Sunday 31 January 2016

Saint Aidan of Ferns, January 31

January 31 is the feast of the patron of the Diocese of Ferns, Saint Aidan, also known as Saint Moedoc or Mogue. Below is a paper on the life of the saint from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, signed PFM. Its author is thus Patrick Francis, the future Cardinal Moran. Cardinal Moran produced some impressive historical studies of the early Irish church and its saints, he had a great devotion to Saint Brigid and secured a portion of her relics from Cologne for a convent in Australia. In his paper on Saint Aidan of Ferns PFM is in characteristic form, providing a wealth of detail and his paper was published in three separate instalments.  I have omitted some of the detail about the shrine of Saint Moedoc and of the lives of some other saints in order to keep the focus on the life of Saint Aidan and the narrative flowing. The volume is available online if you wish to read the text as it originally appeared.


ST. Aidan, one of the most illustrious saints who adorned the Irish Church in the sixth century, was born at Innis- Breagh-Muigh, a small island in Brackley Lough, in the territory of east Breffny (the north-west of the modern county of Cavan), about the year 530. His father's name was Sedna, through whom his lineage went back to the Colla Uais, the ancestor of the most illustrious clans of the Oirghialla ; whilst through his mother, Ethne, he was connected with the race of Amhalgaidh, whose descendants gave name to the territory of Tirawley in the county of Mayo.

Aidan is the usual Anglicised form of the saint's name. The original Irish name was Aedh, sometimes written Aodh, which in various Latin works became Aeda, Aidus, Aiduus, Aedeus, Oedeus, or Edus. The diminutive termination, an or og, being often added in Irish proper names, we find our saint in some ancient tracts called Aedhan or Oedhan, and Aedhog, which in Latin was modified into Afdan, Hedanus, Aidanus, and Edanus.

The name of Aedh (i.e. fire), which was given to him at baptism, as well as its endearing form, Moedoc, had its origin in two visions of a heavenly light which a little before his birth, were seen by his parents, and foreshadowed his future greatness. Some holy men being asked to explain these visions, replied "As a star led the wise men to worship Christ, so shall a son be born to you full of the fire of the Holy Ghost."

The spot where the saint was born continued for a long time illumined with a more than human splendour : also, the flagstone on which the water of his Baptism was poured, was regarded as hallowed in a special manner, it was jealously guarded in his church for a thousand years, and popular tradition preserved the memory of innumerable cures performed at it through the intercession of St. Aidan. The Martyrology of Donegal also records that Ethne, when giving birth to our saint, held in her hand a spinster's distaff, which was a withered hard stick of hazel, but subsequently it put forth leaves and blossoms, and was covered with goodly fruit ; and the writer of the martyrology adds, " this hazel is still in existence as a green tree, without decay or withering, producing nuts every year in Innis-Breach-mhaige."

From his infancy he was remarkable for miracles, and ere he attained the years of manhood, his fame for sanctity was widespread throughout all Ireland. Two facts connected with his youth are mentioned in his ancient life, which merit special mention. On one occasion he had retired to a lonely spot, where he was engaged in study and prayer. Thither a weary deer fled, as if seeking his protection from the hounds that pursued it. Our saint, taking the waxen tablet on which he wrote, placed it between the horns of the animal, and this sufficed to save it from its pursuers and render it invisible till the hounds passed by. Another time, some pious men, directed by heaven, came to St. Aidan asking him to choose for them a spot where they might lead a life of penance, and await their resurrection. St. Aidan asked them had they heard the bell of any monastery as they travelled along. They replied that they had not ; then, setting out with them, he pointed out the place which God had marked for their resurrection, and there these holy men continued for the remainder of their lives in the practices of piety and penance.

Miss Stokes, having referred to this fact, adds the following remarks :

" Among these early Christians it was a favourite custom to seek the knowledge of the place they should be buried in from some holy man gifted with the spirit of prophecy, that in that spot they might erect their church and monastic establishment, there to live, and there to remain after death, until the day of the resurrection; and with them the burying- place was not called grave, or tomb, but 'the place of resurrection' as if in the minds of these men the thought of death and the fear that springs from the contemplation of it, had been absorbed in the first fresh joy of the hope of the life eternal."

It was at the school of Clonard that the youthful Aidan was trained in the higher paths of perfection and of science. St. Finnian, a little time before, had founded that great monastery, and so many were the saints who came forth from his school to adorn our island by their virtues and learning, that he is styled in our annals " the foster-father of the saints of Ireland," and his monastery was celebrated as " a holy city full of wisdom and virtue." " Like the sun in the firmament (thus runs his ancient life), St. Finian enlightened the world with the rays of his virtues, wholesome doctrine, and miracles. For the fame of his good works invited many illustrious men from divers parts of the world to his school, as to a holy repository of all wisdom, partly to study the sacred scriptures, and partly to be instructed in ecclesiastical discipline."

In this holy school of Clonard, St. Aidan formed a close friendship with St. Molaise of Devenish, and several facts mentioned in the ancient lives of both saints prove that that friendship lasted till death. On one occasion we find St. Molaise advising a sorrowing woman to turn for assistance to " Moedoc the most blessed." Her sons had been drowned in Lough Erne, and she had sought help of many saints, in the hope that at least their bodies might be found. St. Molaise told her to go to the shore of the lake, and there to await the coming of Moedoc. She hastened to the place, and straightway Moedoc came to her, and then, weeping bitterly, she told her sad tale. Moedoc, knowing that his friend St. Molaise had prophesied the return of her sons to life, and trusting in his sanctity, boldly entered the waters of the lake, and drew forth the young men alive, " wherefore their father, who was a powerful chieftain, offered to the saint one of his sons, with his children and posterity, as a perpetual gift to St. Moedoc for the honour of God."

On another occasion, towards the close of their school-days, the devoted friends Moedoc and Molaise were seated beneath the shadow of two trees, and they prayed to God to make known to them whether they might continue together, or whether it was His will that they should separate and work apart. While they thus prayed, the tree which stood over St. Molaise fell towards the north, while the tree beneath which St. Moedoc was fell towards the south. Then, filled with the divine spirit, they said one to another " This token for parting is given to us by God, and we shall go as these trees have fallen ;" so "embracing each other, and weeping, the two friends parted, and St. Molaise turned towards the northern region of Ireland where he founded the celebrated monastery of Devenish in Lough Erne, while St. Moedoc went southwards, where, in after times, he became the founder of Ferns, in the province of Leinster.

Whilst yet a youth, St. Aidan was led away a hostage with many more of the territory of the Hua-Briun by Ainmuire, who subsequently was monarch of all Ireland. Our saint, when brought before him, appeared beautiful with the comeliness of God's grace (apparuit gratia Dei in vultu pueri Moedoc), so that the prince said to his attendants: " This youth is comely indeed ; should he consent to remain with me, he must be one of my royal court ; but if he is anxious to depart, let him be at once set free and restored to his parents." The blessed Aidan, filled with the Holy Ghost, replied : " O king, if thou wishest thus to favour me, I pray thee, through the mercy of that God whom alone I wish to serve, to set free all those who have been my companions as hostages under thy charge." Ainmuire granted the request, only asking in return the prayers of Aidan, foretelling at the same time that one day he would be a great pillar of the Irish Church.

Abiding for awhile in his native district, many resorted to him for counsel, and wished to become his disciples. Desiring to shun such honours, he was preparing to depart, but Aedh Finn, the chieftain of the Hy-Briuin, opposed his project, being unwilling that his territory should be deprived of the presence of the saint. " Do not detain me," said the holy man to Aedh, " and I pray that the blessings of Paradise may be your eternal portion." No entreaty however could avail, and it was only by a special manifestation of divine power that St. Moedoc could at length obtain permission to depart. The chieftain who thus sought to detain our saint in the district of Breffny, had been baptized by him, and in Baptism received the sirname of Finn, i.e. " the white," or " beautiful," whereas hitherto he had borne the name of Aedh Dubh, i.e. "Aedh the black." From him the two great families of the O'Reilly's and the O'Rorke's are descended, both of whom continued for centuries to honour St. Moedoc as their Patron.

The life of St. Aidan also mentions another instance in which, at this period of his life, heaven interposed in his favour. He was journeying along Mount Beatha (famous for its shrine of St. Dympna,) on the confines of Monaghan and Fermanagh, wishing to arrive at Ardrinnygh, to visit there a holy man named Airedum, who enjoyed great fame for sanctity ; but darkness set in, and he could no longer discern the path to pursue his journey. Betaking himself to prayer, he found himself borne by the hands of angels to the centre of the town he sought for, and in memory of this prodigy a cross was subsequently erected on the spot, which, at the time when the life was written, was still called " the Cross of St. Moedoc."

The monastery of St. David, at Kilmuine, in Wales, was at this time a favourite resort for Irish pilgrims. Thither too went St Aidan, and during the years that he resided there, such was the odour of his sanctity, and such was the esteem in which he was held by that great master of virtue, St. David, that his history became thenceforward interwoven with the history of Menevia, and his abode in Britain is not only related in his own acts but in those of St. David and St. Cadoc. Among other remarkable facts we find it recorded that the Anglo Saxons made an inroad at this time into Wales. The Britains, though taken unawares, rushed to arms, and sent messengers to St. David, praying him to send St. Aidan to the field of battle to bless their army. At the bidding of the abbot, the blessed Aidan hastened thither and prostrated himself in prayer, whilst the Britains rushed on to battle. The invaders were at once seized with panic and fled. For two days the victorious Britains pursued them with great slaughter, whilst not one of their own men was slain. And the Life adds: "the Anglo Saxons abstained from further inroads as long as Moedoc continued in Menevia, for they were persuaded that the miracle was due to his prayers."

After some years spent in the practice of piety, under the guidance of St. David, our saint, with the sanction and blessing of the holy Abbot, and accompanied by other Irish religious of the same monastery, returned to his native land. As he approached the coast of Hy-Ceinnselach (the modern county of Wexford), he saw some travellers attacked and plundered on the shore. He at once sounded his bell, which being heard by the plunderers, their chief cried out, " This is the bell of a man of God, who wishes us to desist from our deeds of plunder." Thereupon they allowed the travellers to pursue their way unharmed, and themselves hastened to the sea-shore to welcome the man of God. One of them, named Dymma, even rushed into the sea, and bore St. Aidan on his shoulders to dry land. Nor satisfied with this, he devoted himself and his territory of Ardladhrann, in Hy-Ceinnselagh, to the service of God and of St. Aidan. Our Saint erected a church and monastery there, and such was the fame of his miracles and sanctity, that the faithful from all the surrounding country soon flocked to him to receive lessons of eternal life.

It is not certain at what time St. Aidan founded the church of Ferns, but probably this foundation, which was cherished with special predilection by our saint, must be reckoned among the first of the thirty churches which, as Colgan assures us, were erected by St. Aidan in the territory of Wexford.

The Irish name of Fearna is supposed by some to mean "the Land or Field of the Elder Tree," whilst others, with Colgan and Ware, derive it from the hero Ferna, son of Carill, King of the Desies, who was here interred, being slain in battle by Gall, son of Morna. In the " Leabhar Breac" there is a marginal gloss on the Felire of St. Oengus, which, in two short verses, thus recounts the happy privileges of Ferns :

" Plain of Ferna, Plain of Ferna,
Where the chaste Moedoc shall be ;
Plain where are hounds and troops ;
Plain that will be filled with sacred chaunting !

" Moedoc shall sing hymns and the Psalter ;
The desire for constant chaunting is awakened
By that plain of heavenly sounds :
O Lord, who rulest the elements !"

In the " Irish Life of St. Molaise," of which a copy is preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, we read that that saint, when he had resolved on setting out on a pilgrimage to Rome,to bring back thence relics and some clay to hallow his monastery of Devenish, proceeded first to visit his friend, St. Moedoc, at Ferns. It was on this occasion that the two saints entered into a new covenant of friendship, binding themselves that whosoever should merit the blessing of one, should inherit the other's blessing also ; and whosoever should incur the displeasure of one, should incur, at the same time, the other's displeasure likewise. We are not told how long St. Molaise sojourned at the shrines of the Eternal City, but his life adds, that " having accomplished his visit to Rome, he again hastened to St. Moedoc, and presented to him a portion of the relics which he had brought thence," and the names of these holy relics are then given, viz., relics of SS. Peter and Paul, of SS. Lawrence and Clement and Stephen, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Martin, and many other relics.

The Life further adds that St. Molaise, having given these relics to his friend, St. Moedoc exclaimed, " Is Breac go maith uait me anossa," i.e., " Now, indeed, I am well speckled by thee," as if he said, " You have given me such a corselet of relics, that I am now all over ornamented and protected by them." And St. Molaise then said, " Breac Moedoig (i.e., the speckled or variegated shrine of Moedoc) shall be the name of the reliquary for ever."

