Monday 24 December 2012

Patrons in Poetry: Saint Brigid's Lullabies

Below is a poem by Ethel Rolt-Wheeler (1869-1958) which draws on the legend that Saint Brigid assisted at the birth of Christ, an event made possible by her miraculous transport to Bethlehem. The author also wrote about Ireland's patroness in her 1913 work, Women of the Cell and Cloister, which is available to read through the Internet Archive here. There she examines Saint Brigid in relation to two themes - milk and fire. Rolt-Wheeler's work is representative of the various influences which went into the 'Celtic Revival' and she embraces the idea of Brigid goddess and saint, a concept which modern scholarship is starting to question.


(The Legend tells that Brigid was the Foster-Nurse of Jesus.)


FIRST I kiss the eyelids sweet
Little eyes that soon shall know
All the dark of human woe
Peace that comes when sorrows seize us
Fill the dreams of Baby Jesus.

Then I kiss the little feet
Hard your way, and sharp and fierce
Little feet the nails shall pierce.
Hope that lifts and Faith that frees us
Guide the feet of Baby Jesus.

Then the kisses I repeat
On the hands in slumber curled
Little hands that hold the world.
Love whose circling arms appease us,
Cradle softly Baby Jesus.


The burning blight of the midday might on meadow and city falls,
And shadow fails, and a Terror pales the dazzle of eyeless walls,
Fierce stifling gusts of the desert-dusts up lanes and up alleys beat
And all things gasp in the fever grasp of the merciless hands of Heat.

I chant the tune of a mountain rune to screen my Babe from the glare.
And spells I weave of the dews of eve and of Ireland's radiant air,
I loop a twist of her rainbow mist, and a film of her twilit skies,
And silver strains of her rills and rains through the liit of my lullabies.

As low I croon of the pale green noon and the long Atlantic roll,
It sometimes seems as if Ireland's dreams may slide into Baby's soul.
That in the prime of a future time, on my hills and my isles remote
His words of speech all hearts shall reach with a sweet familiar note.


The Dublin Review, Volume CLV, Quarterly No.310, 311; July-October 1914, 60-61.

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Thursday 13 December 2012

Saint Brigid and Saint Lucy

December 13 is the feast of Saint Lucy of Syracuse, an early virgin martyr whose feastday is still celebrated in Lutheran Sweden. There is a good illustrated summary of the Swedish celebration of Saint Lucy here. According to a modern scholar of Irish folklore, the cult of Saint Lucy may have directly influenced the cult of our own Saint Brigid, both in the use of the hagiographical motif of the plucking out of the eyes and in some of the ways in which Saint Brigid's day was celebrated in popular culture. Dr Dáithí Ó hÓgain writes:

Narratives of Brighid were developed through medieval times by further additions from Continental hagiography. A ninth-century text describes how a man comes to woo the young, and as yet unprofessed, Brighid. Her stepbrothers try to compel her to accept the marriage, but she knocks out one of her eyes so as not to be attractive to the suitor. When the family allow her to remain a virgin she miraculously restores sight to herself. The story is repeated in later sources, and it survived in the recent folklore of north Leinster and south Ulster. The name of the suitor, Dubhthach mac Lughair, is borrowed from the early Patrician texts, and it is obvious that the story cannot be older than the eighth century. It was, in fact, taken from the lore of the continental saint Lucy and was suggested by the symbolism of light associated with both of these holy virgins. It is apparent that the cult of Lucy influenced that of Brighid in other ways also in medieval times. Lucy's feastday, December 13, coincided with the winter solstice in the old calendar and was thus seen to usher in the lengthening of daylight. In Irish the saying which refers to Brighid's feastday, February 1, is that 'from Brighid's feastday onwards the day gets longer and the night shorter', although in fact that change occurs from the winter solstice, and the presumption must be that this saying was in origin a rather inaccurate borrowing from the Lucy lore. It could well be, also, that some of the paraphernalia associated with the feast of Brighid in Irish folk life - such as processions of young girls with the leader dressed up as the saint - shows the influence of the Lucy cult, which was very popular in western European countries in the Middle Ages.

Dáithí Ó hÓgain, Myth, Legend and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of the Irish Folk Tradition (Ryan, 1990), 62-63.

