Friday, 19 February 2016

'Proto-martyr of the Irish Church': Saint Odhran, Charioteer of Saint Patrick

February 19 is the feast of Saint Odhran who is remembered in hagiographical tradition as the charioteer of Saint Patrick. He is more importantly remembered as having laid down his life for his saintly master and is described below as 'the proto-martyr of the Irish Church' by a nineteenth-century female writer on early missionaries to Europe: 

After his [Saint Patrick's] departure from Munster, as he passed through the territory of the Hyfailge in Kildare, and parts of the King's and Queen's Counties, he escaped even a more imminent danger through the fidelity of Odran, his charioteer. One Foilge Berrard, a Pagan, had boasted that if he met Patrick he would kill him, in revenge for the overthrow of the idol Cenn Cruagh, which had been Foilge's god. His boast was kept back from Patrick by his people, but it was known to Odran, his charioteer. Accordingly, when they came into Foilge's district Odran said to the saint, "Since I have been a long time driving for you, Patrick, let me take the chief seat for this day, and be you the charioteer, Father." Patrick consented, and changed seats. After this Foilge came up and dealt a thrust through Odran, believing him to be Patrick. Odran at the moment of death forgave his murderer, and became the proto-martyr of the Irish Church, as well as the only martyr in S. Patrick's time.

Mrs Anne Fulton Hope, The Conversion of the Teutonic Race, 2nd edition ed. Rev J.B. Dalgairns (London, 1887), 212.

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