Sunday 2 February 2020

Saint Colmán, February 2

The entries for two separate Saints Colmán at February 2 in the Irish calendars present us with a perfect illustration of some of the difficulties faced by hagiologists. First, the name at its root, Colum, is capable of changing into a bewildering variety of forms using diminutives which can then be further complicated by employing prefixes or suffixes. I readily confess that without the scholarly expertise of Professor Ó Riain's Dictionary of Irish Saints I would not have recognized that names such as Camma, Mochuille or Dochonna are variants of Colum/Colmán. Secondly, because the most famous of the Irish saints to bear the name Colum, Colum Cille (Columba) of Iona had such a widespread cult in Ireland, it can be difficult to distinguish between what was a local commemoration of the great man of Iona in a particular area and a separate individual who happened to share the same name. Thus when we find the name Colmán recorded twice at February 2 on the Martyrology of Tallaght without any further distinguishing information, it is almost impossible to know the reality that lies behind these entries. They do not appear on the twelfth-century Martyrology of Gorman but are recorded on the seventeenth-century Martyrology of Donegal. Canon O'Hanlon speculates that since the Martyrology of Donegal also records a feast for Saint Colmán of Kilmacduagh at February 3, it could be that today's entry references the vigil of this feast. Ó Riain writes that one of the genealogical sources mentions a feast for a Colmán son of Lughna at 2 February, but there is no support for this elsewhere. Colmán son of Lughna is a northern saint whose ancestry goes back to Buan, father of Míleac, the man who was Saint Patrick's master when he was enslaved.

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