Sunday 29 January 2023

Saints Báithéne, Ségéne & Crónán, The Three Clarenigh, January 29

I have always been intrigued by the adjective clárainech appended to the names of some of our Irish saints, most famously perhaps to Saint Mobhi of Glasnevin. The usual translation given is 'flat-faced' or 'table faced' and in the case of Saint Mobhi this is described as a result of his rather traumatic birth. He is not the only saint described in this way, however, and at January 29 we have no less than three clarinechs commemorated collectively, Saints Báithéne, Ségéne & Crónán. As Canon O'Hanlon observes 'why these three saints are venerated on the same day is a problem of difficult solution'. Yes, indeed. Below are his entries for all three from Volume I of his Lives of the Irish Saints, where he suggests that our three saints may have been brothers in the flesh as well as in Christ, and thus there might have been a genetic explanation for their unusual appearance:

 Article  VI. — St.  Baeithin.  

After  the  introduction  of  seven  foreign saints  at  this  day,  in  the  Franciscan  copy  of  the  Martyrology  of  Tallagh,  the Irish  saints  first  noticed  are  the  three  Clarenigh,'  i.e.,  Baithen,  Segin,  and Cronan. Baeithin,  is  separately  registered  in  the  Martyrology  of  Donegal, on  this  day.  He  is  also  entered  in  the  published  Martyrology  of  Tallagh, but  united  with  two  other saints.  Why  these  three  saints  are  venerated  on the  same  day  is  a  problem  of  difficult  solution.

Article  VII. — St.  Cronan.  

We  find  a  St.  Cronan  separately  recorded in  the  Martyrology  of  Donegal,  as  having  a  festival  at  this  date.  He  is  also entered,  but  not  separately,  in  the  Martyrology  of  Tallagh.  Towards  the close  of  life  he  might  repeat,  as  St.  Paul  did  to  the  Ephesians, "I  have fought  a  good  fight;  I  have  finished  my  course;  I  have  kept  the  faith." Therefore  was  he  a  ready  sacrifice  when  the  time  of  dissolution  was  at  hand.

Article  VIII. — St.  Seighin  or  Segin.  

The  Martyrology  of  Tallagh mentions  that  on  the  29th  of  January  a  festival  was  held  in  honour  of  St.Segin.   He  is  united  with  the  two  former  saints. "Na  tri  Clarenigh.  i  Baethini  ocus  Segini  ocus  Cronani,"  is  the  entry  found  in  this  record.  In  the Martyrology  of  Donegal  we  find  entered  on  this  day,  Seighin.  Immediately afterwards  follows  this  notice: — "The  three  Clairenechs  [flat-faced],  were Cronan,  Baeithin,  and  Seighin."  Perhaps  from  the  physical  peculiarity  attributed to  these  saints,  and  their  feasts  occurring  the  same  day,  we  may suppose  them  to  have  been brothers,  or  perhaps  to  have  been  descended from  some  common  progenitor.

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