Monday 30 March 2015

Saint Fergus of Downpatrick, March 30

On March 30 we commemorate a bishop of Downpatrick, Saint Fergus. In his account of the saint below Canon O'Hanlon refers to the work of the scholarly hagiologists of earlier centuries and their inability to resolve all of the difficulties concerning our saint's place in the episcopal succession of Downpatrick, but his feast is attested by both the Irish calendars and the annals:

St. Fergus or Fergussius, Bishop of Downpatrick.
[Sixth Century]

The brief notices, contained in Colgan's work, are all we can find, referring to Fergus, or Fergussius. This saint appears to have been a distinguished person. Fergusius was son to Aengus, and he descended from Coelbadh, King of Ireland, who died, in the year 357. Aengus was the son of Chrimthann, son to Eochod, son of Colla, son to Coalbad, son of Crunn Badhrai. Our saint was born, probably in the early part of the sixth century. He built a church, or cell, at a place, called Killmbian. This name, which might be Anglicised Kilbean or Kilmean, is thought now to be obsolete. Without authority, Colgan states, that a monastery was at this place, the situation of which was unknown although Archdall places it in the county of Down. However, it is natural enough to suppose, that Killmbian was in that part of the country. Here, too, Harris conceives, that he presided, as an Abbot. Although distinguished Irish writers have believed the identification of his place to be unknown; yet, still it is asserted, that the cemetery of Cill-bian is still known as Killybann, in the townland of Barnamaghery, parish of Kilmore, barony of Upper Castlereagh, and not far from Crossgar. From the church of Killmbian, Fergus was called to preside over the church of Downpatrick. It is called, likewise, Dromlethglas, for which several old writers have Dun-da-leith-glas. Sir James Ware commences his list of the Downpatrick bishops, with St. Cailan. From having been Abbot of Nendrura, Cailan was made Bishop over the church of Down, about the close of the sixth century. For this statement, he refers to Acts of St. Cailan, cited by Usher. It is thought, that St. Fergussius must have been first bishop of Downpatrick, by a learned Irish Church historian, [the Anglican Bishop William Reeves] who supposes, there are no sufficient proofs to show that Cailan, or Coelan, was his predecessor, as some writers maintain. But, according to Mr. John W. Hanna, those who maintain such an opinion have overlooked the true conclusion to be derived from the dates, which show, that whereas Mochoe, Abbot of Nendrum, died 496, it was quite consistent, that another Coelan should be elevated to Down, in 499. Besides, Ussher, who possessed his " Life and Acts," could not have been deceived.

Near Downpatrick are the celebrated Struell Wells, which seem to have been resorted to by pilgrims, from times very remote, and where numberless miraculous cures have been effected...It is supposed, that St. Patrick often resorted to Struell, for penitential purposes, and to sing Psalms while in retirement at Downpatrick, from which it is only a mile or two distant. That see St. Fergus governed, with great prudence and sanctity, until the day of his death, which took place on the 30th of March, A.D. 583, in the sixteenth year of the reign of Aidus, King of Ireland, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, and, likewise, to those of Ulster. The latter have it noted again, under A.D. 589. The Annals of Tighernach have his decease recorded, under A.D. 584. The Annals of Boyle place his death, so early as a.d. 557. The Martyrologies of Tallagh, of Marianus O'Gorman, and of Maguire, have the festival of this saint, at the 30th of March. But, although they call him Bishop, they do not name that see, over which he presided. In like manner, Ferghus, Bishop of Druim-Lethglaisi, is recorded, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having a festival at this date. Again, under the head of Druim Lethglaisi, Duald Mac Firbis enters, Fergus, bishop, quievit 583, at March 30th. At this day, likewise, the Bollandists have a brief notice of Fergus, although doubting if a cultus were due to him.

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Sunday 29 March 2015

Saint Fulartach of Clonard, March 29

On March 29 we commemorate Fulartach, an eighth century saint of Clonard, County Meath. As Canon O'Hanlon explains, there are two saints of this name, one with a feast on March 29 and the other on December 21. This leaves the possibility that we are dealing with one saint with two feast days or with two distinct individuals, each with his own feast day. O'Hanlon himself plumps for the latter view but lays out all the evidence from the calendars, the annals and the earlier scholars on the matter:


Some account of this holy bishop is to be found, in Colgan, with a very succinct notice, in the Bollandists. From the former, we learn, that St. Fulartach, or Fulartus, as he is sometimes called, was son to Brec, or Brecus, and he was descended from an illustrious family, in Ulster, as may be collected from the names of his progenitors. Thus, Brec was son to Scandal, son of Boedan, son to Eochod, son of Cella, son to Coelbad, son of Crunn Badhra, according to the Genealogies of the Irish Saints. It is probable, he was born in the province of Ulster; but, in what year has not transpired. He built an oratory, in Hy-Falgia territory, and, at a place, which derives its name from the founder, having been called Disert Fulartach. Here, it is said, he lived an eremitical life, for a time. Nearly all our ancient records state, that from this place, he was translated to the See of Clonard. This he governed, with distinguished merit and virtue. However, the Rev. Dr. Lanigan appears to think, that St. Fulartach, of Disert Fulartach, may have been a different person from the bishop, as some writers have made a distinction between them. Accordingly, the Annals of the Four Masters specify, that Fulartach, son to Breac, an anchorite, died in the year 755 while, Fulartach, Bishop of Clonard, departed a.d. 774. However, it is remarked, by Colgan, that the Annals of the Four Masters do not state expressly, the former died in 755, as they do, regarding other persons named with him; hence, they may have only intended to indicate, that he flourished in such year, and that, subsequently, he became Bishop of Clonard, after obtaining which dignity, he died in 744, a date assigned by our Annalists for the death of the prelate of this See.

There are two festivals, in honour of St. Fulartach: one of these was celebrated, on the 29th day of March. Furlartach mac Bricc is the only entry concerning him, as found in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date. Cathal Maguire and Marianus O'Gorman have a like entry; the latter with the remark, that he was Bishop of Clonard," while the commentator adds a more eulogistic notice. This day, we find, set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, the name of Fulartach, son of Brec, Bishop of Cluain-Eraird, and of Disert Fulartaich, in Ui Failghe. The Calendarist adds, there is found a Fulartach, son of Brec, and descended from the race of Irial, son of Conall Cearnach, according to the Naoirahsenchus. In the table appended to the Donegal Martyrology, a commentator adds, in a marginal note, this saint had another festival, at the 21st of December. To that date, the reader is likewise referred. However, there were two distinct saints, bearing the same name; both of whom are treated of, by Colgan, on this particular day. This writer is of opinion, that the memory of each saint belongs to a different day; but, he is unable to assign for either individual the date of his own peculiar festival.

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Thursday 26 March 2015

Saint Mochelloc of Kilmalloch, March 26

Saint Mochelloc of Kilmalloch is commemorated on March 26. As Canon O'Hanlon's account brings out, this saint's festival is very well-attested on the Irish and other calendars, albeit at the cost of the saint's name being somewhat mangled along the way. There seems to be some confusion over the locality in which Mochelloc flourished and it is interesting to learn of a tradition that he died in Rome, he would not be the only early Irish saint to be linked with pilgrimage to the Eternal City. Canon O'Hanlon begins by examining the saint's genealogy, for as he reminds us ' the pedigree of a saint is at least interesting, as that of a monarch':


This saint is called Mottelog, by some writers, but more correctly Celloc, Cellenus, or Kellenus, by others, who derive his name Mochelloc, by which he is best known, from the endearing prefix, "mo," Anglicised into "my," being joined with Chelloc. Certain authorities say, that his father was named Oblen, and that he descended from the noble and ancient race of Connor, King of Ireland. However, Colgan is of opinion, that Oblen must have been the name of his grandfather, or great-grandfather. The Martyrologies of Tamlacht and of Marianus O'Gorman, with the Irish Calendar, state, that our saint's father had been named Tuladhran. So far, have we been enabled to collect illustrations, in reference to this holy man's genealogy and, the pedigree of a saint is at least interesting, as that of a monarch. The Bollandists have published short Acts of this saint, and following closely the accounts of him, as left us, by Colgan. This pious servant of Christ was a relative to, and contemporary with, Finan, of Kinnetty. Our saint appears to have flourished, about the close of the sixth, and beginning of the seventh, century. He is usually called Mochelloc, of Cathuir-mac-Conchaigh, or Conchaidh,an ancient city near Lismore, in the present county of Waterford... The place of our saint was in the Munster Decies. Archdall declares himself unable to assign the exact location for Cathuir mac-Conchaigh. We are told, by Keating, that this saint was founder of Kilmallock church, and this name is supposed to be a contraction from Kill-mochelloc...It is possible, that as Kilmallock had become a more remarkable place than Cathuir-mac- Conchaigh, or the church of Kill-Odhrain—where likewise he was venerated —the former town might have been a bishopric, or abbey, over which Mochelloc presided. Kill-odhrain was perhaps only another name for Cathuirmac-Conchaigh, and this the Calendar of Cashel indicates. Having attained a very old age, our saint died, at a place called Letha —thought to have been Fiodh-Lethan, near Lismore—on the 26th of March, the day for his festival, after A.D. 639, and before A.D. 656, during the joint reigns of Connall and Kellach. Letha was a name, given by our historians to Latium, or Italy; and, there are writers, according to Maguire, who say, that our saint died, in Rome. Others again tell us, that he departed at Killdachelloc, in Hy Cairpre, of Munster. The festival of this holy man, with that of the two Sinchells, is found in the Festilogy of St. Aengus, at the 26th of March:

" In Letha they perished—
Mochelloc after many days,
The feast of two ever-living Sinchells,
Of vast Cill Achad."

