Thursday 15 November 2018

Saints Marinus and Anianus, November 15

I have already posted on the feast of the two Irish missionaries, Marinus and Anianus, on August 16 here. This date arose from the fact that the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, intended to write about them on that day. Canon O'Hanlon's contemporary, the scholarly Anglican Bishop William Reeves, argued in a paper delivered to the Royal Irish Academy in 1863, that November 15 was the date of their martyrdom. In his brief entry for the pair at the August date, Canon O'Hanlon confessed that he was 'unsure of how they were connected to Irish hagiology', alas since he did not live to publish a November volume I cannot check if he revised this opinion. Certainly Bishop Reeves is able to supply the background information which Canon O'Hanlon lacked: 

The Rev. William Reeves, D.D., read the following paper : —


The Academy owes to the vigilance of its excellent Librarian the recent acquisition of a volume which, independently of the value arising from its great rarity, possesses the merit of introducing to notice in this country two Irish Missionaries, whose names have escaped our ecclesiastical writers, and who, notwithstanding the deficiency of detail in their history, have yet a sufficient reality to render them a welcome accession to our recorded list of Irish worthies.

The volume comprises three tracts. The first bears the title-"Das leben der Heiligen S. S. Marini Bischoues Martyrers, und Aniani Archidiaconns, Bekenners die aus Irrland in Bayrn kommen, des Gotchauses Rodt Patronen wordenseind. Durch Johan a Via, der II. Schrifft Doctorn beschrieben." The lower half of the title-page is occupied by an engraved plate, having in the middle a shield, which bears quarterly the arms of the monastery of Rot, and of Christopher the abbot, supported by two ecclesiastics, the dexter one vested in an episcopal, the sinister one in a sacerdotal habit. Between them is the inscription, "CHRISTOPHORUS. S. ABBAS. S. MARINVS. S. ANIANVS. PATRO. IN ROT. 1579." This German life, with the dedication, occupies nineteen leaves.

The second tract is a Latin version of the same life, and bears the title-"Vita S. S. Marini Episcopi Hybernobavari, Martyris, et Aniani Arehidiaconi Confessoris, Patronorum celebris Monasteril in Rota. Per Johan. a Via Doct. Theol. conscripta, Monachii excudebat Adamus Berg. Anno M. D. LXXIX." It has the same frontispiece as the former, except that it omits the date. To this tract is appended (fol. 12 b) a "Sermo brevis cujusdam pii patris in Monasterio Rott ad Fratres ibidem pronunciatus." The verso of the concluding folio (15) contains the enactment of the Council of Trent, Session 25, '"De Invocatione, etc., Sanctorum."

The third tract is intituled, "Officium de Sanctis Marino Episcopa et Martyro, et Aniano Archidiacono Confessore celebris Monasterii in Rott Patronis. Jussu Reverendi in Christo Patris ac Domini, D. Christophori ejusdem Monasterii Abbatis vigilantissimi in ordinem redactum, et jam primum in lucem editum. Monachii excudebat Adamus Berg. Anno DM. LXXXVIII". On the title-page is an engraving of a circular seal, having on the field two shields, charged respectively with the arms of Rott and the abbot Christopher, with the legend + CHRISTOFF. ABBT. ZV. ROTT. A. 1588. This tract contains twenty six folios.

The author, in his dedication to the abbot Christopher, expresses his regret that the notices of the patrons of this monastery which were scattered through the ancient annals belonging to the institution had not been put together in any regular order, and that they who had been set upon a candlestick to give light to all that were in the house, should, through the neglect of past generations, have been kept hidden under a bushel. He states that the acts of SS. Marinus and Anianus were preserved in three very ancient manuscripts, together with a sermon on the same subject by a learned and pious member of the fraternity, which he has annexed as a separate chapter to the Latin life. Munich, 6th of April, 1579.

The following abstract of the Life contains the principal particulars of their history. [Opening Latin text omitted]… Finding their labours among the pastoral in habitants of the neighbourhood successful, they resolved upon settling in this region for the rest of their days, and erected huts for themselves over two caves about two Italian miles asunder. Here they led a life of solitude and self-mortification, meeting only on Lord's days and festivals, when they joined in the services of the altar. And thus they continued, teaching both by precept and example, and crowned with success in their endeavours to convert the surrounding people, until at length a horde of barbarians, driven from the Roman provinces on the south, entered this territory, and proceeded to lay it waste. In their wanderings they arrived at the cell of S. Marinus, and the Life thus relates the cruel treatment which he experienced at their hands: [Latin text omitted]. It happened that at the same time S. Anianus, who had escaped the notice of the barbarians, was released by a natural death from the trials of this life; and thus both master and disciple on the same day namely, the 17th of the Calends of December, that is, the 15th of November, which afterwards became the day of their commemoration passed to a happy immortality, while their remains were consigned to a common tomb, where they rested for above a hundred years. At the end of this period, the circumstances of their death and interment were made known to an eminent and devout priest named Priam, who resided in a neighbouring village. ie, it is stated, communicated the matter to a bishop called Tollusius, who repaired to the spot, and having ordered a solemn fast, on the third day exhumed the remains with due solemnity, and conveyed them to the village of Aurisium, now known as Ros, where they were deposited in a sarcophagus of white polished marble, within the church of that place. This invention is loosely stated to have occurred in the time of Pepin and Caroloman, kings of the Franks, when Egilolph was in Italy; and it is added "Priamus presbyter, jussus a domino Episcopo Tollusio, vidi omnia et scripsi: et testimonium his gestis perhibeo, et testimonium meum verum est, quod ipse scit, qui benedictus est in saecula, Amen."