This shrine, or " Breac Moedoig," is still happily preserved, and has been admirably illustrated by Miss Stokes for the Royal Society of Antiquarians… the following is her account of the manner in which it passed into the " Petrie Collection," now accessible to the public in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy. The Breac Moedoc, she tells us, " was bought some years ago by Dr. Petrie, from a jeweller in Dublin, into whose possession it came in the following manner : The shrine had been preserved for many centuries in the Church of St. Moedoc, at Drumlane, where it had remained in the keeping of the Roman Catholic Parish Priest. It was occasionally lent for swearing the accused at trials, and so great was the reverence felt for it, that the people believed a false oath taken thereon would be surely followed by some singular judgment. About the year 1846 it was lent to a person named Magauran, from the parish of Templeport, he having deposited the usual pledge of a guinea for its safe restoration ; tempted, however, by the Dublin jeweller's offer of a larger sum than that which he had given in pledge, he broke faith with the priest, and sold the sacred relic."

…Ferns had long been one of the royal seats of the Kings of Leinster ; and when St. Aidan founded his religious establishment there, he received from these devoted princes every aid in his mission of piety and charity. Colman, son of Cairbre, King of Leinster, died in 576, and was succeeded by Brandubh, son of Eathach, of the race of Cathair-Mor, who during his long reign of 28 years, proved himself the constant friend and patron of our saint. In 593 Leinster was invaded by Cumasgach, son of the Monarch of Ireland, who, without receiving any provocation, ravaged the territory around Baltinglass (where Brandubh then resided): he, however, was soon put to flight, and, near the Church of Kill-Rannairech,was slain by the adherents of the Leinster King. The armies of Ulster were at once mustered to avenge the death of Cumasgach, and being led in person by the Monarch himself, threatened to lay waste the whole of Leinster. It was on this occasion that St. Aidan encouraged Brandubh to go forth fearlessly to repel the unjust invasion. As we read in his ancient life, he said to the king, " many saints have served God faithfully in thy territory ; go forth, therefore, courageously to battle, and we will all be there in spirit to aid thee with our prayers in the combat ;" and the life adds, that throughout all that night, St Aidan continued at his church in prayer, imploring, with arms stretched out, the blessing of God on Brandubh. The decisive battle was fought in 498, at Dunbolg (i.e. Fort of the sacks), which is described as situated south of Hollywood, and not far from the Church of Kil-belat (now Kilbaylet), near Donard, in the county Wicklow. The victory of Brandubh was complete, and the monarch Aedh himself, with many of his chieftains, was slain. The ancient tract called the Borumlia-Laighean, tells us that when the northern army had advanced as far as Baltinglass, St. Aidan, who was half-brother of the monarch Aedh, went forward in the name of Brandubh to solicit an armistice that, in the mean time, the terms of peace might be arranged ; he however was treated with insult by Aedh, wherefore departing from the hostile camp, he prophesied the ruin and death which should soon be the lot of the ill-fated monarch. The same tale also relates that it was our saint who planned the stratagem to which Brandubh was indebted for his victory. Three thousand six hundred oxen, carrying provision hampers in which armed men were concealed, were conducted towards the place where the troops of Aedh were encamped ; they were at once seized and driven within the camp, when the armed men, at a given signal, threw off their disguise, and gained an easy victory over their astonished enemy. All this time Aidan was in the church absorbed in prayer, and more to his intercession than to the valour of the troops, Brandubh ascribed his brilliant success. A poem was composed on this occasion by St. Aidan, of which the first strophe is preserved in the Annals of the Four Masters:

" I implore the powerful Lord : near Cill-Rannairech
It was he that took revenge of Comasach,
and slew Aedh Mac Ainmirech."

It was on this occasion that the king bestowed upon St. Aidan the royal seat of Ferns, its banqueting halls and champions' apartments, its woods and hunting grounds and other lands, all to be devoted to the service of God. A council of the bishops and chieftains of Leinster was also convened, by whom it was unanimously resolved that the archiepiscopate of Leinster should thenceforth be held by Aidan and his successors.

Such an election by the bishops of Leinster was quite in accordance with the disciplinary code that prevailed at this early period in the Irish Church. As yet, none of our metropolitan sees had been definitively fixed by Rome, but it was deemed expedient, not to say necessary, for the maintenance of discipline, and for the observance of the canonical decrees, that in each province there should be at least one bishop enjoying pre-eminence, and invested with quasi-metropolitical jurisdiction. The MS. "Liber Canonum" drawn up as an ecclesiastical code of laws for Ireland before the year 700, expressly sanctions such an election of a metropolitan by the decree of his brother bishops, and it cannot surprise us if, as in the case of St. Aidan, the bishops of the province should be desirous to have their decree sanctioned and confirmed by the temporal authority.

On one occasion, when returning with an immense booty from the northern districts of Ireland, Brandubh was met by a poor leper who asked an alms for the love of God. The king at once bestowed on him a good milch cow, and recommended himself to the prayers of the poor man. Soon after, being encamped on the banks of the Slaney, he was seized with a grievous malady, and seemed, in a vision, to be carried down to the very gates of hell. All the demons were assembled there awaiting their prey, and one fiery dragon rushed forth to devour him. At that moment a comely and joyous priest cast between the dragon and the king the cow which had been bestowed on the poor leper; and, when a second time the dragon rushed on towards the king, the same priest smote the dragon with his staff and put him to flight. The king narrated this vision to his attendants, and recovering somewhat, proceeded to a place called Inver-Graimchin, where again his illness increased. There he was reminded by his attendants of the many miracles performed by Aidan, and how water blessed by him restored many that were sick to perfect health. Wherefore, Brandubh set out to visit the saint, and meeting him near the monastery, cried out, this is the holy priest whom I saw in my vision saving me from the dragon that would devour me ; and prostrating himself before Aidan, he confessed his evil deeds and prayed him to impose a salutary penance for the blessing of his soul. At the prayers of the saint his bodily health was also restored to him, and then the king gave to Aidan many presents for the poor, and decreed that himself and his race should be interred in the monastery of Aidan. The ancient writer adds: " to this day Brandubh and his descendants arc interred in Ferns."

One of the tributary chiefs of Leinster, named Saran, jealous of the power of Brandubh, and availing himself of the free access to his presence permitted by that monarch, assassinated him in his royal residence. Thus, adds the chronicler, was the pious king cut off without confession, and without the divine viaticum. St. Aidan hearing this, was filled with grief, and, weeping, foretold that the hand would wither which had thus murdered " the defender of the churches of the kingdom, and the protector of the widow and the poor." The prophecy was fulfilled : and St. Aidan coming to the place where the deceased king lay, offered fervent prayers, and by the power of God restored him to life. But the king said : " I pray thee, father, do not detain me on earth, if through thy prayers the gates of heaven may be now open to me." The saint was rejoiced at these pious dispositions of Brandubh, and the holy viaticum being administered, and prayers being said, the king once more closed his eyes in peace, and his remains were interred in the cemetery at the monastery of Aidan. As for the murderer, seeing what had happened, he was moved with sorrow for his wicked deeds, and coming to the sepulchre of Brandubh, led there a most penitential life in fasting and assiduous watching, till at length he heard a voice from the tomb saying: O, Saran ! thou hast obtained mercy from God. He passed the remainder of his life in holiness, but the prophecy of Aidan was verified, that his right arm should be lifeless and withered till his death.

When St. Aidan proposed to build his chief monastery at Ferns, many of his disciples complained that there was no spring of water there to serve for their drink. But the saint directed them to cut down a tree which overshadowed the spot on which they stood, assuring them that they would find there an abundant supply of water. They did so, and a clear fountain gushed forth, which retains to this day the name of Tubber-Mogue, i.e., the fountain of St. Aidan. It was whilst engaged in building this monastery of Ferns, that another miracle was performed by our saint, which continued long to exercise a salutary influence on the ecclesiastical architecture of the nation. A church was to be erected, thus writes the ancient chronicler, but no builder could be found to guide the religious brethren in this work wherefore, full of confidence in God, St. Aidan blessed the hands of an untutored man named Gobban; from that moment he became most skilled in all the intricacies of the art, and was able, in a most perfect manner, to complete the church of the monastery. His skill was subsequently shown in the erection of many other famous churches and monasteries, and he is known in the ancient historic tales and legendary poems of our island, as Goban Saer, i.e., " Goban the builder." What was of still more importance, he combined sanctity with his architectural skill: his name is entered in our calendars among the saints of our early church, and it is, probably, from him that Cill-Gobban, now Kilgobbin, near Dundrum, in the county of Dublin, derives its name.

THE Latin Life of St. Aidan merely records the fact, that our Saint, anxious to perfect himself in wisdom and holiness of life, set out on a pilgrimage, accompanied by twelve chosen companions. From other ancient documents, however, we are able to glean some details connected with this pilgrimage. Among the companions of St. Aidan, were two other great Saints of our early Church, St. Eulogius and St. Finbar. The Monastery of Menevia was the first stage of their holy pilgrimage ; and, having passed some time there to receive the lessons of spiritual perfection from St. David, they pursued their course to Rome, there to offer, at the shrines of the Apostles, the pious tributes of their devotion and love.

More than once, however, St. Aidan made the journey to Wales to visit St. David, and the closest spiritual friendship seems to have united together these holy founders of Ferns and Menevia. On such occasions Aidan took part with the other brethren of the Monastery of Menevia in their task of manual work ; and a wood, situated in the Valley of Saleunach, about two miles from the Monastery, is pointed out as the place appointed for St. Aidan's labour. Sometimes, too, he was engaged in transcribing the Sacred Scriptures a duty specially dear to all the early and mediaeval monasteries. It is recorded that, on one occasion, when engaged in copying the Gospel of St. John, he was summoned away to some other religious exercise, and, on returning, as a reward for the promptness of his obedience, he found the unfinished column completed by an angel, in letters of gold. This precious MS. was long preserved at Menevia, encased in silver and gold. Giraldus Cambrensis states, that even in his own time it was regarded as something sacred, so much so, that none would dare to open its pages, or unloose its clasps. Elsewhere this same writer commemorates St. Aidan amongst the holy men who, by their sanctity and miracles, adorned the Monastery of Menevia ; and he ranks him as companion of the great saints Teliau and Ismael, and foremost among the most faithful disciples of David. He adds, that on the return of St. Aidan to Ireland, no sooner had he completed his great Monastery of Ferns (called Fernas, by Giraldus, and Guerwin, by Ricemarch), than he laid down for his religious the same rule and observance which he had learned at St. David's, and which he had found by experience to produce such abundant fruits of virtue and sanctity at Menevia.

Companion of Aidan at Menevia was St. Modomnoc, who seems to have accompanied our holy Bishop on his return to Ireland. St. Modomnoc, whilst in the monastery, had its many hives of bees for his special charge, and now, that he entered the boat to sail for Ireland, swarm after swarm of St David's bees came to settle in the boat with him. Three times this was repeated, when so often Modomnoc returned on shore unwilling to deprive Menevia of its honied treasure ; but the bees would not be separated from their kind patron, and, at length, with the blessing of St. David, he set sail, bearing with him his long cherished charge. From that time, say our chroniclers, the hum of St. David's bees has not ceased in Ireland. St. Modomnoc "of the bees," is honoured on the 13th of February in Tybroughney, on the banks of the Suir, near Piltown, county Kilkenny. There was also a monastery in olden times at Lann-beachaire (i.e., " the church of the bee- hive"), now Lambeecher, in Fingal, county Dublin. Its name was probably derived from some fact connected with this journey of St. Aidan and Modomnoc.

A little before St. David's death, that aged founder of Menevia bade farewell to St. Aidan, and, imparting his blessing, said : " May an unbroken fraternity, in heaven and on earth, ever subsist between me and thee, and between our spiritual children." This spiritual relationship seems to have subsisted indeed for centuries, and during the several years that St. Aidan survived St. David, the religious of Menevia venerated St. Aidan, and showed all honour to him, as one who had merited the special love and friendship of their great founder. In the glosses on the Felire of St. Oengus, in the Leabhar Breac, we meet with a few facts which serve to illustrate this connexion between the great Monasteries of Ferns and Menevia. Thus, in the gloss, on 31st January, we read that " fifty Bishops of the Britons of Cill-Muine (i.e., Menevia) visited Moedhoc of Ferns : on this pilgrimage they came, because Moedhoc was the disciple of David of Cill- Muine." The following curious story is added regarding these pilgrim Bishops : " The pilgrims coming to Moedhoc, were conducted to the guest's house, and it was the Lent-time of spring. Fifty cakes and leeks, with watery whey, were set before them for dinner. 'Why have these things been brought us?" said the Bishops; 'we shall not partake of them, but let beef or pork be brought to us.' Moedhoc permitted the oeconome to comply with their request ; but the next day, coming to the strangers, he said to them 'you must be reprimanded for eating meat, and refusing the bread, in this time of Lent.'