The name Mochelloc, son of Tulodrain, of Calthir mic Conaich, is inserted, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 26th of March. The Calendar of Cashel, Marianus O'Gorman, and Cathal Maguire, mark his festival, at this same date. In the O'CIery's Martyrology is found, at this date, as an entry, and within brackets : [Mocheallog, who died in Letavia.—Felire Aonghuis.] The Carthusian Martyrology distinguislies a Mottelog, Abbot and Confessor, from this saint, who is named Mokellock, Bishop and Confessor. There is hardly a doubt, but this is the Motalogus, mentioned at the 26th of March, in the anonymous list, published by O'Sullivan Beare. However, these names only characterize but one and the same person the denomination being somewhat varied by different writers. The Kalendar of Drummond, at the vii. of the April Kalends, or 26th of March, commemorates: In Hibernia, the Holy Confessors, Mochelloc and Sinchele, who, on this day, went to Christ.

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Tuesday 17 March 2015

This illustrious saint was a man of work, prayer and penance...

This illustrious Saint was a man of work, and prayer, and penance. To his last breath he ceased not to teach his people. His daily devotions were countless. It is related that he made the sign of the cross many hundred times a day. He slept little, and a stone was his pillow. He travelled on foot in his visitations till the weight of years made a carriage necessary. He accepted no gifts for himself, ever deeming it more blessed to give than to receive.

His simple dress was a white monastic habit, made from the wool of the sheep ; and his bearing, speech, and countenance were but the outward expression of his kind heart and great, beautiful soul. Force and simplicity marked his discourses. He was a perfect master of the Irish, French, and Latin languages, and had some knowledge of Greek. 

He consecrated three hundred and fifty bishops, erected seven hundred churches, ordained five thousand priests, and raised thirty-three persons from the dead. But it is in vain that we try to sum up the labors of the Saint by the rules of arithmetic. The wear and tear of over fourteen hundred years have tested the work of St. Patrick: and in spite of all the changes of time, and the malice of men and demons, it stands to-day greater than ever — a monument to his immortal glory. 

Read the rest here.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

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Saturday 14 March 2015

Saint Brigid, March 14

March 14 is the feast of a Saint Brigid, around whose precise identity much confusion reigns. Canon O'Hanlon's source is Bishop Forbes' Scottish Kalendars and so we can turn directly to this account:
BRIGIDA II. V, March 14.—
A Scotch S. Brigida's relics were preserved in Abernethy. It is probable that there were two saints of this name. —(See Ussher, Works, edition Elrington, vol. vi 256, 257, 451.) A Brigida is said, in the Irish Life of S. Cuthbert, to have been brought from Ireland, and educated by S. Columba with S. Cuthbert at Dunkeld.—(Libellus de Nativitate S. Cuthberti, c. xxi.) The Brigida of Abernethy is associated with the nine Maidens. See Mazota. [1]

O'Hanlon reproduces this information but ends by saying that 'Most likely, the present St. Brigida, or Brigid, was an Irish saint.' He does not, however, have any supporting evidence to offer nor does he address the Scottish links in the sources.

Miss Agnes Dunbar in her work on women saints also mentions the Scottish Brigid of Abernethy:
The Aberdeen Breviary, in the story of St. Mazotta, says that St. Brigid of Abernethy was cousin of Graverdus, king of the Picts, who during his wars with the Britons was admonished by supernatural means to send to Ireland for Brigid, and follow her advice. She came with St. Mazota and eight holy virgins, and settled at Abernethy, and there built a church, where the king was baptized. [2]
and the Dunkeld Brigid:
St. Brigid March 14. An Irish virgin, brought up at Dunkeld with St. Cuthbert, by St. Columba. Bishop Forbes, Scot. Cal [3]

There may be a third possiblity, that Brigid of Abernethy is a manifestation of the cult of Saint Brigid of Kildare in Scotland. It is interesting that the Aberdeen Breviary mentions that the Pictish King 'sent to Ireland for Brigid' and Abernethy seems to have enlisted not only Ireland's patroness but also our patron in its foundation story:
Special notice has here been taken of St Bridget's connection with the church of Abernethy, in as much as the Aberdeen Breviary links the story of St Mazota with that of the Abbess of Kildare, thereby removing Mazota to a date earlier than her own. The narrative in the Breviary is thus given by Bishop Forbes: "Graverdus, son of Domath, the distinguished king of the Picts, and cousin of S. Brigida, while fighting against the Britons, is supernaturally warned to send for her to Hibernia and to obey her precepts. S. Brigida obeyed the summons, and with nine holy virgins came from Hibernia to Scotia, and settled at Abirnethy close to the Taye on the south, in which places he erected a basilica in honour of Almighty God and the Virgin Mary, in which the king with all his family was baptized. Mazota was the most remarkable of these virgins, and she followed in all things the steps of Brigida. The king of the Picts promised that the church should be dedicated by S. Patrick, at that time dwelling in Scotia, and there Mazota with the other virgins continued to serve God, till they all died and were buried. No tongue can tell the miracles that God in Heaven caused to take place by her agency." We may remark in passing that an interesting reminiscence of St Bride's Nine Maidens was to be met with till recent times in Sanquhar parish, Dumfriesshire, where "it was customary to resort on May-day to St Bride's Well, where each maiden presented nine smooth white stones as an offering to the Saint, which correspond in number with St Bride's nine virgin attendants." [4]