Something else which struck me as I looked at the picture above of a celebration of Saint Lucy's Day in Sweden in 1943, was that the round headdress of candles worn by the young girl representing the saint has echoes of another tradition associated with Saint Brigid - her connection with the feast of Candlemas:

Ireland: Folklore

108. A Legend of St. Brigid

In further reference to the spring feature of Saint Brigid I am indebted to Miss Delap for a curious legend from Valentia Island which, with fine disregard of chronology, makes Saint Brigid a friend of the Virgin Mary. It is said that when the Virgin was shy about facing the congregation in the Temple, Saint Brigid procured a harrow, took out the spikes and putting a candle in every hole, placed it on her head, walked up before the Virgin and escorted her down again. According to another version, which it is believed came from the north of Ireland, it was a hoop with lighted candles which the Saint wore as she danced up the aisle before the Virgin and down again. For this service Saint Brigid’s Day is the eve of Candlemas or the Purification of the Virgin.

Elizabeth Andrews, Man, Vol. 22 (December 1922), 187.

I don't know if the 'hoop with lighted candles' is also borrowed from the Saint Lucy tradition, but in view of what Dr Ó hÓgain has said, it seems to me an interesting coincidence.

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Tuesday 11 December 2012

Prayers to our Patrons: For those at home and far away

Brian O'Higgins (1934)

The 1934 edition of the Prayers of an Irish Mother, published by Brian O'Higgins at his Dublin office in Upper O'Connell Street and bearing his splendid illustration on the front cover, contains a few prayers to Ireland's patrons. I note that the three saints are allotted their familiar roles in Irish culture- Patrick as guardian of the faith he brought, Brigid as exemplar of chastity, charity and humility and Colum Cille as patron of those in exile. Although the three prayers form an obvious group, they are actually published two pages apart. The book is a product of the confident Irish Catholicism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which simply couldn't foresee the secularist, consumerist Ireland of the twenty-first.

For those at Home

St.Patrick, Apostle of the Gael, keep the light of the True Faith ever brightly burning in the hearts of our people!

St. Brigid, Mary of the Gael, keep the virtues of Chastity, Charity and Humility in our hearts and homes for ever!

For Our Loved Ones far away

St. Colmcille, who suffered the pain and grief of exile, watch over the children of Ireland, scattered throughout the world. Obtain for them solace and courage, and keep them true to God in every trial and temptation!

Prayers of an Irish Mother compiled by Mary T. Dolan (Dublin, 1934), 48, 50.

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Friday 7 December 2012

The Nativity of Saint Colum Cille, December 7

December 7 sees the commemoration on some of the Irish calendars of the birth of Saint Colum Cille (Columba). The Martyrology of Gorman records for this day:
The nativity of chaste, dear-white Colomb, the festival of Buite the fair and vigorous.
while the later Martyrology of Donegal simply records 'The Birth of Colum Cille' in its entry for December 7.

In his 1857 edition of Adamanan's Life of Columba, the Irish Anglican Bishop, William Reeves, commented:
St. Columba was born at Gartan, a wild district in the county of Donegal, on the very day that St. Buite, the founder of Monasterboice, departed this life. Thus the 7th of December is determined for an event, the date of which might otherwise have been unrecorded. Authorities vary as to the year, ranging from 518 to 523; but calculation from Adamnan's data gives 521 as that most likely to be the true period.

Gartan. The earliest authority for St. Columba's birth-place is probably the statement in the old Irish Life: 'Gartan, now, is the name of the place in which he was born.' O'Donnell and the Calendar of Donegal cite the alleged lines of St. Mura :

'He was born at Gartan by his consent;
And he was nursed at Cill-mic-Neoin ;
And the son of goodness was baptized,
At Tulach Dubhglaise of God.'

None of the Latin Lives make any reference to the place of his birth. Local tradition, however, is very decided in confirmation of the Irish account.

Seventh of December. The Irish Life adds: 'on Thursday, of the week-days.' This will give the choice of 517 and 523 for his birth: for, Dec. 7 is e, therefore, it being Thursday, A is the Sunday letter, which belongs to the above years.
William Reeves, ed., The Life of St Columba written by Adamnan (Dublin, 1857), lxix.

