Saturday 6 November 2021

"Ireland, though fruitful in soil, is much more celebrated for saints"

November 6 is the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland and below is a reflection from Father William P. Treacy (1850–1906) on the legacy of those Irish saints who carried the Gospel outside these shores. Father Treacy was a native of Tipperary who was ordained at Louvain and subsequently ministered in the United States, a background which perhaps explains his affinity for those Irishmen who studied and laboured abroad. In the excerpt below from his 1889 work Irish Scholars of the Penal Days, he reflects the mainstream Victorian romantic approach to the early medieval Irish church and its saints, as he recalls a lost Golden Age when the Faith was pure and laments those 'mists and clouds' which prevent this 'angelic vision of Ireland's beauty' from being appreciated properly today. This blog will, le cuidiú Dé, continue to honour the saints of Ireland and I wish everyone the blessings of their feast!

...Our noble hagiologists watched with streaming eyes the holy missionaries marching out from Ireland in glorious succession to bring light, and peace, and joy, and life to the peoples who sat in the darkness of error and in the shadow of death. They saw St Arden preaching to the Northumbrians in England; they saw St Colman among the Northern Saxons; they beheld St. Arbogart seated and ruling in the Episcopal Chair of Strasbourg. Sts. Maildulphus, Cuthbert, Killian, Virgilius, Finden and Columba rose up before their entranced vision, and they blessed and glorified the land that bore such flowers. They deeply felt the truth of the words of St Adelnus to Elfride, “that Ireland is no less stored with learned men than are the heavens with glittering stars.” With Egiwold, they agreed “that Ireland, though fruitful in soil, is much more celebrated for saints.” With Henry of Huntingdon they knew “that the Almighty enriched Ireland with several blessings, and appointed a multitude of saints for its defence.” They delighted in old, holy Ireland. Ireland of the Cell, and the Church, and the Monastery, and the Convent, and the Well, and the Celtic Cross, claimed the deep devotion of their hearts. No wonder that the names of our hagiologists are loved and cherished by every true child of Ireland. Would that we could inherit some of their love for our forefathers in the Faith! I can think of few blessings greater than the grace of devotion to the dear servants of God. To love the saints who prayed, and watched, and fasted, and bled, and died to transmit the Faith pure and bright to us ought to be our great aim. Sons of Ireland, do you always remember that the chief and lasting glory of your country is Christian? Do you always remember that the brightest halos that shine upon your country are those that surround the heads of your saints? Alas! I fear not. To many the angelic vision of Ireland’s beauty during the days when St Columb preached in Scotland; when Columban taught in France; when St Clement spoke in Germany; when St Buan bore the light into Iceland; when St Killian prayed in Franconia, and St Buiwan in the Orcades, when St Gallus stood amid the snows of Switzerland, and St Brendan shone upon the Fortunate Isles, is covered with mists and clouds.....

Rev. William P. Treacy, Irish Scholars of the Penal Days: Glimpses of their Labours on the Continent of Europe (New York, 1889), 67-68.

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1 comment:

Finola Finlay said...

Wonderfully evocative of the Golden Age of Saints and Scholars. Written in 1889 but familiar to me from the 1950s and 60s.