Interesting too in this regard is the fact that Saint Darlugdacha, the immediate successor to Saint Brigid at Kildare, is also part of the foundation legend of Abernethy:
Thomas Innes says, "The death of Brigid was soon after followed by that of Darlugtach Virgin, her disciple : the same who came over to Britain in the time of Nectan, the third king of the Picts, and conversed with him on the first foundation of the ancient church of Abernethy. Her feast is celebrated February the first."—(Innes, Civ. and Eccl. Hist, of Scotland, p. 128: Spalding Club. See Irish Nennius, p. 163) [5]

So, in summary we can say that there is a record of the commemoration of a Saint Brigid in Scottish sources on March 14 with two possible identities proposed (1) Brigid of Abernethy and (2) Brigid of Dunkeld. I doubt though that we will ever be able to say with any confidence who exactly the Saint Brigid commemorated on March 14 actually was.

[1] Alexander Penrose Forbes, D.C.L. Bishop of Brechin, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, (1872), 291-2.

[2] A dictionary of saintly women (Volume 1) (London, 1904), 135-6.

[3] ibid.

[4] J.M.Mackinley, 'Traces of the Cultus of the Nine Maidens in Scotland' in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 40 (1906), 259.

[5] Forbes, op.cit., 321.

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Thursday 12 March 2015

St. Indreachtach O'Finachtain, March 12

On March 12 Canon O'Hanlon brings the details of a ninth-century abbot of Iona who may also have been a martyr. The final reference to William of Malmesbury would seem to make our saint the same Saint Indreachtach commemorated on February 5:

St. Indreachtach or Innrechtach O'Finachtain, Abbot of Iona, Scotland, and Martyr.

[Ninth Century.]

We learn, from the Annals of Innisfallen, that the surname of this holy man was Ua Finachta or Ua Finachtain. Idreachtach O'Finachtain is called Coarb of Columbkille, and from this it has been inferred, he was abbot over Londonderry Monastery, in the olden time. However, this title he obtained, because he was the twenty-first Abbot of Hy, and he held office A.D. 849, in which year he went to Ireland, with St. Columba's relics. As the date of his predecessor's death is not recorded, although we know, that Diarmait, the twentieth abbot, visited Ireland, on a similar errand; it cannot be known, when St. Innrechtach began his rule, over the Iona monks. He was regarded as an eminent sage. On the 12th of March, A.D. 852, he suffered martyrdom, among the Saxons, according to the Annals of the Four Masters. He was on his way to Rome. According to the Annals of Ulster, the date for his departure to Christ is A.D. 853, while the Rev. Dr. Reeves places it, at A.D. 854. A legend, by William of Malmesbury, misdates his martyrdom, by one hundred and sixty-five years, and places it near Glastonbury.

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Thursday 5 March 2015

Saint Ciarán of Saighir, March 5

March 5 is the feastday of Saint Ciarán of Saighir, one of the 'twelve apostles of Ireland', a so-called 'pre-Patrician saint' and patron of the diocese of Ossory. Below is an extract from an address delivered to the Ossory Archaeological Society in 1874 by the then bishop of Ossory, P.F. Moran. The nineteenth century saw the foundation of many local antiquarian societies, these were both a product of and an important contributor to the romantic national revival of the time. Bishop Moran naturally begins his address with an account of his diocesan patron and the tone of his opening remarks illustrates the part which the idea of Ireland as 'insula sanctorum', played in the national revival.


[INAUGURAL ADDRESS delivered by the RIGHT REV. DR. MORAN, Bishop of Ossory, at the first Meeting of the Ossory Archaeological Society, 7th January, 1874.]


Whilst your Diocesan Archaeological Society enters to-day on its mission, which is full of hope and promise for this Diocese, you will permit me to give expression to my heartiest wish that its course may be prosperous, and that it may produce the happiest fruits not only for Ossory but for Ireland; and though I am unwilling to trespass on your attention, as many interesting subjects await your consideration, you will bear with me, I trust, whilst I endeavour to sketch in rough outline the field of your future labours, and to review, as briefly as the matter will allow, a few of the chief points which will engage your attention.

I will ask you to take for your motto the words NOSCE PATRIAM, for as love of country and love of religion are inseparably united in the Irish heart, so the sacred memories of the past, and the heroic deeds of Ireland's history, are at the same time the true glory of our country and the glory of our Church: they won for Ireland, in early ages, the bright aureola of "Insula Sanctorum," and in latter times, they merited the distinctive badge of "the Martyr Island of Holy Church."

