Sunday, 15 November 2015

Saint Fintan and the Miracle on the Feast of Saint Brigid

November 15 is the feast day of Saint Fintan of Rheineau, one of the Irish saints who laboured in continental Europe. In a paper on the life of the saint which I have today reproduced in full at my other site here, Father J.F. Hogan records how Saint Fintan carried devotion to the three Irish patrons with him to his new home in Switzerland. On Saint Brigid's Day he once performed a miracle which would have indeed gladdened the heart of our national patroness by providing bread to the poor in a true feeding of the five thousand fashion:

It was usually on the feast days of St. Patrick, St. Bridget, St. Aidan, and St. Columbkille, that the most important manifestations of the will of Heaven were made to him. Once on the feast day of St. Bridget* he multiplied, by a miracle, his small allowance of bread, and supplied with it a large number of people who suffered from the famine which then decimated the country.

*"In festivitate quippe Sanctae Brigitae virginis, non modicam pauperum turbam, ut sibi mos erat, collegit. Carnem totam quam habuit juxta numerum adgregatorum, particulatim incidi praecipit: hoc autem facto ecce tanti pauperes ut aderant improvise venerunt. Vir vero beatus in adventu eorum Deo gratias agens, particulas quas ad numerum prius commeantium parare jussit, in Dei largitate confisus, qui quinque panes inter quinque millia virorum multiplicavit, distribui fecit. Sed licet numenis geminaretur egenorum ut nihil de carnibus vel ab illo vel a quoquam adderetue, unicuique tamen sua particula ex eadem caruncula inveniebatur."— Vita apud Mabillon.

J.F. Hogan, 'Saint Fintan of Rheinau' in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol. XIV (1893), 393.

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Saint Laurence O'Toole and Saint Brigid

November 14 is the feast of the twelfth-century saint Laurence (Lorcán) O'Toole. I have only recently begun to research his life and career but have been immediately struck by his links to the holy places of the early Irish church, most famously Saint Kevin's monastery of Glendalough. At my main site today I have published an address delivered in 1880 on the 700th anniversary of the death of Saint Laurence by the then Bishop of Ossory, the future Cardinal P.F. Moran. Interestingly, he begins with an account of the devotion of the family of Saint Laurence to the Irish patroness Saint Brigid:
St. Laurence O'Toole was born about the year, 1125. His father was chieftain of the Hy-Murray territory, which embraced all those fertile and picturesque districts now comprised in the southern half of the County Kildare. St. Bridget was the patron of the family, and her protecting mantle, and her blessing, were in a particular manner extended to the whole of that rich territory. The infant was sent to St. Bridget's shrine at Kildare to receive the waters of Baptism. Many signs and wonders foreshadowed his future greatness. The holy man who baptized him gave him the name of Lorcan, that is to say, one valiant and renowned, foretelling at the same time, that he would one day be magnified on earth and glorified in heaven. 
The rest can be read here.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Saint Colum Cille and the Gospel Book of Saint Martin of Tours

November 11 is the feast of Saint Martin of Tours and at my other site I have been looking at devotion to Saint Martin in the early Irish Church. Saint Colum Cille and his monastery at Iona played their part in the reverence for this great Gaulish saint. Adomnán's Life of Saint Columba, for example, records a reference to Saint Martin in the liturgical practices of Iona, in Book III (12):

'As they were singing the office, they reached the point where the prayer is usually chanted, which mentions the name of St Martin...'

Translator Richard Sharpe in his note on this passage comments:

This allusion to the particular and permanent position of St Martin's name in the liturgy at Iona indicates his very prominent place in the community's devotions. What the prayer was that distinctively mentioned him is not known, but it was apparently used on all major feasts. It would appear to have been a prayer for departed saints, perhaps headed by St Martin....

[R. Sharpe, ed. and trans., Adomnán of Iona: Life of St. Columba. London: Penguin Books, 1994, p. 215 and footnote 379, p. 366.]

Saint Columba received another link to Saint Martin of Tours in later traditions when he became associated with a very particular relic of the saint. Saint Columba's other biographer, the sixteenth-century Donegal chieftain Manus O'Donnell, records:

Then Columcille went on a pilgrimage to Tours of Martin. And he went to the flagstone whereunder Martin was buried. And he lifted the stone from the tomb, and he found the book of the gospels upon the neck of Martin in the tomb. And Martin and that book had been a hundred years in the earth, and God had kept the book that while for the use of Columcille, so that it had been no better its íirst day than in that hour. And by the will of God and of Martin, Columcille took that book with him to Derry, as Martin himself at the time of his death had prophesied that Columcille should bring it.

A. O'Kelleher and G. Schoepperle eds. and trans. Manus O'Donnell, Betha Colaim Chille - Life of Colum Cille, (Illinois, 1918), 

The Annals of Ulster record that this relic was in the possession of the coarb of Saint Colum Cille at Derry in the twelfth century. It is first mentioned at the year 1166 when Derry was under attack, but in 1182 the 'Gospel of Martin' was carried off 'by the Foreigners' i.e. the Anglo-Normans. The translator of the Annals, the Rev. Bartholomew McCarthy, speculates that 'it was most probably borne in battle as a Cathach, or proeliator, to ensure victory to the native forces'.

It has to be said though that Saint Colum Cille is not the only Irish saint with whom this story of a pilgrimage to Tours and the discovery of Saint Martin's Gospel Book is associated. A similar episode features in the Life of Saint Senan, for example. There are also many folk traditions associated with the feast of Saint Martin in Ireland and I hope to be able to examine some of these in a future post.

