Friday 4 July 2014

Saint Bolcán of Kilcooley, July 4

On July 4 we have the commemoration of a County Roscommon saint, Bolcán, or Olcán. He seems to have been confused with a better-known namesake, Bolcán of Armoy, a saint associated with Saint Patrick:



WE cannot speak with much confidence regarding the present holy man's history, although his place has been identified. The name Bolcan, of Cill Cuile, is inserted in the Martyrology of Tallagh, as having been venerated, at the 4th of July. It appears, that his name and festival are to be found in the Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Charles Maguire. Indifferently he has been called Olcan, as well as Bolcan, by some writers ; and Colgan has thus confounded those names. He seems to have been referred to the times of St. Patrick, whose disciple he is said to have been. It was Colgan's intention to have treated about St. Olcan, at the 4th of July. This is expressed, also, in his published work. The Bollandists have a  notice of him, at this date, but with many of the doubts expressed, and which intrinsically arise from the difficulty of distinguishing this individual saint.  He is known by the name Olcan of Kilmormoyle, alias Kilmoremoy or Kilmore, near the Moy. He is said to have been connected with the church of  Kilchule, in the territory of Siolmuiredhuigh. This was a parish church, in the diocese of Elphin. We are told, the present holy man was a disciple of  St. Patrick, and that he was probably the Oltcanus of Tirechan's list. He was only a priest. But another account is given, about his having been that Olcan  mentioned in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick. The holy Apostle had a disciple Olcan, about whom he had a vision, while that disciple was walking  along Traighe-eothuile, with Bronius and Macerca,  the sea-tides and tempest exposing them to great danger. From the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick we learn, that the spot, where St. Olcan received his Divine monition to establish a monastery, was called Killmor uachtair Mhuaidhe. This event happened, while the Irish Apostle had been engaged making his progress through the province of Connaught. The place, where St. Olcan's foundation had been commenced, is at present called Kilmore-Moy, a parish which extends into the barony of Tireragh, in the county of Sligo, and into the  barony of Tyrawley, in the county of Mayo. It was also called Lia-na-monach, from the monks, who dwelt there, while we are told, that it likewise bore the name Cruimther Monach, or Olcan's church. In Tirechan's list of St. Patrick's disciples, there is an Olcan, as also an Oltcan. Others think, that this  was apparently the holy man, called Volcan, by Jocelyn, and regarding whom we find the following account. St. Patrick had a disciple, named Volchanus, a man of great virtue, but specially distinguished by most remarkable obedience. Being desirous that his virtue, known only to God, should be manifested to the world, the saint, for the edification and example of others, commanded Volchan to go and build a church, wheresoever God would vouchsafe to provide him a place. Without delay, taking an axe on his shoulders, this man went his way. Seeing the alacrity and cheerfulness of  his obedience, St. Patrick said to him : "Do not despair, my most dear Volchan, of finding a place. Wheresoever thy hatchet shall fall, build in that place; for there thou shalt have increase of a great community." After Volchan had walked all day long, and had engaged in prayer, towards evening, the axe slipped from his shoulder. In that place, therefore, the obedient Volchan built a monastery, wherein himself and many others lived and died in great perfection. The foregoing account of St. Volchanus building his church is incorrectly supposed, however, to have had reference to that time, when St. Patrick travelled through the northern parts of Ireland. Again, Volchanus is thought to be the same as Olcan, Bishop of Armoy, or Bolcan, whom so many other romantic incidents are related, by Jocelyn, and, also, by the authors of the Tripartite Lives of St. Patrick. After a holy life, St. Olchan or Bolcan, renowned for his miracles as well as for his virtues, rested in the Lord, and he was buried at his place, now known as Kilmore, near the River Moy. His relics remain at Kilmore, that is, "the great cell," where his monastery stood. In the Martyrology of Donegal is entered Bolcan, of Cill Cuile, at this date. The Circle of the Seasons registers, at the 4th of July, St. Bolcan, Abbot.

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