The Bishops replied: 'it was not your learning, O Maedhog, that inspired you with such a sentiment; for it is with the milk of their mothers that the swine and cow are nourished, and they eat nought but the grass of the field : but three hundred and sixty-five ingredients are in the cake that was set before us, and therefore it is that we did not use it.'"

Another remark which is added, would seem to imply that the Monastery of Menevia was subject to Ferns; and that the successor of St. Aidan ruled "over both Monasteries. " From the time of David (thus runs the gloss) no flesh meat was brought into the refectory of Cille-Muine, until it was brought thither by the comharb of Moedhoc, of Ferns. It is contrary to rule, however, that he who did so, should have joint-seat with David, or continue in the Abbacy of Cill- Muine, or that his feet should touch the floor of its refectory as long as he lives."

Perhaps we have here a clue to the statement made by some Irish writers, towards the close of the twelfth century, regarding the close connexion which, in early times, had subsisted between Ferns and Menevia. These writers, however, manifestly reversed the order of facts, when, as a consequence, they asserted the See of Ferns to be a suffragan See of Menevia. That Menevia was suffragan to Ferns, would assuredly be far more consonant with the facts above stated ; for these manifestly imply that, after the death of St. David, special reverence was shown by his monastery to his loved disciple, St. Aidan, and that also the successors of our Saint in the See of Ferns received particular honour in Menevia, being reputed the heirs or comharbs of its holy founder, St. David.

We have already seen how St. Aidan, from early youth, was the bosom friend of St. Molaise of Devenish. He, in later years, enjoyed the friendship of several of the other great saints, who, in the sixth and seventh centuries, adorned our island by their learning and the sanctity of their lives. Thus, St. Molua, who is honoured as Patron at Clonfert-Molua, as also at Sliabh-Bladhma, and at Druimsneachta, in Fermanagh, was chosen by him for spiritual father and confessor. St. Cuimin, of Connor, commemorating the characteristic virtues of our Irish saints, writes of St. Molua :

" Molua, the fully miraculous, loves
Humility, noble, pure,
The will of his tutor, the will of his parents,
The will of all, and weeping for his sins."

It is recorded that when St. Aidan first visited Molua, there was no food in the monastery, except some flesh meat, from which St. Aidan always abstained; nevertheless, on this occasion, he partook of it through charity and reverence for St. Molua. On another occasion, Molua expressed an eager desire to visit the shrines of the Apostles in Rome ; he even declared that he would die unless he visited Rome : cito moriar si non videro Romam. But the prayers of Aidan, who was unwilling to be deprived of his Confessor, obtained for him, whilst staying in the monastery of Ferns, the grace of contemplating in vision that holy city ; and, the chronicler adds, that ever after St. Molua was as fully and intimately acquainted with the sanctuaries and other wondrous monuments of Rome, as though he had lived there for many years.

At the time when Aidan visited the territory of the Hy-Conail (now the barony of Connello, in the county Limerick), the Superioress of St. Ita's great monastery of Killeedy, which was not far distant, sent to him to say that one of her holy nuns, a loved disciple of St. Ita, had just then expired. At the same time, he heard the bells of the monastery which announced her death ; accordingly he gave his staff to one of his companions, and told him to touch with it the body of the deceased nun ; and he added, ' I pray God, that through the sanctity of most blessed Ita, he may deign to restore this religious to life.' " No sooner was the cold body touched by St. Aidan's staff than the deceased nun arose, full of life and vigour, and gave glory to God."

A somewhat different favour was, on another occasion, granted through his prayers to the religious of St. Fintan, at Taghmon. He was received at that monastery with great honour, and several of the religious who were then ill, were, at the prayers of St. Aidan, restored to perfect health. When, however, on the third day, he was taking his leave, the holy abbot of the monastery said to him : "I pray thee not to leave till thou restorest to us again the illness of which we have been deprived, through your prayers, for virtue is perfected in infirmity," and Aidan, full of wonder at this faith, gave to the religious his parting blessing, and all were affected as before with their various diseases.

We find him also visiting the holy virgins, daughters of Aidus, King of Leinster. Lanigan states that the names of these virgin saints, as given by some writers, are Ethnea, Sodelbia, and Cumania; whilst others mention the two first only, and identify them with the saints who are styled in our calendars, the spiritual daughters of Baithe, and whose memory was honoured on the 29th of March, in a church, near Swords, named from them the cell of the daughters of Baithe. By whatever name, however, the daughters of Aidus may have been known, it is certain that they were distinguished by their piety and lived in a religious community. St. Aidan brought to them, as a gift, a plough and a pair of oxen. Nor should this surprise us: for his high ecclesiastical dignity did not prevent him from joining his monks in their agricultural labours, and his life, on one occasion, introduces him to us as superintending one hundred and fifty of the religious brethren whilst gathering in the harvest.

Some of the facts incidentally related in St. Aidan's Life reveal to us the high perfection of holiness to which he had attained. On one Easter festival we find him spending the whole night in the church in prayer. It was on that occasion that our Saint learned by a Divine manifestation that an attempt would be made to cut off, by poison, his holy friend St. David of Menevia. Aidan, accordingly, immediately made known the danger to his friend, who, having blessed the poisoned food, divided it into three portions, and then, without hesitation, partook of one of the fragments that was untainted by the poison.

At the time of St. Columba's death St. Aidan was standing beside a Cross, in company of a youth for whom he was transcribing one of the Psalms. The youth saw the holy man on a sudden rapt in ecstacy, and his countenance became all luminous with dazzling rays. When subsequently interrogated, he made known to the youth that he had at that moment contemplated in vision the reception given by the heavenly choirs to the soul of his friend, St. Columba. It is also recorded that, at another time, hearing the sweet harmony of the heavenly choirs, he prayed to God that if it was His holy will, he might be freed from the flesh, and admitted to the enjoyment of Christ ; but he heard a voice, which said to him : " It is the Divine will that you should labour yet awhile for the welfare of others;" and he at once replied "So long as thou decreest so, O God, may such labour be given to me."

For forty days, in imitation of the Redeemer, St. Aidan observed a rigorous fast in his monastery at Ferns. At its close four special favours, for which he prayed, were granted to him by God. The first petition was, that any person of the Royal line of Leinster, and especially of the descendants of Brandubh, sitting in his See, and holding it till death, should never receive the heavenly reward: "so anxious was the Saint to guarantee the spiritual rights of his See, and to secure its freedom from usurpation of the secular power. The other petitions for which the Saint prayed, were " that a similar penalty should await any of his religious who might fail in observance, and abandon the religious life : that Heaven would be open to all those who should merit to be interred among the saints of the cemetery of Ferns, and that, through his prayers, one soul might each day be freed from the pains of Purgatory."

Several miracles are narrated in the Life of our Saint. I will only mention two of them, which commend his spirit of charity and compassion for the poor. Seeing a poor man who, labouring in the field, bewailed the dire servitude to which he was subjected by his master, St Aidan brought to him half a measure of barley. The poor man, smiling, said, "What can this avail me?" but looking again, he saw that the barley had been changed into gold. The Saint told him to apply a portion of this to purchase his ransom ; but when the master heard of this wondrous miracle, he not only restored the poor man to liberty, but refused to accept any price of ransom. The poor man, rejoicing, brought back the gold to St. Aidan, insisting that he should accept of it as an offering for the monastery : but the Saint, despising the riches of this world, again prayed to God, and the gold was once more changed into barley as before.

Another time Aidan met some soldiers who were carrying off to their chieftain a poor captive bound in chains. The Saint prayed them to set him free for the love of Christ, but they scornfully refused to do so. They had proceeded, however, only a few paces when they saw a number of hostile troops surrounding them on all sides, so that they betook themselves to flight to provide for their own safety, and the captive, remained alone with Aidan. The Saint then said to him : " I asked these men to set you free, and they refused: I asked it from God, and he has shown you mercy." The chieftain, hearing of the fact, ratified the sentence of St. Aidan.

Colgan assures us that, according to an ancient life-of our Saint, preserved in Salamanca, he founded no fewer than thirty churches in the territory of the Hy-Kinnselagh alone, a district which included the present county of Wexford, together with the barony of Shillelagh, in the county of Wicklow. Of these the names of only four can now be identified with any certainty, viz : Ferns, from which his diocese derived its name : Ard-Ladhrann, now Ardamine, situated on the sea-coast, in the barony of Ballagh-keen : Cluainmore, also called Cluainmore-Dicholla-Gairbh, now Clonmore, a parish in the barony of Bantry, in the centre of the county of Wexford ; and Seanbotha, now the parish of Templeshanbo, in the same county, at the foot of Mount Leinster, and not far from Ferns. Colgan also mentions the church of Disert, in Leinster, founded by our Saint. There was another monastery called Clonmore, in the county Carlow, which some have supposed to have had St. Aidan for its founder. ..

This monastery of Seanbotha was, probably, the first foundation made by St. Aidan in Hy-Kinnselagh, and hence, in the List of the Saints of Ireland compiled by Selbhach at the time of St. Cormac mac Cullenan, our Saint receives for his distinctive epithet, " St. Aidan of Seanbotha."

" Nathi, grandson of eloquent Suanach,
Cummin, gentle for petitioning,
With a gentle, noble throng, of just voices,
Noble Aedan in Seanbotha."

That this monastery had already attained considerable importance before the death of St. Aidan, results from two facts connected with it: first, the chieftain Saran Soebdherc, who murdered King Brandubh, was erenach, or custodian of its lands ; and, secondly, St. Colman, who attained great fame for sanctity, was abbot of this monastery during the life-time of our Saint.

In Munster, St. Aidan founded the church of Disert Nairbre, now Dysart in the parish of Ardmore, in the south-east of the county of Waterford ; and the monastery of Cluain Claidheach, now Cloncagh, in the barony of Connello Upper, in the county of Limerick.

It was in Ulster, however, that his religious foundations were most numerous. Thus, we meet his churches at Rossinver, in the extreme north of the county Leitrim, where he is still venerated as patron ; at Caille-bega, now Killybeg, in the parish of Inishmacsaint, in the county Fermanagh, where the miraculous stone called " leac moedoc" was kept; and at Team-pull-an-phuirt, now Templeport, which gives name to a parish in the north-west of the county Cavan. It was in this parish that the Saint was born, and a little to the south of his birthplace is Templeport lake, where a small island still bears the name " St. Mogue's island," and presents the ruins of his ancient church. The most important of the Ulster churches founded by St. Aidan was that of Druim-Leathain, now Drumlane, a parish in the north of the county Cavan, which still venerates St. Moedoc as its patron, and where the shrine Breac Moedoc, which we described above, was formerly preserved. The ruins of the monastery, round tower, and church stand on the shore of Lough Oughter, near the village of Milltown, about three miles south-west from Belturbet…

Colgan, having mentioned these churches in which the saint is honoured, adds: " It is not merely, however, in the above churches that this most holy man is invoked as patron, but, moreover, the diocese of Menevia in Britain, the whole territory of the Hy-Kinselagh in Leinster, and the two Breffnies [in Ulster] celebrate his festival as a solemn feast, and venerate him as their tutelar patron."

The memory of St. Aidan, indeed, is still vividly preserved in Menevia. John of Teignmouth, and his copyist, Capgrave, conclude their notice of St. Aidan with the words : " This holy man is named Aidanus in the Life of St. David, but in his own Life, Aidus : and at Menevia, in the Church of St. David, he is called Moedok, which is an Irish name ; and his festival is observed with great veneration at that place."

In Pembrokeshire St. Aidan is also honoured as the founder of Llanhuadain or Llawhaden ; and the churches of Nolton and West Haroldston are also ascribed to him under the name of Madog. His feast is marked as in Ireland on the 31st of January.

As regards Scotland, Dr. Reeves gives from the Statistical Accounts and other ancient records the following list of the churches which are there dedicated to him: " First, Kilmadock, a large parish in Menteith, in the south of Perthshire, north-west of Stirling : the name is believed to signify the chapel of St. Madock, Madocus, or Modocns, one of the Culdees (thus the New Statistical Account of Scotland, vol x., page 1224). Second, St. Madoes, a very small parish in the Carse of Gowrie, south-east of Perth. The name is written in early records St. Madois, and is commonly called Semmiedores in the district where are ' The stannin' stanes o' Semmiedores.' There is an ancient monument here, called the St. Madoes Stone, of which a drawing is given in the ' Sculptured Stones of Scotland.' The writer in the New Statistical Account rightly conjectures that the parish is called from the patron saint of Kilmadock, but errs greatly in styling him a ' Gallic missionary.' Third, Balmadies, an estate in the south-east end of the parish of Rescobie, in Forfarshire : the cemetery is at Chapeltown."

There seems to me, however, to be some room for doubting whether all these Scottish foundations are to be referred to the holy Patron of Ferns. In the Felire of Aengus, another Irish saint, called Moedoc, is commemorated on the 23rd of March, who, as his characteristic epithet, receives the title of the " crown of Scotland":

" The assemblative daughter (i.e., St. Ciannait), with the immense host
Of Feradach, the admirable :
From Christ received his dignity,
Momoedoc the crown of Alba."