From this place the reliques of the two saints were subsequently transferred to a spot near the river Aenus (now the Inn), which obtained the name of Rota  from a little stream that flowed past it into the Inn, and here they were to be seen beneath the high altar of the choir.

A Benedictine Monastery was founded at Rot in 1073, by Chuno, or Conon, Count of Wasserburg, and his charter, of that date, makes mention of the "altare SS. Marini et Aniani."

In a bull of confirmation granted by Pope Innocent II., in 1142, Rot is styled "praefatum SS. Marini et Aniani monasterium." Mabillon, who states that he visited this monastery in one of his journeys, describes it as the Benedictine Monastery of SS. Marinus and Anianus, but he takes no notice of the patron saints themselves in the earlier, part of his "Annals." Raderus, however, gives a short memoir of them, which he illustrates by two engravings, representing respectively the martyrdom of S. Marinus, and the angelic vision of S. Anianus,  to which be assigns the date 697.

Under the year 784, this author makes mention of another Marianus, who also was an Irishman. He came to Bavaria in company with St. Virgil of Saltzburg, and was one of the two companions who were sent by him with Declan to Frisingen. The festival of this Marinus was the 1st of December, and his ashes were believed to be efficacious in curing certain diseases.

As regards the names, it is not clear what is the Irish equivalent for Anianus; but Marinus is beyond all question a Latin translation of Muiredhach, which is derived from muir (mare), and signifies "belonging to the sea." The name is of very early occurrence: thus, Muiredhach, the first bishop and patron of Killala, who is commemorated at August 12, is mentioned under the form of Muirethacus in the early part of the eighth century. In like manner, the name of the celebrated Briton, Pelagius, is understood to be a Greek form of the British Morgan, which is equivalent to Marigena. We have in the Irish calendar a name closely allied to Morgan, in the form Muirgein, which means "sea-born," and is of common gender, for it is applied in one instance to an abbot of Gleann hUissen, now Killeshin; and in another to the celebrated Mermaid, in whose case it is interpreted liban, that is, "sea-woman."?

The name Marinus is to be distinguished from Marianus, as the latter is derived from the name Maria, and represents, in a Latin form, the Irish Mael-muire, "servant of Mary."

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Tuesday 6 November 2018

The Irish Saints: 'a light to foreign and distant lands'

"there was no desert, no spot, or hiding-place in the Island, however remote, which was not peopled with perfect monks and nuns; so that, throughout the world, Ireland was justly distinguished by the extraordinary title of the Island of Saints....  
" .... in holy mortification of the flesh and renouncement of self-will, rivalling the Monks of Egypt in merits and in numbers, and by word and example they were a light to foreign and distant lands."  
— Jocelyn, Acta SS. Mart., xvii.

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Tuesday 24 July 2018

The Martyrdom of Saint Blathmac of Iona

July 24 is one of the feast days of Saint Blathmac of Iona, martyred whilst attempting to defend the relics of his beloved founder Saint Colum Cille from Viking marauders in the year 825. His other feast day is celebrated on January 19 and an earlier post containing Canon O'Hanlon's account will be found on that date here. I have also previously posted the findings of modern scholar John Marsden setting the martyrdom of Saint Blathmac into its historical context here.  As he points out, the closest thing we have to a contemporary account of Saint Blathmac's martyrdom comes not from Irish or Scottish sources, but from a monk, Walafrid Strabo, writing in the Swiss monastery of Reichenau. This was an Irish foundation and it seems that a visiting peregrinus, whom Marsden speculates may have been a last surviving eyewitness, gave a detailed account to Walafrid from which he composed his hexameter verse work on the life and death of Saint Blathmac. It was written within twenty five years of the events he describes. So below is an excerpt from Walafrid's poem on the last stand of this heroic Irish monk and the terrible death he endured:

A certain island appears in the shores of the Picts, rising above the wave-driven sea; it is called Iona,  and there the saint of the Lord, Columba, rests in the flesh. To this island came [Blathmac], wishing to endure Christ's scars, because there many a pagan horde of Danes is wont to land, armed with malignant greed. And the saint of the Lord purposed in his mind to tempt these lions, and stripped his mind of empty dread; but armed with the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation, he feared not the arms of wicked men. He might have sung with the wisdom-speaking prophet, "I have God as my helper, let base fear depart." Already too by wars of states he had been taught to despise the servants of the devil, since he had fitly overthrown their lord, and alone defeated him in all his weapons.

The time arrived, when God's great clemency disposed to associate his servant with the shining bands above the stars, and to bestow upon the good conqueror his certain crown: when the man's holy mind, foreknowing events, learned in advance by exalted sense that the approaching wolves were hastening to divide the members of the pious sheep. He said, "You, my friends, search within yourselves with active minds whether you have courage to endure suffering with me for the name of Christ; you who are able to await it, I ask to arm your manly minds; but those whose frail hearts are afraid, let them hasten their flight, to avoid the impending danger, and arm their hands in a better cause; close to us stands the experience of certam death. Let strong faith be watchful, supported by hope in the future; let the prudent precaution of flight save the weaker."

Upon these words the company was stirred, and in this mood they decided upon what they saw was possible; some, with courageous breast, to face the sacrilegious hands ; and they rejoiced with tranquil minds to have submitted their heads to the violent sword: but others, not vet induced to this by their confidence of mind, took to flight by a footpath through regions known to them.

