Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A Chronology of Irish Saints: C

Continuing the series of biographies from this chronological list of Irish saints with those whose names begin with the letter C. Once again there is a good spread of saints here including our tertiary patron, Colum Cille, plus his namesake of Terryglass and Saint Brigid's Bishop of Kildare, Conlaeth:

CAILAN, SAINT, first bishop of Down was probably a disciple of Patrick, was for a time abbot of a monastery at Nendrum, the situation of which is now unknown, and was placed over the see of Down about the year 500, which he governed for upwards of twenty years. But little has come down to us regarding his life and labors. He was cotemporary of St. Macnisse bishop of Connor, which see was united to that of Down in 1441. He died in the early part of the sixth century.

CATHOLICUS, (O'DUBTHAY), Archbishop of Tuam, A.D., 1165, was a prelate noted for his great learning and piety. He was a member of the Third General Council of Lateran, and was called Catholicus on account of the extent of his knowledge.

CELLACH, ST., an illustrious Primate of Ireland, born about 1074, and elevated to the See of Armagh in 1106. In 1111 he held a great synod in Westmeath, which was attended by over fifty bishops, and three hundred priests, besides great numbers of the inferior clergy. The Monarch and all the principal princes of the country assisted, so as to be able to carry out the reforms necessary, and to cure the evils which two centuries of devastating war with the Danes had entailed. In 1118 he called another, at which Gilbert, Bishop of Limerick presided, as Apostolic Legate. In this, the church lands were declared free from tribute and rent.

Our Saint was author of a "Summa Theologicae." "Testamentum Ecclesia" and De Successione Malachiae." He was anxious that Malachy O'Moore, (St.Malachy) already famed for his piety and wisdom, should be elected to succeed him, and he sent to him his staff (St. Patrick's staff,) as an earnest of his wishes, and also wrote to the Monarch and Princes of the country on the subject. He died at Aidpatrick, in County Limerick, April 1st, 1129, and the see was usurped for a while by an ambitious prelate of noble birth, named Maurice MacDonald, whom St. Malachy succeeded after a short time.

COLMAN, ST., first bishop of Dromore, equally renowned for his learning and sanctity, was born about 516 in Ulster, and belonged to the sept or clan of the Arads. He was also first abbot of Muckmore, and was sometimes called Mocholmore to distinguish him from other St. Columns, of whom there are more than 200 in Irish records. He died in 610, and his feast is kept on the 7th of June.

COLMAN, ST., a celebrated Irish, divine and missionary, is Patron Saint of Austria, was born about the middle of the tenth century, and acquired a great reputation for learning and sanctity. He was going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem while Austria was at war with some of the Western Provinces, and being suspected as a spy was executed at Stockheran, a town six miles from Vienna, October 13, 1012, on which day his feast is kept.

COLUMBA, SAINT, of Tirdiglas, abbot and founder of a celebrated monastery of that name, was the son of a princely family of Leinster, and became disciple of St. Finian of Clonard. After completing his studies he associated with himself three other holy youths named Coemharn, Finian and Mocumen, whom he directed in learning and the spirit of self-denial. They traveled about for some years studying the rules and discipline of different religious houses and doing good. They all became heads of communities in due course of time. Our Saint settling at Tirdiglas, about the year 548, and died there in the oder of Sanctity, December 13, 552. This institution flourished and became one of the most celebrated schools of learning in Ireland.

COLUMBKILL, ST., sometimes called Columba, one of the most eminent of the Irish saints and missionaries, the apostle of Caledonia, was born at Garton, in Donegal, December 7, 521. He was of royal descent, being of the blood of Niall, of the nine hostages, Monarch of Ireland. It is said that his mother, before the birth of our saint, had a vision symbolic of his future work and destiny. An angel seemed to give her a veil covered with most beautiful flowers. Immediately the veil seemed to be carried by the wind and rolled out, covering hill and dale and mountain. "This, said the angel, represents the son who is about to be born to you, who will blossom from heaven, and be reckoned among the prophets of God, leading numberless souls to Him." He seems, indeed, to have been a child of Heaven, from his earliest years, according to his biographer, Adamnan, ninth Abbot of Iona, (See Montalambert's Monk, of the West, and Dr. Reeves, Protestant rector of Ballymena, translation of the old MSS. life, of the Eighth century) who testifies that his guardian angel was personally visible to the holy child, and held conversations with him. The priest who baptized him was his first instructor in letters, and when old enough, he entered one of the great monastery schools which abounded then in Ireland. Under his special master, St. Finian, founder of the great school of Clonard, he advanced in knowledge and in virtue. While here, still pursuing his ecclesiastical studies, and already advanced to the holy orders of Deacon, the following incident is said to have occurred. An old Bard lived near the college, and our saint who was a passionate admirer of poetry as well as highly gifted in that art, used frequently to visit him for study, and to perfect himself in the noble art. On one occasion while thus engaged outside the door of the Bard's habitation, a young girl ran toward them crying for protection from a robber, who was pursuing her, but before assistance could reach her the robber struck her with his lance, and she fell dead at the feet of the horrified Bard. How long, exclaimed he, will God leave unpunished this crime which dishonors us." "For this moment only, exclaims Columbkill, with prophetic indignation —for while the soul of this innocent victim ascends to Heaven will the soul of this wanton murderer be judged by an angry God," and the words were scarcely uttered when the assassin fell dead.