The later life of Saint Colum Cille, written by the 16th-century Donegal prince Manus O'Donnell, records a number of the traditions associated with the birth of the saint. These include prophecies and visions, but also some very tangible relics: 

51. On a time Ethne the mother of Columcille was in the place that is called Gartan, and it was the night before Columcille was born, and there appeared a fair youth in shining raiment, and he said she should bring forth on the morrow the son that was promised her to bear. And he told her there was a broad flagstone in the lake, to the south of the place where she was, and that is today called Loch mic Ciabain. And he told her to let bring that flagstone to a certain place called Raith Cno and that thereon should God will the child to be brought forth of her.

"In what manner shall I get the flagstone, seeing it is under the lake," saith she, "or whereby shall I know it from other flagstones?"

"Thou shalt find it floating on the bosom of the lake," saith he.

And Ethne found the flagstone on the morrow as it had been told her, and she let bring it from the foresaid place. And albeit it floated on the surface of the lake, and Ethne's folk brought it away with them with out labour, certain it is that it were a task for thirty men to bring it from the lake to the place where it is to-day.

And when the sickness of childbirth came upon Ethne, she went to a lonely valley hard by a little stream. And she sat down in a certain spot there, and in that place she left some of the blood that is wont to come before the child.

And not finer and not whiter is flour than the clay that is found there. And whoso eateth or bringeth with him of that clay is never burned nor drowned, nor may he be killed by one cast that day till night. Nor shall he get a death without priest. And every woman in pangs of childbirth that eateth thereof is helped forthwith. And whoso putteth thereof on his tongue the first day that a fever seizeth him, there is no bitter taste in his mouth from that time the while the fever lasteth. And it is its nature to heal every distemper. And it must be that one of the natives of this place, to wit, Gartan, should dig this clay to bestow on all, for men say a stranger once went to dig it, and it fled from him and entered the heart of a tree or a great big trunk fast by, nor was it found again in its own place until holy water was sprinkled there on and it was blessed.

Then went Ethne thence to the place where she brought forth Columcille, the time when the age of our Lord was five hundred and twenty years.

52. In Gartan, in sooth, in Cenel Conaill Gulban, Columbcille was born. And Raith Cno is the name of the very spot in Gartan where he was brought forth, on the seventh day of December. And it befell that the foresaid flagstone was under him at his birth, and the child rested him crosswise thereon, and the flagstone opened for him in such wise that it left a place for him therein. And the figure of that cross is in that stone from that time to this day. And that flagstone remaineth in that place for working of marvels and wonders. And his mother brought forth a round stone of the color of blood along with him and it is called the Red Stone. And he left that stone in Gartan to work marvels and wonders ; and it doth not take a covering of gold nor of silver, albeit men have oft endeavored to cover it, but a case of silver or of gold it suffereth.

A. O Kelleher and G. Schoepperle, eds and trans. Betha Colaim Chille - Life of Columcille Compiled by Manus O Donnell in 1532 (Illinois, 1918).

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Tuesday 27 November 2012

Sechnall's Praise of Saint Patrick

November 27 is the feast of Saint Seachnall (Sechnall) to whom tradition ascribes the authorship of the hymn in praise of Saint Patrick Audite omnes amantes. A translation of this text has already been archived at the blog here, but below is a tribute in poetry to its author, first published in the 1880 edition of the journal of the Paulist Fathers. The anonymous writer has added a couple of quotes from other Patrician sources for good measure at the end. His poem is a typically romantic nineteenth-century retelling of the story of the bard and the saint he praised:


SECHNALL, the sweet-voiced bard, at Patrick's feet
Steeping his heart in love of God and man,
At last the holy evening silence broke
Each soul had kept because of thoughtful love,
And, bending o'er his harp, he waked its chords,
That sighed as fearing, in their tremulous joy,
To give some note too harsh for hour so calm,
Yet feeling, 'neath that steadfast hand's control,
True must they give the message of the soul.
Then, lifting up his eyes to Patrick's face,
Out spoke the bard:

" Lo! Patrick, I would sing
The praises of a saint the earth still holds,
Whose feet still blessing to its blossoms give,
Whose eyes two holy mirrors still uplift
Wherein earth, smiling, sees her happy face
And men glad read the mysteries of Heaven."

Then unto Sechnall Patrick soft replied:
"Hasten thy song, for even now thou stand'st
Before the gates of death; upon thy face
Already lie the shadows and the light
Of thy last hour. So lift thy soul and sing,
And God's best blessing be upon thy song."