Golden dawn shone forth, parting the dewy dusk, and the brilliant sun glittered with beautiful orb, when this holy teacher, celebrating the holy service of mass, stood before the sacred altar as a calf without blemish, a pleasing offering to God, to be sacrificed by the threatening sword. The others of the company were prostrate, commending to the Thunderer with tears and prayers their souls, about to depart from the burden of the flesh. See, the violent cursed host came rushing through the open buildings, threatening cruel perils to the blessed men; and after slaying with mad savagery the rest of the associates, they approached the holy father, to compel him to give up the precious metals wherein lie the holy bones of St Columba; but [the monks] had lifted the shrine from its pediments, and had placed it in the earth, in a hollowed barrow, under a thick layer of turf; because they knew then of the wicked destruction [to come]. This booty the Danes desired; but the saint remained with unarmed hand, and with unshaken purpose of mind; [he had been] trained to stand against the foe,  and to arouse the fight, and [was] unused to yield.

There he spoke to thee, barbarian, in words such as these: — "I know nothing at all of the gold you seek, where it is placed in the ground or in what hiding-place it is concealed. And if by Christ's permission it were granted me to know it, never would our lips relate it to thy ears. Barbarian, draw thy sword, grasp the hilt, and slay; gracious God, to thy aid I commend me humbly."

Therefore the pious sacrifice was torn limb from limb. And what the fierce soldier could not purchase by gifts, he began to seek by wounds in the cold bowels [of the earth]. It is not strange, for there always were, and there always reappear, those that are spurred on by evil rage against all the servants of the Lord; so that what Christ's decision has appointed for all, this they all do for Christ, although with unequal deeds.

Thus [Blathmac] became a martyr for Christ's name; and, as rumour bears witness, he rests in the same place, and there many miracles are given for his holy merits. There the Lord is worshipped reverently with fitting honour, with the saints by whose merits I believe my faults are washed away, and to whom as a suppliant I have sent up gifts of praise. Christ refuses nothing to these — they have brought him the greatest gains — ; and he reigns for ever with the good Father and the Holy Spirit, and is exalted without end in everlasting splendour.

Here end the verses by Strabus of the life and death of Blathmac.

Walafridus Strabus, Life of Blathmac, in Pinkerton's Vitae Antiquae, pp. 461-463.

Alan Orr Anderson, ed. and trans., Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286, Vol. I (Edinburgh, 1922), 263-265.

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Sunday 3 June 2018

The Deer-Stone: A Legend of Glendalough

Saint Kevin of Glendalough, whose feast is celebrated on June 3, is one of the Irish saints whose cult has taken on a new lease of life due to the modern 'Celtic Christianity' movement. There he is viewed as the supreme exemplar of the supposed unique relationship the Irish saints enjoyed with nature and animals. In general, I am uneasy whenever I see people of earlier ages being seamlessly cut and pasted into the agendas of contemporary movements. That is not to deny that stories of 'saints and beasts' figure in the hagiography of Irish saints and in native folklore, but there is a particular context in which these tales are framed, one that does not necessarily reflect current 'green' concerns. Irish poet, Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866-1918), wrote about one of these legends, the story of how Saint Kevin saved the life of an abandoned infant by getting a female deer to leave her milk in a hollow stone for the human baby. In The Deer-Stone, she first begins by relating how the young wife of Colman Dhu is poisoned while nursing her baby by a jealous and evil maidservant. Her distraught husband then opts to join his wife in death, now the witch has only to wait for the infant to succumb. I have picked up the text at the point where Saint Kevin enters the scene, for me the moral of the story is not that Saint Kevin is some sort of Doctor Doolittle who can talk to the animals, but that as an Irish saint living a life of asceticism, prayer and repentance, he can talk to God and manifest the divine power to punish the wicked and save the innocent. The poem ends by telling us that people can still point to the 'Deer-stone', this is a common phenomenon at Irish holy sites where natural features are cross-referenced to episodes from the lives of saints. A picture of the Deer-stone of Glendalough can be seen here.



It was the good St. Kevin went,
All bowed and lost in prayer,
And as he paced his lonely path
The young witch met him there.

And in her gown the poison cup
She did most quickly hide,
But spoke the good saint unto her,
And would not be denied.

"What evil thing is this?" he said,
"That you must put away?
It is no gracious act indeed
That fears the light of day."

"It is but bread," the witch replied,
"From my small store I take,
To feed a poor deserted babe,
I go for pity sake."

"Now, be it bread," the priest replied,
"I pray it multiply;
But if it is an evil thing,
Full heavy may it lie."

And then the priest, all deep in prayer,
Went forth his lonely way,
While stood the witch upon the path
In wild and deep dismay.

For in her robe the poison cup
Did all so heavy grow,
She scarce could stand upon her feet,
And could but slowly go.

Now when she reached the rugged rock
That held her hidden home,
The waters threw their magic up
And blinded her with foam.

She gave a sharp and sudden cry
And fell within the lake,
And so may perish all who sin,
And evil vengeance take.

But good St. Kevin, deep in prayer,
His holy way did go.
Soon came to him the sound of grief,
Soft cries of bitter woe.

There in a dark and lonesome place
A little babe he found,
And, close beside, a lovely pair
All cold upon the ground.

"Movrone, Movrone," the good saint cried,
"What evil deed is here? "
And for their beauty and their youth
He shed a bitter tear.