Foremost among the subjects to engage your attention will be the lives of the patron saints of this diocese. It was thus that St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, and so many other great ornaments of the Church applied themselves to record the lives of the holy men who went before them in the paths of faith ; and who will say that your labour will be fruitless whilst you preserve the memory of your fathers who enriched our country with the inheritance of divine faith, and left the bright examples of their piety to mark out for their children the paths to heaven? Since history, as Cicero defines it, is "Magistra vitae," surely the lives of the saints must be the noblest branch of history, for they point out the heroism of Christian life, and are the most instructive school of the Gospel virtues.

The life of our chief patron, St. Kieran, leads us back to the "Preparatio Evangelica," so to say, of our nation, and to the first dawn of the Christian faith in this country.

In the mysterious ways of Providence, the first gifts of this Celtic nation were offered to the Cross of Christ upon the shores of the sister-island. When the Roman general, Maximus, withdrew his legions from Britain in 383, to win by the sword the imperial diadem of the West, its provinces were left defenceless, and became an easy prey to Irish and Pictish adventurers. Modern research has placed it beyond the reach of controversy, that towards the close of the fourth and the commencement of the fifth century, many Irish settlements were made on the coasts of the present Cumberland and Lancashire, whilst at the same time the greater part of Wales became an Irish colony. The brave British chieftain, Cunedda, indeed, soon freed North Wales from the dominion of the intruders, but in the south the Irish continued to hold sway; and we find the son of an Irish chieftain, named Brecan (known as Brychan in the Welsh annals), whose name still remains attached to Brecknockshire, ruling there with undisputed sovereignty from 410 to about 450. St. Ninian was the apostle of these Irish colonists. They proved docile to the sweet yoke of Christ, and many famous monasteries sprung up amongst them, one of which, in after times, was known as "the Glastonbury of the Irish." Prince Brecan, of whom I have just spoken, is styled a saint in the Welsh Triads, and twenty-four of his children, or grandchildren, received the same honours. We should not be deceived by the title of " Apostle of the Picts," which from early times has been awarded to St. Ninian, as if that would restrict his labours to the inhabitants of North Britain, for we must hold in mind that the name given by British writers to the Irish settlers at this time was Gwddyl Ffichli, i.e., "the Gaelic Picts."

A close intercourse was for a time maintained between these Irish colonists and the parent country, and we must not be surprised to find frequent mention in the lives of our early saints of British families scattered through our island, and such ancient names as Bally-Breathnach, or Ballynabranna, point to places where these families made peaceable settlements amongst us. Through them, and still more through the preaching of St. Palladius, the Christian name became known among our people, and from that Celtic colony in South Wales St. Patrick was able to choose many of his associates who laboured with him in the apostolate of our nation.

I will not discuss the merits of the various theories which have been advanced regarding the chronology of St. Kieran's life. No one at the present day will seriously maintain that he lived to an age of three hundred years, or that for one hundred and fifty years he discharged the duties of the episcopate in this island. To me it seems sufficiently proved, that it was through the preaching of St. Palladius that our Saint, when he had attained the age of manhood, was awakened to the knowledge of Christian truth, and it seems equally certain that it was in the year 432 that he proceeded to Rome, and received there the saving waters of baptism. As we read in his ancient Life, "Kieran set out for Rome of Letha, for it was made known to him by heaven, that it was there he would receive divine instruction, and be promoted to the highest dignity, because Rome was the fountain of the faith." (MSS. British Museum, Egerton, 91).

This same ancient record further attests that he remained in Rome for thirty years, leading a life of heroic sanctity, and emulating in that corrupt capital of the decaying empire, the virtues and austerities of the fathers of the desert. How eventful were these thirty years for the Christian world! St. Sixtus III., and, after him, the Great St. Leo, ruled the Church of God. With what joyous acclamations was the news received in Rome, that the Council of Chalcedon had restored peace to Christendom! Terror and dismay took the place of joy, when it became known that Attila, with his countless hordes of Huns, had crossed the Rhine, and vowed the destruction of the empire. And how must the degenerate citizens have trembled, whilst the venerable Pontiff, arrayed in his sacred robes, went forth from the defenceless capital to confront their merciless enemy ! But with what triumph did they welcome him, on his return from the banks of the Ticino, when his words of peace had rolled back the tide of invasion, and saved themselves from utter ruin! It is probable that St. Kieran left Rome early in the year 461. It was in that year that Genseric, with his Vandal army, pillaged the city, and led away its noblest families into slavery, and it was only through the prayers of St. Leo that the Basilicas were honoured as inviolable sanctuaries, and that the lives of the citizens were spared.