This St. Moedoc, in the Martyrology of Tallaght, is said to be from Fedh-duin, in the south of Ossory; and it is quite possible that some of the above-mentioned Scottish churches may have derived their name from him.

The death of St. Aidan is generally placed by our antiquaries, as Ussher, Colgan, Lanigan, &c., in the year 632. Ware adopts the same opinion : " Edan (he thus writes), exercised his pastoral functions about 50 years, and having founded many churches and wrought great miracles, was removed by a happy death unto Christ, on the 3ist of January, 632, which day is kept sacred to his memory, and was buried in his own church of Ferns." However, the Annals of the Four Masters expressly record his death in the year 624, ., 625 of our modern computation : " St. Maedhog, Bishop of Ferns, died on the 3ist of January." The Martyrology of Donegal gives the same date : " A.D. 624, was the date when he resigned his spirit to heaven." The Chronicon Scotorum also, at 625, gives the entry : "Maedhog of Ferna quievit," but by a singular mistake repeats the same entry under the year 656.

In the ancient "Catalogue of the Order of the Saints of Ireland," St. Aidan is reckoned in the third class, among those who '" loved to dwell in desert places, lived on herbs and water, and the alms of the faithful, despised all earthly things, and wholly abstained from all murmuring and detraction."

The name of St. Aidan appears in several of the Continental martyrologies. Thus, in the Carthusian Martyrology of Cologne, at the 3ist January, "on this day, the Feast of St. Aidan, Bishop and Confessor:" and Ferrarius, on the same day, " in Scotia, the Festival of St. Medoth, Bishop and Cele-De." Adam King, in his Scottish Calendar, whilst ante-dating our Saint by three hundred years, in accordance with the prejudices of the antiquated Scottish historians, commemorates his festival on the 3ist of January : " St. Modoche Bishop in Scotland, under Crathlinthus, King, A.D. 328."

Dempster follows in the same track, but calls our Saint by the name of Medoth. Camerarius, and the Martryology of Aberdeen, also notice our Saint, on the 3 1st of January, as honoured at Kilmadok, in Scotland. The Breviary of Aberdeen, on the same day, mentions, " St. Modoc, a renowned Bishop and Confessor, venerated at Kilmodok," and gives the following short collect for his festival: " Vouchsafe, O Almighty God, to quicken Thy people with the light of Thy glory, and through the gracious intercession of Thy Confessor and Bishop, Modoc, for Thy people, grant them, with glory, to behold Thy true and neverfailing light in the eternal habitations: through Christ our Lord." In the Roman and British Martyrology, we also read on the 31st January: "St. Aidan, Abbot and Bishop of Ferns, in Leinster ; a child of prayer, and trained from youth by St. David, in Menevia, in monastic discipline and Christian perfection. He founded several churches and monasteries in Ireland, and imparted to countless souls the lessons he had learned from so excellent a master."

All the Irish Martyrologies commemorate St. Aidan on the 31st of January. I have already more than once referred to the entry in the Martyrology of Donegal. The Martyrology of Christ's Church, edited by Dr. Todd, has, on the same day, "Eodem die, Sancti Edani Epjscopi." Fitzsimon, in his Catalogue of the Chief Saints in Ireland, gives " S. Medogus, qui etiam Edanus dicitur." Marianus O'Gorman, in his MS. Metrical Calendar, at the 31st of January, writes:

" The end of the month to Maedhoc,
To my fair Mochumma a co-share
O all ye saints of January,
Come to the sustaining of our souls."

In the Felire of St. Oengus we read on the same day :

" Name Aedh the powerful, of Ferna,
Maelanfaid, a name before us ;
They give with very great Brigh,
A bright summit to the host of January."

And in the Leabhar Breac the following gloss is added : " Aedh, i.e., Moaedhog, i.e., Mo-aedh-og, i.e., my young Aedh : he was of the men of Lurg, of Loch Erne, i.e., Moaedhoc, son of Setna, son of Ere, son of Feradach, son of Fiachra, son of Amhalgaid, son of Muiredhach, son of Carthaind, son of Colla- Uais."

The Martyrology of Donegal ends its notice of St. Aidan with the remark that : " A very old vellum book, in which are found the Martyrology of Tallaght and many other matters which relate to the Saints of Ireland, states that Maedhog of Ferns, in habits and life, was like unto Cornelius the Pope."

…We have already described the Breac Moedoc, or Shrine of St. Aidan, which was guarded with religious love in the church of Drumlane. It, however, is not the only memorial of St. Aidan that popular veneration has carefully preserved through centuries of peril and persecution to our own times. The Clog Mogue, or Bell of St. Moedog, with fragments of its ancient shrine, was purchased some years ago by the late Protestant Primate from an old man named Kelleher, and in 1863, was exhibited at the Royal Irish Academy. The Magoverans had long been the erenachs at Templeport, and the faithful hereditary keepers of this bell. The daughter of the last of that branch of the family was married to Kelleher, who, when the times became bad, overcome by poverty, sold it for a trifle. Even within the memory of the present generation, an oath taken on it was regarded as most sacred, so deep was the veneration of our people for every memorial of our early saints. The hereditary keepers of this bell lived among the Slieve-an-Eirin mountains in the county Cavan, between Templeport and Fenagh. It was, probably, the mere neighbourhood of these two towns that gave rise to the popular tradition, that the bell thus venerated was a gift of St. Kilian (or Caillin, as he is sometimes called), the founder of Fenagh, to St. Aidan, the founder of Templeport. To judge from the ancient life of our Saint, we should rather suppose it to be the bell received by our Saint from St. David in Menevia, the same, perhaps, to which Dymma owed his conversion at the time when St. Aidan first approached the coast of Wexford. This venerable relic is of iron, but its case is of copper, ornamented with silver-plated bands, and on its front were two small figures, also plated with silver, one of which still remains: it represents an ecclesiastic, who clasps a book to his breast, and was probably intended to designate St. Aidan. The whole is now so decayed and mutilated that but little remains to show forth the richness and ornamentation of the original shrine.

Though the Danes more than once plundered the monastery and church of Ferns, still the relics of St. Aidan seem to have remained undisturbed. When the church was last repaired, in 1817, his tomb was enclosed in a recess of the wall, and the following inscription was placed on it:

" Under this monument
are interred the remains of
commonly called St. Mogue,
the founder of this Cathedral,
and first Bishop of Ferns.
He discharged the duties of the Pastoral Office
with piety and Xtian. zeal
for the space of fifty years,
and died in an advanced age,
January 31st, A.D. 632."'

Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol 7 (1871), 312; 361, 393.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Saint Cronan the Priest, January 30

January 30 is the commemoration of a Saint Cronan, who is recorded in the calendars as having been a priest. Nothing else is known of him, as Canon O' Hanlon explains:

St. Cronan, a Priest.

The name of Cronan, also designated as a Priest, is found in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this day. We are not informed as to his domicile, but he probably flourished before  the tenth century. We read, likewise, in the Martyrology of Donegal, regarding Cronan as having a festival, on this day.

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Friday 29 January 2016

Saint Mocheanna, January 29

January 29 is the feast of the wonderful Saint Blath, cook to Saint Brigid of Kildare. It's a day she shares with another Irish holy woman, this one rather more obscure, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Mocheanna, or Mac Conna, Virgin. 

Watchful and untiring in their duty, holy virgins are as the Apostle desired, not children of darkness, but children of the light and of the day, sober and sleepless. We read of Mocheanna, a virgin, having a festival at this date, according to the Martyrology of Donegal. In the published Martyrology of Tallagh, as in the Franciscan copy, her name is simply entered as Mac Conna. Notwithstanding the apparently incorrect way of spelling the name in this latter record, I cannot doubt but it represents Mocheanna.

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Thursday 28 January 2016

Saint Aedhlugh of Aird or Eridh-Cassain, January 28

The name of another otherwise obscure Irish holy man is recorded in the Irish calendars at January 28 - Saint Aedhlugh of Aird or Eridh-Cassain. Canon O'Hanlon simply records:
St. Aedhlugh of Aird or Eridh-Cassain. 

We find registered in the published and in the unpublished Martyrology of Tallagh, as also in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day, an Aedhlugh, of Aird or of Eridh Cassain.

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Wednesday 27 January 2016

St Noe of Finglas, January 27

January 27 is the commemoration of a County Dublin saint, Noe of Finglas. In a paper entitled 'Finglas' read to the Old Dublin Society on October 13, 1971, Michael J Tutty summarised the early history of the locality and its associated saints :
It was from the heights of Finglas, tradition tells us that, that St. Patrick looking down on the small settlement variously known as Baile Atha Cliath or Dubh Linn, prophesised that it would one day be a great city, that it would be the capital of Ireland. St. Patrick apparently, did not set up a church at Finglas but a well associated with his name was venerated in the area for centuries and was even "adopted" by an eighteenth century quack who endeavoured to capitalise on the reputed healing powers of its waters. Finglas was the site of a Celtic abbey which has been associated with Saint Canice, Feast October 11th, and who is more particularly associated with Kilkenny.  The saint studied at the famous school conducted by Saint Moibhí on the banks of the Polka river at nearby Glasnevin and which flourished in the 6th and 7th centuries. Little is known of this Celtic foundation at Finglas beyond the recording of the names of no less than five saints associated with it: Saint Flann (f. January 21), St Noe (f. January 27), St Dubhlitir (f. May 15), and St. Faelchu (f. September 24). St Dubhlitir is said to have been abbot of Finglas being succeeded by Flann who is recorded as having been a bishop,  a scribe and an anchorite. It is probable that the abbey at Finglas ceased to exist during the reign of the norsemen by whom it was plundered.  
The name is derived from the Irish Fionn Glass meaning a clear stream, from the rivulet which runs through the one-time village and joins the Polka at Finglas Bridge .........

Michael J. Tutty 'Finglas' in Dublin Historical Record Vol. 26, No. 2 (Mar., 1973), pp. 66-73.

Thus it seems that we have no further information about our saint's career, even though at one time Finglas was a sufficiently important monastic foundation to have the deaths of at least some of its abbots noted in the Irish Annals. Canon O'Hanlon has but a couple of lines to contribute, I will only add that the information about Saint Noe's burial in the old cemetery is derived from the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan:

St. Noe, of Finglas, County of Dublin.

In the Martyrologies of Tallagh and Donegal, we find entered on this day, Noe of Finnghlais. This village lies about two miles north of Dublin city. In that ancient cemetery adjoining his remains probably rest, and in some unnoted grave.

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Monday 25 January 2016

Translation of the Relics of Saint Brigid to Lisbon, January 25

January 25 marks the anniversary of the Translation of the Relics of Saint Brigid, in this case her head, to the Portuguese capital in 1588. Canon O'Hanlon points out that another Portuguese church claimed to be in possession of the head of Saint Brigid three hundred years earlier. You can read his account in full at my other site here.

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Sunday 24 January 2016

Saint Baodán of Mostrim, January 24

Although his name comes first in the entries for native saints in the Martyrology of Tallaght at January 24, Saint Baodán (Batan, Buatan), is an obscure figure. Canon O'Hanlon's account below seeks, unconvincingly it seems to me, to establish some Patrician credentials for him. Professor Ó Riain records in his Dictionary of Irish Saints that the name of the saint's locality, corrupted in the later calendars, was to be found in County Longford:

St. Batan or Buatan of Methuis Truim or Eathais-Cruimm. 

We read, in the Martyrology of Tallaght,  that veneration was paid to Batan Methais Truim on the 24th of January. But there may have been some mistake in the foregoing entry: it differs materially from that of Buatan, of Eathais-Cruimm, as recorded in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day. There are many legends referring to St. Patrick in Jocelyn's life of him, and which seem to be strung together with little regard even to chronological order. It is probable, the followiiig has been intended to refer to the apostolic man's first visit to the western province :—St. Patrick, being about to pass the Shannon, a deep and rapid river, that runs between Meath and Connaught, could not get a boat to ferry him over. He prayed, therefore, to God for help. The earth, it is stated, arose so high in the river, that it afforded a dry passage to the saint and to all his company. This may be accounted for, however, by his selecting a place for passage that was fordable. The saint thought- it expedient for the advancement of religion to build a church on the banks of the Shannon, and where his charioteer was buried. It afterwards belonged to Armagh, says Jocelyn. But the Tripartite Life relates more fully, that this see claimed jurisdiction over the church, called Lill-Buadhmaoil, after one of St. Patrick's servants, named Buadmael, who died and was buried in that place, also near the River Shannon. He is enumerated among the disciples of St. Benignus. Nor could Colgan find anything more about him, only that in reference to a supposed saint, bearing this name, he throws out a loose conjecture.

