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.

Content Copyright © Trias Thaumaturga 2012-2015. All rights reserved.