, as also a supplement, from another writer, together with illustrative notes. At the 30th of May, Baillet has a Life of St. Mauguille, a solitary, in Picardy. It is contained, in three sections. Among other writers, the Rev. Alban Butler, and the "Petits Bollandistes," have notices of St. Mauguille, the Hermit, at the 30th of May.

This saint is reputed to have been born in Ireland—as accounts regarding him seem to indicate—and apparently about the beginning of the seventh century. He is thought to have there received a religious education. He lived probably a monastic life, and exercised all the virtue of this state, before he embraced the design of devoting himself to the service of God, in a strange land. When the celebrated St. Fursey left Ireland, and went over to England, where he was graciously and in a friendly manner received by King Sigebert,-it would seem, that Madelgisilus accompanied him, in quality of a disciple. There, a missionary career was opened, so long as St. Fursey deemed it advisable to remain; however, finding it to be the will of Heaven, that he should further proceed to France, asking leave from King Sigebert, and leaving his religious establishment among the East Angles, in charge of his holy brother Ultan,' who became its Abbot; St. Fursey took with him a chosen band of disciples, and with them, he sailed over to western Gaul. Among these is stated to have been Madelgisius, by the author of his Acts, Hariulf; although, the Lives of St. Fursey have no special notice of him. Notwithstanding, Madelgisilus is said to have followed St. Fursey to France. The tender friendship, that existed between both these holy persons, made them almost inseparable companions. They travelled together, engaged on missionary works; they bore the heat and labours of the day, often suffering from hunger, thirst and cold; they watched and prayed; while the disciple desired, -in all things, to imitate his master. When St. Fursey was about to proceed to England to visit his brothers, St. Mauguil accompanied him to Masieres; and, he was the careful attendant on his master's last sickness, being also present at his death. With pious solicitude, he performed the last rites, and offered up his most earnest prayers for the deceased saint.

Mauguil was overwhelmed with grief, on the dissolution of those ties of friendship, that held both of them together in this life; but, he felt not disconsolate, on account of a hope he had of their reunion in Heaven, when his own course of mortality should be closed. However, he long and anxiously deliberated, as to whether he should continue his progress towards England, to visit the brothers of his deceased friend, and then associate himself with them, or to return once more towards the Abbey of Lagny. But, again, on a more matured consideration of the matter, he embraced a different resolution Some time before the arrival of Madelgisilus in France, two of his countrymen, St. Caidoc and St. Fricor, had influenced a nobleman, Richarius of Picardy, to found a religious establishment at Centule, and over this the holy founder began to preside, about A.D. 638. He was the son of Alquier—said to have been a Duke or Count—and to have been born in a town of the Ponthieu district, under the reign of Clotaire II. Little is known of his early years; but, his kind and hospitable reception of the two holy Irishmen, St. Caidoc and St. Fricor, led to his own great sanctification. Like them, he resolved, on devoting his life to preaching the Gospel of Christ. He was accordingly advanced to the priestly dignity, and soon he began to give missions in all the surrounding country, while with the good tidings of salvation, widows, orphans, pilgrims, strangers and the poor, were the objects of his tender solicitude and charity. After such excursions, he was accustomed to return home, and there devoting himself to prayer and other exercises of piety, he fasted on barley bread and water. Fully partaking the spirit of the Lord, which gives true liberty, the holy man freed from bondage those serfs, who were on his paternal estates in Ponthieu. Not satisfied with his labours in that part of France, Richarius went over to England, where he gained over a great number of idolaters and sinners to Christ. He also purchased the freedom of many slaves, both Christians and pagans. Returning to France, St. Richarius preached in several of its provinces. However, while thus engaged, several pious souls, regarding themselves as his converts and disciples, desired to live under his direction. Accordingly, not far from the place of his birth, he founded a church and monastery, at Centule, for that community; and, there he desired to rest, when the labours of his mission were over, while he also received visits from kings and influential personages. When age and fatigue began to grow upon him, Richarius desired to seek a solitude, where he could better prepare himself for death. This situation he found, in the forest of Crecy, and confiding the care of Centule monastery to a religious of approved piety and discretion, named Olciade, he retired with his disciple Sigobard, to meditate wholly on heavenly things. Still he was followed thither, by numbers of infirm persons, who were miraculously healed through him, while others approached to receive his wise counsels. Communicating a presentiment of his approaching death to Sigobard, and ordering his coffin to be prepared, St. Richarius took ill, and the weakness of old age soon hastened his eternal repose. He departed this life, about the year 645. Immediately after death, the remains of St. Richier were buried ia the grave prepared near his oratory, at Forest-moutier, But, they were not allowed to rest there for any considerable time; for, on the vii. of the ensuing October Ides, the Abbot Ocioald and his monks exhumed his remains, which were brought to the church of Centule.

About that time, when Madelgisilus laboured on his missionary career, France was under the rule of King Clovis II.,son of Dagobert I., and his religious Queen Bathilde, who was English by birth, and who, from being a slave of Erchinoald, became through her admirable qualities and virtues the choice of Clovis to share his high dignity. She gave birth to three sons, Clotaire III.,Childeric II., and Thierry III., all of whom became kings in France. Clovis II. died at an early age, in 655; and, soon after the death of her husband, the pious Bathilde founded many monastic institutes in the country. Among the religious houses which owe their origin or patronage to this holy Queen may be enumerated Corbie, Jumieges, Luxeuil, Jouarre, Sainte Fare and Fontenelle; while there are few of the ancient monasteries around Paris, which have not claimed her, either as their foundress or as their benefactress. The relics of St. Riquier having been deposited in the first house of his foundation, it pleased the Almighty, to show how great were the merits of that holy servant, during life as after his death. Among the religious monasteries of France for its antiquity and renown, Centule had pre-eminence over the rest; because of the many miracles which had been wrought at the tomb of St. Richarius, and besides, the memory of his virtues had been a precious inheritance, to cause the monks there to emulate his great example. A pilgrim and an exile in this part of France, Madelgisilus felt an earnest desire to lead a monastic life, and to become a subject of some holy superior. As the Abbey of St. Riquier –now Centule —was near, Madelgisilus approached its gates, and made application for admission among the religious. The modest deportment of our saint, and his many shining virtues, at once procured on presentation that request he seemed to prefer, and with such just claims.

From the moment of his reception to that of his departure, the favourable impressions he excited at first, in the minds of the religious, grew to such a degree, that he was looked upon as the living impersonation of all monastic virtues. He spent much of his time in prayer, vigils, and tears. Such, however, was the deep humility of our saint, that he considered himself as the least deserving of respect among his brethren; and, he feared, from the marked expressions of their esteem and reverence for him, that either he was mistaken in the consciousness of his own actions, or that they were labouring under a most unaccountable delusion regarding him. These reflections gave him more inquietude each day, for he was unconscious of the performance of any monastic duty, in such a special manner, as to call forth unusual praise and attention. He always observed the rules of the house, with the most scrupulous exactness, and, in this lay the secret of his unostentatious sanctity.

To ascertain the will of Heaven in his regard, St. Madeigisilus redoubled his fasts, lengthened his prayers, engaged more fervently in singing the Divine praises, and he sought the prayers of his spiritual seniors. At last, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in sleep, and leading him forth said: "Follow me, and carefully note that place, which I shall point out, and in which afterwards you shall remain, to spend your days in the service of the Almighty." Then, the Angel seemed preceding him and leading him towards a spot, providentially designed for his habitation. There stopping, the Angel cried out: "Here is your place of rest, for the term prescribed; here shall you dwell, until removed from the prison of this body." Saying these words, the Angel disappeared, and afterwards returning, the servant of Christ understood all he had experienced. Prostrating himself with tears, Madeigisilus gave thanks to God, for the unspeakable favours he received. On the day following, having finished the recital of Psalms, Madeigisilus called the seniors together, and related the particulars of his vision. The brothers were greatly edified, and returning thanks to the Almighty, it was deemed expedient, that their beloved inmate should seek the home, thenceforth destined for him. Some requisites were furnished, accordingly, which were necessary for his support. Then, Madeigisilus sought and obtained the consent of his Abbot, to retire from the monastery, in order to bury himself in a solitude, where he might remain unknown. Some of the monks were selected to accompany him; and when these set out, the saint of God soon brought them to that spot, which the Angel had previously shown him. This place he recognised, at once, and falling on his knees, Madeigisilus betook himself to prayer, while tears of devotion flowed from his eyes. The monks who accompanied him began the erection of his cell and oratory. Here, the soldier of Christ resolved to abide in the desert. When their work had been completed, the brothers took their leave of him, and returned to their monastery.

