Wednesday 11 August 2021

The Prayer of Saint Atty

A couple of days ago I reprinted a poem by Philadelphia resident Patrick J. Coleman on the founding of the diocese of Achonry by Saint  Nathy.  Now we have another of his poetic offerings, this time in praise of Achonry's female patroness Saint Attracta and her role as peacemaker and protectress.



KING Connor made an edict old:
"A royal palace I will build;
Tribute I order of the gold,
From every clan and craftsman's guild.

"Tithings of scarlet and of silk,
Curtain and screen of regal woof
Deep-uddered heifers, rich in milk,
And bronze and timber for the roof.

"From Leyney's lord, in token due
Of fealty, I will ordain
A hundred masts of ash and yew,
A hundred oaks of pithy grain."

"Saint Atty, keep us safe from scath
And shield us in the battle crash!
For roof of royal house or rath
We will not render oak or ash!"

Thus lowly prayed the Leyney clan,
While sang the birds in bush and brake.
As fast they mustered, horse and man,
To face the foe by Gara's lake.

For, wroth' at heart, came Connor's clan;
Ah, Christ! they made a horrid front,
With red spears bristling in the van.
And shields to brave the battle-brunt.

From wing to wing in wrath they rolled,
Crested with helmets all afire.
Of burnished bronze or burning gold.
To martial measures of the lyre.

A dreadful war! the blessed saints
Defend to-day the Leyney clan!
For they must reel before the steel
Of such a hosting, horse and man.

From sounding sheaths the swords flamed out,
The clattering quivers echoed loud,
From their dark ranks the battle shout
Broke out, as thunder from the cloud.

"Saint Atty, keep us safe from scath!"
Thus made the Leyney men their prayer ;
When lo! adown the forest path
Trooped, lily-white, a herd of deer!

Broke from the branching thicket green,
While mute the watching warriors stood;
Such gracious deer were never seen
In Irish fern or Irish wood;

And, mighty marvel, on their backs.
Bound by a maiden's tresses gold.
Clean-hewn as if by woodman's axe.
The tribute of the wood behold !

Nor paused the sylvan creatures sweet,
But gliding onward, like to ghosts.
Cast off the wood at Connor's feet
In wondrous wise betwixt the hosts;

Then vanished in the forest green.
While mused amaze the king and kern;
And nevermore from then were seen
In Irish wood or Irish fern.

Down dropped the sword to thigh and hip,
"God's will be done, let hatred cease!"
Rose up the cry from every lip.
And harps attuned a chord of peace.

Yea, "blessings broke from every lip,
To God and to His saints above.
And hands that came for deadly grip
Were mingled in fraternal love.

" 'Gainst scath or scar our battle-shield
Is Atty, saint of Leyney's clan!"
They sang, as homeward from the field
They hied, unscathed, horse and man.

For in her chapel in the wood
The boding war had Atty seen,
And for the people of her blood
Made prayer amid the forest green.

And men do say that on that day
She saved the Leyney clan from scath,
Such power there is when lowly pray
The pure of heart and keen of faith.

And still when autumn gilds the lea,
And scythes are shrill in meadows ripe,
The rural pageant you may see
Sporting with jocund dance and pipe.

The village women you may mark
In Leyney, at Saint Atty's well.
Ere yet hath trilled the risen lark
In golden mead or dewy dell.


*Saint Atty is the loving name of the people of Achonry for Saint Attracta, the patroness of the diocese.

The Irish Monthly, Volume 18 (1890),80-82 



Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2021. All rights reserved.

Monday 9 August 2021

The Founding of Achonry


Today is the feast of Saint Nathy, patron of the Diocese of Achonry. Below is an 1889 poem by an Irish-American contributor to the Catholic press of his day, Patrick J. Coleman, which recounts the founding of the diocese and the part played by Saint Finnian of Clonard in its establishment. Saint Finnian is depicted in hagiography as a teacher and guide to other Irish monastic saints and his Life includes the episode on which the poem is based. The idea of a monastery's location being decided by divine intervention is a common trope in hagiography and here it provides the context for the relationship between the senior saint, Finnian, and the junior, Nathy. Modern scholars suggest that such stories really reflect the church politics of the time when the saint's Life was written. Nathy himself is not the subject of a written Life but his small foundation was sufficiently important to merit the recording of its establishment in the Life of Saint Finnian:


THUS saith the legend of the bard: 

To do the holy will of God, 

To Leyney's land from old Clonard 

Afoot the saintly Finnian trod. 