The dignity of our saints birth, together with the "extraordinary gifts with which he was endowed, both by nature and grace soon made his name famous throughout Ireland, and his influence proportionately great in accomplishing good works. He early founded monasteries, which in those days were schools of learning, as well as houses of prayer and charity, the most important of which, were Derry and Durrow. He appears to have traveled much in the early part of his career, being equally celebrated as Bard and Missionary, while he had a passion for the collection of books of learning, traveling far and wide to find them and make copies. This passion frequently got him into trouble, by the refusal of those who possessed rare books to let him see or copy them, and which always made him indignant at their selfishness, and at last compelled him so to speak—to take up the great work of his life. Our saint desiring a copy of his old master's, the Abbot Finian, Psalter, which was secured in his church, he secretly visited the church in the night, when no one was there, and succeeded in making a copy. Finian learning of the—as he termed it—theft, demanded the copy which Columbkill refused to give up. The matter was referred to the Monarch, who decided against our saint. He strongly protested against the unjust decision, and was still sore from the supposed wrong, when an outrage occurred which he bitterly denounced, and threatened swift vengence on its author—the Monarch. A young Prince at court, son of the King of Connaught, having offended the Monarch, sought refuge with Columbkill, but was seized by force and put to death by Carmid the Monarch. This was a violation of the laws of refuge, and the sacredness of asylum. Columbkill highly indignant denounced the Monarch, and threatening swift vengeance, said to him, "as you have humbled me before the Lords and powerful ones of the land, so will the just God humble you before your enemies in battle." The Monarch sought to detain him at Tara, but he escaped by night to Tyrconnell, and his denunciation of the Monarch stirred up the North against him, and they defeated him in battle, as our saint threatened. It was at this time that he wrote his "Song of Trust" one of the oldest and most authentic records of the ancient tongue. The Latin Psalter, which was the first cause of trouble, was afterwards enshrined in a kind of portable altar, and became the great race relic of the O'Donnell clan, carried by them for a thousand years in battle and still preserved. This conduct of Columbkill drew upon him much censure,and his act was condemned, and he himself excommunicated by a synod at Teilta for causing the shedding of Christian blood. He was condemned before he arrived at the Synod, and of course, without a hearing. He having appeared soon after, the great Abbot Brendon advanced to meet him, and gave him the kiss of peace, and defended him in the Synod. When asked how he could meet an ex-communicated man, he said, “could you see what I do, you would not have ex-communicated him. A pillar of fire goes before him, and angels accompany him, and I dare not disdain a man whom God honors, and who is destined for great things." The sentence was withdrawn, but our saint was troubled on account of the death of so many through his acts. He sought consolation and advice for some time in vain, but at length a holy hermit named Abban, gave him both, but as a penance condemned him to perpetual exile. He accepted the penance with a true spirit of humility, and bidding adieu to all his relations and friends, he sailed for Albania, or the Northern part of Britain, now called Scotland, where the Picts had settled, and which, at this time, was also being colonized by his kinsmen of the North, who afterwards conquered it, and gave it the name of Scotland. The Irish race of that day and for centuries afterwards, being called Scots, from the race of Scoto-Milesians. The Picts who were by far the most numerous, were still heathen, and to their conversion our saint devoted his life. Twelve of his disciples accompanied him from Ireland. He choose a little island near the coast for his home, which was called after him, Colmkill, and known as Iona, here he founded his first monastery, and from this little island began the great work of his life, the Conversion of the Picts, and of those of his own race in Albania, who had not as yet received the faith. Into this, his predestined work, he threw all his energy and power. Like his Divine Master, to win souls he humbled himself as the servant of all, and by constant prayer, humility and mortification he armed himself with power to confound the devil and all his followers, and win the doubting to heaven by fear if not by love. After establishing his first monastery, he immediately set to work to spread the gospel over all the land, and from the first met with extraordinary success, baptizing thousands, and bending the stiff neck of the warlike heathen to the humble yoke of the cross. For over one-third of a century did he traverse those wild mountains of North Britain, established civilization as well as Christianity, building monasteries and churches in every valley, filling them with pious and learned men who dispensed knowledge both religious and secular, as well as charity to the needy and the travelers. The extent of his works in this way is attested by the remains which still exist over all that land. Many traditions exist of his extraordinary acts in the conversion of that people and the wonderful powers of miracles and prophecy with which he was endowed. He accomplished the conversion of the entire Pictish nation, and destroyed forever the authority of the Druids in that portion of Britain. He is also said to have blessed Aidan in 514 and consecrated him King of the Scoto-Milesians, which is said to have been the first consecration of a Christian King.

