Saturday 31 August 2013

Saint Sessan of Ath-omna, August 31

We bring the month of August to a close with the feast of a saint who Canon O'Hanlon seeks to place in Portumna, County Galway. Actual details of the life of Saint Sessan are thin on the ground and the entry in the Lives of the Irish Saints instead concentrates on a later Dominican foundation at Portumna. I have omitted these details to concentrate on what Canon O'Hanlon can tell us of the saint:

St. Senan, Sessan, or Sessen, of Ath-omna, possibly Portumna, County of Galway.

A feast for St. Senan of Atha-omna occurs in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, on this day, as also in that copy to be found in the Book of Leinster. Ath-Omna means the "Ford of the Oak;" and it may have been the ancient denomination of Port-Omna, now Portumna, on the River Shannon, in the Barony of Longford and County of Galway. It is within the parish of Lickmolassy. The place is of great antiquity, and a town is said to have been there for many centuries before Ireland became subject to the control of the sister kingdom. It is probable there had been a religious establishment at Portumna previous to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland. It was a place of no small importance in former times, as being the principal pass whereby the people of Minister and Connaught communicated with each other...The present Saint probably lived at an early period of the Christian Church in Ireland. He is classed among the disciples of holy Patrick, the Irish Apostle. Although called Seseneus, his right name is Sessenus. His feast is set down, at this date, and he is called Sesan by Marianus O'Gorman. It is thought, by Colgan, that he may not have been a different person from St. Sezin, Bishop and Abbot, as also Patron of the Church and Parish of Guic Sezni, Leon, in Brittany. We fail, however, to find the evidence, which might warrant such a supposition. The name Sessan, of Ath-omna, is registered in the Martyrology of Donegal, at the 31st of August. This is all known concerning him.

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Friday 30 August 2013

Saint Fiachra of Brieul, August 30

Saint Fiachra (Fiacre), whose feastday is commemorated on August 30, is one of those Irish saints who made his home in continental Europe, in this case France. As any number of websites will tell you, he is hailed as a patron saint of gardeners and forever linked to the horsedrawn carriages of Paris which bear his name. Roísín Ní Mheara, who has made a special study of the Irish missionaries of Europe, first tracks Fiachra in Brittany and goes on to follow the trail of the saint as he moves towards Paris:

Around the middle of the 7th century, Fiachra puts in an appearance in northern Gaul. In the Paris region of Ile-de-France and in the adjoining Brie district which claims him as its patron saint, we find him again, warmly welcomed by Bishop Faro of Meaux on the river Marne. Faro(n), of Burgundian nobility, was one of those who had received Columban's personal blessing as a child, and he greatly favoured Irish missionaries. His abbey, Sainte-Croix of Meaux, was stocked with monks from Luxeuil and Irish pilgrims found a welcome there on their way to and from Rome, for Meaux lay on the old Gallo-Roman route that led from the Channel coast eastward....

Faro alloted Fiachra, a hermit by nature and as such not prone to the comforts of a monastic life inside the Gallo-Roman walls of the noble city of Meaux, a place of his own to settle in, on the abey lands of Brieul. This zone lay to the East, its vast forests considered uninhabitable, infested with 'sorcerers' and their barbaric adherents. That it is deemed appropriate for Fiachra's vocation is no invention of his biographers in order to stress the saint's courage. Centuries later unholy practices such as the 'Witches' Sabbath' are reported in the vicinity.

There in Brieul Fiachra manages to reconcile the impossible - the life of an anchorite with that of a busy prior and missionary. In the clearing he makes for himself he builds a hospice, set apart from his hermitage. This, as well as catering for pilgrims and wayfarers, acts as an asylum for the sick and needy. For their upkeep Fiachra makes the surrounding land arable, creating a huge garden where vegetables, fruit, flowers and medical herbs are grown. And he has, like Columban, his locus deserti, a covert beside a well in a secluded place since called 'Le bois de France'. Here in the forest of Brieul the modest abbot lives and labours, expiring around the year 670. People of all calling visit his grave in search of posthumous cures.

Briefly sketched, this is the story of Fiachra, a saint of France about whose Irish background nothing is reported, except that he was of gentle birth. To get a better grasp of his personality, which must have been outstanding, we need to climb through mountains of legends.

What does iconography tell us? It gives us a humble figure in monk's attire holding a book and a spade, often a basket of fruit at his sandaled feet. Fiachra, the patron of horticulturalists, has, however, an implement at his disposal that is more than a simple spade; considered so holy that it had to be buried with its master. In the oldest effigies of the saint it is not a spade at all, but an Irish cambutta he is holding - one with a 'Tau' head. Whatever the case, tradition affirms that it was through the power of this instrument that Fiachra consolidated his monastic settlement (one is reminded of angelic traditions concerning the foundations of Armagh). The legend of the foundation of Saint-Fiacre-en-Brie, as the abbey came to be known is as follows:

In Brieul the concourse of pilgrims reaches such dimensions that Fiachra is obliged to make a petition to bishop Faro in Meaux for a supplementary piece of land to cater for them. Faro informs Fiachra that he may take as much land as he is able to dig around in one day. Returning to the forest, Fiachra grasps his spade and starts to mark a line for the required extension by digging a trench. The spade barely touches the ground when beneath it a deep cleft appears. Fiachra proceeds with the round, the chasm advancing with him, trees falling to the right and to the left to carve out the spade's way. Soon a wide circle is drawn, with a trench to mark the precincts of a new monastery.

This uncanny performance does not go unobserved. A busybody called in tradition 'La Becnaude' hastens away to Meaux with the news. She denounces Fiachra as a fearful sorcerer to bishop Faro. Whereupon she returns to Breuil with the bishop's order to cease all operations immediately. The Becnaude heaps insults on Fiachra, who sinks abjectly down on a forest boulder to await the arrival of Faro. And there, beside the trench the bishop finds him, but lo! the jagged surface of the rock the saint is seated on has melted, out of sympathy, into a consolatory chair! Tendered proof is a rounded, indented stone, placed beside the tomb that once held Saint Fiachra's remains in the village church where his abbey once stood. Inhabitants of that village are also aware of the site of the famous trench in the forest, earthworks being visible for a long time.

Overwhelmed by such signs of Fiachra's divine calling, Faro promises every assistance. It is also ordained that, since it was a woman who villified the poor hermit, men alone should be allowed to cross the border trench. The Becnaude receives her due personally, for while Fiachra's stone turned smooth and soft as wax, her own countenance takes on the quality of a scarred, jagged rock.

A prohibition for women to set foot within the precincts of the abbey of Saint-Fiacre in Brieul existed down to its dissolution in 1760. We also note that a far stricter monastic rule was observed there, distinguishing it from the seventeen other abbeys subordinate to Sainte-Croix in Meaux which later became 'Saint-Faron' by name.

Up to the ninith century Fiachra's cult was limited to the locality, but by the thirteenth century it had become widely acclaimed and the legend glorified in many liturgical hymns. .. His [St. Fiachra's] relics were removed to the cathedral of Meaux for safety during the sixteenth century Calvinist disturbances... 

Twice an English king tried to steal the relics. Henry V was prevented from doing so by his fiery steed refusing to jump the trench. Edward the Black Prince got away with them as far as Normandy, it is said, where having deposited them overnight in a church, he found them next morning glued to the altar!

Roísín Ní Mheara, Early Irish Saints in Europe - Their Sites and their Stories (Seanchas Ard Mhacha, 2001), 44-49.

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Thursday 29 August 2013

Saint Winoc of Rath-Espuic-Innic, August 29

August 29 is the commemoration of an early bishop whom tradition associates with the mission of Saint Patrick. Saint Winoc (Winnoc, Uindic, Uinnic) appears to have been identified with two different locations, one in County Down and the other in County Armagh. Canon O'Hanlon struggles to reconcile the evidence for these locations, but believes that Colgan made an error in locating Bishop Winnoc's seat in County Antrim. I have omitted some of the topographical wrangling from his account below:



WHEN with indomitable zeal, St. Patrick preached the word of God throughout Ireland, he found there numerous disciples, who accepted his teaching and profited by his example. Their names are also recorded in the lists of our National Saints; although, indeed, their acts seem discoverable in many instances, only as episodes among those given in Lives of the great Apostle. An instance occurs in the case of the present holy man. By Colgan, he is styled St. Uindic, Bishop of Rath-Easpuic Innic. He is also called Winnoc. In O'Sullevan Beare's Catalogue, this Saint's name is likewise entered. However, very little is known regarding his early history, or the place where he was born, He flourished in the fifth century. This Saint is registered as one of St. Patrick's disciples; but, when he became attached to the Irish apostle is uncertain. The following anecdote has been preserved for us, in the Acts of St. Patrick, and, it serves to give us an idea, that while a confidential friend and esteemed highly by the great Patriarch of the Irish Church, Winnoc well deserved that trust, owing to his spirit of devotion and true humility. At one time, St. Patrick and St. Winnoc sat together, when engaged at a religious conference. While speaking of the Deity, and of things which especially concerned Him, these holy councillors referred to the Divine precept of charity, and they remarked that both by word and work were they bound to part with their garments, to clothe persons, who were in need of such comforts. At that moment, a cloak appeared to descend from Heaven, and it fell between them. This portent they regarded, both as an approval of their pronounced sentiments, on the part of the Most High, and as an earnest of those rewards, which they should not fail in obtaining, from the Father of lights, to recompense their future sacrifices. The saints felt greatly rejoiced and comforted; but their minds were filled with divergent opinions, regarding that miracle. Each one ascribed it to the other's merits. St. Patrick asserted, that this gift was intended for Winnoc who had perfectly renounced all his worldly possessions, for the sake of Christ. On the other hand, St. Winnoc alleged, that it had been sent to St. Patrick, who, although possessing everything yet kept nothing; for, he had left himself naked for God's sake, while clothing numbers, who were poor and naked. While such discussions, dictated by sincere humility on both sides, continued, the cloak was again elevated towards Heaven, and it suddenly disappeared. But, in its stead, two cloaks were next seen to descend from above. These were intended respectively for both Saints ; and thus, all reason for future discussion on that point was removed, owing to this celestial indication, that both were eminently deserving Divine approbation.