"O happy hour that wanes at Patrick's feet
And dies in song of Erin's greatest saint! "
Thus answered Sechnall, as his soul o'erfilled
And poured its last earth music from his lips.
"O happy Sechnall! whom his God accepts
When clasp his fingers his e'er faithful harp
And fade its sounds in consecrated song.

''All holy angels, draw ye nigh,
High-hearted seraphim;
Shade with your wings my earthly eyes
God's glory maketh dim:
Against my heart, that throbs with love,
Lay your strong hearts of fire,
That, kindled so, my words of flame
Shall but in Heaven expire.

"And thou, my harp, lift up thy voice,
Soon never more to wake,
And thrill the air with melody
Thou pour'st for Sechnall's sake.
Together thou and I this hour
A living saint must sing-
No more on earth our voices meet :
Thy soul be in each string!

"A living saint we sing, my harp,
Crowned even so on earth,
Who signed Ierne's maiden brow
With sign of heavenly birth.
O restless waves that seek our shore!
What blessing yours to bring
The holy life that spends itself
God's wide flocks shepherding.

"He spoke - the saint we sing, my harp-
And our green island lay
Bound to his feet with chains of love
Loosed not since that strange day;
Nor loosed to be through all the years-
Woe shall but stronger bind
As, in those Heaven-forged links, our land
True liberty shall find.

"God is his guide, God keepeth him,
God's wisdom makes him wise,
God ever lendeth him his ear,
His path before God lies.
So pure he walketh in God's sight
His love hath cast out fear :
The Holy Spirit rules his life,
Christ is his buckler here.

''And, as God shieldeth him, his hand
Guideth our earthly ways;
Our anchor amid stormy seas,
His strength the danger stays :
He is the sun that from our fields
Wins harvest rich for God,
And he the moistening dew that fresh
Shall keep our emerald sod.

''On his heart shall the history
Of our dear land be writ:
His life is like a holy book-
All honour brightening it.
He is the mirror where men find
The perfect image thrown-
No evil darkness dimming it,
God's shadow seen alone.

''And terrible his countenance
When kings their faith betray,
Oppress the poor through greed for gold,
And Erin's honour slay.
Not for himself his life is spent :
God and his people claim
His every thought, his every deed-
So wins he saintly fame.

"Within his heart rests Christ, the Lord,
And so his soul is meek;
He quencheth not the smoking flax,
The bruised reed doth not break.
He seeth Christ in each dear heart
That lifteth thought to God;
He bears the burdens of the weak,
As carrying Christ's own load.

"And as his heart is home for Christ,
The holy angels wait,
Unseen, on him whom God hath crowned
With super-earthly state:
They see the shining aureole
Hidden from mortal eyes,
The thoughts divine about his lips
Their grace doth recognize.

"Where'er he treads, beneath his feet
The virgin lilies spring,
Unto whose maiden purity
No earthly stain doth cling.
White as the foam that girds our shores
The holy garden gleams,
Filling tear-stained, earth-weary eyes
With light of heavenly dreams.

"Dim grow my eyes to earthly things,
And through the thickening mist
I see a golden glory stream
Down streets of amethyst;
I see tall lilies lift their bloom
Beside the jewelled ways;
I hear the voice of martyrs old
Their holy whiteness praise.

"'Lo!  see' so speak these saints of God,
The seed the Lord hath blessed,
Whose shining blossom, as he nears,
Lies softly on his breast.
O happy seed no storm shall blight,
O happy hand that sowed,
O soul beloved ! thy lilies e'er
Bestrew thy heavenly road !'

''Be still, my harp, my voice no more
Shall wake thy soul to song;
To mightier touch than Sechnall's hand
Thy strings henceforth belong.
We sought to praise a living saint-
Our song but does him wrong:
What need earth-poet's faltering voice
Where singing seraphs throng?

We sought to sing a living land,
A garden of the blest:
What words were meet to sing her grace
Whose home is Jesus' breast?
Yet shall a living people lift
Through years of countless days
To Patrick, 'mid his lilies crowned,
Unbroken songs of praise.

"No shadow shall make dim his name,
No sun its light efface;
Deep in his people's heart, no steel
Its graving shall erase.
Holy his prayers shall keep his isle,
Nor ever Erin's name
Shall be forgot, with Patrick's faith
Her dearest thought of fame."