Amidst all his labors and work, however, his soul ever yearned for his native land, his lost Erin was always before his eyes. "My sad heart ever bleeds," he exclaimed. "There is a grey eye which ever turns to Erin, which never in this life shall it see—nor her sons nor her daughters. I look over the sea and great tears are in my eyes." The greatest penance which to his mind, he could inflict on the most guilty sinner amongst the Scots, was that they should never return to their native land. The spirit of prophecy with which he was filled however, gave him knowledge of events happening in his native land and which he would speak of at the time as of something present to him. It is said that when absorbed in prayer, his people often saw a halo of light surround him. On one occasion of this kind his face which seemed lit up with a supernatural joy, was suddenly clouded with sorrow. His companions begged him to tell them what made the change. He said, "I have long prayed that my exile might end with the thirtieth year of my labors and sorrows, and my prayers seemed to have been heard, for a band of angels were coming to take my longing soul to its heavenly country, but they stopped yonder, for the prayers of the churches which I have established, asking God to retain me, here, have prevailed and my exile is extended four years, but in four years these holy angels will come back, and I shall take my flight with them to my Lord." He continued his labors to the last day, and conscious of his approaching end, although without sickness, he passed around the little island and blessed the monks at their labors and the island itself, which tradition says freed it from all venimous reptiles. Having done this, he said to his faithful attendant, Dermid, "This very night I shall enter into the path of my Fathers. Weep not but console thyself, it is my Lord Jesus Christ who deigns to invite me to rejoin him and who has revealed to me that my summons will come to-night." He continued his customary duties, transcribing at the time that Psalter and as far as the 33rd psalm on which he was engaged when he stopped and said, "I must stop here, Baithen will write the rest." When the midnight bell rang for the matins, the almost glorified old saint, poet, priest and apostle, went joyfully to the chapel to take his usual place before the altar, and prostrated himself in prayer and thanksgiving for the last time, for when his faithful disciple Dermid, reached him, he was dying. He was soon surrounded by his brethren, who, with tears, beheld their dying chief and master. Raising himself by the aid of Dermid, he lifted his right arm in benediction, and the sanctified spirit immediately took its flight to the arms of the master he had served so well.

Our saint was the author of numerous poems and religious hymns. Montalambert says, "After Oisin (Ossian) Columbkill opens a series of two hundred Irish poets, whose memories and names in default of their work have remained dear to Ireland, and Dr. Reeves says, three Latin Hymns of considerable beauty, are attributed to him, in the ancient Liber Hymnorum" and in the Irish "Farewell to Aran," a poem of twenty-two stanzas, and the "Song of Trust," of seventeen stanzas, besides fifteen other poems in one of the ancient O'Cleary MSS., preserved in the Burgundian Library, at Brussels, and a larger collection still in the Bodlein Library, Oxford. The so-called prophecies of Columbkill are pronounced by the best authorities to be a forgery of very modern date, no ancient biographer ever refer to them. His remains were removed to Ireland sometime in 800, on account of the Danes plundering the island and destroying its churches and monasteries. Up to that time it was the burial place of the Scoto-Milesian Kings of Albania or Caledonia.

CONLAETH, SAINT, first bishop of Kildare, The establishment by St. Bridget of her own community at Kildare, after her travels through Ireland, organizing holy women into religious communities, soon made the place famous, and it grew rapidly, especially in religious importance, and at her request it was placed under the rule of a Bishop. Conlaeth or Conlian, a priest and hermit whose virtues were widely known, was pointed out by St. Bridget, as a proper person for the dignity, and consequently, about the year 490 he was consecrated, there being a large assemblage of bishops and ecclesiastics present on the occasion. Conlaeth laid the foundation of his Cathedral, which not being completed till after the death of Bridget, was dedicated to her memory. He governed his see for twenty-nine years, and was buried in his Cathedral near the high altar. His bones were placed in a silver case about the year 800. Many miraculous cures were attributed to the saint while living, and to his relics when dead. He died about 520. This see is one of the few ones in Ireland, and in fact in any country, which presents an unbroken succession of prelates for nearly 1400 years.