At this time, both were probably in the north-eastern part of Ireland, and, it is thought, in that district known as Hua Dercachein, said to have been in Dalaradia. However, this meeting possibly took place among the Oirghialla, a powerful tribe, descended from the three Collas,who conquered the ancient Ultonians. The country of this sept originally comprised the greater part of Ulster; and the three Collas, viz. Colla Uais, Colla Dachrich and Colla Meann, were the ancestors of distinguished northern clans. According to Marianus O'Gorman, the church of Teaghneatha—situated within that territory and in the Diocese of Armagh—was connected in an especial manner with St. Uindic or Winnoc. In mediaeval documents, this place has been written Twinha; and it is now represented by the modern townland and parish of Tynan, in the baronies of Tiranny and Armagh, County of Armagh... This place and the Saint in connection with it have been rendered "Winnic of Tynan," in the diocese of Armagh, by the Rev. William Reeves, and by Dr. John O'Donovan. The remains of an ancient stone cross, highly ornamented, and which originally stood within the grave-yard, have been built into the wall of the church-yard, for their greater preservation...

Besides the large district of the Oirghialla, there were two other great divisions in Ulster, and known as Dalriada and Dalaradia... The country of the Hua Dercachein likewise formed a sub-division of the ancient territory of Uladh...we are informed, that at Rath-Easpuic-Innic, St. Patrick built a church, and this is said to have been situated in the territory of Hua-Derca-Chein. According to one account, this districts lay in the present barony of Castlereagh, County of Down, and adjacent to Strangford Lough. The Genealogies of the Hy-Earca-Chein are to be found in the Book of Lecan. The more ancient line of chiefs in the territory of Leath Chathail or Lecale belonged to the Ullta or Clanna Rudhraidhe. Over Rath-Easpuic-Innic, however, and in the district of Dalaradia, the Apostle of Ireland is said to have appointed Vinnoc, as Bishop.... It seems sufficiently probable, that while St. Vinnoc had been connected with Teaghnetha or Tynan, he had charge, moreover, of Rath-Easpuic-Innic, which gave him claim to be regarded as one of our primitive Irish bishops. In identifying Hua Dercachein with the valley of the Braid, in the County of Antrim, Colgan has fallen into an error. It seems rather to have been a tract in the northern part of the County Down, or on the confines of Down and Antrim...

However, notwithstanding the foregoing false conjectures as to locality, St. Vinnoc was venerated on the 29th of August, at a church belonging to the Diocese of Armagh, commonly called Tuighnean, but more correctly Teagh-neatha. Such is the identification of Marianus O'Gorman, in connection with his entry of St. Uinnic in the Calendar. The published Martyrology of Donegal registers a festival in honor of Uindic, of Tuighnetha, at this same date. Moreover, Uindic, Bishop of Rath-Easpuic-Innic, has been placed, by Rev. William Reeves, among the Saints of Down, Connor and Dromore, in that Calendar which he has compiled for these Dioceses. The day for his festival, is the 29th of August.

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Wednesday 28 August 2013

Saint Feidhlimidh of Munster, August 28

The saint commemorated by Canon O'Hanlon in his lead article for 28 August is one who is far removed from any conventional idea of sanctity. For Feidhlimidh, a prince of the royal house of Munster, appears to have distinguished himself more for the destruction of churches than for their maintenance. Eventually, he burns one church too many at Clonmacnoise, whose patron, Saint Ciaran, administers some rough justice, after which the royal rogue spends the rest of his days in repentance for his former misdeeds. It's an intriguing story and one which I would be interested to explore further. Canon O'Hanlon sees a message for us all in the strange story of Feidhlimidh, son of Cremthann, and his account is reproduced below in full with some of the original footnotes incorporated into the main body of the text:


ALTHOUGH we find various allusions to the subject of our present memoir, in the Annals of Ireland; yet, those accounts are brief and disconnected, so that it is a difficult matter from such notices, to form an exact judgment regarding this King's career and character. That his life and actions can be generally approved must be a subject for discussion among modern historians, since we find many conflicting opinions brought down to us by tradition. At this date, Colgan had promised to treat at some length on this prince, who is said to have descended from a high worldly rank, that he might be exalted in the court of Heaven. This change of purpose seems to have occurred, only towards the close of his life. His reign was marked by broils and contentions; but, he usually came off victorious, as we find recorded in the Irish Annals. The national and social state of Ireland, and the position he filled, may have rendered some of those intestine wars evils that could not well be avoided; but ambition and greed are likely to have influenced his conduct, before penitence and contrition enabled this prince, to repair in a great measure the bloodshed and wrongs he had inflicted on others. Notwithstanding such a record, he is praised by several of the Munster bards and chroniclers, while his name has been inscribed among those, whose festivals are commemorated in our Calendars.

Veneration was given, as we are told, to Feidhilmidh MacCrimthain, at the 28th of August. Thus is he noticed in the Martyrology of Tallagh. In the Book of Leinster copy, his name is found contracted, at this date. He descended from the race of Aenghus, son to Naetfraech, son of Lughaidh, as stated by the O'Clerys. His father's name was Crimhthann, and he is said to have been of Claire. His son, who afterwards ascended the throne of Munster, was born probably towards the close of the eighth century. The young prince appears to have received a liberal education; for it is related, that he was an excellent scribe—which means according to Irish acceptance— a writer, although none of his compositions have come down to us. Nor is the school in which he studied known. It is stated, also, that Feidhlimidh entered into Holy Orders, and that afterwards he presided as Archbishop over Leath Mogha, otherwise in the See of Cashel. However, there is no sufficient warrant for such a statement. Moreover, in his enumeration of the Archbishops of Cashel, Sir James Ware does not record any earlier bishop than Cormac MacCullinan, who flourished towards the close of the ninth and beginning of the tenth century.

From what has been stated in the Irish Annals regarding Feidhlimidh, we are led to infer, that he must have succeeded in the principality of Munster, in or about the year 820. He was remarkable for personal courage and force of character— qualities which were sufficient to excite the admiration of his followers, and to cause his interested and over-partial panegyrists in prose and verse to overlook or conceal his many deficiencies. Having been recognised as a King over Ireland, by some authorities, without defining the term or the number of years; his reign has been synchronized with the period when Gaithen, the son of Cionaedhe, was chief over Laeighis or Leix, a territory contained within the present Queen's County. He is also noticed, as having lived about that period, when the death of the Ostman tyrant Turgesius took place. Moreover, he is supposed by Giraldus Cambrensis to have been a King over Ireland, and the seventeenth predecessor of Roderick O'Conor, the latest recognised monarch, who died towards the close of the twelfth century.

Our native Annalists, for the most part, do not class Feidhlimidh among the supreme monarchs of Ireland; although some of the Munster chroniclers and bards, who state that he ruled twenty-seven years over that province, reserve seven of these for jurisdiction over all the otlier provincial kings and chiefs of the nation. This claim nevertheless can hardly be allowed; but, having been a highly successful raider in his time, provincial tradition probably assigned that elevation to him, and caused it to be circulated for belief in other districts of the country. However, it cannot be doubted, that he not only exercised the power and privileges of a King throughout the province of Munster for a long period; but, his influence and fame as a warrior caused him to be feared and respected, even by the recognised sovereign of Ireland, and by all the subordinate kings and chiefs. Our Annals contain many brief records of his acts. Thus, in the year 823, it is related, that the Law of Patrick was established over Mumhan by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann. He is said to have immediately succeeded Fiacha Airtre, who ruled for fourteen or fifteen years over that province, but, the date for whose death we have not been able to ascertain. The Law of Patrick to which allusion has been made seems referable to some tribute or contribution allowed by the other provinces of Ireland, and as an acknowledgment of primacy over the Irish Church, in the See of Armagh. We find frequent allusion in the Annals, to visits made by the Archbishops and Abbots, to different places and at various times, in order to renew or establish that Law. Moreover, the kings and chiefs of those territories and districts were ready to enforce the obligations it involved, so far as their power extended. It is less pleasing for us to recount the many destructive raids or expeditions noted in our Annals.