The place selected for his hermitage, was at Monstrelet, on the River Authie, which was about two leagues distant from Centule. There, he inhabited an humble dwelling, and he practised the exercises of a more rigorous penance, than humility suffered him to exercise, in the society of the religious at St. Riquier. The situation was a pleasing one; but, his position rendered it difficult to draw water from the river. He prayed to Heaven, however, and then making a sign of the cross on the earth, soon a stream of limpid and sweet-tasted water burst forth, and its course was taken thence to the River Authie. Long after the time of St. Madelgisilus, this well was resorted to by the sick and infirm; who, according to their Faith, received from it many medicinal favours. He spent each day in prayer, meditation, and chaunting the Psalter. He bewailed with tears the imperfections of his past life, and his prayers were unceasingly offered to God, for the conversion of sinners. He separated as much as possible, from all intercourse with men, conversing only with God, and directing all his thoughts to Him, as the only object worthy the reflections of a true contemplative. Here, in great simplicity of heart and true holiness, the servant of God for some years spent his time; while his austerities were, if aught, redoubled. His infirmities, at last, began to grow upon him; but, instead of relaxing his manner of living, he began to grow more fervent, as his expected hour of triumph approached. During this period, an Angel from Heaven appeared to the Abbot at Centule, and admonished him to visit the holy hermit in his retreat, and to bring him some aid, lest he should die. The Abbot immediately arose, and selecting some of his monks, he brought them to where Madelgisilus dwelt, and they saw that Angels were on guard around him. He was found to be very ill in health; they pray over him and sing Psalms; and, with a blessing, they bestowed on him the kiss of peace. Then they produce before him, what had been so providentially ordered. So rejoiced was the holy man on seeing those brethren, that the grievousness of his malady was forgotten, and it seemed almost removed. One of the brothers was left there, to assist him in his forlorn condition, and to alleviate his solitude.
During his lonely sojourn in this place, and when he fell into a dangerous sickness, Madelgisilus remained for some time without aid or attention from men, as all were ignorant of his state, who might be disposed to administer relief. He was most providentially discovered in that forlorn condition, by a holy recluse of his own country, named Vulgan, who was eminent for his learning, and for the respectability of his family. It is stated, that through the suffrages of Christians belonging to the province of Dover, he had been elected to rule over the See of Canterbury; but, desiring to avoid such an honour, and guided by an Angel, he passed over the sea to Gaul. At last, he arrived near Monstrelet, and there the solitary Madelgisilus was found, by God's holy servant Vulgan. Their rejoicing was mutual, when a fraternal embrace was given and received. With great charity and care, the latter assisted the infirm saint, and as well by his prayers as by his kind offices, Vulgan was the instrument under God of restoring him to health.

On the recovery of St. Mauguil, a proposal was made and agreed to by both, that they should lead a eremitical life in conjunction. Thus, like the members of one family—and even in stricter bonds of union—they lived long together, in such a holy interchange of friendship and conversation, as comported with the characters of those perfect religious. But, each day of their lives, they made it a study to acquire some new virtue, or a greater degree of progress in a virtue already acquired. This happy state of life continued uninterrupted, until the malady, which confined St. Vulgan to his bed, manifested the extreme danger in which he lay to his companion. With the most earnest affection and grief, St. Maguil was now ready to return favours and attentions, such as he had formerly experienced. The Abbot and monks of St. Riquier, when apprized of St. Vulgan's situation, administered to him the last Sacraments. The dying saint, seeing the grief of his attendant, and in anticipation of his approaching death, endeavoured to afford the best consolation, in his power, by assuring him of his own hopes to obtain a happy immortality. He cautioned him to beware, lest the devil might take advantage of his murmurs against the Divine will, to present temptations, which might be dangerous. With such holy counsels on his lips, Vulgan resigned himself to death, which shortly afterwards took place. He was buried in the chapel of St. Mauguille's hermitage.

Our holy contemplative Mauguil had spent thirty-five years in the religious state, since the death of St. Fursey. Shortly after the departure of his companion, St. Vulgan, he also closed his eyes to the light of a world, from which he had long estranged his heart. He died, on the 30th of May, as is generally supposed, since his festival is kept on that day. This is the date given in the Berlin Martyrology, edited at Paris in 1521, with additions; and, its authority is followed by Molanus and Canisius, as also, by Wion, Dorgan, Bucelin, Menard, and Saussay. Such is the day, also, as furnished from an ancient tradition, by Hariluph, the monk of Centule. He died about the year 685.

So soon as the death of this saint was announced to the brothers in the monastery of St. Riquier, they proceeded towards his abode, to perform the last pious offices for his remains. The body was placed beside that of his friend St. Vulgan, in a little oratory used by them, during their lives. Here, at Monstrelet, all that was mortal of St. Madelgisilus reposed for along time; but, popular affection and reverence soon combined to increase his reputation, as also to excite interest and curiosity, regarding his efficacious intercession.

The great miracles, which it pleased God to work, through the intercession of St. Mauguille, caused the Abbot Ingelard to have his relics transferred to a church, at Centule. He flourished towards the close of the tenth century, and during the reign of Hugh Capet, King of the Franks. At first, Ingelard held a council with his monks, to learn their desire on the matter but, he found they were unwilling to accede to the wishes of their Abbot. They urged, that being ignorant about the acts, merits and life of Madelgisilus, it could not be right to have his relics exposed for public veneration. Finding he could not overcome their reluctance, to have the remains brought into the large monastic church, at Centule, Ingelard resolved on the selection of a chapel, without the boundary of the town, in which they might be placed, and which was easily accessible both for the monks and for the inhabitants.

Towards the end of the tenth century, this small church was built near the Abbey of St. Riquier. Afterwards, it bore the name of St. Mauguille, thus Gallicized from the Latin form of Madelgisilus. A shrine was here prepared for the deposition of our saint's relics, and this arrangement seemed to meet with general approval. Accordingly, on the Kalends of June—the year is not specified—Ingelard organized a grand procession from Monstrelet, whence he brought the sacred relics to the place already mentioned.

Thither the faithful resorted, and bearing with them various offerings to the saint's shrine, so that those favours they received through his merits might be publicly memorialed. The relics of Madelgisilus were resorted to by numbers of people; and, at his shrine, the blind were restored to sight, the deaf to the use of hearing, the lame were enabled to walk, while the mute received the gift of speech. In fine, so many cures among the infirm took place, that neither memory could bear in mind, nor tongue might relate, the number of favours it pleased God to bestow on our saint's pious clients. A perfect knowledge of these circumstances caused the Abbot Ingelard and his monks to regret, that any doubt had been cast on the superabundant merits of Madelgisilus, and that they had not earlier recognised him, as a pearl of great price, while veiled in former obscurity and in such an humble place, so loved by him while alive. Now, it pleased the Almighty, to withdraw this cloud from their vision. Wherefore, the monks and people assembled, when preparing crucifixes, lights and sweet-smelling plants, with great reverence to God and to his servant, in due ecclesiastical form, they proceed processionally to that little church already mentioned. Asking pardon for their former sins of omission, they raise the body of Madelgisilus, and bear it to the church of St. Richarius, chanting hymns. There, the shrine was deposited, and thenceforward it was preserved with due honour. In commemoration of the original transference from Monstrelet, it was a custom of the people at Centule and of Ponthieu, to bear in procession, each year, and on the day of his Natalis, the sacred body to that place, where it had been at first committed to the earth. This was done, with great ceremony and rejoicing, a vast multitude assembling to witness the procession, from all the adjoining towns and villages. In connexion with those processions, also, some remarkable miracles are recorded. We are told, that on a certain occasion, some proprietor, who had unjustly seized on land belonging to the church of St. Madelgisilus, while endeavouring to assist at the annual procession, found his sedan-chair immovable, nor could all the efforts of the bearers raise it from the earth. Recollecting his avaricious detention of the land, the circumstance was objected to him by his neighbours, who urged him to restore it to the rightful owner. The man was terrified at the portent, nor could he rest, until due satisfaction was made; and accordingly, the land was restored, for the use of St. Madelgisilus' church. Then, his litter was easily removable, nor was it found to be weighted as before, when the man had thus humbly repented of his crime.