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Saturday 23 January 2016

Saint Lucán of Tamhnach, January 23

On January 23 the Irish calendars commemorate Saint Lucán of Tamhnach. The problem appears to be in identifying whether the locality associated with the holy man lies in the lakeland county of Fermanagh, or in County Dublin. Canon O'Hanlon's account though starts off by saying that the place name Tamhnach is not a common one in Leinster and is illustrated by Wakeman's sketch of the Fermanagh site:

St. Lucain or Lucan of Tamhnach, or Tawny. 

In reference to the etymological meaning of this saint's place, we are told, that Tamhnach (Tawnagh) signifies a green field, which produces fresh, sweet grass. This word enters very generally into names in Ulster and Connaught, especially in the mountainous districts; it is found occasionally, though seldom, in Leinster, and still more seldom in Munster. In modern names it usually appears as Tawnagh, Tawny, and Tonagh, which are themselves the names of several places. In the north of Ulster the aspirated m is often restored, and the word then becomes Tamnagh and Tamny. In composition it takes all the prreceding forms, as well as Tawna and Tamna. We find, according to the Martyrology of Donegal, that Lucán of Tamhnach, was venerated on this day. And in the Martyrology of Tallagh, we meet a nearly similar entry, on the 23rd of January. The Irish form of his place, is Anglicized, Tawny. There is a Tamhach-an-reata, now Tawny—said to be in the parish of Derryvullan, barony of Tirkennedy and county of Fermanagh. Not far removed from this, on the townland of Derryvullan, in a parish bearing this same name, is represented a "holy well," beside the modern Protestant church, and close to Tamlacht Bay, on the River Erne. In Tamlacht, belonging to this parish, there is an ancient church, and "St Patrick's well," which flows beside a gigantic tree. There is likewise a parish, called Taney or Tawney, in the half-barony of Rathdown, and county of Dublin. Here the old church-site and cemetery may be seen delightfully situated on a green knoll, near the railway station at Dundrum. Prior to 1152, it is said, this was a rural see. St. Laurence O'Toole, in 1178, confirmed  its possessions to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, under the title of  "Churchtown with the Grange of Clonskene." It does not seem an easy  matter to determine the site of this saint's church nor his period.

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Friday 22 January 2016

Saint Amhalghaidh, January 22

Another of the many obscure Irish saints, known only from the recording of his name in the calendars, is commemorated on January 22. Canon O'Hanlon brings us the name of Saint Amhalghaidh, regretting that there are no further details to be had:

St. Umhalghaid or Amhalghaidh.

We have nothing more distinctive than the mere entry of this saint's name in our calendars.  In the Martyrology of Tallagh, he has been denominated Umhalghaid. Amhalghaidh is mentioned in the Martyrology of Donegal as having a festival at this date. In the table postfixed to this Martyrology, his name has been Latinised Amalgythus.

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Thursday 21 January 2016

Saint Seighin of Cill-Seighin, January 21

The Irish calendars at January 21 record the name of Saint Seighin along with the church that bears his name. Canon O'Hanlon's account below illustrates the many difficulties in trying to narrow down exactly who this saint was and when and where he may have flourished. In the end, although he gives it his best shot, the case remains open. I note that the official place names website  renders the County Limerick townland of Killshane promoted by O'Hanlon as Cill Sheáin, the church of Seán, and makes no mention of our saint. The abbey there was a twelfth-century foundation, being a daughter-house of the Cistercian Abbey at Corcomroe, County Galway. There was also a Franciscan friary which, according to the Limerick Diocesan Heritage Project, was dedicated to Saint John of the Third Order of Saint Francis. Might this dedication explain the name Cill Sheáin rather than the name  of our early saint?

St. Seighin, of Cill-Seighin.

[Possibly in the Fifth Century]

The unknown workers for God's kingdom in our early Christian history are not the less interesting, as subjects for investigation; but it is to be lamented, in the words of an estimable and a talented ecclesiastic, that while we are taught at school the histories of Rome, Greece, and England, the history of Ireland is altogether ignored. This is more especially the case with regard to our Irish ecclesiastical history; and although it may seem a paradox to conceited or half-educated historical students, yet it is an unquestionable fact, that the histories, not only of the first-named countries, but of most nations in the world, require a vast amount of illustration, which can only be developed by bringing fully to light, and from comparative obscurity, what is still quite possible to be cleared up from hitherto unpublished Irish records. At the 21st of January, Segain Cille Segain is found in the Martyrology of Tallaght. Again do we meet Seighin, of Cill Seighin, entered in the Martyrology of Donegal for this day. A great difficulty exists in identifying this holy man and his place. Colgan hazards a conjecture, that he may be that Siggeus who is classed among the disciples of St. Patrick.  Colgan, however, suggests the possibility of the proper reading being Sigenus. There was a Kilshanny, alias Kilsonna, a religious establishment in the barony of Corcunroe, in the county of Clare and again there were religious institutes at Kilshane, in the county of Limerick. This latter place seems more euphonic with the present saint's name, and with that of his church, than the denominations, Kilshesnan of Mayo County, Kilteashin of Roscommon County, or Kilshanny, alias Kilsonna, of Clare County. An old church and graveyard are in the town of Ballingarry, county of Limerick, and separated from the modern Protestant church by a stone wall. Traces of the foundations are only visible at present, the gable having fallen about  1810. But on the townland of Killshane, near Ballingarry, are the ruins of an abbey, within a disused graveyard. The abbey consisted of nave and choir, separated by a tower about 60 feet in height. The choir was 33 and a half feet long, by 18 feet 8 inches in breadth. The nave was 39 feet in length by 19 feet 11 inches in width. A square tower springs from two pointed arches, about 15 feet high, 7 feet in width, and 3and a half feet in thickness: these arches are 4 and a half feet from each other. The whole building was in a very ruinous condition in 1840. It seems possible enough that Kilshane townland had been formerly more extensive, and it may have taken in the present site of the parish church at Ballingarry.

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Wednesday 20 January 2016

St Fechin of Fore and His Monastery

Below is an extract from a paper read to the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland by a 19th-century Anglican writer, the Reverend George Stokes. Although this 1892 work examines the life of St Fechin and the remains of his monastery, I have omitted the archaeological details. Stokes brings an interesting perspective as he gives a glimpse into contemporary attitudes, particularly in his reference to 'romantic Irish notions' versus 'hard English facts'. Unlike Canon O'Hanlon, the Reverend Stokes has to convince his audience of the value of studying the miracle-laden life of Saint Fechin and I think he does this with good humour as well as good scholarship. In an era which was often marked by ill-tempered sectarian exchanges he pays a generous tribute to the Catholic hagiologists Friars Colgan and Mac Graidin. I also enjoyed the way in which he attributed the dissolution of the monasteries to the 'sixteenth century' sweeping over the land rather than to the Reformation! And the paper is worth reading alone for the wonderful story of the Anglo-Norman upstart who fails to show the proper respect for the native spiritual tradition and gets his comeuppance from St Fechin. It comes at the very end of the paper and I can't help wondering what the Anglo-Irish Establishment worthies who comprised Stokes' audience would have made of it.

St Fechin of Fore and His Monastery

by Rev. G.T. Stokes, D.D., Member of Council

I have undertaken to give the Society a sketch of St. Fechin of Fore and the existing remains of his monastery in the county of Westmeath, because it seems to me that this sketch will effect two purposes — (1) it will show the exceeding value of a great work far too much neglected by Irish students of their own past, history, I mean Colgan's "Acts of the Ancient Irish Saints"; and then — (2) because it will show the vast importance of going and seeing personally the places where these ancient worthies lived and the remains of their buildings which have survived the wreck of ages. Now first let me tell who Colgan was. He was an Irishman, a Franciscan monk, who lived at Louvain, in the middle of the seventeenth century, about the time of Charles I. But though he lived in Belgium, he had spent all his early life in Ireland, for he was born in the county Donegal, and knew this country thoroughly, so thoroughly in fact that his testimony is even still of the greatest value concerning the geographical details, the names and places and traditions of this island about the year 1600. Let us reflect on the importance of this fact. Here we have a native scholar acquainted with all the literature of this country who lived before vast quantities thereof had perished, and who stood at a point of time when Ireland was practically in exactly the same condition as it was five hundred years before, as far as the social conditions of the country were concerned. The sixteenth century had indeed swept over the land and nominally dissolved the monasteries and the monastic bodies, but still here and there, even in the neighbourhood of great English fortresses like Athlone, the monasteries remained and were inhabited, so that scholar still worked in tho Franciscan monastery at Athlone and produced there the translation of the Chronicle of Clonmacnois now in T.C.D., and at the monastery of Donegal the Four Masters were engaged in their great task of preserving in the folios of their vast tomes the ancient annals of this country. Colgan had a wonderful store of literary material at his command, as we shall see from his account of St. Fechin. Now let me begin by telling you the story of this ancient Irish worthy. Fechin of Fore was a native of the county Sligo, and was born some time about the year 600.

Some sceptic may, however, hero come forward and demand, how do you know that any such man ever existed? Is not his life and career only a piece of that Irish romance of which you are always boasting, bearing no comparison at all as to truth and reality with the solid facts of which English history is composed? Some such calm assumptions we at times hear from our English friends, and sometimes too from certain Irish friends, who in this respect are often more English than the English themselves. Well, we can produce most satisfactory testimony on this point. St. Fechin's existence and career and history are as certain as the existence of Bede or Augustine of Canterbury. Let me give a few authorities. Let us begin with Archbishop Ussher. He prints in the sixth volume of his works, as edited by Elrington, p. 477, an ancient catalogue of Irish saints extending from the year 433, and ending with 664. This ancient catalogue divided the Irish saints into three orders; the first which come with St. Patrick or belonged to his time; the second which belonged to the time of St. Columba. St. Jarleth of Tuam, and St. Kieran of Clonmacnois, or broadly the sixth-century saints; and lastly the third order which belonged to the seventh century, including among them Ultan of Ardbraccan, who was a bishop, and Fechin of Fore, Aileran of Clonard, St. Cronan, and many others who were presbyters. Ussher docs not find the slightest difficulty then in accepting the real existence of St. Fechin as proved by this ancient catalogue which in Usher's time was at least five hundred years old.

Next let us take up Giraldus Cambrensis, a writer who visited Ireland and inspected its antiquities in the reign of Henry II., as the appointed friend and guardian of the young Prince John. And here I may remark that it is scarcely creditable to us that so few Irishmen or even Irish students of archaeology have read or even possess the works of Giraldus Cambrensis on Ireland, seeing that they can be had in English in Bohn's series for the sum of 5s. Giraldus Cambrensis gives us express testimony concerning the existence and history of St. Fechin telling us in the 62nd Chapter of the second distinction of his Topography of Ireland, concerning the mill of St. Fechin which he made at Fore with his own hands, the churches which were sacred to the saint, the prohibition against women entering either the churches or the mill, and the punishment which overtook several of the soldiers of Hugh de Lacy, who having encamped at Fore for the night dared to disregard the laws of the saint and the reverence due to him. This evidence of Giraldus Cambrensis then is twelfth-century testimony showing that when the English came here St. Fechin was a well-known historical character, with his churches and his religious establishment. Now let us take up Colgan, and examine the two lives which he gives us. The first was written about the year 1400 by Augustine Mac Graidin, a celebrated writer of All Saints' Island monastery in Lough Ree, about ten miles from Athlone, and just at the mouth of the river Inny, where it discharges into the Shannon.

All Saints' Island is a beautiful spot, and possesses most interesting remains of Mae Graidin's monastery, and it was with great regret indeed I found that we were obliged on our excursion to Lough Ree, in the summer of 1890, to turn back without visiting it. Believe one who has tried it, you cannot find a more interesting spot than this ancient monastery where five hundred years ago Augustine Mac Graidin wrote the life of St. Fechin which Colgan has reprinted for us. Mac Graidin himself, too, forms a most interesting personality. He was a diligent student and a copious writer, some remains and manuscripts of whom still survive in Trinity College among the Ussher MSS. What a pity some member of our society does not take up his history and literary remains and distinguish himself by producing a monograph on the subject. Augustine Mac Graidin doubtless felt a local interest in Fechin as a Meath or Weatmeath saint. Fechin's monastery of Fore stands beside the river Glore, which river, according to legend, has a miraculous connexion with the monastery, as I shall hereafter show. The Glore falls into the Inny, and the waters of the Inny are within sight of the monastery of All Saints. But Colgan gives us still more ancient testimony than Mac Graidin. He tells us he had a number of ancient lives of the saint in the Irish language. One of these he had derived from a monastery founded by St. Fechin himself in an island off the Galway coast, and these Lives had originally been composed by St. Aileron of Clonard, or at any rate by some other contemporary of our saint. Out of these ancient Irish Manuscripts Colgan composed what is called the second Life of St. Fechin. It is, however, only Colgan's extracts in Latin out of the Celtic Manuscripts. If these ancient Irish lives still exist among the Franciscan records, either here or in Rome or among the Manuscripts of the Bollandists in Brussels, they would form if published a very precious record of religious life in Ireland more than 1300 years ago. And then to crown the matter of our somewhat prolonged investigation, we have the express statement of the "Annals of the Four Masters," that St. Fechin died in the great plague which swept over Ireland in the years 664 and 665, carrying off many of its most distinguished and most learned sons. I trust now that you can see we have even contemporary evidence of the life and work of St. Fechin just as good and sound as that which men have for the lives and work of English or Welsh saints of the same period.

