Saturday, 1 February 2014

Saint Brigid and Saint Derlugdacha

Although February 1 is Saint Brigid's Day, it is worth noting that it is a feast day she shares with the woman said to have been her immediate successor - Saint Derlugdacha. I have posted Canon O'Hanlon's account of this saint at my other site here. The hagiographers present the sharing of the same feast day by the pair as an example of the devotion Derlughdacha felt for the woman who was both her foster-mother and her mother in religion. For Derlughdacha begged to be allowed to die on the same day as Saint Brigid and this wish was granted, but only after she had served one year herself as Abbess of Kildare. Sadly, the close relationship between the two has today been taken out of the spiritual realm by some and they are held up as an example of 'gay saint' role-models for the marginalized 'LGBT community'. Indeed, a Catholic monastic artist has even painted a grotesque 'icon' of the pair which gives me the creeps. As I pointed out on my other site, Saints Brigid and Derlugdacha are not the only saints who share a feast day in this way for Saint Colum Cille shares his day on June 9 with his immediate successor, Saint Baithin, who also begged to be allow to share the earthly departure of his master but who also had to wait one year. I have yet to see anything suggesting that the relationship between the Iona monastics went beyond the spiritual, but then an understanding of hagiographical motifs cannot compete with an underground stream of secret knowledge about gay saints which 'they' are trying to keep from us.  No, of much more interest to me is the spread of the cult of Saint Derlugdacha beyond these shores. Canon O'Hanlon described a devotion to her found in Bavaria, which the infamous Scottish hagiologist, Thomas Dempster, tried to  explain by making our saint one of a family of 'Scots' who travelled to Germany and who were martyred there. This claim cannot be substantiated, although it would indeed be interesting to know by what means the cult of Saint Derlugdacha did arrive there. The other external centre for her cult is in Abernethy in Scotland, where both she and Saint Brigid feature in the founding story. This site quotes the following:
St Darlugdach
Saint’s Day 1st February
Also known as Darlaugdach, Dardulacha, Derlugdach and Darulagdach 
Darlugdach was supposedly the successor of ST BRIGID as abbess of Kildare in Ireland. According to one of the foundation legends of Abernethy, she came to Scotland in the time of Nechtan and: 
“In the third year of his reign, Darlugdach, abbess of Kildare, in Ireland, was an exile for Christ’s sake in Britain. In the second year of her sojourn, Nectonius dedicated Abernethy to God and St Brigid, in the presence of Darlugdach, who sang alleluia over such an offering.”
Obviously there is more to unpack here and I would like to undertake some further research into the Abernethy connection. For now, however, we will close with an account of Saint Derlugdacha from another Scottish source:
FEBRUARY 1 St. Darlugdach, Virgin, A.D, 524.  
THIS saint was an Irish virgin who was educated to the monastic life by the great St. Bridget, the glory of Ireland. She is said to have visited Scotland during the reign of King Nectan and to have presided over a community of religious women attached to a church which that King had built at Abernethy and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. By some writers St. Bridget herself is said to have led the monastic colony to Scotland, but this is by no means clear. It is true that great devotion was shown towards her, and many Scottish churches and wells bear her name, but this may be accounted for by the close connection with Ireland which subsisted in those early times. Her relics, too, were venerated at Abernethy. St. Darlugdach did not remain in Scotland, as she succeeded her friend and patroness St. Bridget as Abbess of Kildare, where she died.

Dom Michael Barrett, O.S.B., A Calendar of Scottish Saints, 2nd edition, (Fort Augustus, 1919), 16-17. 

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