He dug for them a lonely grave,
A grave both wide and deep;
"And slumber well," he softly said,
"Till God shall end your sleep."

He knelt him down upon his knee
Their lonely bed beside,
And then he saw the little babe
That weak in hunger cried.

He raised it up in his two hands,
And held it close and warm;
"O Christ," he said, "your mercy give
To keep this child from harm.

" Oh, pitiful indeed is this
Poor little one alone,
Whose dead lie peaceful in their sleep
While he doth make his moan.

" O Mary, who in Bethlehem
Held once upon thy breast
A tender babe, look down on this
Who is so sore oppressed.

"I have no food for this poor child,
Who must with hunger die.
Thy mercy give," the good priest prayed
With many a piteous sigh.

He looked across the waters deep,
And to the hills so brown,
And lo! a shy wood creature there
All timidly came down.

And thrice it sprang towards the west,
And thrice towards the east,
It was as though some hand unseen
Drove forth the gentle beast.

But when the little child it heard,
That still with hunger cried,
It sprang before the guiding hand,
And stood the babe beside.

And in a hollowed stone it shed
Its milk so warm and white,
And then, all timid, stood apart
To watch the babe's delight.

And at each eve and every morn
The gentle doe was there,
To find the little babe, and see
The saint, all deep in prayer.

In Glendalough the stone lies still
All plainly to be seen,
And many folk will point the place
Where once the milk had been.

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Monday 14 May 2018

Saint Carthage of Lismore, May 14

On May 14 we commemorate Saint Carthage (Mochuda) of Lismore, County Waterford. I have previously posted an introduction to his life by Father John Ryan S.J. here, but below is a paper by a resident of Lismore, W.H. Grattan Flood (1857-1928), a prolific contributor to the antiquarian and religious periodicals of his day. Flood published an entire ecclesiastical history of Lismore in the Journal of the Waterford and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, of which this paper forms a part. In the extract below, the author gives a retelling of the traditional account of Saint Carthage and his expulsion from the Abbey of Rahan:



The early years of the seventh century found Christianity fairly well established in the territory of Nan Desie. Already the monasteries of Ardmore, Molana, Dungarvan, Ballintemple, Mothel, etc., were famous, and sent forth numerous disciples to take up the good work of St. Declan. As yet the city of Waterford was unknown, and so was Lismore. But the Providence of God was mysteriously working, and a great servant of God was already qualifying to be sent as the Apostle of Magh-Sciath. In a previous number of the Journal I explained the entry under date of 634, recording the death of "Eochaid, Abbot of Lismore," which has reference to Lismore in Scotland.

About the year 614 St. Carthage, Abbot of Rahan, visited Kerry Currihy and was royally entertained by Carbery Criffan, King of Munster. Whilst still in this part of the country a very dreadful incident occurred. The Queen and her son, Aidus (Hugh) were killed by a thunderbolt, and the monarch, plunged in grief, besought the saint to make intercession to God on their behalf, whereupon the mother and son were restored to life. (a) No wonder that the king was profuse in his thanks for such a miracle, and he bestowed most signal marks of favour on St. Carthage, “to enable him to extend his great work."

Finghin, son of Hugh Dubh, King of Munster, died in 621, but his wife, Mor, lived until the year 632. The new ruler of Munster, Cathal MacHugh, was not only blind, but was also a deaf mute, and as such was incapable of being sovereign. His courtiers bethought of St. Carthage, to whom they sent a most urgent message on behalf of the invalid king, and the saintly Abbot of Rahan again journeyed southwards. In the quaint language of the Life: "Mochuda came where the king was, and the king and his friends implored Mochuda to relieve his distress. Mochuda made prayers to God for him, and put the sign of the holy cross on his eyes, and ears, and mouth, and he was cured of all his diseases and troubles, and the King Cathal (b) gave extensive lands to God, and to Mochuda, for ever, namely, Cathel Island, and Ross Beg, and Ross Mor, and Pick Island; and Mochucla sent holy brethern to build a church in Ross Beg in honour of God, and Mochuda himself commenced building a monastery in Pick Island, and he remained there a full year.” According to the Life, St. Carthage placed three favourite disciples in Cathel Island, Ross Beg, and Ross Mor, viz: "the three sons of Nascann, i.e. Bishop Caban [Gobban], and Straphan [Stephen] the priest, and Laisren [Molaise] the saint.

In 628 St. Carthage was still only an Abbot, and on that account he requested the holy Bishop of Ardmore [St, Domaingen] to ordain and bless as Abbots the three above-mentioned disciples, in his own presence." The modern reader will need to be informed that these three abbeys were in Co. Cork, not far from Ardmore, but were afterwards incorporated with the diocese of Cloyne- Pick Island in particular, although unidentified by some Irish writers (including the great O'Donovan), is best known as Spike Island, near Queenstown, of which St. Ruissen was first Abbot, and which twelve centuries later was used as a convict depot. St. Carthage appointed the Bishop of the Nan Desie, to have spiritual jurisdiction over the three abbeys, "and he left two score more of his brethren in his own stead in the monastery of Pick Island."

“Mochuda then returned towards Rahan. On his way eastward through Munster he passed over a river which was called Nemh at that time, but which is called Abhan Mor to-day, and he saw a large apple in the middle of the ford over which he was passing, and he took it up and carried it in his hand, and hence Ath-Abhal (or Aghowle, now Appleford) in Fermoy, has its name.