In the year 823, we read that Galinne of the Britons was burned by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, with its whole dwelling-place and the oratory. Other authorities place that incident at earlier periods. It would seem, that the King of Munster had planned another expedition for the invasion of Connaught. That very same year 823, we find a victory was gained by Cathal, son of Ailill, over Feidhlimidhin Magh-Ai, where many fell. However, this reverse of his career is stated to have occurred in 834, by the O'Clerys, and it is related by an Irish poet, to have been at a place named Loch-na-Calla, or Lake of the Shouting, owing to the rejoicing of the Ui-Maine, on account of their victory over Feidhlimidh. The name of that place seems now to have become obsolete. Moreover, the Annals of Clonmacnoise relate, that Delvin Beathra was burned by King Felym or Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhtann, in 823; while those of the Four Masters place this event in 824; and those of Ulster have it at A.D. 826. Although undoubtedly remarkable for his prowess in arms and for personal valour, yet the King of Munster is not noticed in our Annals, for exercising either against the Danes or Norwegians, whose inroads upon various parts of Ireland are recorded during his career. He wanted the spirit of patriotism to render his deeds heroic; nor can it be said, that the reigning monarch Conchobhar was energetic or capable in suppressing such raids. Rather were internecine contests, among the Irish kings and princes, events most prominent during this period. In 824, there was a royal meeting at Biorra or Birr, between Conchobhar, son of Donnchadh, King of Ireland, and Feidhlimidh, King of Munster, according to the Annals of Clonmacnoise; this event is noticed in the Annals of the Four Masters, at the following year; while the Annals of Ulster have it at A.D. 826. The objects had in view for holding this meeting, nor the subjects there discussed by the monarch and by his nominally subordinate prince, have not been disclosed in any account with which we are familiar; but, it seems probable enough, that the King of Ireland suspected and feared the aspiring and ambitious aims of the Munster potentate, and sought explanations or some sort of understanding to restrain his acts, or to divert them into a more desirable course of policy. Weighed in the scale of subsequent events, there are just grounds for supposing, that Feidhlimidh was anxious to employ means, and to seek aid beyond his own province, for acquiring sway over the rest of Ireland. If we are to receive the account of the Rev. Dr. Keating, Feidhlime received provocations from the northern half of the Island, which was known under the designation of Leath Cuin. Carrying his arms into that part of the country, he sorely distressed its inhabitants, and he plundered without distinction from Birr to Teamhair Breag. We are told, moreover, that he met with opposition at Tara, and which he overcame with some difficulty. In a conflict, his forces engaged Jonrachtach, the son of Moalduin. This seems to have been intended for what is related, at the year 828, when the Annals of Clonmacnoise record the coming of the forces of Munster and of Leinster to Fynore —also called Finnabhair-Breagh—to destroy, prey and spoil Moybrey. This account is set down at A.D. 829, in the Annals of the Four Masters; while the Annals of Ulster place it at A.D. 830. Again, the burning of Fore by Feidhlimid is recorded as having occurred at a.d. 830. The Annals of the Four Masters,  at A.D. 831, have an account of the burning of Tearmann-Chiarain by this king and also of the plundering of Dealbhna-Beathra three times. The Annals of Clonmacnoise, however, place these events at A.D. 829.

It would appear, that similar devastations were continued by him the year following, 832, when a great number of the family of Cluain-mac-Nois were slain, and all their termon was burned by Feidhlimidh, to the very door of their church. It is stated, that while this king was brave in action, generous in success, anct unbroken in adverse fortune, he secured the co-operation and retained the fidelity of the two great provinces of Minister over which he reigned; and being munificent, insinuating, amiable, religious, but not pious, he for a considerable time gained friends, in all the other provinces of Ireland. He is said to have occasionally made the clergy instruments of his ambition, and to have harassed them in turn when they would not go all his lengths. Moreover, as we read, he treated the family of Dearmach, or Durrow. in like fashion, as he did that of Clonmacnoise, and also to the door of its church. The Annals of Ulster place such outrages, at this same year, while those of Clonmacnois refer them, to A.D. 830. In the meantime, during the reigns of Aedh Ornidhe and of Concobhar, monarchs of Ireland, the Northmen, while making inroads on the country, received no opposition from the King of Munster, who covered the south, and who was powerful enough to have prevented their incursions. It is even stated, that through interested motives, he basely enjoyed the miseries of his countrymen.

The Annals of Ulster place the death of Concobhar mac Donncha, King of Ireland, at A.D. 832. The same year is stated to have been the first for his successor, Niall Caile, son to Aedh Oirdnaidhe; but, the true year, as we are told, is A.D. 833. In the "Chronicum Scotorum," at the year 836, is an entry regarding the taking of the oratory at Cill-dara, against Forannan, Abbot of Ard-Macha, with the congregation of Patrick besides, by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, by battle and arms; and, as stated, they were taken prisoners with their submission. This is related to have happened, A.D. 835, in the "Annals of the Four Masters." The "Annals of Ulster" agree with this latter date; while those of Clonmacnoise have A.D. 833, for such transaction. In 836 occurred the plundering of the race of Cairbre Crom by Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann.

In the year 837, a great royal meeting between Niall Caille and Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, took place at Cluain-Conaire-Tomain, now Cloncurry, in the County of Kildare. The " Annals of Ulster" agree with this date; while those of Clonmacnois have A.D. 835. It is stated, that the Monarch of Ireland had invited the King of Munster to that interview, in hopes of compounding their mutual differences, in order that they might act in concert against their common enemy the Northmen. Instead of effecting such a salutary measure, as appears by what follows, ambition urged the latter treacherous potentate, to take advantage of the difficulties besetting the Monarch, and to supplant him, if possible, in the government of the whole kingdom. In the year 840, an army was led by Feidhlimidh to Carman; while another army was led to meet him by Niall to Magh-ochtair, a plain in the barony of Ikeathy and Uachtarfhine or Oughteranny, in the north of the present County of Kildare. A mysterious allusion by some Irish poet to this encounter states, that the crozier of the devout Feidhlimidh was left in the shrubbery, which by right of the battle of swords, Niall by force bore away from them.

It is stated in the old Annals of Innisfallen, that Feidhlimidh, son of Crimhthann, received homage from Neill, son of Aedh, King of Tara, in the year 824—but more correctly in 840—and that Feidhlimidh then became sole Monarch of Ireland, and sat in the seat of the Abbot of Cluain-fearta. However, although the King of Munster aspired to such a position, it is a mistake of writers on Irish historical matters to suppose he ever attained it. At the year 843, the Annals of Clonmacnoise relate the burning of the Termon lands belonging to St. Kieran, without respect of place, saint, or shrine; on which account, Feidhlimidh incurred a merited punishment, inflicted by the patron saint of Clonmacnoise. After his return to Munster the following year, he was overtaken by a flux, which brought him to the grave.

Notwithstanding his irregularity and great desire of spoil, the Annals of Clonmacnoise state, that Feidhlimidh was by some numbered among the scribes and anchorites of Ireland. It is generally believed, that Feidhlimidh governed the province of Munster for twenty-seven years. After such a term of rule, he voluntarily abdicated his temporal state, for a more spiritual life; and, to atone for his former excesses, he resolved to spend the remainder of his days in works of penance. He therefore embraced the austere life of an anchoret—but in what place we are not informed—and he thus prepared for his last end, distinguished by virtues and merits, so that he deserved to be classed among the saints. In Dr. O' Donovan's " Annals of the Four Masters," it is said he died on the 18th (? 28th) of August, A.D. 845, and of his internal wound, inflicted through the miracle of God and of St. Ciaran. The popular tradition was, that while taking rest in his bed, St. Kieran appeared to him in his habit, and with a pastoral staff. With the latter he gave King Fedlim a thrust, which caused an internal wound, and from this stroke he never afterwards recovered.

Moreover, some lines from an Irish poem are quoted, which are in a strain both of lamentation and of eulogy. Thus rendered into English :—

"Alas! O God, for Feidhlimidh; the wave of death has drowned him!
It is a cause of grief to the Irish that the son of Crimhthann of Claire lives not.
It was portentous to the Gaeidhil when his last end arrived;
Slaughter spread through sacred Ireland from the hour that Feidhlimidh died.
There never went on regal bier a corpse so noble;
A prince so generous under the King of Ailbin never shall be born."

Notwithstanding that the career of Feidhlimidh mac Crimthainn appears to have been one of turbulence and depredation, and that his death is said to have been brought about, as a punishment for his sacrileges; it seems strange, that when recording his death, at A.D. 846, the Annals of Ulster describe this Munster potentate as an excellent scribe and anchorite. With the high eulogy of being the best of the Scoti, a scribe and an anchorite, the "Chronicon Scotorum" enters the demise of this prince, at A.D. 847 ; while the author quotes some lines of an Irish poet, in lamentation for his death. The Martyrology of Donegal also records him at the 28th of August, as Feidhlimidh son of Cremthan, King of Munster.