In the eleventh century, St. Gervin, who had been a Canon in the church of Notre Dame, in Rheims, afterwards became Abbot over St. Riquier's monastery, at Centule. During his term of rule, he is said to have caused a chapel to be dedicated, in honour of Saints Madelgisilus, Caidoc, and Adrian, confessors. While the Abbot Anscher presided over the Monastery, at Centule, it was found, that the old shrine showed signs of decay, and that a new one should be required, for the custody of St. Madelgisilus' relics. Accordingly, it was resolved, to prepare another and a more suitable receptacle, while the Abbot and his monks proceeded to inspect their actual state, and to have ready what should be required for their reposition. Then, indeed, the deer-skin covering was found to be rather short for the size of the bones and skeleton; and, therefore, a portion of these remained under their previous covering, until time should be given to have them better arranged. However, in their new case, the relics were placed, psalms being sung, and an honourable ceremony having been awarded, on the 13th day of July, A.D. 1113.

Only a few days had passed, after this temporary arrangement of our saint's relics, until the keeper of the church, who entertained a great devotion towards Magdelgisilus, happened to take ill. Not being able to sleep, he revolved in mind the whole night, as to when and how some better plan could be devised, for their more suitable preservation. Towards morning, however, some little repose he had, and while his thoughts were intent on his purpose, sleep began to seal his eyes. Suddenly the saint—handsome and tall—appeared to him, and covered with bright raiment. He then said: " This purpose you shall carefully provide for and proceed to carry out, so that all my bones be buried together." But, the keeper, who woke from his light slumber, and whose reverence for Madelgesilus was so great, clearly understood, that the saint himself had appeared, as he spoke about his own relics. The keeper, turning his eyes on the figure, desired to ask concerning his name and merits. Notwithstanding, the illustrious and glorious spirit vanished, before a word could be spoken; but, the tracks of his footsteps seemed to be of gold, while a most fragrant odour filled the whole apartment. The keeper's infirmity at once disappeared, owing to the sudden joy he experienced, on receiving this sort of revelation. Desiring to furnish proof of it to his friends, he said to himself, "Immediately, I shall seize on those golden traces of the saint's feet, and bear them as tokens to the brothers." Then, he arose, stretching out his arms, and making an effort to reach what he deemed a reality, but the traces soon vanished. This account is all we have remaining; and, the old chronicler has forgotten to tell us, whether the saint's mandate had been carried out, yet, it is probable, that such was the case. An inscription on the tomb of Madelgisilus records the event of the Abbot Anscher having prepared a new shrine, for the honourable deposition of the holy man's relics. It is supposed, that the 1st day of June was the date for some public translation of the remains of St. Madelgisilus. His deposition or departure from life, however, has been assigned to this day, by Hariulfe; and, his authority has been followed, by most of the Kalendarists. Thus, an old Martyrology belonging to Berlin, and printed at Paris with additions, Molanus, Canisius, Wion, Dorgan, Menard, Saussay, Bucelin, and nearly all the modern writers, place the feast of Madelgesilus. It is thought his Acts—now probably lost—had been written at much greater length than we have them at present. This saint is held in great veneration, especially throughout Picardy. His chief festival has always been observed on the 30th of May, and with marked religious ceremonial.

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Wednesday 29 May 2013

Saint Brunsecha of Killyon, May 29

May 29 is the feast day of an early female monastic, Brunsecha the Slender, linked with the parish of Killyon, County Offaly. The story of this saint takes a rather shocking turn when her beauty proves irresistible to a local chieftain who kidnaps and rapes her. Help is at hand, however, in the person of the elder Saint Ciaran, who humbles this rogue and restores life to his victim. Canon O'Hanlon's account also introduces us to the saintly mother of Saint Ciaran, the lady Liadania, who provides sanctuary for the ill-used Brunsecha, and he is in homiletic mood at the end of the piece:


The Martyrology of Tallagh simply records this holy woman, at the 29th of May, as Brunsica, Virgin. Allusion is made to her by the Bollandists, at this date, relying on the foregoing statement, and on other Irish authorities. In these allusions to her, however, there is no account of any place, where she was specially venerated. We find, likewise, on this day, a festival set down, in the Martyrology of Donegal, in honour of Briuinseach Ceal, or the Slender; here, also, she is said to have been a daughter to Crimhthann, of Magh Trea. Whether this was her natal place, however, or that in which her memory had been specially venerated, we cannot determine. From the epithet here applied to this saint, it is probable, she was slender in figure, and this bodily condition may have been partly the result of her well-practised austerities during the conventual state.

In the table postfixed to the Martyrology of Donegal, it is remarked, that a St. Buriena, a virgin of Ireland, was venerated, at a town bearing her name, in England, on the 29th of May. We have no certain record, elucidating the Acts of this saint; but, to adopt a conjecture of Colgan’s she was identical with St. Brunechia, or Bruinecha, alluded to in the Lives of St. Kieran of Saigir. An English translation of the Irish Life of this latter holy Patriarch had been lent to the present writer, which varies in some few particulars from one of those published in Latin, by Father John Colgan. This writer had promised to say more about her, than he had furnished, in the Acts of St. Kieran, at that day.

The holy virgin St. Brunsecha or Briuinseach Ceal is said to have been the daughter of a Munster chieftain, and to have embraced a religious life, under direction of St. Liadan or Lidania, mother to St, Kieran, in the Monastery of Kill-Liadhuin, now Killion or Killyon, in the parish of Drumcullen, and barony of Eglish, in the King's County. According to one statement, Killiadhuin was founded, about the beginning of the fifth century; but, this is too early a date for its erection. The feast of St. Liedania has been referred to the 11th of August, in the Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman, of Cathal Maguire, and of Donegal. By this pious matron Liadania, the devout novice Bruinseach was trained to the practice of every virtue; yet, we cannot ascertain, at what exact period she entered upon a religious state and profession. The hamlet of Killion has only a small population, but it is placed in the midst of a picturesque neighbouring country. The site of St. Liadhain's former convent lies close to the high road—on the south side—leading from Birr to Kinnetty. There can be no doubt, but that a celebrated religious establishment was here, and at a very early period. Two round towers on a small scale, about 17 feet high, and of rude masonry, stood in the graveyards of Seir-Kieran and of Killion, the places of St. Kieran and of his mother St. Liedhain. They seem to have been attached to other buildings, and to have been used as sacristies or Dearthachs. There are no remains of St. Liadhane's primitive convent now existing..

Being exceedingly beautiful, a chieftain, named Dymma, of the HuaFiach or Ui Fiachach district, conceived an unlawful desire of taking Brunsecha away by force, from the convent where she lived; and, he accomplished such a purpose, with the assistance of his retainers. He then detained her for some time, in his castle. During this period, he extorted from her the rights of a husband. Hearing of this violence, St. Kieran went to Dymma, to remonstrate with him, on behalf of Brunsecha; but, the chieftain refused to restore her to liberty. He even derisively told the saint, he would not release the lady, unless it should happen, on the following morning, that the heron's note awoke him from sleep. At this time, which appears to have been in the winter season, although a great fall of snow covered the ground, yet, it did not obstruct the place, where Kieran and his companions were. On the following morning, the piping of a heron was heard in the castle, contrary to a usual natural course. Surprised and moved by this miraculous occurrence, Dymma prostrated himself in penitence, at the feet of St. Kieran, and he released Brunechia, although she had been already pregnant. On her release, St. Kieran conducted his spiritual daughter back to Kill-Liadhuin, now Killyon, and left her, as before, under the charge of his mother.

However, Dymma appears to have felt regret, after separation of that lady from his home. He then went towards the monastery, in which she lived, to repeat his former violence. When Brunechia heard of his approach, she became terrified, to such a degree, that her sudden death ensued. Seeing what had occurred, Dymma demanded of St. Kieran—who it appears was present— how he had dared to kill his wife; for such, he declared Brunechia to be, and he had determined she should so continue. He threatened, at the same time, to expel the saint, from this part of the country. Then, Kieran replied: "Thou hast no power over me; for, the omnipotent God, so long as He wills it, hath given thee only a shadow of earthly power; therefore, I shall remain in this my place, contrary to thy will." Shortly afterwards, the chieftain was chastised for this insolence, towards God's servant. On returning to his castle, he found it enveloped in flames. A very dear son, named Dunchad, had been left, at this time, sleeping in one of its apartments, when a nurse, despairing of his preservation, cried out with a loud voice: "I commend thee, my child, to the protection of St. Kieran of Saigir." This boy was found alive and unharmed, after the castle had been entirely consumed. Dymma felt moved by such a miraculous preservation of his son; and, in company with a saint, named Aidus, he went to St. Kieran, promising to perform whatever should be required of him, as a proof of his penitence. He presented Dunchad and another son, saying, as he had been absolved from his sins, through the holy bishop, that henceforth he and his posterity should be subject to St. Kieran. Having received the blessing of the saint, he departed; while sorrowful on account of the death of Brunecha, Kieran went to that place, where her body lay. He prayed with great earnestness, for her restoration to life. This prayer was heard, for the virgin arose from the sleep of death. She subsequently lived, in her state of religious profession, for many years.