Faint grew the singer's voice, and, lifting up
His misty eyes to Patrick's face, he smiled;
And laying down his harp at Patrick's feet,
He died content at heart that so his saint
Should speed his soul to Heaven with prayer;
Content that so his voice should die in song,
And that last thought of poet-heart should be
His Ireland's glory and his friend's true praise-
Her faithful fame that ever one should be
With that great saint his dying lips had sung.

NOTE. The bishop must be the hand which supports, the pilot who directs, the anchor that stays, the hammer that strikes, the sun that enlightens, the dew which moistens, the tablet to be written on, the book to be read, the mirror to be seen in, the terror that terries, the image of all that is good ; and let him be all for all. - ST.PATRICK.

May the wisdom of God instruct me, may the eye of God view me, may the ear of God hear me, may the way of God direct me, may the shield of God defend me. 

Christ be with me, Christ in me ; Christ be in the heart of each person whom I speak to. - ST. PATRICK.

The Catholic World, Volume 30 (1880), 737-741.

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Friday 16 November 2012

Ireland's Patrons and the Norman Conquerers

In his magnum opusThe Monks of the West, the 19th-century Anglo-French writer, the Comte de Montalembert, records this popular account of how Saints Brigid and Columba treated the Norman conquerors of Ireland. I have posted a short essay on the coming of the Normans to Ireland at my other blog here. The Norman reputation for haughty arrogance towards those they conquered is firmly established in the popular mind, as anyone who has ever read the stories of Robin Hood must agree. Inevitably, like the Vikings, the Normans are now the subject of some historical revisionism. I suppose I will have to declare an interest here since I myself bear the surname of one of the Norman families who came to Ulster in 1177 with John de Courcy. I am thus glad that de Courcy, whatever his motives, did the right thing by the Irish saints, unlike his countryman Strongbow. Saints Brigid and Colum Cille are pillars of charity, but it doesn't pay to get on the wrong side of them. The image of Saint Brigid waiting to pierce the heart of the proud Norman conqueror on his deathbed is certainly one to conjure with...

It is to Columba that the oppressed and impoverished Irish seem to have appealed with the greatest confidence in the first English conquest in the twelfth century. The conquerors themselves feared him, not without reason, for they had learned to know his vengeance. John de Courcy, a warlike Anglo-Norman baron, he who was called the Conqueror (Conquestor) of Ulster, as William of Normandy of England, carried always with him the volume of Columba's prophecies; and when the bodies of the three saints were found in his new possessions in 1180, he prayed the Holy See to celebrate their translation by the appointment of a solemn festival. Richard Strongbow, the famous Earl of Pembroke, who had been the first chief of the invasion, died of an ulcer in the foot which had been inflicted upon him, according to the Irish narrative, at the prayer of St. Bridget, St. Columba, and other saints, whose churches he had destroyed. He himself said, when at the point of death, that he saw the sweet and noble Bridget lift her arm to pierce him to the heart. Hugh de Lacy, another Anglo-Norman chief of great lineage, perished at Durrow, "by the vengeance of Columb-cille," says a chronicler, while he was engaged in building a castle to the injury of the abbey which Columba had founded, and loved so much. A century after, this vengeance was still popularly dreaded; and some English pirates, who had pillaged his church in the island of Inchcolm, having sunk like lead in sight of land, their countrymen said that he should be called, not St. Columba, but St. Quhalme — that is to say, the saint of Sudden Death. 
[de Montalembert explains in a footnote that Quhalme was the Anglo-Saxon word for sudden death, from whence the English word 'qualm'.]

The Monks of the West, vol.ii, Count de Montalembert (Boston, 1872), 113.

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Wednesday 14 November 2012

Slí Cholmcille/The Saint Columba Trail

Slí Cholmcille is a very useful online resource on the places in Ireland and Scotland associated with Saint Colum Cille. Here's a description from the website:

Slí Cholmcille 
Slí means ‘way’, and Slí Cholmcille explores the language and heritage of Ireland and Scotland through the life of Colmcille or St Columba. It is a trail between Ireland and Scotland and between many sites associated with the saint and his followers; it links Gaelic-speaking communities in the two countries.
Slí Cholmcille is the result of connections made over a number of years and of input from many parties. It is hoped that the connections will grow and flourish in years to come. The project has been developed by Colmcille (, an initiative named after the saint. It was set up to promote links between Irish and Scottish Gaelic in 1997, a year which saw commemorations of the 1400th anniversary of the death of the Colmcille or St Columba. It is now a partnership between Foras na Gaeilge, which promotes the Irish Language in the island of Ireland, and Bòrd na Gàidhlig which promotes Scottish Gaelic in Scotland and internationally.
The site provides an opportunity to make a virtual visit to the places associated with the saint and has many links for further information. In addition to the Irish and Scottish Gaelic language organizations involved, some leading scholars in the field of Columban studies, both Irish and Scottish, help to provide an overview of Saint Colum Cille and his times. 