From all we can learn, this King was distinguished by intellectual gifts, and by energy of natural disposition; yet neither of such qualifications could entitle him to our respect, did he not feel remorse for various misdeeds, and repent for a long catalogue of crimes, which were perpetrated during the time he was invested with temporal dominion. Like another royal penitent, before he had been called out of this world, Feidhlimidh in the trouble of his soul and body recognised his own weakness and dependence, having recourse to humble supplication, that the Lord should not rebuke him in indignation, nor chastise him in wrath, while he had renounced the works of iniquity, and had shed tears of remorse for his many transgressions. Thus it happened in the case of Mary Magdalen, who from being a great sinner, afterwards became a great saint; and with St. Paul, who from being a bitter persecutor of Christians afterwards became a glorious Apostle in the Church. To the last moment of life, God is merciful to even the greatest sinners, and accepts their sincere repentance with forgiveness, while if they persevere in justice to the end, He has promised also to them the rewards of Heaven.

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Tuesday 27 August 2013

Blessed Maelbrigid of Armagh, August 27

Canon O'Hanlon records the commemoration of an eleventh-century Irish priest of Armagh at August 27. Maelbrigid, the 'servant of Brigid' was born just two years before the Great Schism of 1054, and seems to have enjoyed a reputation as a priest of great holiness:

The Blessed Maelbrigid, Priest, at Armagh. [Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.]

There is an account of a holy man,named Maelbrighde MacDoilgen, or the son of Dolgen, in the Irish Annals. He was born in the year 1052, as may be inferred from the statements given. He became a priest a.d. 1080, and he appears to have been attached to the Church at Armagh. He is mentioned, as having been a noble priest, and as having been the senior of the priests of Ireland. Towards the close of his life occurred those disagreeable and factious proceedings, whereby a dominant faction resisted St. Malachy O'Morgair in his efforts to take possession of the See of Armagh, to which he had been elected as the chosen successor of Celsus, both by the clergy and people. In his industriously compiled Chronicle of the Primate Archbishops, illustrious men and incidents relating to the ancient Church of Armagh, Colgan has recorded the present distinguished Priest. He died in the fifty-second year of his priesthood, and in the eightieth of his age, on the 27th of August, 1132. Although desiring to know on what grounds Maelbrigidus is called beatus by Colgan, the Bollandists have noticed him at the 27th day of August, that assigned for his death.

The Entry and Notes from the Annals of the Four Masters:

The Age of Christ, 1132.

Maelbrighde Mac Doilgen, noble priest of Ard-Macha, and senior of the priests of Ireland, died in the fifty-second year of his priesthood, and in the eightieth year of his age, on the 27th of August.

"Maelbrighde Mac Doilgen "A. D. 1132. 1600; and Colgan's Acta Sanctorum, p. 350.

Beatus Maelbrigidus, Dolgenii filius, nobilis prsesbyter Ardmachanus, ac omnium praesbyterorum totius Hibernise senior praecipuus, sacerdotii anno quinquagesimo secundo, et aetatis octuagesimo, die 27 Augusti migravit ad Dominum -Trias Thaum., p.303

John O'Donovan, ed. and trans., The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, Volume II, 1040, 1041.

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Monday 26 August 2013

Saint Aireid of Ardrinnigh, August 26

August 26 is the commemoration of a Saint Aireid of Ardrinnigh, and Canon O'Hanlon summarizes what little is known of him:


As in so many other cases, much uncertainty prevails, in the effort to discover particulars relating to the present saint. The name of Aread or Eread, a Priest, occurs, as Colgan tells us, in the Martyrologies of Tallagh, and of Marianus O'Gorman, at the 26th of August. However, it must be observed, that in Dr. Kelly's edition of the Tallagh Martyrology, no mention of St. Aireid or Eread is found at this day. Nor is there such an entry, in that copy contained in the Book of Leinster. In a Life of St. Maidoc, Bishop of Ferns, contained in the collection of British Saints by John Capgrave and John of Tinmouth, allusion is made to a St. Aired. He is said to have lived at a place called Ardrinnigh, some distance from the mountain Beatha or Betha, on the confines of Cavan and Monaghan counties. Nevertheless, in the Life of St. Maidoc, published by Colgan, although that place is named, there is no mention made of Aired, in connection with it. He is thought to have been miraculously visited there by St. Maidoc, Bishop of Ferns, with whom he is presumed to have lived contemporaneously. Still, this is by no means certain, from any evidence we have been able to procure... The feast of Aireid, Priest, is met with in the Donegal Martyrology, but, further light is wanting to establish his period and even identity.

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Sunday 25 August 2013

Saint Sillan of Moville, August 25

August 25 is the commemoration of a saintly abbot of Moville, although whether this was the County Down monastery founded by Saint Finnian or another foundation in the County Donegal location of the same name is open to debate. Although not a great deal is known of Saint Sillan as an individual, his feast is well-attested on the Irish Calendars, as Canon O'Hanlon records:

St. Sillan, Bishop and Abbot of Magh-bile, or Moville. [Sixth and Seventh Centuries.]

In the published Martyrology of Tallagh, a notice of this holy prelate's parentage and place of residence will be found. At the viii. of the Kalends of September, or the 25th of August, his name is likewise to be met in the Tallagh Martyrology contained in the Book of Leinster; and there, besides his being called Bishop and Abbot of Magh-Bile, he is said to have been son to Findchain... The present holy man must have been born about the middle of the sixth century. Where his birth took place does not seem to be known, but probably it was in the northern part of Ireland, and most likely he was trained in a school established in Moville, County of Donegal, at a very early date. However, others consider him to have been connected with Magh-bile, or Moville, in the County of Down.

...It would seem that St. Sillan flourished towards the close of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century. About this time, he lived in or presided over the ancient monastery founded at Moville. Tighernach and the Annals of Ulster simply style him abbot. The Annals of the Four Masters and of Inisfallen, at 613, call him both bishop and abbot; but the territory in which he actually lived has not been indicated. In our Calendars, Martyrologies, and Annals, Maghbile is often mentioned, and in a general and an absolute manner, without any allusion to a second monastery of that name.

...At the year 613, the Annals of Innisfallen call this saint, a bishop and an abbot, when recording his death. This event is placed at 618, by the O'Clerys, both in the Martyrology of Donegal, and in the Annals of the Four Masters. According to the statements of Tigernach, the Chronicon Scotorum, and the Annals of Ulster, his demise is recorded at 619. Under the head of Magh-Bile, at this date, Duald Mac Firbis enters Siollan, who is called the son of Fionchan. He is, likewise, styled bishop and abbot of Magh, or Maigh-Bile. Without particularizing his locality, at this same date, the Martyrology of Donegal designates him, Siollan, Bishop and Abbot of Magh-bile. The Irish Calendar, belonging to the Irish Ordnance Survey Records and that at present preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, has a notice of this saint, at the 25th of August.

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Saturday 24 August 2013

Sen Patrick, August 24

24 August opens up an historical mystery that has long fascinated scholars of Ireland's saints: the problem of 'the other Patrick'. For on this date is commemorated Sen Patrick, also known as Old Patrick or Patrick Senior, whose relationship to the apostle of Ireland commemorated on March 17 is a conundrum still unresolved. In the paper below, Irish Ecclesiastical Record contributor, Father Sylvester Malone, reviews the evidence from the sources for clues to the identity of the elusive Sen Patrick. Not that the writer is in any doubt himself, long before he has concluded his arguments he has already plumped for Sen Patrick as being Saint Patrick's predecessor, Palladius. As Father Malone was writing in the 1890s he has a basic trust in the historicity of the original sources (something modern scholars do not share), but his paper still provides a good starting point and a useful summary of the sources. 


IN some sciences it has passed into an axiom "that entities should not be multiplied without necessity," and it were well to apply the axiom to the domain of history. Nothing should be admitted for fact without fair evidence, especially if the proposed fact be far-reaching in its consequences or revolutionary of well-established views of history. Now, of such a character is the existence or identity of Sen Patrick. He is generally admitted to have been a contemporary of our national saint and his fellow-labourer on the Irish mission. But though Sen Patrick figures almost as prominently as our great St. Patrick in the opening chapters of Irish Church history, to our mind he is, as represented by most Patrician biographers, no better than a myth. The violence offered to the human system from the introduction of a foreign body is no less real than what is suffered from facts being grouped around a mythical personage: and if the identity of Sen Patrick has not been yet established, then indeed there has been an unnatural displacement of facts, and then at the very outset there has been initiated a slovenly and uncritical method of dealing with the evidences of history.

1. The Calendar of Cashel commemorates Patrick Senior under the 24th of August, and adds that while some said he was buried in Ros-dela, in the region of Magh-lacha, others, with more truth, state he was buried in Glastonbury, and that his relics are preserved in the shrine of Patrick Senior in Armagh. [Here we see the reluctance to admit any person to be older than our national saint.]

2. The ancient Irish scholiast states that "our national apostle promised Patrick Senior that both of them would ascend together to heaven. Hence some say that the soul of St. Patrick awaited the death of Patrick Senior from the 17th of March to the end of August. Some state that Patrick Senior was buried in Ros-dela, while others, with more truth, state that he was buried in Glastonbury."

3. The Calendar of Saints, written by Aengus the Culdee, while commemorating the saints under the 24th of August, states that "old Patrick was the champion of battle, and the lovable tutor to our sage." A glossarist of the fifteenth century adds that he was buried in Glastonbury.