It is supposed, that if not the first nunnery erected, at least Kill-Liadhain must have been among the very early nunneries, in Ireland. This appellation which it received is said to have been derived from Kill, or Ceall, meaning "a place of retirement," or "a cell," joined to Liadana, or Liadhain, the name of its foundress. Again, the latter proper name, pronounced Leean, gave rise to the modern denomination of Killyon. The little river, called Comcor, runs beside that place, where her religious house was founded; and, while St. Kieran had his monastery at Seir-Kyran, within the territory of Ely, yet was his mother's nunnery within the territory of Fearcall, in the kingdom of Meath. How long St. Brunsecha lived, under the rule of St. Liadania, is not known, nor whether she succeeded as superioress over that nunnery, founded by her and by her celebrated son St. Kieran. It seems likely, however, that she survived both of these holy contemporaries.

The year of our saint's death is not recorded; but, it happened, most probably, within the sixth century. The festival of St. Brunsecha occurs, on the 29th of May, according to the Martyrologies of Tamlacht, of Marianus O'Gorman, of Maguire, and of Donegal. In another Irish Calendar, at the iv. of the Calends of June —May 29th— her feast is recorded. She was venerated, also, at Magh-trea, according to various accounts. This place we may assume to be identical with Magh Treagha, in Teathbha territory— said to be the same as Moytra, in the barony and county of Longford.

We cannot doubt, that many of our native chiefs abused their authority, in a very unhappy manner; but, our saint had compassion for the weakness of their nature, especially when their state or vocation did not incline them to exalted perfection. Sincere contrition for sin pleaded effectively for their absolution, and it is to be hoped, that after grievous offences, they were mindful of God's mercies towards them. If frequently they yielded to violent assaults of temptation, and to wild impulses of passion; their faith in atonement was a motive always urging them to bewail their past transgressions, knowing there was joy in Heaven for one sinner doing penance, more than for ninety-nine just who needed not penance.

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Tuesday 28 May 2013

Saint Moel-Odhran of Iona, May 28

May 28 is the feast of a saint Maelodran (Moel-Odhran, Mailodranus) who, as Canon O'Hanlon tells us, has been linked to Iona and to a 'soldier of Christ' of this name mentioned in the writings of Saint Adamnan:


LITTLE remains in old records, to point with any degree of certainty to the family, period, place, or personality, of this saint. We find the name, Maelodran, simply inserted, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date. On the same authority, and on that of Adamnan, the Bollandists have his festival placed, in a like order. Colgan intended to insert the Acts of this saint, at the 28th of May. However, he appears to have been in doubt, whether the saint, to whom reference had been made, should be assigned to such day, or to the 10th of January; for, the Irish Martyrologies make mention of a saint Moel-Odhran, at both days. It has been supposed, that our saint is mentioned by Adamnan, who calls him a soldier of Christ, and from that part of the country, denominated Mocurin, or Mocuria. Adamnan also states, that Mailodranus related to him an anecdote, which is found in his biography of St. Columkille; and hence, he must have been contemporaneous with that writer. It is most likely, that he lived in the seventh century; but, indeed, nothing seems to be discoverable, which serves to elucidate his history. The name Mael-Odhrain signifies the servant of Odhran; and, we find this name occurring in our Irish Calendars at January 10th, May 31st, and November 11th. From such circumstance, Colgan shows, that he could not have been Odhran, Abbot of Iona, venerated, at the 27th of October, and who is called the son of Angin, and also belonging to Tegh-Erarain, in Media, according to Marianus O'Gorman, Moreover, Colgan calls Odhran a monk; but, on what authority, it is difficult to discover. He is called, indeed, a soldier of Christ by Adamnan; therefore, it is not unlikely he was a religious, and probably a monk of Iona.

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Monday 27 May 2013

Saint Cillin of Tehallan, May 27

May 27 is the commemoration of a saint said to have flourished in an ecclesiastical territory established by Saint Patrick. In his entry for Saint Cillin (Killin, Killen) of Tigh Talain, Canon O'Hanlon is keen to correct Colgan's assertion that this territory was in County Down and places the saint instead in County Monaghan:

ACCORDING to our Irish Calendars, there were many saints, bearing the name of Killen; and, besides, some of these are undistinguished by pedigree, even when the names of their places are given. It is very difficult, therefore, to decide among these Killens, about the family and race of the present saint; although, he is set down, by Colgan, as having been a bishop of Teg-Talain, in Orgeillia, who had been venerated, at the 27th of May. Besides, St. Cillin is mentioned, also, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date. However, the name of the territory, in which Tigh Talain lay, has not been given, in this record. Again, Marianus O'Gorman and Maguire have an entry of this saint's festival, at the 27th of May. The Bollandists, likewise, enter the feast of Killinus, Bishop of Tegh-Talain, at the same day.

We learn, that St. Patrick proceeded at one time, from a northern region about Clogher, towards the territory of Hua-Meith-tire. This has been placed by Colgan, in the eastern part of Ultonia; and hence, in his opinion, it had been distinguished from Hua-Meith-mare—a part near the sea—as Airthear, or Oriental, deriving its denomination Hua Meith, or the posterity of Meith, from the descendants of Muredach, surnamed Meith or the Fat.

In the time of St. Patrick and afterwards, that people held possession of the interior land… There, St. Patrick is said to have erected a church, the place having been called Teach Tallain. But, in various mediaeval documents, its orthography has been varied to Thechtalbi, Taghtallan, Techtalan, Tehallowne, Teghallan, Techallon, Tyhallon, Teehallon, Tehallon, and Tihallon. The locality, as well known, is now Tehallan parish but,it is vulgarly called Teholland… Here, St. Patrick converted Eugenius, the son of Brian, and the dynast of that district. He also resuscitated his father Muredach. He was afterwards interred, at a place called Omna renne—interpreted the Oak of Renne—on the confines of Hy-Meth and Mugdorne territory, but belonging to the latter. The foregoing account clearly shows, that the territory of Hy-Meth, in which the church of Tehallan was situated, adjoined the territory of the Mugdorni; yet, by some strange and unaccountable mistake, Colgan makes the territory of the Mugdorni the mountainous barony of Mourne in Down, although he should have known, that between Tehallan and Mourne, in Down, several distinct territories lay, in the time of St. Patrick. However, he places Tehallan in the territory of Orgeillia, and this shows, how much he had been mistaken. For, he should have known, that the route of St. Patrick was southwards, and that he passed from the territory of the Hy-Methii, into the adjoining territory of the Mugdorni. He knew that the church of Tehallan—the situation of which he indicated right well, in Diocoesi Ardmachani—was within the territory of the Hy-Methii. He knew, also, that the territory of Crioch Mughdhorna was not many miles south from Tehallan. Again, this latter is placed in the region of Hy-Meith, which was a large district in this county, north of the territory called Fearnmhagh, and originally comprising the barony of Monaghan, as well as of Cremourne. Colgan should have known, likewise, that the church of Domnach Maigen—now Donoughmoyne—was not many miles southwards from Tehallan. The territory known as Ui-Meith Macha comprised the parishes of Tehallan—the Tech-Thalain of our text—Monaghan, Kilmore, Tullycorbet, Clontibret, and Muckno, near Castleblaney. These churches are all in the county of Monaghan.