Now let me give you a brief sketch of his life, St. Fechin was born in the south-western division of the county Sligo, that portion which now forms the diocese of Achonry, about the year 600. He came, like St. Columba, of a distinguished chieftain's family, and from an early period devoted himself to an ascetic and anchorite life. He soon became a founder of religious establishments which extended all over the central districts of Ireland. He founded the Abbey of Ballysadare in Sligo, which was called Termon Fechin, and he or some of his disciples founded the monastery of Termon Fechin, near Drogheda, which from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries became the favourite residence of the Primates of Armagh. He established island monasteries on islets lining the Galway coast, where he was the first man to preach the Gospel, and baptize the inhabitants, showing us, as his earliest Lives do, that Paganism prevailed in the extreme west of this country, even after St. Columba had converted the Highlanders of Scotland. These monasteries continued in the islands of Ardoilen and Immagia till the time of Colgan, and from them Colgan obtained the most ancient manuscripts connected with our saint's life. His labours seem to have dealt principally with a district of country extending from Dublin to Galway, or rather to Cong and Clifden, or broadly speaking the district now served by the Midland Great Western Railway. A careful study of his Lives is most interesting, as throwing light upon the social condition of this central portion of Ireland in the seventh century. We find him at Gort, for instance, in Galway, and Lough Cutra, a lake now included in Lord Gough's demesne. We find him again and again at Naas, in the county Kildare. We get again and again glimpses of the social life of the common people as well as of the chiefs; and we have most interesting information about the residence of the King of Leinster, near Naas, and about the rath of Naas, and the great cross which down to the seventeenth century used to mark the site of its church and sanctuary. We find him again at Poulaphouca, or else at the Salmon Leap, concerning which an interesting story is told, illustrating the intense devotion of St. Fechin, and then above all we find him at Fore, in Westmeath, where the very buildings he erected 1200 years ago can still be seen....

[account of the monastery and its subsequent history follows]

...And then lastly, there is the thirteenth-century monastery, either of the Benedictines or Cistercians, built by the Nugents after the Anglo-Norman Conquest. This is a fine specimen of Norman architecture, and embodies very different notions, and a very different state of civilization from St. Fechin's Church. It is very clear that the English builders wanted to have nothing to say or do with St. Fechin, save on one point, and that was, his lands and tithes and possessions, of which they completely possessed themselves. They built their monastery at quite the opposite side of the town from that where his monastery stood. They cleared out the ancient Celtic monks, and scoffed at their ancient history. Augustine Mac Graidin tells us in his Life of St. Fechin a curious story which illustrates the bitter hostility with which the new invaders regarded the ancient Celtic saints. You will find the story in the 18th chapter of Colgan's first Life. I give you a literal translation of it : —

" It happened in the territory of St. Fechin, after the invasion of Ireland by the English, that a certain Englishman was vicar of St. Fechin's Church. This man, detesting the Irish people, was accustomed to abuse St. Fechin, the patron of his church, with special contumely. But on a certain day when he entered the Church of St, Fechin, and knelt before the altar, a tall cleric approached to him. His body was emaciated, his appearance terrible, his face red with auger. The unknown rushed at the vicar as at a blasphemer, and struck him violently upon the chest with the staff he held in his hand. The vicar, astonished by his appearance, and sick on account of the intolerable blow, at once returned home, declaring that his assailant was St. Fechin whom he had abused and derided. As soon as he got to his house he took to his bed, and died in three days.'" And St. Fechin, you will observe, did not revive the blaspheming Englishman, which ought to be a warning to all, not only Englishmen, but Irishmen who scoff at their own country, its history, its scenery, or its antiquities; and with this healthful, useful, and timely lesson, I shall now conclude a Paper which has been unduly prolonged, but which will, I hope, lead many to make a personal acquaintance with a district of Ireland far too much neglected.

Rev. G.T, Stokes, 'St Fechin of Fore and His Monastery', Journal of The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol.II, Pt.1, 5th series, (1892), 1-12.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Saint Dunchadh Ua Brain of Clonmacnoise, January 19

January 19 is an alternative feast day for Saint Dunchadh Ua Braoin, a tenth-century Abbot of Clonmacnoise, whose death whilst on pilgrimage in Armagh was recorded in the Irish Annals. The date of his repose and thus of his feast day is given as January 19 in Pádraig Ó Riain's 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints, but Canon O'Hanlon is convinced that the date should be January 16:

Reputed Festival of St. Duncadh Ua Brain, Abbot of Clonmacnoise, Anchorite, and Pilgrim. 

[Tenth Century]  

It is more than probable, at the 16th day of this month, the Natalis of this holy man was observed.  But in a table, post-fixed to the Martyrology of Donegal, as published by Drs. Todd and Reeves, a commentator on the original MS. has inserted within brackets, and in its proper alphabetical place, the following entry, thus rendered into English: [" Duncadh Ua Brain died 19th Jan., 970; according to the Hagiogenesis he was of the race of Maine, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages."] We may therefore take it for granted, this holy anchorite was venerated as a saint by all who knew him.

Note: Canon O'Hanlon's much fuller account of the saint from January 16 can be read here.

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Monday 18 January 2016

Saint Coppa, January 18

A female saint with possible Patrician associations is commemorated on January 18. Canon O'Hanlon records the speculation of the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Friar John Colgan, that Saint Coppa may have been associated with the church of Elphin and was one of those whom he listed as having received the veil from Saint Patrick:

St. Coppa or Cobba, Virgin, Daughter of Baedan.

[Possibly in the Fifth Century.] 

The silence of history has obscured many a career, which if better known must command the respect of the good. A festival in honour of Cobba, daughter to Baetan, is recorded in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 18th of January. Nor do we find further notices of her in the later calendars. Coppa, virgin, and a daughter of Baedan, is entered in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day of the month. In the acts of St. Patrick, it is said he left a Cipia, the mother of Bishop Bite, at the church of Elphin. Colgan seems to doubt whether this holy woman—whom he classed among those veiled by St. Patrick—was not identical with the present St. Coppa or Cobba.

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Sunday 17 January 2016

Saint Mica, January 17

We have the name of another of our obscure Irish female saints recorded on the calendars at January 17. The name and feast day of Saint Mica are the only details known, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Mica or Micca, Virgin. 

Added in a more recent hand, and traced in Roman characters, on the authority of the Martyrology and on that of Marianus O'Gorman, we find the name of a St. Mica or Micca, virgin, set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day. A nearly similar entry occurs in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 17th of January, as also in the unpublished one. More we cannot find regarding this holy virgin.

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Saturday 16 January 2016

Saint Fursey of Péronne, January 16

January 16 is the commemoration of one of the most important of the Irish missionary saints, Fursey of Péronne . His was a multi-faceted career and in the paper below, one of a series on Celtic missionary saints, Father W.H. Kirwan gives a stirring account of his life and labours in Ireland, Britain and the Continent. There are various commonplaces of medieval hagiography to be noted, prophecies of the saint's future greatness at the time of his birth, for example, or the means by which his final resting place was decided. The author also touches on the later medieval fame of Saint Fursey which saw him associated with a series of visions and brings us details of some of the miracles attributed to him. So, enjoy the wealth of detail contained here in Father Kirwan's work as he presents a full and well-written account of Saint Fursey of Péronne:

St. Fursey

IN the course of these short studies of the lives and labours of some Celtic Missionary Saints we have up to the present travelled from the northern shores of Ireland, first, to the Western Highlands of Scotland, in the company of St. Columba; and next, through Burgundy and the east of France, through Switzerland and across the Alps as far as the central ridge of Northern Italy, in company with St. Columbanus. The last scene of our journey was the shrine of St. Columbanus in the ancient abbey church of Bobbio, on the pine-clad slopes of the Apennines.

The subject of our present study will take us in another direction, and set before us a different kind of scenery. We must transport ourselves in spirit from the high heights and clear, rarefied atmosphere of the Apennines, and return again to the shores of Ireland; not, however, to the rugged wilds of Donegal, or the bleak cliffs of the northern sea, but to the softer scenery of that low-lying plain by the western ocean that forms the fringe or borderland to Joyce's country and the mountains of Connemara. A considerable part of this plain is occupied by the waters of two extensive lakes, the upper and smaller of the two being ten miles long and over four miles in breadth, whilst the lower and larger lake covers an area of 52,000 acres, and is twenty-seven miles long, varying in breadth from seven to over ten miles, narrowing, however, to a channel at its lower end. The name of the upper and smaller lake is Lough Mask, and of the larger and lower lake Lough Corrib. Towards its upper or northern end Lough Corrib opens out into a vast expanse of water, studded in all directions with small and well-wooded islands. Viewed in the sunlight of a summer's day this part of the lake presents a veritable fairy scene of beauty, full of soothing tints, from the emerald green foliage of the thickly clustered trees reflected in its waters, to the fleecy white clouds moving gently through the soft blue sky above, in an atmosphere that is never without at least some faint suggestion of lingering mist. I have seen no better or truer description of this upper part of Lough Corrib than that given by Miss Margaret Stokes in her work on the Irish Saints. She had ascended a rising ground near the shores of the lake towards evening, and tells us that: —
From this point the view was magical. The silvery lake, streaked with placid blue, lay south of me; while to the west arose the mystic mountain range, upon whose heights the seer may have watched the morning vapour rise, fold by fold, and detach itself in floating forms, like the veiled figures of his heavenly vision. Meanwhile the evening was drawing on: the low marshy lands were slowly changing beneath the pomp of radiant light that glowed upon them as the sun cast down its slanting rays, before it sank along the edges of the hills. Pool after pool was touched with golden light, and the rushes that fringed their borders cast long reflections upon the illumined waters, like eyelashes veiling the liquid depths of some soft human eye. Beyond the low ground the grand masses of the mountains rose in dark violet depths of colour against the crimson and the gold of heaven. From high Ben Levi and the gloomy range above Lough Mask, along Lacamra and Kirkaun to where the distant Hill of Doon melted into the summer sky, the eye travelled on to the low ranges of lar Connaught. In the middle distance the lake changed from blue and silver into liquid gold save where it made a two-fold image of the sweet-wooded islands on its bosom, or the dark lines of the tall reeds beneath which it slept its golden sleep on the shore.

It would, however, require the skill and delicate perception of an artist, or the instinct of a poet, to express adequately the special charm of this scenery so unique in character, and so removed from all other examples of comparison. The scenery which nearest approaches to it in character that I have seen is that of Lake Thrasymene, between Cortona and Perugia in Italy, by whose reedy shores Hannibal defeated the Romans, and on one of whose islands St. Francis of Assisi passed his Lent. Lake Thrasymene, however, has only three islands, whereas those of Lough Corrib can be counted by the hundred, and it is even said— though, I take it, erroneously— to possess an island for every day in the year. It was on one of these islands, in the opening years of the seventh century, that St. Fursey, the subject of this present sketch, was born. The circumstances of his birth partake of a romantic interest. His father's name was Fintan, a son of the King of Munster and, like his father before him, a pagan. It so happened that Fintan went on a visit to the King of Leinster, and at the court of that king he met the Princess Gelges, the king's only daughter, and a fervent Christian. Gelges made use of the opportunity of their intercourse by trying to convert Fintan to Christianity, with the result that not only Fintan became a Christian, but he also fell violently in love with the Princess Gelges; and although her father would not hear of her marriage with Fintan, yet she became in time so enamoured of him, that they both arranged a secret marriage unknown to the king and his courtiers. After a time, however, and when a child was about to be born to Gelges, the king discovered their marriage, and being a man of passionate nature, his fury knew no bounds, and he ordered Gelges to be burnt alive for daring to disobey him.

In spite of the heart-rending tears and supplications of Gelges, and her pleading for the sake of her unborn child the king remained implacable. A fire was prepared, and Gelges was led to be bound to the stake, when, lo! at the very spot where her last tears were falling, a fountain of water suddenly sprang up from the earth, whilst, with equal suddenness, there fell torrents of rain from the heavens with the result that the fire was extinguished, and many of those present were so struck with awe that they were converted to the Christian faith. Gelges, her garments untouched by the fire, was yielded up to Fintan by the king who still, however, remained unconverted, and ordered both Fintan and Gelges to be driven out of his dominions.