4. The Annals of the Four Masters state, under the year 457, that old Patrick "breathed forth his soul." The Annals of Ulster make the same remark; but a copy of the Annals of Connaught, quoted by Ussher, states that he died in the year 453. The Chronicon Scotorum assigns his death to 454. The Book of Lecan, in its list of St. Patrick's household, gives old Patrick as " the head of all his wise seniors”. Some ancient authorities suggest that the death of Patrick happened in the year 461 or 465, from which it is inferred there was reference to old Patrick; for our Irish annalists assign generally the death of our national saint to the year 493.

5. I may remark that the sixth life of St. Patrick, written in the twelfth century, makes mention of a Patrick, nephew of our national saint, who on the death of his alleged uncle left Ireland, and was buried in Glastonbury. Later historians have called him Junior Patrick, in reference to his supposed uncle, our national apostle.

6. While Irish annals and calendars recognise the existence of old Patrick, the primatial list of bishops ranks him amongst its metropolitans, and define the length of time during which he occupied the see. Let us glance at the first bishops of Armagh:

The Psalter of Cashel gives:

Secundinus (sat.) vi, or xvi.
Patrick Senior, x. years.

Yellow Book of Lecan.

Patritius . . . xxii.
Sechnall . . . xiii.
Sen Patrick . . x.

Book of Leinster gives:

Patrick, lxiiii. years from his coming to Erin till his death.
Sechnall, xiii,
Sen Patrick, ii.

We have now noticed the principal events on which the theories about Sen Patrick have been grounded; but before reviewing these I may at once say that Sen Patrick, to my mind, is none other than Palladius, who preceded, about a year, our national apostle on the Irish mission.

7. Dr. Lanigan maintains that Sen Patrick was no other than our national saint, and that there was only one Patrick in the early Irish Church; but the Book of Armagh and other documents clearly establish that Palladius also was called Patrick, and it is no less certain, notwithstanding the opposite opinion of Dr. Lanigan, that the term Old was applied to a Patrick, not for his absolute, but relative age. The opinion then of Dr. Lanigan is groundless.

8. The Bollandists suggest (vol. ii., March; vol. iv., Sep.) that a Patrick was called Sen, that is, Patrick Sen, as being the son of Sen, brother to our great saint. Nothing could be more unnatural than this view. Every Irish writer has associated Sen Patrick with only one person, and made Sen only a qualitative adjective. The idea of a nephew having been with our apostle in Ireland till his death, cannot be entertained. The learned Bollandists, relying on the primatial list of bishops, state that Sen Patrick was successor to his uncle. The only objection raised by Dr. Todd against this statement is, that he was only coadjutor to the great St. Patrick. The Confession leads to the belief that our saint after entering on the Irish mission never after saw his country or relatives.

9. Another theory, advocated by Petrie and Dr. Moran, states that Sen Patrick came from Wales; that he cooperated with our national apostle in the conversion of Ireland; that at the close of his life he returned to Wales; and that a portion of his relics are in Armagh and Glastonbury. Dr. Moran added that Sen Patrick's "place is well defined in Celtic records." Why, the case is quite otherwise. The venerable Speckled Book gives him no place at all in the list of primates. And if we turn to the essays of Dr. Moran, we see that he there makes Sen Patrick not a Welshman, but an Irishman and a pagan, who in Glastonbury instructed our national saint, and in consequence was rewarded with the gift of faith. For these assertions there is not a tittle of evidence. Dr. Moran concludes the article in the Dublin Review by stating there were four Patricks in the first age of the Irish Church, each having a fixed place in history; but it is clear to my mind there was only one Patrick.

10. Nothing can be more unsettled than the position assigned to Sen Patrick by modern historians, because, as understood by them, he did not exist. They copied self-contradictory annalists. Now, the primatial succession starts either with the episcopate of our apostle or the foundation of Armagh: if with the former, the lists should include Palladius, Ireland's first bishop; if with the latter, how can Secundinus be included, as he is represented by Irish annalists to have sat during six, thirteen, or sixteen years, and to have died in the year 448, though the see was not founded till the year 455. Moreover, the Psalter of Cashel makes Sen Patrick third in succession to the great St. Patrick, with Secundinus as intermediary (see sec. 6): the Yellow Book of Lecan does the same, with this difference, that it allows Secundinus to intervene between Sen Patrick and the great St. Patrick during thirteen years, rather six or sixteen, as stated by the Psalter; and the Book of Leinster allows only two years to the episcopate of Sen Patrick, while the other lists gave variously to it ten and thirteen years. The Book of Leinster, in grouping some remarkable events under several reigns, states that Secundinus and Sen Patrick died during the reign of King Laogaire, 428-463, but gives the death of "Patrick, bishop of the Irish" under the reign of Lugaid, 438-503; yet its list of bishops gives not a Patrick for many years after the death of Sen Patrick. In sober truth, the references to Sen Patrick in Irish annals were only an undigested reproduction of the baseless legends found in Norman chronicles.

The first mention of Sen Patrick in Irish annals does not appear earlier than the tenth century ; but long before that time the monks of Glastonbury claimed the honour of his having been abbot of the monastery. The monastic chronicles state that St. Patrick after converting Ireland retired to Glastonbury in the year 433; or, according to others, 449; that he was sent in the year 425, in the sixty-third year of his age, to Ireland by Pope Celestine; that after spending eight years in Ireland he retired to Glastonbury, which he governed as abbot for thirty-nine years ; and that he died in the year 472, in the one hundred and eleventh year of his age.

All these statements in reference to our national saint are discredited either by the Book of Armagh or the Confession. In point of fact, the connection of our saint after consecration with Glastonbury has no better foundation than either the vision of one monk, the dream of another, or some false document purporting to be written by St. Patrick himself. Even William of Malmesbury, who stood up for the Antiquities of Glastonbury, mentions with doubt the burial of St. Patrick there; but states that he was consecrated by Pope Celestine and educated by Germanus of Auxerre. The consecration by Pope Celestine, mentioned by the Glastonbury writers could be attributed to Palladius, called for some time Patrick, but not to our national saint. The older Patrick is said to have been sent so early as the year 425, whereas our national saint did not come to Ireland till 432. He died in Saul, county Down, whereas Palladius died after landing in Wales and leaving Ireland, on his way to Rome. Glastonbury chronicles state that St. Patrick was a pupil of St. Germanus, and converted Ireland after labouring there several years; this was true of our national saint, but not of Palladius; for the Book of Armagh states that the Irish mission of Palladius was a failure; that his stay in Ireland was brief; that his death was immediately after landing in Wales, and that he patronized Germanus. The legendary chronicles state that Patrick left after him in Glastonbury an autobiographical notice, and that he was a Briton. Our national saint was, indeed, a Welsh Briton, and wrote his Confession not in Glastonbury, but in Ireland.

The Annals of Connaught, under the year 453, register the death of Old Patrick, bishop of Glastonbury. Furthermore, Ralph of Chester, writing of the Patrick who was said to have been buried in Glastonbury, states that he was commemorated on the 24th August as one who, finding the Irish people rebellious, turned his back on them, and retiring to Glastonbury, died there on the 24th of August. Now, we must infer that the Patrick of Glastonbury was the Sen Patrick commemorated in Irish calendars on the 24th of August (see secs. 1, 2); and that Sen Patrick, mentioned in the Polychronicon of Ralph as having found the Irish rebellious, having abandoned them, and as having returned to Glastonbury, is no other than Palladius, is made evident by the Book of Armagh. For it states, in reference to the bad reception which the Irish gave to Palladius, as follows : "Neither did these fierce and savage men receive his doctrine readily, nor did he himself wish to spend time in a land not his own, but he returned to him who sent him."

Here, then, we have Irish martyrologies and the Book of Armagh identifying the Patrick of the Saxon chronicles with Sen Patrick, or Palladius.

11. Lives of the Irish saints, compiled in the eleventh century, contain a notice of Sen Patrick, from which we may infer that he was no other than Palladius. The lives, full of anachronisms, state that Saints Dechan, Ailbe, Ibar, and Ciaran, were contemporaneous bishops in Ireland before St. Patrick, and that Palladius preceded him by many years. Palladius is represented as having baptized St. Ailbe on the confines of Munster and- Leinster ; and turning to the life of St. Alban, nephew of Bishop Ibar, we learn that the birth of the saint was foretold by Patrick, " chief father of Ireland;" and that while this Patrick was in the south of Leinster, St. Ibar, St. Alban, and Sen Patrick encountered a monster of the deep in Wexford bay. Now as this district is admitted to have been the scene of Palladius' labours, and as he and Sen Patrick are represented as contemporaries a long time before our national saint, we may infer that Sen Patrick was the Palladius mentioned in the life of St. Ailbe. The anachronisms that disfigure the lives have perplexed historians. Thus Declan, Ailbe, Ibar, and Ciaran, are falsely stated to have preceded our national saint; thus Palladius in the Life of St. Ailbe, is represented as contemporary with Conchobar Mc Nessa in the first century ; though, according to the Book of Armagh, he scarcely by a year preceded our national saint on the Irish mission, yet the Irish lives separate them by an interval of four hundred years ; and though they make Sen Patrick contemporary with Palladius, and nominally distinct from him, they would have him succeed our national saint in the fifth century. Such anachronisms in uncritical biographies that were not collated with each other or the Book of Armagh are matter for regret ; but it is matter for wonder that these anachronisms escaped the notice of the learned Bollandists. For Papebroke and Stilting (A. A. SS. For March and September) suggest that what was said of St. Patrick in the life of St. Ailbe, may not refer to the great St. Patrick, but to Sen Patrick, his successor. But how could the great St. Patrick be referred to, as he lived four hundred years after the events commemorated in the life? The oversight of the Bollandists arose probably from not knowing that Palladius was called Patrick, and from not adverting that Mc Nessa, the represented contemporary of Palladius, lived in the first century.