This saint is said to have been consecrated by St. Patrick, when visiting the district of Huameith-tire. The name Teagh-Talain, the "house of Talan,” seems to indicate a church, founded by one Talan. We are not bound to believe, however, in the opinion of Dr. Lanigan, that he had been placed there, by St. Patrick. Colgan would not undertake to define, whether this place derived its name from St. Tellan, son to Legan, son to Colgan, dynast of this same part of the country, and who is mentioned in our Menologies, at the 25th of June; or from St. Tolan, or Tola, son to Donchad, named at the 30th of March. However, it is stated, in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, that he not only endowed Tegh Talain with lands, but that he even bestowed the relics of some saints, and which relics, he had brought from beyond the sea. The Irish Apostle selected, from among his disciples, those, who had been the companions of his missionary labours, and the faithful imitators of his pious example. These pious men he left with St. Killian. The festival of the present St. Killen was kept, at Tehallan, county of Monaghan, on the 27th of May, according to our Irish Calendars. Besides, as we are told, Stickillin, a small parish in the county of Louth, near Ardee, is called from this saint, its name having been originally Tech-Cillin. Thus, the name Cillin, Bishop, of Tegh Talain, in Orighialla, is set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having been venerated, at this day. His festival is noteil, at the 27th of May, by Father John Colgan. Under the head of Teach-Talain, Duald Mac Firbis enters Gillian, bishop from Tech-Tallian, in Airghill, for May 27th. At this same date, also, his festival occurs, in that Irish Calendar, kept in the Royal Irish Academy.

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Sunday 26 May 2013

Saint Becan of Cluain-Aird-Mobecog, May 26

May 26 is the commemoration of Saint Becan, a County Tipperary saint known not only from the record of his own Life, but also that of Saint Abban. In his account of the saint in Volume 5 of his Lives of the Irish Saints , Canon O'Hanlon attempts to identify the locality in which this holy monastic flourished and demonstrates the role which placename evidence plays in this process. As you will see in his account below he comes up with three distinct strands of tradition relating to Saint Becan, one connected with the Life of Saint Abban, another connected with Saint Colum Cille and a third relating to King Diarmaid. I wondered therefore if there may be more than one Saint Becan whose lives have been conflated here and a check with the new reference work A Dictionary of Irish Saints by Pádraig Ó Riain confirmed this suspicion. Becan of Toureen, County Tipperary shares his May 26 feast with the County Wicklow Becan, to whom the Columban association belongs. The Becan who restored the King's son to life is Becan of Emlagh, County Meath, whose feast is on April 5. So, today's saint is Becan of Toureen, County Tipperary, formerly Cluain-Aird-Mobecog who is a different individual both from Becan of Churchtown, formerly Stagonnell, County Wicklow and from Becan, son of Cúla, who performed the miracle associated with King Diarmaid. In Canon O'Hanlon's account below, however, we will meet all three:


IT is to be deplored, that so many literary memorials of the past have perished, and thus deprived us of information, it should now be so desirable to collect. Among these, seems to have been included the Life of this present holy man; for, we find it on record, that it had once existed. He flourished at an early period, since he is mentioned with eulogy, in the Metrical Calendar of St. Oengus the Culdee. The Acts of St. Becan were promised by Colgan for the 26th of May; but, he did not live to carry out such a purpose. The Bollandists notice Becanus of Cluain-aird, at this same date; however, they only give references to the Manuscript Martyrology of Tallagh, and to Colgan's allusions, in the Acts of St. Abban. In the "Felire" of Oengus, and in O'Clery's Irish Calendar, it is stated, that Beccan of Cluain-ard was otherwise called Mobecoc. Another form of his name was Dabhecog. We read of a Becan, son to Eoghan, son to Murchadh, of the race of Fiacha Muillethan, son to Eoghan Mor, son of Oilioll Olum. This genealogy agrees with Rev. Dr. Jeoffrey Keating's account of St. Beacan's stock; although we find, elsewhere, a different pedigree. The scholiast on St. Oengus tells us, that the present St. Becan was the son of Lugaid, son to Tuathan, son of Aed, son to Fergus, son of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Yet, a somewhat different genealogy is made out for him, at the 26th March, where he is called the brother of St. Corbmac. St. Becan, as we read, was the son of Eugene, son of Marchad, son of Muredach, son of Diermit, son of Eugene, son of Alild Flanbeg, son of Fiach Muillethain, son to Eugene the Great, who was son to Alild Olum.

Notwithstanding, what has been thus related of his pedigree, the "Sanctilogium Genealogicum" states, that this saint was a son, not of Eugene, but of Marchad; and, it then gives his genealogy, in the order related, as deduced from a Life of St. Corbmac, one of St. Becan's brothers. Our saint had four brothers, who were sons of the same father, and they are thus named—St. Culan, St. Enuines, or Euinus, St. Diermit, and St. Boedan, or Baitan. Two of these saints sought a happy retirement from worldly concerns, in the province of Connaught; one of them dwelt in Leinster; and the other in Ulster; while our saint, with his brother Culan, remained in their native province of Munster, where these became devoted to the practices of a religious life. This saint was brother of Cuimin a hermit, according to the title of an Epistle. He was a recluse in Hy, as we learn in the Table, postfixed to the Martyrology of Donegal. In the Life of St. Abban, it is stated, that on one occasion, he visited the northern part of that country, where the mountain called Crott was situated. It is now known too as Mount Grud, in the territory of Muscraighe, at present Anglicized Muskerry. A legendary story is told about Diarmaid, King of Ireland, who is said to have killed his son Breasal, in a fit of passion. The king afterwards lapsed into a settled melancholy; and, at last, he sought consolation from St. Columkille, who advised him to visit St. Beacan, then living in a poor cell, on the north side of Mount Grott. Kill-Beacain is also a name for the church of our saint, who is reverenced at this place. When King Diarmaid and St. Columkille arrived there, St. Beacan was engaged digging a ditch to surround the graveyard, and working in his wet clothes, for it was a rainy day. Perceiving that the King of Ireland approached, our saint cried out: "O murderer, down to the ground upon your knees." Instantly, the king dismounted from his horse, and prostrated himself before the saint. Then St. Columkille informed Becan about the object of their visit, and that the king was almost distracted with grief, reflecting on the barbarous deed he had perpetrated. No solace was left him but prayers to heaven, that God would be pleased to pardon the offence and restore his son to life. Then, St. Columkille presumed, that so religious a person would not refuse to intercede for the king, since his life and happiness were immediately concerned. Moved with compassion, St. Becan prayed with great fervour to heaven three different times. As the legend relates, Breasal was restored to life, and presented to his father, who received him with inexpressible joy. Afterwards, the king held our saint in great esteem and veneration, on account of this miracle he had wrought.

In the parish of Killardry, or Killaldriffe, Cluain-ard, meaning "the high lawn" or "meadow," was the ancient name of that place, on which Kilpeacan’s old church now stands… About ten yards west of the church, are the pedestal and lower part of what appears to have been a stone cross. A few perches south-east of the church is Tobar Peacaion, or Peacawn's well, having a circular ring of stone work surrounding it. Several scattered fragments of flags, evidently tombstones, are in the north-west corner of this church. A few yards from the south-east corner and towards the east, a few stones, fixed in the ground and having the western edge cut or hammered, are called by the people " the Altar. It has an associated legend. Before the year 1830, pilgrims used to visit Peacawn's church from places several miles distant. The patron day here was kept, on the 1st of August, as a strict holy day by the people, and devotions were performed, also, on Good Friday. From an entry, in one of our Irish Calendars, it would seem, that some doubt attaches to the exact habitation of our present saint. The ancient territory of Muscraighe Breoghain is comprised, however, in the present barony of Clanwilliam, in the south-west of Tipperary County. We learn, that St. Abban had consecrated the church, called Cill-Bhecain, in Muscraighe-Chuirc, on the north side of Siiabh gCrot, during the reign of Diarmada Mac Fearghusa Ceirbheoil. There, it is said, a great and most regular monastery was established, by St. Abban; and, it went by the name of Cluain-aird-Mobhegoc or Mobecoc, having been called after the present St. Becan, who was venerated, at that place, on the 26th of May. There St. Abban, also, as we are told, founded the monastery of Cluain Findglaise. However—according to another and probably a more reliable authority— Cluain-aird-Mobecoc was built by St. Becanus, and over it he ruled; while, it was called the monastery of Killbecain, after him. Even, the compiler of St. Abban's Life seems to have had some idea of this statement; since it is allowed, that St. Becan resided there until death. The Life of St. Abban states, that Abban himself blessed a church at Cluain-aird Mobecoc, and that he left Becan in it, and that he left the office of the holy Church, in every church which he blessed.

