Sunday 26 July 2015

A Chronology of Irish Saints: A

Yesterday I posted a chronological list of Irish saints from a nineteenth-century encyclopedia, now we can look at the biographical entries for those mentioned on the list starting with the letter A:

ADAMNAN, ST., a holy and learned Irish Abbot, successor to St. Columbkill, was of kingly extraction, born about A.D. 630, in the Province of Ulster,and early imbibed that love of virtue and learning which afterwards distinguished him. While yet comparatively young, he withdrew from the world and with five companions sought a lonely and deserted rock, where they gave themselves to study, contemplation and prayer. He afterwards became a monk in the abbey of Iona, and about 679 succeeded as abbot. He became the spiritual guide of Finnachta, the Monarch, and exercised a powerful influence in promoting good works and preventing evil ones. Aldfrid, the Northumbrian Prince, after being dispossessed by his brother Egfrid, a warlike and ambitious prince, took refuge for a while in his monastery of Iona, and became his warm friend. After the defeat and destruction of his brother Egfrid and his forces, by the Scots, (Irish) and Picts, Aldfrid returned to his kingdom, and our saint through his influence with him, reclaimed many Celtic or Scotic captives who had been taken and enslaved by Egfrid in his excursions. Our saint was an indefatigable worker, and wrote several works, one being a description of the holy places of Jerusalem, besides interesting sketches of Damascus, Constantinople and adjoining places which he compiled from the narrative of a Gallish Bishop named Arculfe. The venerable Bede refers to the incident, thus: "Arculfe was driven by a violent storm on the western coast of Britain, and at length came to the aforesaid servant of Christ, Adamnan, who, finding him well versed in the Scriptures, and of great knowledge of the Holy Land, joyfully entertained him, and with much pleasure hearkened to what he said, insomuch that everything he affirmed to have seen in those holy places, he committed to writing, and composed a book profitable to many, and especially to those living far from those places, where the Patriarch and Apostles resided and could get knowledge of only from books. Adamnan presented this book to King Aldfrid, by whose bounty it fell into the hands of more inferior people to read." He also wrote a life of St. Columbkill, who was his relative, and also an account of his prophecies. St. Adamnan not only governed the Abbey of Iona, but also one at Raphoe, which he himself founded. He conformed to the Roman custom of keeping Easter, which was different from that introduced by St. Patrick, and followed by the Irish monks and prelates. Although he succeeded in having it followed at Raphoe, the monks of Iona would not depart from the custom of their predecessors. He governed Iona for thirty years and died in 704. His remains were taken to Ireland in 727, but after a few years were returned to Iona.

AILBE, ST., a cotemporary of St. Patrick, and first bishop of Emly. He was already a missionary in Ireland at the time St. Patrick commenced his mission, and according to some authors, even a bishop, but the date of his death seems to preclude the idea. He was more probably a disciple of Patrick, and what is more certain founded the see of Emly, and also a celebrated school at which many of the great lights of the Irish church were educated; as St. Colman, St. Molna and others. He appears to have met, or was present with St. Patrick at Cashel, at the time of the conversion of Aengus, King of Munster, and certainly acknowledged the authority of Patrick. He appears also to have had considerable influence with the king, for the abbot, Enna, desiring to get a certain isle named Arne, for the purpose of building a monastery on it, begged St. Ailbe to ask it for him, and it was given. It was afterwards celebrated for the sanctity of its religious. Our saint was called the Patrick of Munster, and ranked as an Archbishop. He was not only renowned for his great sanctity of life, but also for his writings and eloquence. He died at a great age about the year 520.

AILERAN, surnamed the Wise, sometimes called Aireran, and also Erchan; a celebrated Irish scholar of the seventh century, and head of the great school of Clonard, in Meath. He was cotemporary of St. Fechin, and was a writer of great learning and authority. He wrote lives of Sts. Patrick, Bridget and Fechin, and an "Allegorical exposition of the geneology of Christ." This last work was published in 1667. He died, according to the annals of Ulster, in 665.

ALBIN, a famous Irish scholar, who flourished in the eighth century, and was conspicuous in his age for wisdom, piety and learning. He went to France in company with his friend and countryman Clement, and was greatly esteemed by Charles the Great, or Charlemagne. Notker Balubus, a French writer of that day, says, "They arrived in France in company with some British merchants, and seeing the people crowding about the merchants to buy their wares, Albin and Clement cried out, if anyone wants wisdom, let him come to us, we have it to sell." The King hearing of it, sent for them, and asked them what they wanted. They replied, convenient appointments, with food and raiment, to teach wisdom to ingenuous souls." The Emperor being impressed with their learning, gave them all they required, and afterwards sent Albin to Italy to spread learning amongst the people, assigning him the Monastery of St. Augustin, near the present city of Pavia; that “all who desired, might resort to him for instruction." There he remained teaching and preaching till his death. He is sometimes confounded with the English Alcuin.

ALBUIN, ST., an Irish monk and missioner, was born about A.D. 700. After becoming noted for his learning and virtue in the schools of Erin, he left his country, says Trithemius, in 742, appeared in Thuringia, Upper Saxony, when he converted great numbers to the Faith, and soon became famous by his apostlic works. He was called to the See of Buraburgh, afterwards Paderborn, which he governed with great wisdom and success. Arnold Wion calls him the Apostle of the Thuringians.

ARBOGAST, ST., a learned and pious hermit missionary of Alsace, was born in Ireland about A.D. 600. He became a monk and missionary, traveled to the continent and preached the gospel along the Rhine, in France and Germany. He converted many pagans, built an oratory, according to Gaspard Bruchius within the confines of the present City of Hagueneau, where he devoted himself to prayer and fasting; but often left his retreat to preach Christ crucified to the idolatrous tribes around. King Dagobert had him appointed Bishop of Strasburg in 646, which See he ruled with great zeal and success for twelve years. In his great humility he strove to imitate his Divine Master, and requested that he be interred at the place of public execution, Mount Michel, out of his desire to imitate the debasement of his Divine Model. There, afterwards, a great monastery was built, and called after him, and around it grew the present city, and its great church. He composed a book of homilies, and commentaries on the epistles of St. Paul.

ASICUS, SAINT, a disciple of St. Patrick, and first Bishop of Elphin. He appears to have been an artist, and skilled in working in gold. He early became a convert, and followed Patrick for sometime, increasing in grace and fervor. He possessed an extraordinary spirit of self-denial, and lived much like the first hermits, fasting and praying; living on berries and herbs, and performing extraordinary fasts. He had a cell in the mountains of Slive League, Donegal, where he often retired for penance and prayer, and while there was directed by a heavenly messenger to join Patrick. He accompanied his master into Connaught, and assisted him in the work of conversion. Here St. Patrick founded the church of Elphin and placed over it Asicus as its Bishop. Asicus died about 470 at Rathcurge in Tirconnel.

James O'Brien, Irish Celts: a cyclopedia of race history, containing biographical sketches of more than fifteen hundred distinguished Irish Celts, with a chronological index, (Detroit, 1884).

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