12. The inconsistent notices of Sen Patrick in the lives may be traced principally to the Glastonbury legends; and as the monks claimed St. Patrick as inmate and abbot after his supposed departure from the Irish mission, so Scottish writers claimed him as an apostolic missionary in Scotland. The Glastonbury claims were advanced in the eight century. Irish chronicles of the tenth and eleventh centuries adopted the notices of Sen Patrick's death in the obits of Glastonbury, while the annals of Connaught and Ulster in the fifteenth century, and those of the Four Masters in the seventeenth were coloured by the Scottish theories. There was neither truth nor consistency in either Scottish or English legends. Some English legends stated that Old Patrick lived in Glastonbury for thirty-nine years, having come there in the year 433; while others made him come there in the year 449. The Scottish theories were no less inconsistent. Some maintained with Spotiswoode, that Palladium evangelized Scotland during twenty-three years, while others extended his labours there to thirty years. Hence we find, on the supposition that Palladius came to Ireland in the year 431, that the Irish chronicles variously date the death of Sen Patrick to the years 454, 459, and 461. The Scottish theories, stimulated probably by the earlier claims of Glastonbury, were mainly built on the statement of the very unreliable scholiast that Palladius, having left Ireland, founded a church in Fordum.

The confusion in the Glastonbury legends differs from the Irish chronicles in this, that the former attribute the acts of the two Patricks to one person, while the latter preposterously make the first, or old Patrick, succeed the second Patrick. But even amid this obscurity gleams of truth flash out in the succession of bishops given in the Book of Leinster; only two years are given to Sen Patrick or Palladius. He came to Ireland in 431, and died in 432. In course of time he was so much forgotten that the later notices of him in the Book of Armagh state that the place and nature of his death were unknown. Towards the close of the twelfth century it appears to have been nearly forgotten that Palladius was called Patrick for some centuries; and in course of time our national saint so filled the public mind in connection with the conversion of Ireland, as to shut out the idea of any missionary previous to him.

But it may be objected that there is mention in the lives of several Patricks, a "source of much embarrassment" to our modern historians ; these are (a) Sen Patrick, (b) Patrick of Nola, (c) Patrick of Auvergne, (d) the three Patricks mentioned in the Tripartite, and (e) Patrick Junior. Patrick Senior (a), mentioned in the hymn of Fiacc, was Palladius; Patrick of Nola (b), commemorated by Farracius on the Eve or first vespers of the 17th March, is no other than our national saint, who was ordained in Nola. (c) The same may be said of Patrick of Auvergne, commemorated in the Roman martyrology on the 16th of March, to the great surprise of Baronius, as there had been no Patrick among the bishops of Clarmont: our national apostle had studied on the borders of Auvergne, and was there consecrated by the abbot-bishop Amatus. (d) The three other Patricks mentioned in the Tripartite, whom our saint met at Lerins, were probably Saints Honoratus, Maximus, and Hilary of Aries, three abbots there in succession.

(d) The three Patricks appear to be taken by the Tripartite as of consular rank; but such a meaning is misleading. If the Patricks (laii Patricii) were Christian names, then the writer was in error, as our apostle was not then called Patrick, unless by the figure prolepsis he anticipated the future name of the saint. The writer was also in error if he employed the Patricius as a name of honour; and it is most likely he did so employ it; for in page 123 (Tr. Thaum.) he states that our national saint received at consecration from Pope Celestine a name, Patricius, which at that time was expressive of honour and excellence. The mention of the three Patricks, then, was expressive of their patrician rank, and not of their Christian names.

(e) It is admitted that Palladius, an arch-deacon or deacon of the Roman Church, was sent by Pope Celestine to Ireland. He was called by the Irish the first Patrick. The Irish scholiast, in giving the relatives of our national saint (Tr. Thaum., p. 4), states that Sannanus, the deacon, was his brother. He was his spiritual brother ; for Sen, the deacon, mentioned by the scholiast was Sen Patrick, or Palladius.

In turning from the scholiast of the tenth century to the sixth life by Joceline in the twelfth (Tr. Thaum.,p. 106), we are informed, that our national saint had a dear son Patrick (spiritually), who was son of San, and who, after the death of his uncle, returned to Britain, died there, and was buried in Glastonbury. Now, on this statement, Ussher remarks (Primordia, p. 823) that Sannanus, the deacon, was father to Patrick Junior; and Colgan winds up the story (Appendix v., p. 225) by expressing a hope that he was born before San, his father, became a deacon. Here we see the Patricks almost inextricably involved, and the spiritual inconsistently confounded with carnal relationship. For Palladius, who has been properly described by Irish annalists as a "foster father or tutor" to our national saint, is made by-and-bye to sink to the level of a carnal brother, rises again to the higher spiritual level, but as a dependent or coadjutor to our apostle; and, having become a Patrick junior, nephew to the great Patrick, finally disappears in a grave at Glastonbury. And all this has been chronicled and faithfully copied as grave matter for history!

On broad historical lines, by a rather circuitous road, we have been led to the identification of Sen Patrick; but we might, through an easy and short cut, have arrived at the conclusion by a reference to the May number of the I. E. RECORD. It has been there proved clearly that only two persons were called Patrick, down to the eleventh century in the Irish Church. One of these was our national saint, the other was Palladius. Our national saint was always contradistinguished from Sen Patrick; not so with Palladius; and therefore, Palladius, as being the elder workman in the Irish vineyard, must have been he who, not inaptly, was called Sen Patrick.


Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol 12 (1891), 800-809.

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Friday 23 August 2013

Saint Eugene of Ardstraw, August 23

August 23 is the feast day of the patron of the Diocese of Derry, Saint Eugene of Ardstraw. The website of the diocese has an account of his life here. Below is a short extract from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record on the founding of Ardstraw:

St. Eugene is said to have been a native of Leinster, whilst his mother was from Mugdarnia, in the present county Down; When receiving his early education along with Tighernach the inseparable friend of his after years and a number of others, he was carried away captive along with his companions into Britain by marauding pirates, and held there in bondage. Through the influence of Neunyo, a wise and holy man who presided over the monastery of Kosnat, or Whitethorn, in Scotland, the King of Britain was induced to liberate the youthful captives. Neunyo took them to his monastery, where they pursued their studies for a certain period. A second time Eugene and his companions were carried away captives out of Ireland, and taken into Brittany in Gaul. A miraculous occurrence is said to have taken place whilst they were in captivity there which induced the king to set them free, and to send them back to Kosnat to pursue their studies. After a length of time they returned to Ireland and established several monasteries. Eugene established that of Kilnamanagh in Cualann the modern district of Wicklow and presided over it for fifteen years.

One of his pupils in this place, and afterwards at Ardstraw, was his own cousin or nephew, St. Kevin, whom Moore and Gerald Griffin have immortalized in their verses. In obedience to the orders of his superiors, or, as some say, acting on a Divine admonition, he came northwards in company with his life-long friend and early schoolmate, St. Tighernagh, to found a monastery. Tighernagh selected Clones as the site of his foundation, whilst Eugene journeyed on to Ard-straha by the waters of Loch Derg, and built his monastery at a short distance from the junction of that river with the Strule. The commingling of these two streams forms the Mourne, which, in turn, meeting the Finn at Lifford constitutes the river Foyle. It is said that it was after, and not before, his coming to this place that he was consecrated bishop, and after his consecration he established his see in the place. As various dates are assigned for his birth, so different years are given for his coming to Tyrone and also for his death. However, most of the annalists assign his demise to the 23rd of August, A.D. 617, or 618. ...St. Eugene, we are told, was buried in his church, but no trace of the grave remains, nor does any tradition exist to point out the hallowed spot.

The See of St. Eugene at Ardstraw, Together with a sketch of the History and the Antiquities of its Neighbourhood in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol.IV,(1898), 385-41.

In his account of Saint Eugene [Eogan], Canon O'Hanlon records some of the miracles associated with the saint:

While St. Tigernach and St. Eugene were sojourning at the Little Wood, when the latter was about to depart for Ardstraw, they both took a ramble towards a small eminence, where sitting down they entered on a course of pious conversation. Then having separated, a minister of Eugene recollected that he had left behind a small vessel, from which it was his custom to sprinkle infirm persons with holy water. The next day, Eugene and his minister returned to that same place, when to their great surprise, a fox was found dead, with the vessel belonging to Eugene near him, and which he had attempted to gnaw. It was perfectly preserved, however, owing to the saint's merits. Even a thong of leather attached was found uninjured between the animal's teeth.