However this may be explained, at Cluain-aird-Mobecoc St. Becan was known as a most holy and religious recluse. We are told, that he lived contemporaneously with St. Columkille and with King Diarmit, son of Cervail. Consequently, we may infer, that he flourished in the sixth century. His whole lifetime was spent in a most penitential manner. He frequently fasted for three whole days. His nights were spent in watching, and his days in constant prayer. With tears, and on bended knees, St. Beccan bewailed his supposed manifold imperfections. He erected a stone cross, in the open air, and outside of his monastery. Whether cold or warm, stormy or serene, each day he sang the entire Psalter, beside that cross; on which account, it was afterwards held in great popular veneration. This place was also called, Ceall na nder, or "the cell of tears," by many; on account of penitential tears shed by persons, seeking God's mercies, through the intercession of St. Becan. It would appear, also, from O'Clery's Irish Calendar, that this place had been situated, within the ancient territory of Muscraighe Breogain, which now forms part of Muskerry Barony, in Cork County. Among the landed denominations of the O'Donovan property, at Montpelier, which were furnished to the Irish Ordnance Survey Department, and all of which are in the East Division of West Carberry barony, and county of Cork, we see the names of Loughrott, Upper Loughrott, alias Crott, in the parish of Dromdalyege. The writer is unable to state, if these etymons formed any part of the Mountain Crott alluded to; nor, on the modern maps does it seem easy to identify that place, formerly called Cluain-aird-Mobhegoc, or Kilbeacan.

The author of St. Abban's Life appears to have visited the monastery of Becan; for, this writer says, he could confidently assert, he never heard of a more religious community than that of our saint, nor did he ever see a mere beautiful and regular monastery. In the Life of Abban published by Colgan, there is a glowing eulogy pronounced on this saint Becan, or Mobecoc. Twice do we find the entry of the death of Beccan of Cluain-Iraird or Ard, in the Annals of the Four Masters. The first entry, at A.D. 687, is evidently a mistake. The second entry, at 689, "Dabhecog, of Cluain-ard, died," agrees with that, in the Annals of Ulster. In the "Feilire" of St. Oengus, at the 26th of May, it is remarked of St. Beccan, that he loved vigils, and Cluain Ard was his house. However, the scholiast in the "Leabhar Breac " copy of this Metrical Martyrology states, that he was of Cluain Mobecoc in Muscraige Breogain in Munster, or at Tech hui Conaill in Hui-Briuin Chualann.

At this date, the published Martyrology of Tallagh simply enters the name, Becan of Cluana aird; but, his name has been associated with another place, and in quite a different province. In the Martyrology of Donegal, we read, that on the 26th of May was venerated, Becan of Cluain-aird Mobecog, in Muscraighe Breoghain, or of Tigh Chonaill, in Ui Brinin Cualann. This territory was called, likewise, Feara Cualann, or Fercuolen, in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and of King James I. Then, it was considered to be coextensive with the manor of Powerscourt, near Bray, in the county of Wicklow; but, anciently, it was more extensive. Its old church is sometimes called Temple Becan, after the present saint. It was also denominated Teghgumnill, or Tigh-Chonaill, and it is now known as Stagonnell, or Stagonil…

In the Irish Martyrology of the Irish Ordnance Survey Office, now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy's Library, there is a notice of this saint, at the 26th of May. At this date, likewise, the Kalendar of Drummond records the veneration entertained for our St. Beccan, even in Scotland. Each day of this saint's life was marked by some miracle, which is found recorded in a very ancient Life, written, it has been supposed, by a contemporary. Most probably, this Life had been composed, at least some little time after his death. It may have abounded in legendary matter, like that found in the acts of many other native saints; but, as a learned French author observes, the traditions of Irish legends comprise within themselves an interest and a charm, which cannot entirely disappear, even when recorded by the least accomplished writer.

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Saturday 25 May 2013

Saint Dunchadh of Iona, May 25

May 25 is the commemoration of Saint Dunchadh, an eighth century abbot of Iona, (Hi, Iae). He was of the same family as Iona's founder, Saint Colum Cille. Canon O'Hanlon has this account of Abbot Dunchadh's life in Volume 5 of the Lives of the Irish Saints:


IT may be observed, that the Columban monasteries were not so much hermitages or monasteries, in the usual sense of the word, as missionary centres, or rather as Christian colonies, whence the words of God went forth, until religion had permeated the existence of the faithful, and had taught them their obligations. In the early days of fervour, simple piety elevated the common incidents of their every-day life, while it sanctified even their duties and pleasures. It smoothed asperities, while it ennobled drudgery, and gave them a foretaste of heaven. Its influences should be the same today, but men and manners have changed since those eras, when the world had less attractions, and society had fewer allurements, to engage the various classes, that only found peace and happiness in religious seclusion.

The Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date, inserts Dunchadh Abbot of Iae, or Iona. In the "Feilire" of St. Oengus, this holy Abbot is commemorated, at the 25th of May. In the “Leabhar Breac” copy, the following is the text, with a translation into English, by Dr. Whitley Stokes:

“ To thee comes the feast of Johannes,
a loveable pillar of virginity.
Dionysius (the) sure (the) bold:
Dunchad of chilly Hi.”

In the Annals of Ulster, he is named Duncha mac Cinnfaelad. The Bollandists have a notice of this holy man, also, at the 25th of May. He descended from the race of Conall Gulban, according to the O'Clerys; and, this accords with the pedigree of the Sanctilogium Genealogicum and of Seluacius. St. Dunchad was the son of Kennfail, son to Moelcobh, son of Aid, son to Ainmire, son of Sedna, son of Ferguss, son to Kennfod, son of Connal Gulban, son to Niall of the Nine Hostages. He was of regal descent, for his paternal grandfather, Moelcobh, King of Ireland, died in the year 610, or according to other accounts A.D. 615. But, the virtues and merits of Dunchad made him still more remarkable; for, abandoning the world, he chose to become a monk, in the congregation, founded by St. Columba, at Iona.

Our saint was held, in great veneration, especially at a place, called Kill-lochuir, or Kill-chlochuir, on the southern confines of Ultonia, and towards the east, on the sea-shore. Here, he is said to have ruled over a monastery, and a community of monks, and to have been regarded, as the special patron of the place; while the fishermen near it invoked his intercession, and often attributed the safety of ships and sailors to his protection. His abode here seems to have been prior, to his departure from Ireland; and, it may have been, that his celebrity as a holy religious called him over to fill a more responsible position, in the monastery of Iona.

Scarcely a century had elapsed, after the death of that great coenobite, who sought the remote and desert island, where he established a renowned institute, when Dunchad leaving his friends and native country sought the shores of "chilly Hi," and perhaps landed in that very Port na Currech,— on the southern sea-board — where tradition still holds, that St. Columba first touched land, after he had parted from the coast of Tyrconnell. According to some writers, in the year 707, or in 710, St. Dunchadh was elected to rule over the community of Iona, on the death of Conmail. During Dunchadh's incumbency, there is an account of one Dorbene having obtained the cathedra in Hy, A.D. 713, and of Faelcu mac Dorben having ascended the cathedra of Columba, in the seventy-fourth year of his age, A.D. 716. It appears rather inexplicable, how Faelchu, son of Dorbene, or Dorbhe, Abbot of Iona, lived to A.D. 720, according to the "Annals of the Four Masters," and to A.D. 723, according to the "Annals of Ulster." Perhaps, the better way to account for it might be, to suppose our saint had resigned his dignity, before he had enjoyed it quite twelve months, as St. Dorbene Foda died, on the 28th of October, A.D. 713. The death of this saint is not recorded, in the Annals of Ulster, at A.D. 714, although there are many entries, agreeing with those of the Four Masters, for the previous year. It is likewise omitted, in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, at A.D. 712, although most of the other entries of the Four Masters, at A.D. 713, are there given. It must be remarked, that a discrepancy of one year exists, in these several Irish records. The only reasonable conjecture, which could otherwise be formed, is, that it was found necessary to appoint Faelchu as a coadjutor; although, owing to his being in the seventy-fourth year, at the time of his appointment, such a surmise appears somewhat improbable. The facts stated may not necessarily denote, that there was any schism, among the monks, during the lifetime of Dunchad; for, it may be a prior, or even a bishop, was meant, as distinguished from the abbot. Under Dunchad, the Columbian monks received the Roman Tonsure, and the mode of celebrating Easter, owing to the exertion made by a learned Northumbrian priest, named Ecgberet, or Egbert, who lived for a long time in Ireland, and engaged at his studies, in the monastery, called Rathmelsig, Rathmelsidhe, or Rathmilsige, the exact situation of which has not yet been determined. Here, however, he was distinguished for his great holiness of life, and for his knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. He had designed taking his departure for northern Germany, when his former master Boisil appeared to him in a vision, and told him it was God's will, that he should rather go to the monastery of St. Columba. His remarkably persuasive and suave manners, joined with zeal and eloquence, when he left Ireland, induced the southern Picts to follow his instructions, and to abandon the old Celtic observances, in 716. Soon, afterwards, Ecgberet was able to persuade Dunchad and his religious congregation, at Iona, to adopt the Roman Tonsure and Paschal observances. Having continued for 150 years, at Iona, the Celtic practice was observed for the last time, on the Easter Festival of 715. The Roman rite thenceforward prevailed, and this caused great rejoicing, thoughout the universal Church, on account of that uniformity of discipline, which induced both clergy and laity in these islands to agree, on so important a celebration.