Then laid on Nathy in his cell, 

Below the hill, anointed hands; 

And gave him crozier, book, and bell. 

As bishop-prince of Leyney's lands. 

With knitted brows of doubt he frowned 

Where he should set the comer stone 

Of Nathy's church,— on level ground, 

Or on the purple mountain cone ? 

So Finnian slept, revolving deep, 

And while he slept, an angel face 

Of glory whispered in his sleep, 

“Lo, Nathy will appoint the place” 

Because of comfort of the words, 

Soul-glad went Finnian o'er the land, 

About the singing of the birds 

Of dawn, with Nathy hand in hand. 

And while they went, behold, a field 

Through which a silver stream did run,
Shone like a warrior's golden shield 

In battle opposite the sun. 

The lark sang shrilly o'er the trees, 

The finch and linnet in the bowers; 

There was a drowsy drone of bees, 

Gold-girdled in among the flowers. 

And since his heart was pure, and he 

Loved all things for their native worth, 

“Lo," Nathy said, “God giveth me 

Unto mine own this plot of earth. 

“Here will I build my church, and make 

Mine altar and my lowly cell. 

Where morning music of the brake 

Will mingle with my matin bell." 

And even as he spoke there came, 
Knee-deep in flowers across the ground,

The master of the field, aflame 

With anger, at his side a hound; 

And laid rude hands upon the twain. 

On Finnian and on Nathy mild,
Who stood with eyes upon the plain

And simple-hearted as a child. 

Then sudden wrought a mighty sign 

Unto the master of the plot,

That so by miracle divine 

For God he might possess the spot. 

A spear's cast from the place there lay 

A rock, in stature like a man, 

A swarthy crag of mossy gray. 

And many cubits in the span. 

Nor thinking any thought of ire. 

Nor saying aught of mild reproof, 
In heart with holy zeal afire, 

Went Nathy from the man aloof. 

Then raising psalms of prayer, while sweet, 

Dim glory shone about his face. 

He blessed the rock, which, at his feet. 

Broke sundered to its flowery base. 

Prone at the feet of Finnian fell 

The prince, and gave the field; and so 

Was builded there Saint Nathy's cell 

In Ireland's golden long-ago. 

And well in woe have clung to God 

The shepherds, who have bravely prest 

O'er paths that Nathy's feet have trod
In sweet Achonry of the west.

Patrick J. Coleman.

Philadelphia, April 30, 1889. 

 * The diocese of Achonry, which takes its name from a small village in County Sligo, includes portions of Sligo, Mayo, and Roscommon. St. Nathy (whose feast is the 9th of August) was the first bishop of the diocese, about the year of our Lord 630. The legendary circumstances of his consecration by St. Finnian of Clonard, whose disciple he was, are narrated in these verses. His present successor is the Most Rev. John Lyster, D.D. The name of Leyney still survives in the barony Leyney, in Sligo, originally the patrimony of the Clan O'Hara.  

The Irish Monthly, Volume 17 (1889), 315-317.

Content Copyright © Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae 2012-2021. All rights reserved.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

A Legend of Saint Molua


August 4 is the feast of Saint Molua, an entry on whose life can be found here. Below, is a charming vignette from the Irish Celtic Revival scholar, Maud Joynt (1868-1940), which records the grief of a little bird at the saint's passing:


ONCE there lived in Ireland a saint called Molua son of Ocha, who loved all living creatures and was of all living creatures beloved. On the day of his death it chanced that a certain holy man, Maelanfair son of Anfadach, was walking in the woods and he saw a little bird perched on a bough and making great lamentation.

"Oh, my God," said he, "what can have happened? I will not taste food till it be revealed to me!"

 Then an angel appeared to him and said: "Be no longer troubled, O cleric. Molua the son of Ocha is dead and all living creatures bewail him; for he loved everything that lives and breathes, and throughout his life he never killed any creature, great or small; wherefore men mourn not more for him than do the beasts and the little bird thou seest yonder."

Maud Joynt, The Golden Legends of the Gael, (Dublin, n.d.), Part II, 81.

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