Another time, when both of those holy prelates were on a customary visitation of a small nunnery, they found the minister of the Abbess Mossera and of her nuns dead. However, St. Tigernach desired Eugene to place his baculus on the body of the deceased, A great miracle followed, when that servant came to life, and he was restored to his former state of health.

In the monastery at Ardstraw, Eogan led a most holy life, being distinguished for his miracles and for a spirit of prophecy. Instances of the latter gift are furnished, in the case of a wicked Gentile prince, named Amalgid, who had ordered a spear having five points on it to be made, and with this he resolved on immolating innocent victims, in accordance with some pagan custom or superstition, which held possession of his mind. On hearing about such intent, the charitable Abbot went to him, entreating that he should not put it into execution; nevertheless, the cruel tyrant would not be diverted from his purpose. The saint declared, that should he do so, on the third day after the evil deed had been committed, the prince himself must die pierced by that same spear. Such prediction was accordingly fulfilled.

Various of his miracles are related in the old Acts ; but, as some of those marvels are of a legendary character, they may be passed over as not worthy of being here recorded. It is told, that in a certain town named Lettach,one hundred persons of both sexes had been surrounded by pirates; but, having sent word to the holy man, that they were likely to be captured or in danger of perishing, he passed unnoticed through the enemy's camp, and having baptized them, all were brought away unseen by the pirates and were thus saved. Again, it is stated, that while Eugene was travelling through a great wood, which stretched for sixty thousand paces along the River Bann, he met a miserable pauper, who was a leper, on the way. As a charity, he bestowed the two chariot horses he used on that poor mendicant. Such self-sacrificing act was made known by a revelation to St. Corpre, Bishop of Coleraine, who sent two other horses to supply the place of those which had been given away. At another time, on the approach of Easter, Corpre borrowed a Book of Gospels from Eugene, as Eastertide approached, and when the latter wanted it, on the very night of that festival, the Angels of God left it once more on his altar. While the holy Bishop was journeying through a wood called Croibeth, in company with a boy, he recited the fifty Psalms, and afterwards the Lord's Prayer, so far as the words, "sed libera nos a malo." The boy then answered Amen, when an extraordinary echo resounded those concluding words throughout the forest.

On a certain occasion, the holy man, with his retinue, was uncourteously treated at a town, where he arrived towards evening, and where fifty persons of both sexes were assembled at a banquet. There he was denied hospitality, so that he was obliged to remain in the open air all night. He spent it awake, and while fasting he prayed. However, he predicted, that for the future, such a feast should not there take place, nor should the land about it prove fertile. His prophecy was fulfilled, even to that time when the saint's eulogy had been pronounced. However, on the day following, one of the feasters named Caitne, and whose wife is called Brig, invited him and his companions to their house, where dinner had been prepared for their labourers. This dinner consisted of beef and swine's flesh, with beer for their drink. Of such viands, Eugene and his companions partook, having blessed them before and after partaking of their meal. Afterwards, the saint blessed that house, and the cellars of his kind entertainers. He predicted, moreover, that such food and drink should serve their household, so long as no irreverent remark was made regarding them. This condition was observed, only from the Kalends of November to the Pentecost succeeding. The panegyrist of our saint declares, in closing his account of the miracles Eugene wrought during life, that he only recounted a few of those merits, with which the subject of his discourse was so remarkably favoured by the Almighty.

It is stated, that Eugene was living, about the year 570. Having attained a mature term of years, and a full measure of merit in the sight of God, he was happily called out of this world, some time in the sixth century. Having been seized with a grievous infirmity, which grew on him day by day, calling his monks around him, he received Extreme Unction and the Holy Viaticum, with sentiments of the most pious resignation. When such religious rites had been administered, his monks separated into two choirs, and standing, they alternately chanted appropriate psalms. During that pious and solemn celebration of the Divine Office, Angels received the soul of Eogan, and bore it to Christ, whom he had so long and so faithfully served.

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Thursday 22 August 2013

Saint Andrew of Fiesole, August 22

August 22 sees the commemoration of Saint Andrew of Ireland, also known as Andrew the Scot or Andrew, Archdeacon of San Martino a Mensola. The name of Saint Andrew is inextricably linked with that of his spiritual master, Donatus, with whom he travelled to Italy and with Brigid, his faithful sister in the flesh. I have been very interested in this trio since first learning about them, Bishop Donatus was responsible for spreading devotion to Saint Brigid of Kildare in Italy and indeed modern scholars believe that Saint Andrew's sister Brigid is in reality a manifestation of the cult of the Irish patroness in the Fiesole area. I have read a number of accounts of Saint Andrew but the most enjoyable is that of Margaret Stokes in her 1892 book, Six Months in the Appenines: Or A Pilgrimage in Search of Vestiges of the Irish Saints in Italy.  We begin with her account of how Saint Andrew came to accompany his master Donatus into exile for the sake of Christ:

It happened at the time when Donatus was a teacher in Ireland, that there lived in the same country a noble virgin named Brigid, and her brother Andrew, a comely and gallant youth. Andrew was the elder of the two, and her constant guide and counsellor. It was their custom from earliest childhood, when they walked out together on their way to school, as they passed the church door, to pause and enter reverently and pray, which service they also repeated at every hour that they could save from sleep. Nor were there any poor or miserable that did not leave the house of Andrew comforted, so deeply was love to the unhappy rooted in his heart; his parents meanwhile were careful that he should be taught the art of riding, as befitted his high rank. As time passed on, a rumour reached the ear of brother and sister that a great teacher, named Donatus, had arrived from many miles distant, who could still further instruct them in divine philosophy, and Donatus having already heard of the great promise of this youth Andrew, took him to his school, and soon came to love him as a son. The kindly greeting with which he was received caused Andrew more satisfaction to his heart than he could express, and an old Latin writer has said of these two holy men: "The greatest happiness of Donatus was the instruction of Andrew ; the greatest enjoyment of Andrew was in obedience to Donatus."

One day, as they were both standing at the gate outside the city (cashel) walls, discoursing, as was their wont, upon things human and divine, Donatus revealed to his disciple that he had long desired to journey into distant lands, to visit all the holy places throughout Italy, and then to seek a spot where none would know him, so that, far removed from family and friends, he would be free to give up his life to the service of God, desiring to imitate Heraclitus, who ceased not to mourn over human suffering.

Andrew, unable to part from his beloved master, prayed that he might go with him on this journey, and thus these two servants of God determined to depart. So fixed on Heaven were their hearts, that they showed no sorrow in parting, and paid no heed to the opposition of their people.

Great was the grief of Brigid when she learned their project, yet not even her tears could turn them from their course. The unhappy sister said, "Brother dear, why dost thou leave me? When shall we see one another again?" They clung to one another in a close embrace, and their hot tears showed the tender love that bound them. At last, Andrew with much gentleness put his sister from him. "Go in peace," she said, "and pray to God for thy sister, abandoned here in sorrow."

Then the two pilgrims, followed by their friends and families, went down the island to the sea-coast, where they embarked upon a ship whose sails soon swelled in the wind, and bore them to a foreign shore. They had scant money or provision for their journey, since they meant to beg their way from place to place, and having landed, they set off on foot with staff and bag, contented and humble in spirit. They rested at the monasteries where the relics of the saints were kept and honoured, and they often turned aside to visit certain hermitages in almost inaccessible places, where they might hold converse with holy anchorites who had resigned the world. As throughout their pilgrimage they greatly desired to visit every possible place where a holy sanctuary was to be found, in their careful search for such they came upon the beautiful mountain of Fiesole, where were the shrines of numberless martyrs and many stations of the cross.

In those days the people of Fiesole, having been deprived of a pastor, were in difficulty about the election of a new one, because of the civil discords that had sprung up after the recent devastations of the Northmen. The nobles and the people were at variance, and the state was passing through a crisis of great difficulty and danger. Then the good men of the city prayed fervently to God to the end that he might save their tottering state from civil war and mercifully provide them with a good pastor. Having thus prayed with all their might, the righteous petition of this multitude reached the ear of Him who sleepeth not, and He sent them aid in the following manner, as is related by the old historian of Donatus: —

" It was while the dismayed city of Fiesole was in this condition that the men of God, Donatus and Andrew, had turned thither in their wanderings through Tuscany, and, like other travellers, wearied with the great height they had climbed, and tired with their journey, they entered the hospice as the night closed in. Now it happened that at the moment of their arrival the abbey of Fiesole was filled with a great crowd of people in deep distress because they had been deprived of a pastor's care. With one voice they implored that He who brought Israel up out of Egypt might protect them with His right hand, and might deign to preserve their church by some angelic visitation. While the people thus prayed aloud, Christ worked a new miracle for them, and brought Donatus and his friend Andrew to the church door.

"As they ascended the steep hill from the river's side, the bells of the city on the instant rang forth, and the lamps burst miraculously into light of themselves. The people of Fiesole, amazed at this miracle, ran hither and thither through the city in all directions and in great confusion, asking in terror what might this portent mean. Impelled by their trust in God, they hurried down the hill to the abbey; men, women, and children of all ages, knelt there in tremblings and sobs and tears, and piously raising their hands to heaven, made prayer to God that He would deign to show them the meaning of this miracle.