Slí Cholmcille is well worth a visit and can be found here.

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Tuesday 13 November 2012

Hibernia Appeals to Christ and Saints Brigid and Patrick

Here is an interesting painting which illustrates the part played by the Irish patron saints in the nationalist movement of the 19th century, which I came across while browsing the archives of Whyte's Irish Art Auctions. The main interest for me is the depiction of both of Ireland's patrons, male and female, and the fact that our tertiary patron, Saint Columcille is absent. I can't help noticing too that Saint Brigid is to the fore! From the story attached to the painting, it sounds as if the intercession of the Irish patron saints was certainly needed in the Paris of 1871:


Legrip, Frédéric, (1817-1871)

oil on canvas
 88 by 113cm., 34.5 by 44.5in. 

Joseph McDonnell, ‘From Bernini to Celtic Revival: A Tale of Two Irish Colleges in Paris’, Irish Arts Review Yearbook, Vol. 18, 2002, p. 173, fig. 6. 
This is large scale modello for a painting commissioned by Canon Charles Ouin Lacroix for the Irish College in Paris. A native of Rouen, Canon Ouin Lacroix was professor of French at the college from 1850 onwards and appointed administrator in 1859. He was the author of several books including a history of the church of St Geneviève, illustrated by Frederic Legrip, who was also from Rouen. In the early 1860s the Canon invited Legrip to paint a series of works for the college, mostly of a devotional nature. He also produced a striking large allegorical composition depicting Hibernia turning from the symbols of British repression (an axe, pincers and bags overflowing with money made from Irish soil and labour), towards Catholicism, as represented by the vision of Christ flanked by Saints Patrick and Brigid. In both the Irish College composition and the present work, Ireland’s history of Christianity is represented by the Celtic cross, the church and the round tower. The present work differs in the inclusion of an Irish wolfhound; the figure of Hibernia is also arguably better realised in this, the smaller version. Joseph McDonnell has related how, in 1871, the Canon used this image of Irish nationalism to save his college from vengeful mobs during the desperate days of the Paris Commune: “Canon Ouin Lacroix suddenly found himself cornered by a fanatical group of Communards who had gained access to the Irish College. The Canon pleaded that the College was foreign property and dramatically turning to the Legrip paintings behind him, he ingeniously informed the Communards that they represented the Irish as the enemies of the British and that they showed the young students ready to join up alongside the French to fight the English armies. The Canon’s powers of persuasion must have been formidable as the Communards departed, leaving the College unharmed. Yet all the while the Union Jack flew over the main entrance of the building” (2002, p. 173). With the frame maker’s label of O’Connor & Co., 123 George’s Street, on reverse.

€ 4000-6000 Price Realised: € 0

Date of Sale: 5 April 2008

Saturday 10 November 2012

A Prayer to Saint Colum Cille for Emigrants

M.F. Cusack, An Illustrated History of Ireland (1868)

A common motif in the story of Saint Colum Cille was the pain that he endured for the sake of Christ in being exiled from his native land. As an illustration of the link in the Irish mind between Saint Colum Cille and the sorrow of living in exile, here is a short prayer from the classic collection Prayers of an Irish Mother. Prayers for emigrants were a staple of Irish prayer books in the nineteenth and in the first half of the twentieth century. Alas, the current economic crisis has brought forced emigration once again to the people of Ireland, although in these days of air travel and the worldwide web, the parting does not have to be quite so final as it once was.

For Our Loved Ones far away

St. Colmcille, who suffered the pain and grief of exile, watch over the children of Ireland, scattered throughout the world. Obtain for them solace and courage, and keep them true to God in every trial and temptation!

Prayers of an Irish Mother compiled by Mary T. Dolan (Dublin, 1934), 50.

