Monday 11 August 2014

Saint Lelia of Killeely, August 11

August 11 sees the commemoration of a number of female saints, the most well-known of whom is probably Saint Attracta. We now turn to one of the other women saints remembered on this day, Saint Lelia, whose cult still persists even though not much is actually known of her individually, nor of the locality in which she flourished. Canon O'Hanlon assembles the evidence below:

St. Lelia, Virgin, Dioceses of Limerick and Kerry.

It is greatly to be lamented, that any clue to a recovery of the once well-known memorials of many an Irish saint cannot be better traced, at present. Thus, the pious Lelia, a Virgin, has been specially commemorated, in the Dioceses of Limerick, and of Kerry, from a former period. Her Acts are not discoverable, at the present time. Latterly, a Double Office, but of the Common Lessons, has been obtained, by authority of the Roman Pontiff, for her feast, at this date. An Office and a Mass have been extended, likewise, to the other Irish Dioceses. According to a local tradition, in Limerick, she was a sister to St. Munchin, Patron of the Diocese; and, it is said, her place is now known as Killeely. This parish is situated, partly within the North Liberties of Limerick City; but, chiefly does it lie, in the barony of Bunratty, and County of Clare. Near Killarney, this virgin is reputed to be the titular of an old church, which is now called Killilee. This latter local denomination is not found noted down, on the Irish Ordnance Survey Maps. Besides the foregoing places, there is a Killilagh parish, in the barony of Corcumroe, County of Clare. It seems likely enough, judging from the original compounds and the existing euphony of parts, that these places were formerly under this holy woman's patronage, especially as her memory is partially preserved so vividly in peasant traditional lore, throughout the south-western parts of Ireland. Perhaps, indeed, we may be justified in associating them with scenes in the life-actions of the devout Lelia. However, her era and her locality have not been distinctly revealed to us; but, there is good reason for supposing, that she lived at a remote period, and most probably, she led a life of strict observance, if she did not preside over some religious institution, in the province of Munster. It may be possible, her name was connected with other places in Ireland. There is a parish, denominated Killely, or Killila, in the Barony of Ballaghkeen, County of Wexford. There is another Killily, or Killeely, partly in the Barony of Loughrea, partly in that of Kiltartan, but chiefly in that of Dunkellin, County of Galway. This latter place, especially, may have derived its name from St. Lelia. Perhaps, some legends of the people might give us a little more light, regarding her; but, it is to be feared, we are not likely to ascertain anything, which could satisfactorily restore her holy manner of living to our records. In Pustet's new edition of the "Vesperale Romanum," in the Supplement, will be found St. Lelia's commemoration. It seems strange, that her name or festival does not appear, in our Irish Calendars or Martyrologies.

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