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Monday, 12 October 2015

Saint Colum Cille and the Death of Saint Bec Mac Dé

D.Wright, Druidism (1924)
October 12 is the commemoration of Saint Bec Mac Dé, a saint said by the Irish Annals to have lived in the sixth century and who had a reputation for prophecy. He is an interesting figure given that he features in secular mythology playing the role of druid, although his feast day is found on some of the Irish Martyrologies.  Bec is not the only Irish saint to have a reputation as a prophet and in the episode below it is perhaps appropriate that he meets Saint Colum Cille, who helps ease Bec's passing from this world by his own knowledge of prophecy. I have also included this vignette in my account of Saint Bec at my other site here, but the one below is from a different source, the sixteenth-century Life of Colum Cille by Manus O'Donnell:

129. On a certain day Columcille was going to Tara of the Kings, and by adventure he met Bec mac De, the druid of Diarmaid mac Cerbaill, King of Erin. And Bec had the gift of prophecy from God, albeit he was a druid, and he had made no false prophecy ever. But Columcille had foretold that Bec should twice prophesy falsely ere his death. And Colcumcille saluted him, and entered into friendly converse with him.

 And he said : ''Great is thy wisdom and knowledge. Bec mac De, in the tidings thou givest to other folk touching their deaths. Hast thou knowledge also of when thou shalt thyself die ? ''

 "Thereof have I knowledge in sooth," saith Bec. ''There be yet for me seven years of life. '' 

 "A man might do good works in shorter space than that," saith Columcille. '' And knowest thou for a surety that thou hast so much of life still?" 

 Then was Bec silent for a space, and thereafter spake he to Columcille and said, ''I have not. It is but seven months of life I have."

 ''That is well," saith Columcille, "and art certain thou hast still so much of life to come?"

 '' I am not, '' saith Bec, '' and this is a token, Columcille. I cannot withstand the prophecy thou hast made. For thou didst foretell that I should make two false prophecies ere I should die. There is left me but seven hours of this same day," saith he. ''Do thou assoil me and give me the sacrament." 

 ''It was to give thee this that I came hither today," saith Columcille, "for God revealed to me that thou shouldst die today." 

 Then did Columcille succor Bec with the consolation of Holy Church, and gave him the sacrament from his own hand. And Bec died then. And his soul went to Heaven through the goodness of God and the intercession of Columcille. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Saint Brigid and the Little Hostage

October 2 is the feast of Saint Giallán of Killelan, a Kildare saint with an interesting story attached to his name. There is a note appended to the margins of the Martyrology of Tallaght which explains that his name, derived from the Irish for a hostage, giall, was bestowed on him by Saint Brigid of Kildare. Our saint was originally a prince of Leinster called Onme who was given to Saint Brigid by another Leinster ruler to ensure the submission of Onme's father. The scribe's note tells us:
Onme (i.e. simul) or Omne son of the king of Leinster. And he was given as a hostage to the king of Leth Cuind, and he gave him into Brigit's hand that she might on his account obtain submission a patre suo, et aliquo die dixerunt discipulae Brigitae ei: ' 'tis lovely the little hostage (giallán) is to-day,' said they. 'Giallán will be his name for ever,' said Brigit. And that is the one who is in Cell Giallain in Ui Muiridaig.
It seems that the little hostage made quite an impression on Saint Brigid and her household! Professor Pádraig Ó Riain, in his 2011 Dictionary of Irish Saints reveals that the saint is associated with the County Kildare locality of Killelan, probably originally Ceall Ghialláin. October 2 is the second of two feast days recorded for him, the first is at September 6. There is a post on Saint Giallán at my other site here.

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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Saint Colman's Vision of Saint Patrick

September 26 is the feast of the County Offaly saint, Colman of Lann-elo. At my other site I have recounted some of the miracles attributed to this holy man and below is another one relating to Saint Patrick:

Saint Colman's Vision of Saint Patrick
While in choir one day, the monks were engaged in singing the Hymn of St. Patrick, when their superior saw the great Apostle of Ireland standing in their midst. Colman ordered that hymn to be sung a second and a third time, but one of the elders objected to such a repetition, and proposed that another hymn should be substituted for it. " My brother," responded Colman, I ordered that Hymn to be repeated, because while singing it St. Patrick stood among you." No sooner had he spoken these words than the vision disappeared.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Earth from Saint Ciarán's Tomb Saves Saint Colum Cille at Sea

We are told, on his hearing about St. Kieran's death, St. Columkille, Abbot of Iona, declared, that it was a providential circumstance, he had been called away from life at an early age; for, had he lived to an advanced term of years, the envy of many would be excited against him. It is said, that St. Columba composed a Hymn in honour of our saint. This seems to indicate, that he had been at Clonmacnoise, when it was written; since the successor of Kieran said to him: "O father, this is a beautiful and eulogistic hymn; what return can we make for its composition?" Columba answered, "Give me two hands full of earth, taken from the grave of Father Kieran, because that I desire and love, more than pure gold or precious stones." Wherefore, St. Columba, taking this earth from the sepulchre of St. Kieran, returned to his own island of Hy.

But, while on his voyage thither, a great sea-storm arose, which carried his ship towards a most dangerous whirlpool, known as Corebreacyn. While drifting towards this whirlpool, so much dreaded by mariners, St. Columba threw a portion of the earth taken from St. Kieran's tomb into the sea. Immediately, the waves subsided, the tempest was stilled, and the ship escaped from that menaced danger. Thereupon, St. Columba returned thanks to God, and called his fellow-passengers to witness what a favour had been obtained, through the relics of Blessed Kieran.

[Footnote: This account purports to be taken from the thirty-third chapter of an old Life of St. Kieran. It is not to be found in the Irish Life, contained in the Book of Lismore.]

Rev J. O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints, Volume IX, (Dublin n.d.), 232-233.

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