St. Kieran received the episcopal consecration at the hands of that great Pontiff, and returning to Ireland, hastened to the territory of Eliach, where he erected for himself a cell in a dense wood, on the brink of a spring-fountain which was called Saiger. There his sanctity and miracles soon gathered a large number of disciples around him, and in the presence, and with the blessing of St. Patrick, he, in 462, laid the foundations of his great monastery, which continued for centuries a centre of learning and piety, and diffused throughout Munster and Leinster the blessings of religion. The reader of the Saint's life will be, perhaps, surprised to find recorded in it many things performed by the badger and the wolf and other wild animals. We owe to a distinguished antiquarian among our citizens the suggestion, that these were merely the names borne by some of the religious brethren of our Saint's monastery; and this suggestion is confirmed by the fact, that similar names were at the same period familiar in the monasteries of Gaul and Italy. In the letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, and other cotemporary records, we meet at every page with bishops and monks called Ursus, Aper, Lupus, and so forth, such names being chosen for humility sake by some of the brightest ornaments of the continental monasteries.

The labours of St. Kieran were not confined to Ireland. He passed several years on the western coast of Britain, and, as we learn from Blight's "Churches in West Cornwall," his memory is still cherished there. Four ancient Cornish parochial churches bear his name : these are Perran-zabuloe, or St. Piran-in-the-sand ; Perran-arworthal ; Perran-uthnoe, situated near the coast opposite St. Michael's Mount, and styled in the taxation of Pope Nicholas " Ecclesia de Lanudno;" and St. Kevern, or Pieran, which in Domesday-book is called Lanachebran. St. Kieran's holy well is also pointed out on the northern coast of Perran-zabuloe. The parish church of St. Keverne stands in the district called Meneage, which terminates at the Lizard Point, the southernmost land of England. The name Meneage is supposed to mean, in the old Cornish dialect, " the deaf stone," and the reason given for it is, that though there are several mineral veins or lodes in the district, on trial they have been found to be of no value, and hence are called deaf or useless. Tradition tells that St. Kieran inflicted on the inhabitants, as a punishment for their irreligion, that the mineral veins of the district would be un-productive, and the old proverb is still handed down, "No metal will run within the sound of St. Kieran's bell."

Penitential austerities were the characteristic virtue of St. Kieran; though the richest gifts were made to him, all were distributed among the poor. His only meal each day was at sunset, and consisted of a little barley bread and undressed herbs. His drink was from the fountain; the bare ground was his bed ; and skins and sackcloth were his only garments.

There is not in the whole range of Irish hagiology a sweeter scene than that of the Saint's death, as described in the ancient Irish documents. Knowing that the time was come for St. Kieran's repose, St. Finnian, of Clonard, hastened to be with him in his last moments; for, although our Saint in his declining years had enrolled himself among the disciples of St. Finnian, yet it was from him that St. Finnian had learned the first lessons of heavenly wisdom. Thirty bishops also came to Saigher, all of whom had been trained by St. Kieran in piety, and had received the sacerdotal ordination at his hands, These being assembled around him, he said to them: "'My brethren, pray with me to God that I may not stand alone before His judgment seat, but that His holy saints and angels may be with me ; and pray that my path unto the King may not be through darkness, and that His smile may welcome me.' And turning; to his religious; he blessed them, and bequeathed them to God and to Mochuda : he exhorted them to uphold piety, to love their monastery, and to guard themselves against the son of malediction, that their days of blessing might not be shortened." And then raising his eyes to heaven, he prophetically added: " For a time will come when evils shall prevail, and the churches shall be demolished, and the monasteries be reduced to a wilderness, and sacred truth shall be corrupted into falsehood, and holy Baptism be tinged with corruption, and each one will seek not what is his own, but what does not belong to him."

"He then went at their head into the Regies, or church of the monastery, where he was wont to celebrate, and there at the altar he offered the holy sacrifice, and having partaken of the Body and Blood of Christ, and received the last sacrament of Extreme Unction, he asked the brethren to inter his body in a secret place, which none but themselves should know, close to the spot which was hallowed by the relics of St. Martin, and where the remains of the holy men who preceded him had been laid. And now, having perfected his victory of abstinence and penance, and attained his triumph over the demons and the world, the choirs of angels came to meet the soul of Kieran, to give to him the greetings of heaven, and to conduct him to God. At midnight he breathed his last, but so many were the lights that burned around him, that night seemed changed into day. His remains were wrapped in precious linen, and for seven days hymns and canticles were chanted in thanksgiving to God for the mercy shown to him, and earth seemed to breathe the fragrance of heaven; but his soul was in bliss, in the company of St. Patrick and St. Martin and the other saints of God."

Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Volume X (1874), 141-160 at 141-146.

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Tuesday 3 March 2015

Saint Foila of Killeely, March 3

A female saint of the west, Foila of Killeely, County Galway is commemorated on March 3. Canon O'Hanlon has this account of her:

St. Foila or Foilenna, Virgin, and Patroness of Kill-faile now Killeely Parish, County of Galway.