And the servant asked for the apple from Mochuda, and he did not give it, but said: 'God will work a miracle with this apple through me this day, for we shall meet the daughter of Cuana MacCailchen, with her right arm powerless and motionless, hanging by her side, and she shall be cured through this apple, and through the power of God.'

“And this was verified; for Mochuda saw the virgin with her maiden companions at their sports and amusements on the green of the court, and going up towards her he said: 'Take this apple to thyself, my daughter.' She stretched forth her left hand for the apple, as was her wont, but Mochuda said: 'Thou shalt not get it in that hand, but reach out the other hand for it, and thou shalt get it.’ And the maiden, being full of faith, attempted to reach forth the right hand, and the hand was instantly filled with vigour and life and she raised it out and took the apple into it.

"There was joy all over the king's palace on this occasion, and all gave praise to God and to Mochuda for this miracle. And Cuana said on that night to his daughter: 'Make now your selection, and say whom you like best of all the princes of Munster, and I will have him married to you.' To this the maiden replied: 'I will have no husband but the man who cured my hand,' 'Hear you that, O Mochuda,' said Cuana. 'Give me the maiden' said Mochuda, 'and I will give her as a spouse to Christ, Who cured her hand.' And Cuana gave the maiden and her dowry, with an offering of land on the bank of the river Nemh [Blackwater] to God and to Mochuda for ever; and his munificence was too great to be described.

"Flandath [or Flaithniath, identical with Flanna] was the maiden's name, and Mochuda brought her with him to Rahan, where she spent her life most profitably with the other 'Black Nuns' till Mochuda was banished by the King of Tara out of his own city, when he took Flandath with him, and the rest of the Black Nuns."

About five years after the return of St. Carthage to Rahan, namely, during the Easter-tide of the year 635 (O.S. 634), a wicked prince called Blathmac expelled the saint and his monks from the monastery which had shed such blessings around the country for forty years. However, this apparently terrible misfortune led to the happiest results because it eventuated in the foundation of the great Abbey and University of Lismore.

St. Carthage and about five hundred of his monks (exclusive of conversi and lepers), journeying through Drumcullen (near Birr), Saigher, and Roscrea, came to Cashel, where they were welcomed by Falvey Flann, King of Munster. At that time it so happened that Maelctride, son of Cobhthaich or Coffey, Prince of the Desie, was on a visit with his royal father-in-law, and he unconsciously co-operated in the design of God by offering the future patron of the See of Lismore a large tract of land in his country whereon to build a monastic establishment. The saint gladly accepted the offer, and viewed it as a distinct revelation from on high. The monks then proceeded via Athassel, Ardfinnan, Clogheen, Affane and Cappoquin, (c) and halted within three miles of the present town of Lismore, in a townland near Ballysaggartmore, ever since known as See Mochuda, "the seat of St. Mochuda," where a holy well sprang up at the bidding of our saint. (d)

On approaching Magh Sciath the progress of the monks was impeded by the Aw Mor, or Broad Water, which was then at flood tide. There being no boats available, St. Mochuda commanded two of his favourite disciples, SS. Molna and Colman, to join their prayers with his, and that perhaps it would please Heaven to work a miracle. Almost immediately, as we read in the Life, the swollen waters of the dark rolling river were parted, and a perfectly dry passage was opened to the exiled community. Thus, in the summer of the year 635, St. Carthage settled at Magh Sciath, in a tract called Dun Sginne, i.e. "the fortress of the flight," commemorative of the expulsion from Rahan. He endured much since leaving his beloved monastery in King's Co. (then portion of Co. Meath), and was very sad thereat. St. Cuimin of Connor thus sings of him:-

"The beloved Mochuda of Mortification;
Admirable every page of his history.
Before his time there was no one who shed
Half so many tears as he shed."

The Irish Life tells us that, having viewed the site of his new foundation, (e) St. Mochuda cried out: " Here shall be my rest, for I have chosen it." He at once began to build a circular enclosure on Dun Sginne, now known as the "Round Hill," and busied himself unceasingly in directing the monks in their operations. The Life goes on to state that a certain holy virgin named Cornelia or Caemghill, who inhabited a small cell in the neighbourhood, likely adjoining Temple Declan at Drumroe, approached the new-comers and enquired the nature of their work. "We are building a small Lis here" said St. Mochuda. “A small Lis [Lis-beg]!" said the woman: "this is not a small Lis, but a great Lis [Lis-mor]," said she, "and so," we are told, “that church ever since continued to be called by that name.”

To the above incident is due the present name of Lismore. Lios-Mor is justly equated as the great Lis or the great Rath –the words Lis and Rath being practically the same, and Lismore, which is rendered in the Latin Life as Atrium Magnum, means the "great entrenchment of earth." Near Lismore there is a very extensive townland still called Rath (pronounced as if written Ralph), divided into Upper and Lower Rath. Thus was founded Lismore, generally translated " the great habitation; " and the pagan Magh Sciath, or Campus Scuti -the plain of the shield-a plain of solid limestone formation-disappears from history. Traces of the ancient double trench are still to be seen near Deerpark.

The Life continues:- “And when he had finished his own city of Lismore he sent Flandath [the Nun from Fermoy, previously mentioned] to her own country, that she might build a church there. And she built a noble church in Cluain Dullain [Clondulane, about eleven miles from Lismore, near Fermoy], and it is in Mochuda's parish [diocese] it is," For the sake of chronological sequence I shall here add that this holy Abbess was joyfully received, by her father, Cuan MacCailchen, and laboured for many years in Clondulane. (f) This Cuana, Prince of Fermoy, was also called Laech Liathmhuine, i.e. "the hero of Liathmhuin," afterwards known as Clogh-lemon. He died in 642.

