Monday 12 May 2014

Saint Ailitir of Mucinis, May 12

On May 12 we remember a 6th-century saint associated with the site of Lough Derg, not the pilgrimage site in County Donegal whose 'Saint Patrick's Purgatory' achieved such fame in later medieval Europe, but with Lough Derg on the Shannon. The saint himself bears the name of 'Pilgrim' and may also have been associated with another monastic site on the Shannon, the famous monastery of Clonmacnoise, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:


The Festival of Ailithir, with a eulogy, is entered, at the 12th of May, in the Feilire of St. Aengus. His name is elsewhere found Latinized as Alitherius, seu Peregrinus de Mucinis. Yet, we cannot be assured, that this was his proper name. However from the sequel, it seems likely, that he has been identified with a holy man so named, and belonging to one of the Muskerrys, in the south of Ireland. An entry, Ailitir Muccinsi, is found in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, and in the Franciscan copy, at the 12th of May. The Martyrology of Marianus O'Gorman notes, at this date, likewise, Elithir of Muicinis, on Loch Deirg (Derc), now Lough Derg, in the Shannon. It would seem, that both here, and at Clonmacnoise, his memory was held in veneration. The word, Ailitir, or Elithir, signifies "a pilgrim;" and, hence, it may not necessarily be a proper name. At the year 595, however, the Annals of the Four Masters state, that Ailithir, Abbot of Cluain-mic-nois, died. He was the fourth Abbot, having succeeded Mac Nissi, who departed this life, on June the 12th, A.D. 585. The Ailithir, there mentioned, has been identified with the present saint. The Annals of Ulster record his death, at A.D. 598; while, those of Tighernach and the "Chronicum Scotorum" place it, at A.D. 599. The latter authority states, that his family was of the Muscraidhe. This day, the Martyrology of Donegal records a veneration paid to Elitir, of Muic-inis, in Loch Derg-derc. Under that name, it is difficult to find it there, as it does not appear, on the Irish Ordnance Survey Maps.

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