Colgan could not procure any special Acts of this saint, who was venerated in the southern parts of Connaught, in his own time. However, he and the Bollandists have short notices of her, at this day. St. Foilenna, Failenna, or Fallenda, or as more commonly called, St. Foila or Faila, also denominated Foilend, or Faoileann, is thought to have been daughter to Aidan, surnaraed Draignech, son to Lugadius, son to Dathy, King of Ireland; and, her mother, Cuillenn, or Cullenda, was likewise descended from a distinguished family. She had three brothers, Colgeus, or Colga, Aldus and Sorarius, who are numbered amongst the saints of our country. At what particular time St. Foila was born, we are not informed ; but, it was thought, probably, in an early part or towards the middle of the sixth century. It seems probable, she lived in Kill-faile. This place is identical with the present parish of Killeely, in the barony of Dunkellin, county of Galway. The old church there is yet in good preservation, being, in the opinion of Dr. O'Donovan, modernized during the 14th or 15th century. Measured on the inside, it is 63 feet long by 21 broad. The pointed or Gothic style there prevails. It is remarkable, that this parish joins Kilcolgan, where St. Faile's brother, Colga or Colgan had been venerated. Both churches were near Ath cliath Medhruidhe, the ancient name for Clarinbridge. Both saints also belonged to the race of the Hy Fiachrach Aidhne. The church of Kill-faile derives its name from St. Foila, and it is situated within the diocese of Kilmacduagh. During her lifetime, St. Foila performed many miracles. The day and year of her death is not recorded ; but, the former probably fell on the 3rd of March, when her festival was kept, in the church of Kill-faile. It is commemorated on this day, according to the Martyrologies of Tamlacht, of Marianus O'Gorman, of Maguire and of Donegal. After her death, frequent pilgrimages were made to St. Foila's tomb, from distant parts of the country, by persons afflicted with various maladies. For the cure of these, they reposed great confidence, in her merits and intercession.

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Sunday 1 March 2015

Saint David and Naas

March 1 is the feast of Saint David, the patron of Wales. Ireland, however, can also claim to have a long tradition of devotion to the Welsh patron and the parish church at Naas, County Kildare, is dedicated to Saint David. As diocesan historian, Father Michael Comerford explains, the dedication can be traced back to the influence of Cambro-Norman settlers, many of whom had links to the Pembrokeshire area:
The parochial church of Naas, since the Norman invasion, has been dedicated to St. David. It is supposed that the present Protestant church occupies the site of the church of the olden time, and that portions of the walls of the ancient structure are built into the modern church. There are strong reasons for judging that the parish church of Naas, in the early Christian era, was dedicated to St. Patrick. The Egerton Tripartite (quoted by Father Shearman), recounting the miracles of our national Apostle makes mention of the Dominica of Naas. This would, in itself, go far to prove that the original church was under the invocation of St. Patrick. Dr. Joyce (Irish Names of Places), would deduce additional proof of this from the fact that the great fair of Naas was (until a few years ago) held on St. Patrick's Day. It is conjectured that William Fitzmaurice, on whom Naas was bestowed by Henry II,, finding the old church of St. Patrick either ruinous or destroyed, rebuilt it, and on the occasion, substituted St. David, the patron of his father's native country, Wales, as the Titular. (Loca Patr).

Rev. M. Comerford, 'Naas: An Historical Sketch', in Transactions of the Ossory Archaeological Society, Vol. II (1880-1883), 111-112.

Canon O'Hanlon, who has a lengthy entry for Saint David in Volume III of his Lives of the Irish Saints, also comments on the link between Saint David and the patronage of Naas, starting with the old parish church and then moving on to the building of the Church of Our Lady and Saint David, which commenced just two years before Catholic Emancipation:

"It was only natural, the ancient Welsh colonists should desire their chief patron, St. David, to be regarded as titular of Naas, in Ireland. Accordingly, at an early period, no doubt, such an honour awaited the church first raised there, to the invocation of this beloved and venerated patron. The site of the old church of St. David, at Naas, is in the centre, and on the east side of the town. It is popularly agreed, that the present walls of this church, with an ancient tower on the south-west end, are repaired portions of the old parochial church of St. David. There were three chantries formerly within it, viz. : that of the Holy Trinity, of St. Mary, and of St. Catherine. The Church of St. David is surrounded by a cemetery, where Catholic families still continue to bury their dead. Some remains of old tombs and armorial bearings, carved in stone, are found within this graveyard enclosure. The soil seems to have accumulated to a considerable height over the foundations, owing chiefly to interments continued for centuries past. No very ancient monuments, however, can be found there at present.