St. Carthage lived scarcely two years after the foundation of the Abbey and Cathedral. Finding his end approaching he retired to a lonely valley at the east end of the town, near the present St. Carthage's Well (in the garden of Mr. Maurice Healy), where he spent over a year in contemplation and prayer. At last he summoned his monks and gave them a farewell exhortation and blessing. "After this, being favoured with a vision of angels, he asked to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, and then departed in peace.'' His pure soul was seen, according to the oft-quoted Life, ascending into Heaven “on the day before the Ides of May," and thus passed away the first Abbot-Bishop and founder of the See of Lismore, on May 14th, 637, the feast of his natale. (g)

In the ancient Irish Office of St, Carthage, the following beautiful Antiphon was sung at the Magnificat:-

"Gloriose Praesul Christi, venerande Carthage,
Apud Deum tuo sancto nos juva precamine,
Ut detersa omni sorde, et abluti crimine
In coelesti sempiternum collaetemur culmine."

Colgan tells us that the rule (h) of St, Carthage was almost similar to that of the reformed Cistercians, or to the order of La Trappe, of which there are two well-known Abbeys in Ireland. "When any of the brethren returned from a mission, it was the rule to kneel down before the Abbot, and, in that humble posture, relate the events which had occurred. All kinds of austerities were here practised, and the monks lived by their labour, and on the vegetables which they cultivated with their own hands." The order was afterwards incorporated with the Regular Canons of St. Augustine-an order which must not be confounded with the Hermits of St. Augustine or the Austin Friars.

Allemande, in his Monastic History of Ireland, published at Paris in 1690, thus writes from the ancient Life:-"Lismore is a famous and holy city, into the half of which, in consequence of being strictly cloistered, no woman dare enter. It is filled with cells and holy abodes of prayer, and a number of pious men are always in it. Religious men flow to it from every part of Ireland, England, and Britain, being desirous to remove to Christ; and the city itself is situated on the banks of the river formerly called Nemh, lately called Abhan Mor, that is, the Great River, in the territory of Nan Desie."

In the Litany of Aengus the Culdee, dating from 798, we find that ancient hagiologist invoking “eight hundred monks who settled in Lismore with Mochuda, every third of them a favoured servant of God." He also invokes "the seven bishops of Donough-Youghal”, the “seven bishops of Donoughmore Magh Feimhin" etc. In a very ancient catalogue of the principal monasteries in Ireland, cited by the learned Dr. O'Conor, and also by Hardiman, Lismore is entitled "the Litanies of Ireland."

The number of disciples who gathered round St. Carthage before his death is variously estimated. Some authorities give the number as over a thousand, whilst the ancient lives vary from 844 to 867 monks. Professor Hogan writes:-" Lismore had no spacious halls, no classic colonnades, no statues, or fountains, or stately temples. Its houses of residence were of the simplest and most primitive description, and its halls were in keeping with these mere wooden structures, intended only to shut off the elements, but without any claim or pretence to artistic design. And yet Lismore had something more valuable than the attractions of either architecture or luxury. It possessed that which has ever proved the magnet of the philosopher and the theologian-truth, namely, and truth illumined by the halo of religion. It sheltered also in its humble halls whatever knowledge remained in a barbarous age of those rules of art that had already shed lustre on Greece and Rome, or had been fostered in Ireland itself, according to principles and a system of native conception." St. Colman (previously alluded to) was one of the principal professors of the infant university, under whom studied the youthful St. Flannan, the subsequent founder of the See of Killaloe.

Archbishop Usher had two manuscript copies of the Irish Life of St. Carthage, and Smith, in his history of Waterford, says that one of these Lives begins “Gloriosus Christi miles." In 1634 Philip O'Sullivan Beare sent the Latin translation of the "Irish Life of St. Mochuda" to Father John Bollandus, S.J. It is much to be deplored that we have not an accurately edited English version of the Irish Life. (i)

Maeloctraigh, Moelctride, or Mael MacTirid, Prince of the Desie, died early in 637, some months previous to the death of St. Carthage. It is probable that he was buried in Lismore, and he was succeeded in his kingship by Bran Fionn, or Bran the Fair, son of Maeltricle, who proved a munificent benefactor to the Cathedral of Lismore, which was a Damlaig or Stone Church. It is only to our present purpose to add that Nualathan, the aged widow of Prince Maeloctraighe, died in 670.

To the archaeologist, one of the most interesting facts in regard to the history of St. Carthage is the identification of the sites connected with his ministry. Many distinguished writers, including Cardinal Moran and Bishop Healy, have asserted that the name of St. Carthage, or yet the memory of his labours, has not been much in evidence in the topography of the county. On the contrary, his name is “writ large" in the district around Lismore, as an intimate knowledge of the local topography will amply testify. His Cathedral and Well have been already alluded to, as also See Mochuda, near Ballysaggartmore, and Rath Upper and Lower. I am glad to be able to identify the old monastic cemetery, as, alas! the present generation scarcely knows its name. This is none other than the field on the left hand side of the avenue leading to Lismore Castle, and known to the older inhabitants as "the relic." The Celtic name is relig or “churchyard," and when some operations were going on in connection with the town drainage in 1891, in the spot now called the "New Walk" (although nearly a century old), numerous bones were disinterred, (j) especially outside the gateway leading to Lisrnore Villa.