Where were the helpless couple to turn at such a crisis in their lives ? Who would harbour and tend Gelges with her yet unborn child? In his anguish of heart and perplexity of mind Fintan bethought him of his saintly uncle, Brendan, who, then well advanced in years, was presiding as over a monastery situated on an island in Lough Corrib, called Inchiquin. Here he had come to rest, and end his days after his many labours, and on his return from much voyaging across the waters of the Atlantic, where he had discovered that western continent, to be known in later ages as America, and which was to be evangelized by so many apostles from his own nation and peopled by so many millions of his own race. Truly had he 'cast his bread upon the waters,' to be returned to him a thousand-fold in many days, and carried the first seed of that which is now a stately tree yielding its fruits for the healing of the nations and states which form the new world of the west.

St. Brendan, then, whose name is in the calendar of  God's Church, and who is styled in history Pater Laboriosus, had founded his monastery on the island in Lough Corrib called Inchiquin, not far from the shore.
I shall never forget [writes Miss Stokes] that delightful ferry and the first sight of the long low island to which St. Brendan retired for rest, after his voyages in search of the New World in the western ocean, after his visit to St. Gildas in Wales, who named him Pater Laboriosus. On this island he retired to die, and close by, at his sister's nunnery at Annaghdown, he breathed his last, within sight of this island. The rising ground encircling the creek is covered with wild wood, the grassy island lies in the middle distance. From its highest point the eye roams over the wide reaches of the lake to the islands of Inchagoill, the wooded Ardilaun, Inismacatreer, and numberless other islands, to the fine amphitheatre of mountains at whose feet Lough Mask and Lough Corrib extend. It was strange to travel back in thought to the time when, 1,300 years ago, this ferry was crossed by students from far and near, seeking the knowledge of letters and religion from Brendan, and Meldan, and Fursa.

St. Brendan, like a true monk, when founding his monastery on Inchiquin, had not been unmindful of the apostolic injunction, 'Forget not hospitality,' and had raised a hospice on the island for the reception of pilgrims and travellers. Here it was, in this hospice, that St. Brendan received his nephew Fintan and his wife upon their arrival, listened to the tale of their sorrows and troubles, and poured consolation into their hearts. The first night of their sojourn on the island a wondrous light was seen shining over the hospice, and that same night Gelges gave birth to a male child, whom St. Brendan baptized, giving him the name of Fursa, which is the Gaelic for Virtue, and which in Latin is Fursaeus, in French Furci, and in its English form Fursey. From this circumstance of the miraculous light that St. Brendan had seen shining over the hospice on the night when Fursey was born, he had a divine presentiment that the child was destined, like the Baptist, to 'go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to enlighten those that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.' Therefore did St. Brendan conceive in his heart a very special predilection for his grand-nephew, and he besought his parents to dedicate the child to the service of God in the monastic state from his infancy.

And so it came about that when, later on, Fintan and Gelges departed from Inchiquin, Fursey was left to be taught and trained by St. Brendan in his island monastery. Thus the child drank in from his infancy the combined monastic and apostolic spirit of St. Brendan, and grew gradually to resemble him also in his strangely restless spirit and attraction for missionary enterprise, which had carried his grand- uncle over the waters of the Atlantic in search of a new world to be gained to Christ. So Fursey grew up in the monastery under the tuition of St. Brendan, till the time came when he was old enough to stand alone. When that time arrived his saintly master had passed away from this world, whilst on a visit to his sister, St. Briga, at her monastery, which he had built for her at Annaghdown, which lies only a short distance to the south from Inchiquin.

Meanwhile Fintan and Gelges, St. Fursey's father and mother, had made their home on rising ground not far from the eastern shore of Lough Corrib, at a place known even to this day as Ard Fintain, and where some remnants of an ancient rath or fortification can still be traced. Here two sons were born to them, Foillan and Ultan. Both these younger brothers of St. Fursey joined him later on at Inchiquin, and entered the monastic state. St. Fursey who, after the death of St. Brendan, succeeded him, spent some years in training his disciples on his island home, until he felt called to make a new foundation of his own on the mainland. At a short distance from the small town of Headford may still be seen, surrounded by a graveyard, the ancient and venerable ruin of Killursa, a corruption of Killfursa, 'Church of Fursa or Fursey.' The western end of the little ruined church is undoubtedly not later than the beginning of the seventh century. The west door is a fine example of the primitive Celtic way of building, and is quite Egyptian in its austere simplicity. Anyone who has visited the island of Inchagoill out in the middle of Lough Corrib would not fail to be struck with the resemblance between this building and the two small ruined churches on that island; and archaeologists are agreed in attributing the more ancient of the two to the fifth century, and it has been handed down by an unbroken tradition that it was built by St. Patrick near the tomb of his nephew, and has always been known as 'Temple Padraig.'

The fame of the sanctity of St. Fursey had now been widely spread, and large numbers came to join him at his new monastery, to become his disciples. Hither also there followed him his two brothers, Foillan and Ultan. It was here at Killursa that St. Fursey had those world-famed visions which were destined to have such far-reaching influence on the religious thought, not only of his own age, but on the whole course of medieval religious thought. Some writers have even gone so far as to attribute to these visions of St. Fursey the entire formation of the theology of the Middle Ages concerning the state of souls after death; but that, of course, is a gross exaggeration, although their influence can certainly be traced in the popular conception and artistic expression of that portion of Catholic eschatology. No doubt the fact of the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, St. Bede, having embodied in his ecclesiastical history an account of these visions is largely responsible for their widespread popularity. St. Bede, to judge by the way in which he narrates them, would seem to have believed in the objective reality of the visions of St. Fursey. It is, however, quite outside the purpose of this short sketch to enter into any discussion of such a delicate psychological and difficult theological question as that of the relative objective and subjective elements in the visions of the saints. Suffice it to say that they are not matters of Divine Faith, and can claim only from us a natural human belief, and the reasonable reverence and respect due to them as the experiences of souls living in close union with God. This attitude of mind towards them is insisted upon by the Church in the well-known decree concerning this subject of Pope Urban VIII.

A significant fact, however, worth bearing in mind is, that certain modern students of the Divina Comedia, both in Germany and in France, as well as in Italy, are of opinion that the visions of St. Fursey furnished Dante with some of the chief sources of his immortal epic. There are, moreover, some beautiful passages in these visions which convey to our minds the fundamental principles of the spiritual life in language which reminds us of Thomas a Kempis and of the spiritual writers of later ages. For instance, St. Fursey, whilst raised from the earth in ecstasy, sees the souls of St. Meldan and of St. Beoan, who had preceded him into the next world, in the glory of heaven, and hears words from each of them of instruction and warning. St. Meldan says to him: ‘What dost thou fear? Thy journey is but for a day; go forth and preach to all that the day is at hand, that the judgment is nigh; urge the teachers in the Church of Christ to provoke the souls of the faithful to the sorrow of repentance, and to bring them back to health by feeding on the sacred Body and Blood.'

St. Beoan says to him: —
Preserve thy life by using the creatures of God; denying thyself, reject the evil; be a faithful steward, temperate in all things, for though the poor and the needy and the prisoner may beg, the rich should give to those that are in want. Let there be no discord in the Church of God; let those that are in monasteries eat their own bread, working in silence. Therefore be neither always in retirement nor yet always in the world, and, when alone, keep your heart with diligence, obeying the divine commandments, and, when in public, be intent on the salvation of souls; and though all may oppose and fight against you give good for evil, and with a pure heart pray for your enemies. For he who hath resignation in his heart can change the fierceness of wild beasts to gentleness. No sacrifice of works is so acceptable to God as a patient and a gentle heart, to which, God helping it, adversity and loss is gain. Go forth, therefore, and tell the chieftains of this land of Ireland that if they abandon their iniquity and repent they may attain salvation. And announce these very tidings to the priests of Holy Church, for our God is a God jealous lest the world should be loved before Him, and lest men, seeking the things of this world and delaying to repent till late in death, should receive their just reward and suffer fiery torment.
Looked at from a purely human point of view, these visions of St. Fursey show a descriptive power that is most remarkable, and hard to match in the literature of that period. Take as an example of this vivid descriptive power the passage describing the end of the saint's ecstasy and his return to bodily consciousness: —
It was at the sound of the crowing of the cock, when the rosy morning light illumined his face, that the angelic music suddenly ceased; his friends, who stood around, beholding a motion of the mantle laid over him, uncovered his face. The man of God, now in the body, inquired of them, saying, 'Why do ye, amazed, utter such disturbing sounds?' They answering him related the whole matter in due order; at what hour in the evening he had fallen into a trance, and how, until the crowing of the cock they had watched around his lifeless body. But he, still dwelling on the angelic brightness and sweetness of his vision, thought with anxiety of the warning he had received, and he mourned to think there was no wise man there with whom he could commune of the things which he had seen, and feared lest the angels should return and find him unprepared. He then sought for and received the communion of the sacred Body and Blood and lived in suffering on that day and another.

Does not this set before us a picture worthy of the brush of one of the old masters? As an example of word painting it brings to our mind some of the earlier Latin hymns of the Breviary for the office of Lauds. 'Cock crow,' Galli cantus as it was wont to be called, or, perhaps, the opening canto describing the dawn, of the Purgaiorio of Dante. But the time at our disposal precludes our dwelling here at any further length on these visions of the saint.

Little else survives at present to mark the scene of St. Fursey's visions at Killursa, save the ancient ruins of his small monastic church, standing in the midst of its graveyard, where for so many centuries, and up to the present day, the devout instinct of the people has impelled them to lay the mortal remains of their beloved dead under the protection of their patron saint. This strangely persistent instinct of the people for burying their dead near the ruins of the old churches of the early Irish saints is a cause of that unseemly, and to some minds irreverent, over-crowding of all the old graveyards in Ireland, that so often shocks the ideas and feelings of foreigners; and yet it cannot be denied that in no other nation is there a deeper or more enduring memory and reverence for the dead than there is in Ireland, where the past seems so often of more account and more real than the present. Understanding from the divinely-sent message which he had received in his visions that it was the will of God that he should go forth as a missionary to preach the gospel, St. Fursey departed from his beloved solitude by the shores of Lough Corrib, and in company with his two brothers, Foillan and Ultan, destined like himself to be venerated hereafter as saints in the Church's calendar, he made his way out of Connaught into Munster, where he assisted at an ecclesiastical council, in the acts of which his name appears. Having settled the affairs of his monastery, the saint next proceeded for the space of one year to visit the islands around the Irish coast, preaching to their inhabitants, and holding spiritual conferences with the many hermits and monks who then inhabited them. Then, on the anniversary of the day on which he had been taken out of the body to see the visions sent to him by God, an angel appeared to him, and made known to him the day on which he was to set out to preach in foreign lands, telling him, moreover, that he was to spend twelve years in missionary labours. The last act of St. Fursey before setting out from Ireland was to ordain as priests three of his monks, which shows us that he must himself already have received episcopal consecration. The names of these three monks ordained by St. Fursey, and who were destined to have an equal fame with his own, are Algein, Etto, and Gobhan, and they afterwards became respectively the patron saints of the French towns called St. Algise, Avesnes, and St. Gobain.

The journey of St. Fursey and his companions can be traced by documentary and archaeological evidence from Lough Corrib to Kilmainham, near Dublin, and thence to a place known since as Kilfursa, near Dundalk, in the county of Louth. Whilst waiting on the shores of the bay of Dundalk for the moment of their departure a great storm arose and lasted three days, during which St. Fursey and his companions spent their time in prayer and fasting, till the morning of the third day, when, just as St. Fursey was reading at the altar the prayer of the Mass called ‘The Secret,' the storm suddenly ceased, and in fair weather they set sail for the shores of Britain. Traversing Wales, and passing through the Midlands of England, St. Fursey and his companions continued their journey till they arrived in East Anglia, at a place now called Burghcastle in Suffolk, known to the Romans as Garianonum, and to the Saxons, as Cnobheresburgh, not far from Yarmouth and Beccles. Garianonum is reckoned in the Notitia imperii as one of the stations of the count of the Saxon shore, whose jurisdiction reached as far as Portus Adurni, the modern Portslade and Aldrington, here, hard by, in Sussex. Extensive remains of the Roman castrum or fortified camp still exist at Burghcastle, composed of flint and triple rows of narrow red Roman bricks.

The ancient round tower still stands at the west end of the old parish church of Burghcastle, and although the church is of course now in Protestant hands, the memory of St. Fursey has been of late revived by the erection of a stained glass window with the figure of the saint copied from an old miniature in the British Museum. When St. Fursey arrived at Burghcastle he found it to be the residence of a Saxon chief or king, called Sigebert, who had been tor long an exile in France, where he had become a Christian. William of Malmesbury, in his Chronicle, says of him that 'He was a worthy servant of the Lord, polished from all barbarism by residence amongst the Franks.'

During his exile Sigebert had become acquainted with a saintly Burgundian named Felix, whom he persuaded to accompany him to England on his restoration to his kingdom, and when St. Fursey arrived Felix had already become the Bishop of East Anglia.

St. Felix, the Burgundian whom St. Fursey met at Burghcastle, is venerated amongst the saints on the 8th of March, and his name still survives in the town called Felixstowe, near Harwich.