Suddenly a silence fell upon the multitude, and a voice proclaimed, ‘Receive the stranger who approaches, Donatus of Scotia; take him for your shepherd.’ When the voice of the Lord had ceased, the people, not knowing what to do, remained in prayer. Then behold the men of God, Donatus and Andrew, having just entered the city, went to the abbey where the congregation were at prayer, and believing it to be a feast day, marvelled to see the dismayed people praying in alarm and suspense. Advancing slowly, they stood in silence awaiting the result.

"Then a certain poor man standing by, and happening to see the strangers, inquired of them whence they came and whither they were bound, and by what name they were called. Donatus, with his usual simplicity, answered humbly, ‘We are both men of Scotia. He is named Andrew, I Donatus. We came on pilgrimage to Rome.’ And the poor man, remembering the divine voice he had just heard, straightway cried aloud, ‘Citizens, the man is here of whom the Lord has spoken.’…

Donatus and Andrew at Fiesole.

Andrew, the faithful disciple who had followed Donatus from Ireland, remained at his side till death, serving him in humility and goodness. Such was his wisdom that he was loved by the people of Fiesole no less than by his master. Donatus desired to promote him to the office of archdeacon, so as to raise his rank in the people's eyes. Henceforth Andrew followed the footsteps of the first deacon, and is said to have resembled Stephen and Laurence in his habits of life.

It happened that one day the two friends were walking together round the foot of the hill of Fiesole, when they came to the banks of the little river Mensola, which flows at the foot of a certain height crowned by a church dedicated to St. Martin. Ascending the hill, they found the ancient sanctuary in ruins, and on inquiring the cause of this desolation from the people in the neighbourhood, they learned that it had been laid waste in former days by the barbarous soldiers of Totila.

Donatus, as he stood in his sadness among the broken walls and bewailed the destruction of the temple, wept, and then in silent prayer the bishop entreated of God to send and restore his church, and the deacon Andrew, standing by, seeing the tears of his most holy father, inquired the cause of his sorrow; the bishop lifting up his voice to heaven, cried aloud, “Behold how Thy sanctuaries are laid low, and Thy high places are made desolate, and Thy temple has become the den of robbers and of wicked men, who show tyranny against Thy house before the eyes of all men." Andrew hearing these words, and filled with the zeal of charity, humbly offered to the bishop his earnest service for the restoration of the temple, and then, fixing his eyes on the ground, awaited his pleasure and commands. Donatus praised the devotion of the holy man, whose offer corresponded with his own thought. He made the sign of the cross, with hands stretched over him, and blessing him in God's name, said that henceforth he was free to devote himself to this pious work, and that when he had restored the monastery, he might therein dedicate the days of his life to the Lord, along with such of the brethren as he might choose. Andrew, though the work seemed arduous and difficult for a poor and needy man, thus strengthened by the holy bishop, began to clear the sacred place of brambles and of thorns, to search for the ancient foundations and dig out the stones of the old walls, hidden under the ruins. He also prepared new stones and cement and other things necessary for the building, with sedulous care. He sought alms from the pious and faithful persons in the neighbourhood around; he hired builders, with whom he laboured himself after the manner of a reasonable bee, continually fulfilling these labours in the restoration of the church so far as his little body, attenuated by fasting, would allow.

In a short time the basilica was not only restored but enlarged; moreover, the man of God bought lands sufficient for his small company of monks with such sums as he could save by a holy parsimony, and earn through his own labours and that of his brethren. During these labours they lived on a most scanty subsistence, rejecting all superfluous things that might soften and enervate the rigour of their penitence, and after the completion of their work he distributed the surplus among the poor, not allowing these offerings to be hidden in chests, even to the amount of one jot; for the man of God thought avarice the greatest sin.

Having thus established his monastery near that of his master Donatus, he led a holy life in this place until he attained a good old age, expecting with a tranquil mind the gradual approach of his latter end. Were I to relate all the miracles which God deigned to grant to the prayers of this holy man, my work would expand beyond the limits usual in sacred writings. But here, in S. Martino a Mensola, did St. Andrew draw around him a number of devoted men who, invested with the sacred religious garb, led a life of austerity and purity; nor can the pen record the glorious deeds of his old age, how he cast out demons, gave sight to the blind, health to the fevered, and strength to the infirm, so that they might live to render thanks to their Creator.

Death of St. Andrew in San Martino

Andrew survived his master but a short time. When the Lord revealed to him that his last days were approaching, and he lay upon his sick-bed wasted by fever, he collected or assembled his monks around him, exhorting them to good works and faithful obedience to their monastic rule. Then turning his mind to heavenly things, the memory of his childhood came back to him, and he thought of his sister Brigid, whom he had left behind in Ireland, from whom he had been parted for upwards of forty years, and whom he greatly longed to see before he died. Just at this time Brigid was seated at home in a retired place in Ireland, at her frugal meal of salad and small fishes. Then the Lord, mercifully willing to comfort Andrew, and grant his earnest prayer that he might once more behold his sister's face, sent an angel to her chamber, who bore her to the bedside of her brother at Fiesole.

The monks who stood around his bed in tears were amazed and dumb at her appearance. Brigid, trembling and awestruck, thought the crowd before her in their strange costumes and the aged dying man upon the bed to be but a vision. Andrew lifted his eyes, and when they rested on the aged woman standing at the foot of his couch, he understood it all. He spoke to her in tender tones, and said, " Brigid, my beloved sister, long have I in my heart wished to see thee before I die, but all my hope was fading out as death approached and I remembered the great distance between us. But the fount of eternal love has granted to me, a sinner, this great favour that thou seest now. Fear not, for it is in very deed and truth Andrew of Ireland, thy brother, whom thou now seest before thee. Now thou shalt behold him but a little while, him who, thou thoughtest, had long emigrated from this world. I trusted that God for thy merits would grant my dying prayer ; I always hoped that here to this place, where I, far from my country, a feeble soldier, have passed my days, thou wouldest at some time come, a solitary and a penitent, to fill up the measure of the shortcomings in my soldiership by thy virtues. Behold herein the mercy of God. Fear not, but pray for me with all the fervour of thy soul. Behold the hour is at hand and my summons has come. Lay down thy soul's amazement, and know that what thou now seest is true."

Then Brigid, awaking as it were from sleep, wept for joy and fervour and grief; kissing her brother's hand she held it tightly, but could not speak, so choked was she by sobs and sighs. She folded her brother in the chaste embrace of her most modest arms, and crying out in prayer she bathed him in her tears. Then wearied out in this hour of sorrow, she was first silent, and afterwards, kneeling to the ground, she thus broke forth in prayer : —

“All powerful God, who alone doest marvels, whom the powers of Heaven serve, whom the elements obey, on whom all creatures justly wait, I give Thee thanks with praise and blessing, since Thou hast vouchsafed to Thine handmaiden to lead her to the presence of her brother. All honour and glory be unto Thee." Then turning to the dying man, she said, " O most holy brother, long years ago the best guide of my youth and the director and guardian of that life which by thy holy persuasion I have dedicated to the Lord, now I both rejoice and mourn at the same moment. For when I see thy weakness I pity thee in my affection, and yet I grieve and mourn that thou shouldest go so soon from this miserable world wherein thou leavest me unconsoled. But when I see with what great striving thou hast resisted the temptations of this life, and hast defeated the evil one, and in thy good deeds art justified before the Lord, I exult and rejoice. For the rest I do but say, Whatsoever days remain for me after thou hast gone I am resolved to dedicate to thy just will, following in thy footsteps so far as the weakness of my sinful frame allows. I will tarry patiently in this place whither the angel of the Lord has borne me so long as God wills, but praying of thee, dearest brother, to entreat of Him that He may grant a man's strength to aid my woman's frailty. And now, oh, my brother ! be strong in the Lord, and show in death that strength in the cross which thou didst bear in life."

When she had thus spoken, Andrew, the man of God, strengthened by his sister's words, raised himself on his knees from the harsh hairy couch on which he lay, and having clasped his hands on high so far as his failing strength allowed, he bade farewell to his sister and to his brethren, and raising his eyes to heaven he prayed, "Receive into Thy bosom, O Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour, the spirit of Thy servant Andrew." Then having covered his eyes he straightway died.

And the brethren, who with his sister were praying around him expecting the hour of his departure, suddenly beheld a splendour of light descend upon the man of God from heaven, which from its excessive brilliancy was more than their eyes could endure, and the whole house was filled with a fragrant odour, and when this great light had returned to the heaven whence it came, and they could look upon the holy corpse again, they saw him laid upon the bed as if in sleep, his arms folded like a cross upon his breast. The monks then, according to their usual custom, reverently carried the body thence, and laid it on a bier opposite the altar, until such time as they could duly celebrate the funeral.

Meanwhile, all the people of Fiesole, male and female, young and old, as if summoned by a heavenly trumpet, left the city and hastened in crowds to the monastery of St Martin on the Mensola. Moreover, crowds assembled from the regions round about, to the place where the body lay, and they kissed his hands and feet in their reverence and devotion, carrying away with them as relics whatever little fragments of the holy man's garments they could secure.

Margaret Stokes, Six Months in the Apennines: Or a Pilgrimage in Search of Vestiges of the Irish Saints in Italy, (London, 1892), 230-252.

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