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Friday 9 November 2012

Confessio: A Resource for the Study of Saint Patrick's Writings

The Royal Irish Academy have made a wonderful online resource available for the study of Saint Patrick's writings. The site is called Confessio and brings together the original Latin of the Confessio and Epistola texts along with translations in English, Irish, German, Italian and Portuguese. In addition there is a special features page which introduces the writings and provides an exhaustive bibliography. The texts from Saint Patrick's original hagiographers, Muirchú and Tírechán, are supplied there along with two articles on these writers. A novel, 'Seeking Patrick' by Derick Mockler is available in both print and mp3 audio form and there is also an audio reading of the Confessio as a dialogue. There is a separate Manuscripts/Prints page which provides illustrations and downloads of the various editions of Saint Patrick's writings throughout the ages. All in all this is a superb resource and highly recommended.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Prayers to Our Patrons: Saint Colum Cille

Below is a selection of prayers in honour of Ireland's tertiary patron, Saint Colum Cille (Columba), taken from the 1941 edition of Saint Anthony's Treasury. This edition contains many prayers to Irish saints, which have been successively whittled down in later printings. The 1975 edition preserves only the Novena Prayer to Saint Columba but there is a litany and a short prayer in the older printing too. I would think that these prayers were probably composed in the 19th century, and as the litany invokes the saint as 'shield of our city', probably in Derry itself. There is a fascinating glimpse of what Saint Columcille meant to the Catholics of late nineteenth-century Derry in an 1897 commemorative book preserved by the Internet Archive here.  Indeed, the prayers may well have been written for this anniversary. They present a very different view of Saint Columba to that of the modern 'Celtic Christianity' movement, for here he is sited very firmly within Irish Catholicism as a saint of the Eucharist.

Novena to St. Columba

O Glorious St. Columba, in remembrance of the love you bore your native land in the golden days, when you declared your spirit would always be with us, we beg of you to intercede for us that we may worthily imitate your virtues, especially your great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Turn to Jesus on the altar, and never cease to pray for us until the fire of Divine Love burns brightly and steadfastly in every Irish heart. Obtain for our rulers and for all, the true spirit of charity. Let not your interest in the schools of Ireland be less than it was formerly. Bless the labours of those who work in them that the land you loved so well on earth may become again the "Isle of Saints and Scholars". We invoke your powerful intercession against the dread evils of intemperance and for the preservation of the faith and virtue of the Irish people. Pray for us now and always, that faithfully fulfilling the duties of our state, we may love Jesus and Mary with our whole hearts, and thus prove worthy of your love and protection. Amen.

Litany of St. Columba
(For private recitation only)

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Holy Mary, pray for us
Queen of Angels, pray for us
Queen of all Saints, pray for us
St. Columba, greatest of Irish-born Saints, pray for us
St. Columba, most illustrious of Irish Scholars, pray for us
St. Columba, founder of Derry, pray for us
St. Columba, patron of Ireland, pray for us
St. Columba, apostle of Scotland, pray for us
St. Columba, dove of the Church, pray for us
St. Columba, Saint of the Eucharist, pray for us
St. Columba, companion of the Angels, pray for us
St. Columba, mirror of purity, pray for us
St. Columba, model of humility, pray for us
St. Columba, lover of temperance, pray for us
St. Columba, father of the poor, pray for us
St. Columba, protector of the innocent, pray for us
St. Columba, advocate of the oppressed, pray for us
St. Columba, friend of the children, pray for us
St. Columba, guardian of schools, pray for us
St. Columba, shield of our city, pray for us
St Oran, monk of Derry, pray for us
All ye holy Monks of Iona, pray for us
St. Bran, Nephew of St. Columba, pray for us
All ye holy Dead of Derry, pray for us
St. Martin, pray for us
All ye Patrons and Friends of St. Columba, pray for us

V. Pray for us, O dearest St. Columba.
R. That we may love the Sacred Heart of Jesus daily more and more.

Let us Pray

O God, Who didst vouchsafe to unveil to Thy Servant, Columba, the Angels who guard Thy Tabernacle, grant that we, whose privilege it is to pray where he knelt, may, through his intercession, be enabled to lead such lives of purity and holiness as will one day entitle us to behold those same Angels in the mansions of bliss, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer of St. Columba
(Feast, June 9th)

May the fire of God's love burn brightly and steadfastly in our hearts like the golden light within the sanctuary lamp. (Prayer of St. Columba in the Dubhregles of Derry.)

St. Anthony's Treasury - A Manual of Devotions (Anthonian Press, Dublin, 1941), 278-81.

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