While ruling over Iona, we are told, that Dunchad was remarkable for his sanctity, and for the gift of miracles. He was also distinguished for his assiduity in prayer, and for that spirit of sublime contemplation, whereby he was enabled to repel all outward distractions. The "Chronicum Scotorum," records the death of Dunchadh, son of Cennfaeladh, Abbot of Hi, at A.D. 713. According to the Annals of Ulster, and of the Four Masters, St. Dunchadh was called to heaven, on the 25th of May, A.D. 716. Having been Abbot for seven years, he happily departed to the Lord, on the 25th of May, A.D. 717, according to the chronology of Tighernach. He died, so late as A.D. 736, Camerarius relates, and on the 24th of March, according to the same writer. The Martyrology of Donegal, on this day, registers the name of Dunchadh, son to Cennfaeladh, son to Maelcobha, son of Aedh, son to Ainmire. In that Irish Calendar, now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, at the viii. of the June Kalends, or May 25th, the feast of this holy Abbot is set down. St. Dumhade is commemorated, in the Annals of the Cistercian Monks, and in the Circle of the Seasons, at the 25th of May. The Kalendar of Drummond, at this same date, enters the Natalis of Duncada, Abbot of Iae.

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Friday 24 May 2013

Saint Segin of Armagh, May 24

May 24 is the commemoration of a seventh-century Archbishop of Armagh, Saint Segin or Segineus. Canon O'Hanlon begins his entries for this day with an account of the life of Saint Segin, whose episcopate seems to have witnessed some memorable natural phenomena :


AS first in dignity of those saints, whose names belong to this date, the holy Archprelate Segineus deserves the first notice. The simple entry, Segin, Airdmacha, appears in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this day. The Bollandists enter a festival for Segineus, also, at the 24th of May, on the same authority. There is a St. Segineus, son of Ronan, son to Loarn, son of Fergus, son to Conall Gulban, according to the pedigree of Seluacuis, and the "Sanctilogium Genealogicum." Colgan seems to think, he may have been the present prelate. This saint is said to have been from Achadh-Claidhibh —rendered Aghaclive—the situation of which does not seem to have been discovered. He was born, probably, about the beginning of the seventh century. Of his earlier years and education we have no account. The commentator on the Table subjoined to the Martyrology of Donegal has it stated, that the term of office for Seighin, Bishop of Ardmacha, commenced in the year 641, or 644; but, this appears to be a date much too early for his incumbency. During the year specified, Thomain Mac Ronan was in possession. When Tomain, who ruled over the Church of Armagh as Bishop, died, A.D. 660, Segineus was chosen to succeed him, A.D. 661. The years of his Archiepiscopate are periods of sore trial, for in 670, and again, in 687, the city of Armagh was consumed by accidental fire. During his primacy took place that remarkable eclipse of the sun, in the year 663, followed by a summer, when the sky seemed to be on fire, and during the Kalends of August, an awful mortality swept off multitudes of the people in Ireland, as also in England. The year 684, is that assigned for the Quies of Segene, Bishop of Ardmacha, in the "Chronicum Scotorum." The "Annals of the Four Masters" place his death, at A.D. 686. The Martyrology of Donegal has it A.D. 687, and this agrees with the Annals of Ulster. Segin is said to have governed his diocese twenty-seven years, and to have died, on the 24th of May, A.D. 688, which is the date given for it by Sir James Ware, and which an excellent authority pronounces to have been the true year. According to the Martyrology of Donegal, veneration was given on this day to Seighin, Bishop of Ard Macha.

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Thursday 23 May 2013

Saint Strofan of Cluan-Mor, May 23

Among the saints commemorated on the Irish calendars for May 23 is a Saint Strofan, possibly associated with the monastery of Clonmore in County Carlow. Canon O'Hanlon supplies the details:

St. Strofan or Straffan, of Cluan-Mor, probably Clonmore, County of Carlow.

The record Strofan Cluana Moir is found, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 23rd of May. The Bollandists reiterate this statement, by entering the present holy man as Stephanus Cluainmorensis. According to Colgan, a saint called Stephen was venerated, at this date, in a place called Cluainmhor, which was situated, he says, within the territory of Ely O'Carroll. Other accounts, however, place his monastery in Lagenia or Leinster. There is a celebrated Clonmore, i.e., "the Great Lawn, or Meadow," in the barony of Rathvilly, and county of Carlow. What he states about this Stephen, Colgan advances, on the testimony of St. Mochemoc's Acts, which we have already recorded, at the 13th day of March. A holy man of this name is found, where Duald Mac Firbis enters, under the head of Cuil Carra, Senach, son of Ecin, with Srafan, and Senchell, and Brodigan —five bishops—and Aitecaem and Bishop Mac Cairthin, and Conlough and Brigid, in Cuil Carra. It is doubtful, however, if the Srafan here named be the same person as the present saint. We read, again, in the Martyrology of Donegal, that Sraffan, of Cluain-mor, was venerated on this day.

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Wednesday 22 May 2013

Saint Conald Coel of Iniscoel, May 22

As noted on May 20, there is a second festival in honour of a saint Conall or Conald Coel at May 22. It seems odd to find two saints sharing not only the same name but also the same office at the same locality, commemorated within a couple of days of each other. It seems though that Father Colgan, the great seventeenth-century hagiologist, may have believed them to be distinct individuals. I expected to find only a few lines on the second Conall in Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints, but instead, he has quite a full and interesting entry for the day:


Among the island hermits and abbots, St. Conald Coel was a remarkable saint in his day. Colgan promised to give some particulars, regarding him, on the day of his feast; but, he did not live to accomplish that object. The Bollandists only present a meagre account of him, at this date.

According to the Naemhshenchus, and other authorities, St. Conall descended from the Cinel Conaill. His father was Manius Coelius, son of Caither, son to Ennius, surnamed Bagan, son of Conall Gulban, according to the Genealogies of the Irish Saints. This holy man was Abbot over a monastery, which had been built in the Island of Inis-coel, near the mouth of Gweebarra River and Bay, on the coast of Donegal, adjoining Boylagh and Bannagh Baronies. St. Conall Cael was abbot here, and at an early period, in the history of our national church. A celebrated Christian poet, St. Dalian wrote a work, in praise of this saint; but, Colgan was not aware of its existence, in his own time. However, Dalian appears to have been his most intimate friend, and to have met his death, whilst visiting our saint, at his monastery. When that holy man's dead body was brought to Conald, the head being cut off and thrown into the ocean, our saint earnestly besought the Almighty, with fervent prayers and burning tears, to reveal that exact spot, where Dallen's head should be found. Shortly afterwards, it appeared floating on the waves, which bore it towards the shore. There, the head of Dalian was recovered; and, being united to the Martyr's trunk, it became firmly joined once more to the body.