Not far from the present Cathedral, adjoining Ballyneligan Glebe, is one of the sites of the hermit cells of Lismore. From the 7th to the 12th century we meet with many entries in the Irish Annals referring to the “Anchorites" of Lismore; and one of the termon lands which they became possessed of in after days was known as the “Anchorites' Land," now called Ballinanchor. The site referred to is Cumaillister, the valley of the cliff hermitage, ister being a corruption of disert, originally meaning a desert, but afterwards frequently, applied to churches and hermitages in solitary places.

The Sarughadh, pronounced Scorroogh, about half a mile from Lismore, and marked on the Ordfiance Map as " Ballysaggartbeg: Wood”, was a sanctuary land from the 7th century, whilst adjoining it is Ballinaspick, or Bishopstown. The names Ballysaggart = the priest's townland, Burgessanchor, Baldydecane, Aglish (near Castlerichard), Glensaggart, Tubrid, Monataggart, Tubber-na-hulla, Boher-na-neav, etc., suggests at once the religious life of the locality.

In other portions of the Desie country the name of St. Carthage survives in Kilcaragh, near Killure, Temple Carthaig, and Cloghcuddy; whilst in Co. Cork we meet with Coolemogillacuddy and Garranmocuddy; and in Co, Wexford, Coolnacuddy. (k)

By a truly marvellous dispensation of Providence,(almost exactly as happened to St. Carthage when he was expelled from Rahan), we, in our own day, behold the successors of another exiled community, driven from France in 1831, silently toiling and praying on the side of Knockmealdown mountain, six miles from Lismore. The rugged barrenness of the “ bare brown hill" has become a smiling garden, thoroughly accentuating its honeyed name of Mount Melleray; and the present writer recalls vividly his boyish feelings at the interment of the last of the pioneer Trappists-Brother Similien -a French monk, who ended his days, almost a centenarian, in that grand Abbey which fittingly represents in this degenerate age the primitive wattle cells and pure faith of the glorious St. Carthage of Lismore.


(a) Irish Life of St. Carthage

(b) King Cathal died in 625, or, according to some, in 630.

(c) Whilst in the neighbourhood of Cappoquin St. Carthage and his companions halted at a cell called Killcluthair, now Englished Kilcloher, and for three days and three nights were hospitably entertained by the Abbot, St. Mochua, Miannain, who presented the cell to St. Carthage. Kilcloher means "the churchof the shelter," and is four miles east of Cappoquin.(Dr. Joyce).

(d) Seemochuda is a natural seat, somewhat like an arm-chair of "primitive man ;" and the well is close at hand, which, by a constant tradition, is said to have come into existence at the command of St. Mochuda by merely planting his crozier there.

(e) In the ancient Irish Life we read that St. Columbkille had predicted the foundation of Lismore on the occasion of a visit to St. Carthage at Rahan:-

"Formerly from the top of Slieve Cua, thou hast seen a great band of angels on the bank of the river Nemh, and raising to Heaven a silver cathedral with a golden image in it. There shall be the place of thy resurrectidn. That church of silver is thine, and the golden statue placed in it represents thee." It is strange that Ussher, Archdall, and Lanigan located Rahan as "Rathyne, in the barony of Tertullagh, Co. Westmeath," but certain it is that the site of St. Carthage's foundation was Rahan, in the barony of Eglish, near Tullamore-not far from Tullabeg.

(f) There is a townland formerly known as Ballymacpatrick in the parish of Clondulane, now called Careysville. Strangely enough Canon O'Hanlon was unable to identify Clondulane.

(g) According to the prophecy of St. Colman Elo, the Reilig, or cemetery of St. Mochuda, “designated by the angels, was that in which our saint was buried "-afterwards known as-" the cemetery of the Bishops." St. Ita also foretold the fame of St. Mochuda's cemetery, where, subsequently innumerable servants of God were laid at rest,

(h) There were thirteen different monastic Rules in the early Irish Church, namely, those of SS. Ailbe, Declan, Patrick, Bridget, Columbkille, Carthage, Molua,, Mochta, Finian, Columbanus, Kieran, Brendan, and Comgall.

(i) Among the valuable MSS. of O'Curry, now housed in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, there are two lives of St. Carthage. One of these is a transcript of the ancient Irish Life, whilst the other is a translation from the Irish. The Salamancan "Life" is in the Burgundian Library at Brussels, but the Vita Secunda is the one usually quoted.

(j) On April 26th, 1897, two papers were read before the Royal Irish Academy on the subject of those remains, but no definite conclusions were arrived at.

(k) The present name of this townland is Courtnacuddy, but the Irish speaking and old residents still call it Cuil-ne-cuddy = the recess of St. Cuddy, ne being an old Celtic endearing term similar to mo-as is seen in the place name Ardnekevan. In 16th century records it is written Courtmocuddy. From the Irish Life we learn that "a large tract of land near Ardfinnan, Co.Tipperary, was afterwards formed into a parish, dedicated to St. Mochuda.

Journal of the Waterford and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, Volume IV (1898), 228-237.

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Thursday 10 May 2018

Saint Cathaldus of Taranto, May 10

May 10 is the feast of an interesting Irish saint whose memory is still cherished today in Italy - Saint Cathaldus of Taranto. I have previously published Father J.F. Hogan's account of his life which is available here, but below is a brief reminder of the career of Saint Cathaldus taken from the children's column of an American Catholic magazine:

Our Future Men and Women.