The old parish church, now appropriated and re-modelled for the purposes of Protestant worship, appears to rest on a part only of its original foundations. Near the side walls, traces of extension may be discovered, so as to indicate, that it had probably been cruciform in design. The foundations of one lateral transept are visible. It was known as the Lady Chapel. Another transept probably corresponded with it, on the opposite side, where a poorly-designed porch now extends. Internally, as well as externally, it is an easy matter for the antiquarian and architect to discover alterations, from a much purer type of building. Hardly in any one instance can the more recent modifications be regarded as improvements. The walls are of extreme thickness. The interior contains some tablet memorials, a rich stained glass window, an organ, &c.; but, it is deformed with a cumbersome gallery, high pews, and other unsightly obstructions and designs.

The present building has evidently undergone many alterations. It is near the site of an old castle, which, in a great measure, has been modernized, and at present serves to form a rectorial residence. It is still known as St. David's castle. The adjoining grounds and accessories are ornamental. Not far removed, an endowed grammar school is entered, through the cemetery gate. Where the steeple once stood, a huge unfinished tower was erected, nearly one hundred years since, by an Earl of Mayo. It has within it, on a slab, the following inscription :—" Ruinam invent, Pyramidem reliqui, Mayo." ["I found a ruin,"—the old Catholic erection then in ruins.—"I left this steeple in its place, Mayo." In the tower, is a bell, bearing the following inscription: "Os meum laudabit Dominum in Ecclesia S. Davidis de Naas." ("My mouth shall praise the Lord in the Church of St. David of Naas.") R. P. W. C, 1674.] Some time after the Catholics were deprived of this church, they built another, where the Moat School now is, and which served until the present building was erected.

The first stone of this commodious edifice was laid, August 15th, 1827.This church is dedicated, under the joint patronage of our Lady and of St. David. The church itself is divided into nave and aisles, by two rows of columns, the nave being 30 feet wide, and the aisles 15 feet, each. The total length, from the eastern wall, behind the high altar, to the western wall of the tower, is 138 feet; and, the height of the nave to the ridge plate 52 feet, a good and beautiful proportion. Forty years after the opening, the interior began to be finished. About twenty years after the opening, a steeple, modelled after that of Ewerby, in Lincolnshire, set up in the 14th century, was commenced, and was finished on the last day of the year 1858. It is 200 feet high. The style is what is called the transitional; that is, what prevailed between "the early English" and "the decorated" periods. The tower consists of three stages. The Priory of Great Connell, within a few miles of Naas, was dedicated to our Lady and to St. David. Canons Regular of St. Augustine occupied this religious establishment, and the Prior had a seat in the Upper House. Great Conall was founded by Meyler Fitz-Henry, Lord Justice of Ireland, in the beginning of the thirteenth century. Although St. Kieran of Clonniacnoise seems to have been the first patron saint of Ardnurcher, a parish located partly in the barony of Kilcoursey, but chiefly in that of Moycashel, county of Westmeath; yet, St. David—most likely the present one—has been patron saint for many centuries back, and there is a holy well dedicated to him, at Ballinlaban. It is still much frequented. In Mulrankin parish, county of Wexford, a patron was formerly held, on the 1st of March. Probably this was in honour of St. David. A Ballydavid Townland and Head are to be found, on an extremely remote shore of western Kerry, in the barony of Corkaguiny, not far from the old ruined church, in Kilquane parish".
Canon O'Hanlon concludes with a final reminder that there are good reasons why the Irish people should not hesitate to seek the intercession of the patron of Wales:
"It must always constitute a pleasing and truly Christian state of society,to find international kindness and courtesies, with charitable and religious offices, exchanged between the people of different countries. Such kindly relationship appears to have prevailed, on the part of our Irish ancestors and the Cambro-Britons, except on rare occasions, when ambitious, adventurous, and unprincipled leaders conducted marauding expeditions, against those exposed to their predatory incursions. The bad passions of men, thus mutually excited, led oftentimes to bloody reprisals. Nor can we doubt, but the period and contemporaries of St. David witnessed many of those devastating raids. Yet, it is consoling to find, that the holy men of Hibernia and Cambria maintained an intimacy, strengthened by bonds of mutual friendship and religious associations, even from opposite shores. Intercommunication by sea voyages brought Menevia within easy reach of Irish students, many of whom were proud to acknowledge St. David as their master in sacred and secular learning. Again, the schools of Ireland were not less celebrated, about the same time, and had been resorted to by numbers of Cambro-Britons, who spent precious years in the acquisition of similar knowledge.We have already seen, that several renowned Irish ecclesiastics are specially named, as having sought the companionship and guidance of holy David. Some of their Acts are recorded, in connexion with him, and these even serve to illustrate his biography. Encouraged by his example and emulating his piety, while cultivating their natural mental faculties. Almighty God was pleased to reserve them for a career of further usefulness, when returning once more to their native Isle beyond the waves. Hence, in life, St. David was honoured and venerated by some of our most distinguished saints, and it is only just, therefore, when he has passed from life to the happiness of immortality, that in our Island, as within his specially privileged principality, the name of this great and good bishop should be well remembered and invoked. Through his ministry, blessings descended on our forefathers, and so may his protection secure other spiritual favours for those people, who have adopted him as their special patron".

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