Most probably, the 22nd day of May was that of St. Conall's death. The year of his departure is not known, but it occurred sometime in the seventh century, and this seems a probable opinion, when we come to examine his parent stem, and to compare it with that of the illustrious St. Columkille, among whose disciples this holy Abbot is classed. St. Conald Coel was buried in the church, or monastery, of Iniscoel. After the death of St. Conald Coel, his memory was held in due veneration, on the Island, where his feast was kept, on the 22nd of May. Not far from this island, on the mainland, there is a beautiful cascade, known as Eas-nangach, or the Wrinkled Cataract, descending from a great height, and tumbling down a mountain steep, near the hamlet of Lia-Conaill —no doubt, taking its name from the present holy Abbot. He is titular saint, however, and the most celebrated patron over a very extensive parish, Iniskeel, in which he is honoured with extraordinary devotion. Springing from the cavity of a rock on the Island, there is a celebrated well, which, with the church not far distant, bore our saint's name. It was yearly visited by a great concourse of pilgrims, on the 22nd of each returning May and the custom is still continued. A very curious relic, called the Bearnan Chonaill, or Bell of St. Conall, had long been preserved, in this immediate neighbourhood. That bell was enclosed in an elaborately ornamented case or shrine. There was an inscription on it, in black letter, but greatly defaced. The present St. Conall appears, also, to have been connected with a holy well and with a relig or cemetery at Bruckless, not far from Killybegs, in the parish of Killaghtee, barony of Banagh, and county of Donegal. Various interesting objects of antiquity are there preserved.

The entry regarding Conaill, Inse Cail, appears in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 22nd of May. According to the Martyrology of Donegal, veneration was paid on this day to Conall, Abbot of Inis Caoil, in Cinel Conaill. At this date, also, the Rev. Alban Butler places his festival, and he says, it was most famous. A festival of St. Conall, Abbot, is entered, likewise, in the Circle of the Seasons.

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Tuesday 21 May 2013

Saint Bairrfhionn of Druim-Cuilinn, May 21

May 21 is the commemoration of Saint Bairrfhionn, a saint linked in popular tradition to two of the most famous of the Irish saints, Colum Cille and Brendan. For this saint Bairrfhionn is said to have preceded Saint Brendan as a voyager, and to have provided the inspiration for the Navigator of Clonfert. This link obviously touched a chord with Canon O'Hanlon, from whose account the following has been distilled:


There was a celebrated saint of the sixth century, called Barrindeus, who has a place among the saints of the second rank, in that Catalogue, published by Ussher. Probably he was no other, than Barrfind of Druimm Cuilinn, mentioned in the Metrical Calendar of St. Oengus, at the 21st of May, thus translated into English by Dr. Whitley Stokes:-

''Timothy a marvellous martyr:
a great company of divine wheat :
zealous Colman a leper:
Barrfind of Druimm Cuilinn".

That he was born, somewhat early in the sixth century, seems to be the natural inference drawn, from the pedigree ascribed to him. It is thought, he was identical with a holy man, also called Barind, or Barindan, and Barrfionn, who lived in another part of Ireland. At this date, likewise, the name Barrfinn Droma Cula appears, in the Martyrology of Tallagh. The Bollandists enter in like fashion the feast of Barrinus or Barrindus of Druim-chulin, at the 21st of May. If correct, in his identification with the Barinthus, mentioned in the Acts of Brendan the Navigator, and if a relation to the latter, his name is found, in all the old Lives of that celebrated saint, and he is also known as Barint and Beryne. From the recorded particulars of his pedigree, as furnished by Marianus O'Gorman and Cathald Maguire, we may safely infer, that he was born in the north of Ireland. This holy man is said to have descended from the race of Conall Gulban, son to Niall. His father was Muredoc, son of Eochod. This latter was son to Conall Gulban. Another statement has it, that his father was Muiredacli, son of Fiacha, son to Niall of the Nine Hostages. Didhuat, daughter of Meachar, was his mother. Thus, he was a near relation of the great Columkille, according to the pedigree made out for our saint; although it appears to be difficult to establish the exact degree of consanguinity, owing to the discrepancies of genealogy found in various conflicting accounts. It is said, that St. Bairrfhion was a disciple to the illustrious founder of Iona. If so, this must have been before the latter left Ireland, to settle in Scotland. Bairrfhionn, or Barrind, is said to have flourished, about A.D. 590 ; and, it is probable enough, that he lived at a much earlier period—especially, if he was a contemporary with and related to St. Brendan the Navigator. This is the expressed opinion of Colgan: however, there may be a misconception, regarding the individuality of the St. Barinthus—supposed to be of Kerry—with the holy man here mentioned. The name of our present St. Barind or Barrfionn has been connected with an undoubtedly ancient place, called Druim Cuillin.. St. Columkille founded a church, at this place, in the sixth century. Now, it is mentioned, in Prince O'Donnell's Life of St. Columba, that Barrind was the companion of his journeyings and of his labours. It is probable, St. Columb placed St. Bairrfhionn in charge of this missionary centre, if reliance be had upon statements, regarding his station and rank; although he is not now traditionally remembered, in Druim-Cuilinn. Its topographical meaning is the Ridge or Long Hill of the Holly, It is now known as Drum-Cullin, situated in the south of Eglish, or Fircall Barony, in the King's County. The old church in ruins is still to be seen there; and, it stands on the ancient boundary, between Meath and Munster. .. Here, St. Bairrfionn was Abbot of Druim-cuillin, in the territory of Fearceall, upon the confines of Leinster and Munster.. Even yet, as it appears, the memory of St. Barrfionn has been intertwined with local topography; for, near Drumcullen, there is an eminence called Knockbarron—in Irish Cnoc-Barrind—and it may be Anglicized, " the hill of Barrind." He must have been a person of great importance in his day, thus to have left his name behind in that place, after a lapse of thirteen centuries; and, as we shall see, at a spot far away from the religious house here, his fame is still preserved, in the name of an ancient church and of a parish, much nearer to his native soil.

From Drumcullen St. Barrfionn emigrated, most probably, towards the north of Ireland; and, there he is said to have fixed the site for a religious establishment, of some sort, and in a very retired situation. That place is now known as Kilbarron, "the church of St. Barrind," scarcely three miles distant from Ballyshannon. The greater part of this town is included, within the present parish, which extends along the River Erne, from the vicinity of Belleek to Donegal Bay.

Here, St. Barfhionn, Barrindeus, or Barrinthus, is said to have founded a monastery, during the sixth century. Beside the river called Fuinnseanach, and near the sea, St. Barind dwelt, at a time when St. Columba returned from Seangleann. There, both holy men had a conference. There, too, was miraculously sent from Seangleann the staff of St. Columba. As St. Barind had inspiredly declared it left in that place, and as it fell near them, a fountain of water gushed out at the spot; and afterwards, it was called Bachall Barrinn, Latinized Baculum Barrindi, owing to the miracle which had occurred, as preserved in the local tradition. Kill-Barrind old church is still to be seen, within a parish, now known as Killbarron, in the barony of Tirhugh, and county of Donegal.

Belonging to an early period, and to the second class of Irish Saints, as by many has been thought; St. Barrind is also said to have been the first European discoverer of the American Continent, for, as related in the Acts of St. Brendan, there was a Father Barrindan, who had informed that celebrated navigator, about his own wonderful adventures, while away from Ireland on the great ocean. It is supposed, too, that from Kilbarron, in conjunction with his disciple, Mernoc, St. Barrind sailed off in search of a great western island. This he is supposed to have found, when he landed on the shores of the American Continent. They travelled for fifteen days, before reaching the end of it. Moreover, it is said, that he returned to Ireland, when the glowing descriptions he gave of that distant region induced St. Brendan the Navigator to adventure in the same direction. That western country, in which St. Barrind travelled, is called "a Land of Promise of the Saints," and that which the Lord would grant to successive races " in the latter times". Modern commentators have just reason for referring this prophetic passage to the extraordinary emigration of Irish people and missionaries to America, during the present century.

St. Barrind died, on the 21st of May, and some time, it is thought, before the close of the sixth age. Most probably, his first removal from Drumcullen to Killbarrind may suggest the idea, that he was buried in the latter place, with which his memory appears to have been most associated. Marianus O'Gorman and Cathal Maguire, referring St. Barrindus to both places, has his feast, at the 21st of May. The Martyrology of Donegal mentions, that veneration was given on this day to Bairrfhionn, Bishop of Druim-Cuiliun, and of Cill-Bairrfhinn, to the north of Eas-Ruaidh—now the well-known waterfall designated Assaroe, and a chief feature of interest to all northern tourists... At this date, also, St. Barinnus was venerated in Scotland, together with St. Colman, both Irish saints. An Irish Calendar commemorates Barrfionn Bishop from Druim-Chuilinn, and from Kilbarfinn, near Easruadh to the north. Under the head of Druim Cuilinn, and at the 21st of May, Duald Mac Firbis enters, Bairrfionn bishop. It seems probable, therefore, that this primitive saint exercised the episcopal as well as the abbatial functions, in the ministry in the early Irish Church.

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