Sigebert received St. Fursey gladly, and made him a grant of land whereon to found a monastery, where Sigebert himself, later on, renouncing the world and his kingly rank, became a monk. St. Bede, in his ecclesiastical history, tells us that during his sojourn at Burghcastle, St. Fursey 'converted many unbelievers to Christ, and confirmed in His faith and love those that already believed.'

After spending five years at Burghcastle, and establishing there his monastery, St. Fursey, with twelve companions, set out, in the year 638, for the final scenes of their missionary career in France. It has been conjectured that the choice of his destination was largely determined by the counsels of St. Felix, the Burgundian Bishop of East Anglia.

Landing at the mouth of the Somme, he divided his companions into two companies. Three of his monks, named Rodalgus, Algeise, and Corbican, he sent on before him along the banks of the Somme, the Seine, and the Meuse, in which regions they became the founders of churches. St. Fursey himself, with the remaining nine of his company, proceeded first to a spot only a short distance from the coast called St. Riquier, then knowm as Centule, where a monastery' had already been founded just fifty years previously by another Irish missionary saint named St. Caidoc,

The existing medieval abbey church of St. Riquier is looked upon by experts as one of the finest specimens of the best period of French Gothic architecture. It occupies the site of the monastery founded by St. Caidoc, and changed its name to St. Riquier in memory of a Frankish nobleman of that name who there became a monk, and died in the odour of sanctity. Here St. Fursey would have felt at once quite at home and amongst friends. He does not, however, appear to have made any long stay at St. Riquier, but proceeded onwards along the Roman road till he came to a place now called Frohens le Grand, which philologists tell us is a corruption of Forshen, or Fursham, 'the House of Fursey.' 

It so happened that on the day that St. Fursey reached this place the only son of its ruler or duke, Haymon, had died, and the saint, who found the duke distracted with grief for the loss of his only child, strove to comfort him and asked to be allowed to spend the night watching by the dead body, to which the duke willingly assented. During the night, in answer to St. Fursey's prayers, the dead child was restored to life, and Haymon in the early morning found him alive and praising God in company with the saint.

This miracle so impressed Haymon that he strove to detain the saint in his territories, and offered him a place called Mezerolles to build a monastery, which, however, St. Fursey declined. Finally, when Haymon saw that St. Fursey would not stay with him, he besought him to reveal to him the time of his departure from this world wherever he might go. To this request the saint replied: 'When you see me reappear with three bright lights in one night, then will you know that I am about to depart.'

Many other miracles were wrought by the saint in his progress through this part of France which we must pass over for want of time to narrate them.

The fame, however, of this first miracle of raising Duke Haymon's son from the dead soon spread far and wide. At that time the Mayor of the Palace to King Clovis II was a good Christian man named Erchenwald, to whom Clovis had granted the fortress or stronghold of Peronne in Picardy. No sooner, therefore, did St. Fursey set out from the territory of Duke Haymon than Erchenwald went forth to meet him to a place now called Grand Court, and conducted him to Peronne. All who have read Sir Walter Scott's specially fine novel Quentin Durward will remember his graphic description of Peronne, and the low-lying marshy flats around it. The towm is situated on a gentle incline above the level of the somewhat Dutch-like scenery of its neighbourhood. Local tradition has well preserved the traces of the route by which St. Fursey travelled to Peronne from St. Riquier: —
If [writes Miss Stokes] you will take your map of Picardy, and mark every holy well dedicated to St. Fursey in this district, you will seem to have his line of progress clearly indicated from St. Riquier to Peronne, and these wells lie close along the Roman road reaching from Abbeville to Doullens ; thence to Yvrench, about six miles from St. Riquier, where there is a Fontaine de St. Furci, still visited by pilgrims suffering from the diseases of the eye. Again, Maison Ponthieu, in the Canton of Crecy, at Frohens, Outrebois, le Meillard, Authicule, Mailly, in the Canton d'Acheux, to Grand Court and Pys, in the Canton d'Albert, on to les Boeufs, a village which takes its name from the bullocks which drew the bier of St. Fursey at his funeral, when his body was borne from Frohens to Peronne.
No sooner had the saint arrived at Peronne, escorted by Erchenwald, than the fame of his miracles began to reach the ears of King Clovis and Queen Bathilde, who both besought him by offers of land to settle near Paris. St. Fursey accepted the royal offer of a site for the foundation of a monastery at Lagny, near Chelles, where Queen Bathilde had founded a royal abbey for nuns, six miles from Paris. Whilst St. Fursey was at work, labouring with his own hands at building the monastery of Lagny, Erchenwald had begun for him the erection of a splendid basilica, on the spot called 'the hill of swans,' at Peronne.

St. Fursey would seem to have spent some years ruling his monastery at Lagny, near Paris, visiting Peronne from time to time, where we are told he won many souls to God. He was employed during part of this period by the Bishop of Paris as his auxiliary Bishop.

Meanwhile, as Erchenwald's basilica was reaching completion the days of our saint's earthly pilgrimage were drawing to a close. One day, whilst he was wondering whom he could choose as the head of his monastery at Lagny after his departure, there came a loud knocking at the abbey gate, and, on the door being opened, the travel-stained and weary figure of a monk was seen outside. He said he had travelled far and wide in search of Fursey, his dearly-beloved master, who had formed and trained him in the spiritual life, and was told that he would find him at Lagny. St. Fursey recognized in this monk one of the first of his early disciples by the shores of Lough Corrib, who, unable to rest without his master, had set out from Connaught, resolved to travel about until he found him again. The name of the monk was Aemilianus, and he was specially dear to St. Fursey, who at once appointed him to be his successor at Lagny, and when all was arranged, having blessed him and all his monks, he set out on his journey to Peronne, to take possession of the new monastery with its basilica, raised for him by the Mayor of the Palace, Erchenwald. But it was not God's will that he should ever see with his mortal eyes the completed shrine where his body was afterwards to rest, for when he had reached Mezerolles, the spot where Duke Haymon had first offered him a site for a monastery, he became suddenly ill with a sickness which he knew was unto death, and breathed forth his soul, surrounded by the companions of his journey, amongst whom was Maguille, afterwards to be venerated as a saint and the founder of Monstrelet on the River Authie. He it was who assisted St. Fursey in his last moments, and celebrated the Mass of Requiem at his funeral.

Meanwhile the saint had not forgotten his promise of making Duke Haymon aware of the time of his departure from this world, and so, just as Haymon was about to begin his midday meal, there appeared to him three figures bearing three lighted tapers, which they placed upon the table at which he was seated, and disappeared. Haymon at once called to mind the words of St. Fursey, and leaving his meal untouched hastened to Mezerolles, where he arrived in time to assist at the obsequies of the saint, in memory of which event it was customary for centuries to keep three candles burning before the shrine of St. Fursey whenever his sacred relics were exposed. St. Fursey died in the year 650. A dispute arose at the time of his death between Duke Haymon and Erchenwald, the Mayor of the Palace, as to which of them was to possess his mortal remains. This dispute was decided by both parties agreeing that two bullocks should be yoked to the bier on which his body reposed, and that wherever they should go that there the saint's body should remain. The bullocks at once took the road towards Peronne, and ascending the Hill of Swans, stopped at the porch of the new basilica which Erchenwald had built for the saint and his monks. St. Eligius, or in French Eloi, who is venerated as the patron saint of goldsmiths and jewellers, and who was then living, made a shrine of precious metals in which the body of St. Fursey was preserved for 656 years, when St. Louis, King of France, on his return from his first crusade, had a new shrine made to contain the sacred relics, and himself assisted at their translation from the old shrine to the new one, on September 17, 1256.

Here are the words of the official account of the translation of the body of St. Fursa: —
In the year of the incarnation of our Lord 1256, 15 days before the Kalends of October (September 17), Sunday after the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; in the presence of Monseigneur Louis, the illustrious King of France, and the Venerable Fathers, Vermonde, Bishop of Noyon, by the Grace of God; William, Bishop of Beauvois; Watier, Bishop of Tournai; Rudolf, Bishop of Therouanne, in the presence of many religious personages, abbots, etc., and a great number of Christians assembled there, was the translation of the glorious Confessor, St. Fursa, Patron of Peronne, effected, by the hands of the said Bishops in presence of the said King Louis, eye witness, and the precious relic has been laid and enclosed in a new shrine in the church of Peronne. In memory of which we, Louis, by the Grace of God, King of France, have here affixed our seal, with the seals of the above named Bishops.
In the Annals of the Four Masters Peronne is styled 'Cathair Fursa in France.'

There can be no doubt that the chief glory of Peronne during all the Middle Ages and down to the eve of the French Revolution, beyond the fact of its impregnable strength as a fortress, was the great church of St. Furci, where his relics reposed. That church, like so many others, perished during the Revolution, but the relics of the saint were saved from destruction, and after being hidden during the Reign of Terror were finally placed in a chapel dedicated under the invocation of St. Furci in the church of St. John where they remain to the present day. Five years after his death St. Fursey was venerated as the patron saint of Peronne. His shrine was guarded by a collegiate chapter of Irish canons, visited by generations of pilgrims, and enriched by their offerings. To this day a large painting of St. Fursey, of great artistic merit, executed in the seventeenth century, is preserved in the town hall of Peronne. It bears this inscription: 'Sanctus Furseus Peroneorum Patronus.'

The Rue St. Furci still recalls the saint's name, and over the altar in his chapel in the church of St. John stand three statues. In the midst is the saint himself, and on each side of him are his two brothers, St. Foillan and St. Ultan. A large stained-glass window at the back of the altar represents the chief events in the life of the saint, together with some of his miracles. His festival is kept on January 16. Lagny, near Paris, where the saint lived during nearly all the years of his sojourn in France, and where his abbey was founded on land granted from the royal domain of King Clovis II. in 645, five years before his death, became a nursery of saints during the remainder of the seventh and the early part of the eighth centuries. This abbey was destroyed by the invasion of the Northmen, who ascended the Marne at the beginning of the ninth century. It was rebuilt from its ruins in the eleventh century, and survived till the end of the eighteenth century, when it was finally destroyed during the French Revolution. St. Fursey is still the patron saint of the town of Lagny, and his holy well still supplies the fountain in the middle of the town from whence the townspeople still draw their water.

St. Fursey 's two brothers, St. Foillan and St. Ultan found their way into Flanders, where they lived some time with St. Amand at Ghent. There they became acquainted with St. Gertrude, the abbess of Nivelles, of royal blood, who, after the foundation of her abbey, employed them in teaching Holy Scripture to her nuns, and in preaching in the country around Nivelles. She afterwards made a grant of land to St. Ultan between the Meuse and the Sambre, not far from Maestricht, where he built a monastery. Of the other companions of St. Fursey, two — St. Gobhan and St. Algise — have given their names to the French towns called after them, St. Gobain and St. Algise, not far from Laon, where there still lingers the memory of other companions of St. Fursey, who after sojourning at Laon penetrated finally into the Ardennes, where memorials of them still exist.

In concluding this study of the lives and labours of St. Fursey and his companions it will be well to bear in mind the paramount importance attached by them, amidst all the passing events of their lives, to the one great work, transcending, in their estimation, all other works, the work of prayer. It was from the constant and habitual gravitation of their lives towards their true centre through prayer that they obtained light and strength to guide and sustain them in all their journeyings and labours. This, before all other works, they regarded, with St. Benedict, as the opus Dei, the 'work of God,' to which nothing was to be preferred. Prayer was ever the chief motive power of their lives.

There is nothing that stands out more prominently in the history of the early Celtic saints than their passionate love for prayer, and their wondrous assiduity in praying. There is, perhaps, no more startling record in the Lives of the Saints than the account of the way in which these Celtic saints gave themselves to prayer: so much so, that many who read in the Life of St. Patrick how he recited every day the entire Psalter of 150 psalms, and adored God during each day with 300 genuflections, and 200 during each night, are inclined not to believe it, and to think it impossible. When, however, they find much the same kind of religious practices circumstantially recounted by various writers, independently of each other, concerning many others of the early Irish missionary saints in other lands, it becomes wellnigh impossible to doubt the existence of such practices amongst the Celtic saints in general.

That the daily recital of the entire Psalter was the practice in the earlier ages of the Church cannot be doubted; for St. Benedict, in his rule, speaks of the custom of reciting the 150 psalms in the course of a week, which has been the groundwork ever since of the Roman Breviary, as a sign of the falling off of primitive fervour when monks were accustomed to the daily recital of the entire Psalter.

For well over a thousand years have St. Fursey and his companion missionary saints been living in the light of the beatific vision in heaven. There we salute them with the genuine homage of a true devotion in Splendoribus sanctorum, sharing in the everlasting joy of their Lord, with whom 'a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years.'


SOME CELTIC MISSIONARY SAINTS: ST FURSEY in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Volume XXXII (1912), 170-187.

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