Irish Saints in Italy.

Uncle Jack wonders if his Future Men and Women know, as well as they ought to, that the traces of Irish saints are found in many parts of the European continent. In Italy, particularly from the foot of the Appenines down to the island of Sicily, the footprints of the saints of Ireland are clear to all. St. Cataldo, for instance, who founded the see of Taranto, and whose feast is celebrated on May 10-his name does not sound like an Irish name, yet he was an Irish saint, Cataldo or Cataldus being the Latin form of Cahal which was the saint's name in Ireland. P. L. Connellan, writing from Italy, says: In Taranto, on the tenth of May, the feast of this Irish saint is held with great ceremony. The people come in from the surrounding country in their holiday attire, while the fishermen are conspicuous in the crowds. They regard him as the great Sailor-Bishop, whom their ancestors asked, as the popular tradition has it, for abundance in their fisheries, and since that time the mor piccolo, or little sea, has been a source of life to them. And they say that the saint dropped a ring into the sea, and no one could find it again, but in the place where it fell the salt water became fresh and clear. And whoever goes in a boat even now out into the Mar Grande, or larger gulf, will find a circle of fresh water over a yard in diameter, of a clear azure color, and everyone may drink of it and quench his thirst. The Tarentines call this circle of fresh water the Ring of San Cataldo. In Supino, on the way to Naples, a tiny town stuck on the side of the mountain, the same Irish saint is held in veneration by the people. Hia name is also given to a city on the Adriatic coast on the heel of the bootshaped peninsula of Italy. At Adassa, outside of Sorrento, you meet with a chapel, richly adorned, dedicated under his name. One of the most exquisite twelfth century Romanesque churches in Palermo—now abandoned and maintained as a national monument—also bears his name. So that around the South of Italy his memory is prominent, not only in the places already mentioned, but in so many other towns, that the list of them alone would fill many pages. He is perhaps even more known in this district than his fellow-countryman, San Frediano, is in Lucca and the many towns which surround that Tuscan city.

The Sacred Heart Review, Number 1, 22 June 1912 
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Monday 19 February 2018

How Saint Odhrán saved Saint Patrick's Life

February 19 is the feast of Saint Odhrán (Odran, Odhran, Oran) whom tradition records as the faithful chariot driver to Saint Patrick. The vignette below recounts how he was faithful to his saintly master until the end:


St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, was taken captive in his youth by King Niall, in one of his raids into Gaul. He served seven years in bondage as a swineherd, with Milcho, a chief who lived in the County Antrim. Having escaped to Gaul, he had a vision in which he heard the voice of the Irish crying out: "We entreat thee, holy youth, to come and walk still among us". Patrick was deeply affected by this vision, and he was subsequently commissioned, to his great joy, by Pope Celestine, to bear the faith of Christ to the pagan Irish. His mission was miraculously successful. He won the entire nation to the doctrines of Christ without a drop of blood having been shed through persecution, a fact unexampled in the history of Christianity.

But there was one martyr during his mission. A certain idolater named Failge, a great adversary of Christ, resolved to kill the saint, who had destroyed the idols to which he was bound. Odran, Patrick's driver or charioteer, having discovered the danger, requested his master to change places with him in the chariot, pretending that he was greatly fatigued. The saint, always happy to exercise his humility, gladly acquiesced. Ere long they arrived at the spot where the assassin lay in ambush, and as they were passing, the wretch rushed forward, and mistaking the driver for the servant, pierced Odran with a spear. The saint now understood Odran's motive, and his grief was great over his pious and devoted disciple. The vengeance of God fell on the murderer, for he died on the same day. St. Odran is ''the only Irish martyr on record that suffered in Ireland by the hands of an Irishman."

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Wednesday 31 January 2018

The Birth and Baptism of Saint Mogue


Saint Killian, on a day of the days missed his oxen which he pastured at Fenagh in Cavan, and set off in quest of them. He came up with them on the edge of Templeport lake, standing without a stir, and looking steadfastly at the island which lay in the middle of the sheet of water. The ferryman's house was near the spot, and he asked the wife if anything remarkable had happened in the island during the night. She said that a strange woman had got herself ferried across to it, and had been delivered of a fine man child. Moreover the bedpost which she had grasped in her pains had sent roots into the ground; and from its top had sprung branches in full leaf and flower, and gone through the roof. "Where's your husband and the boat?" said the saint. "At the farther side of the lake," said she. "Bring out something, on which you may go across to the island for the infant, that I may baptise him." "There is nothing on which I could sit or stand but the hearthstone, and sure that would not do." "Well, try it." "But sure I couldn't lift it." "Make the attempt." She did so, and the flag was no heavier than a thin dry board. The saint placed it on the water, bade the woman get on it, and spread out her shawl to catch the breeze. She obeyed, and had a delightful sail to the island.

There she received the child from Eithne its mother, brought it to the saint, and he baptised it by the name of Mogue. The woman then re-conveyed it to the island to its mother, and in time he became a priest, spent some time with St. David in Wales, and during the later years of his life governed the Bishopric of Ferns in Wexford. The miraculous hearthstone afterwards conveyed many a corpse to its place of interment in the island.

Patrick Kennedy, The Fireside Stories of Ireland, (Dublin, 1870), 127-128.

Note: For a full account of the life of Saint Mogue see a paper by Bishop P.F. Moran here.

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