James O'Brien, Irish Celts: a cyclopedia of race history, containing biographical sketches of more than fifteen hundred distinguished Irish Celts, with a chronological index, (Detroit, 1884).

Monday, 27 July 2015

A Chronology of Irish Saints: B

We continue the series of biographies of Irish saints listed on this chronological list, now looking at saints whose names begin with the letter B. Needless to say Saint Brigid has the largest entry in this category, but it also includes the two saints Brendan, Saint Benignus, plus two lesser-known female saints with Patrician associations as well as an Irish saint who gave his name to a town in France:

BENIGNUS, SAINT, BISHOP of Armagh, and first successor of St. Patrick in that see; was son of Singen, one of the chief men of Meath, and who hospitably received Saint Patrick, when on his journey to the court of King Laghaire in 433. Our future saint, then a bright boy, was baptized by Patrick, who gave him the name of Binen, or Sweet, on account of the loveliness of his person and character. The boy became so attached to Patrick that he begged his parents to allow him to follow him, but they, dearly loving him, were unwilling, but Patrick told them that it was the Divine will that the boy should dedicate himself to God, and tearfully they let him go. He quickly increased in knowledge, and every Christian virtue, and became a great assistance to his Apostolic master. His zeal and example made many converts, and he became, as it were, a substantial image of his great leader. He was perhaps the most beloved of all the disciples of Patrick, and continued with him from the first to the last, his coadjuter as if it were, and he succeeded him in the government of the See of Armagh. Benignus resigned his See after some years, for the purpose of visiting Rome, and was succeeded by St. Jarlath; another disciple of Patrick.

Benignus wrote in Latin and Irish, amongst others, "Virtue and Miracles of St. Patrick," Poems and "Munster Book of Rights." He is said by some authors to have died in Rome, and by others to have died near Glastonbury, England, in the monastery of Ferlingmere where he went to retire from the world. William, of Malsmsbury, says, "That the miracles of his former life, and those of his new translation proclaim in what high degreee he stands with God," and gives the following epitaph as being on his tomb at Ferlingmere:

"Father Beonna's bones in this tomb lie
Of old the father of the Monk's hereby
Disciple to St. Patrick so much famed,
The Irish say he was, and Beon named."

Lanigan however thinks this must refer to another saint of the same name.

BREACA and BURIAN SAINTS, two holy maidens of Ireland, who were greatly honored in Britain. The former was baptized by St. Patrick, became a religious, passed over into Britain and established a community on the bank of the river Hagle, now called the Alan in Penrith. Her life was so saintly that she was honored by the erection of a church, which became famous for miracles performed through her intercession. Her companion was also held in great veneration. King Athelstan erected a church over her remains which was privileged as a sanctuary, and which had also a noted school of learning attached. These holy women died early in 500.

BRENDAN, ST., of Clonfert, one of the most famous of the Irish saints, not only celebrated for his missionary labors but also for his voyages and discoveries, was born about 483 in Kerry, and as a child was under the care of St. Ita, who devoted herself to the care and instruction of children. He received his classical education under Bishop Ercas, and was raised to the priesthood. He was noted for his zeal and apostolic spirit, and desirous of spreading the gospel among a neglected people he made inquiry among the original inhabitants (Tuatha—Danians) of the island, who were always noted as a seafaring people, as to traditions of Western lands that had been visited at earlier periods. Among those he visited was St. Enda who had a monastery on one of the Arran Isles, and who was well versed in all the early traditions on the subject. St. Brendan returned home and prepared for his western voyage fitting out his vessel in the Bay, now known by his name, and at length set sail on the broad Atlantic, directing his course south-west. The accounts of this voyage which are numerous, state that: "After a long and rough voyage, his little bark being well provisioned; he came to summer seas, where he was carried along without the aid of sails or oars for many days (undoubtedly the gulf stream). He at length reached land, and with a portion of his companions landed and pushed into the wilderness to seek inhabitants. They traveled for fifteen days, and then came to a large river flowing from east to west, (probably the Ohio). They did not penetrate the country any further, nor does the traditions state what work was performed or conversions made. The saint returned after about seven years, and undoubtedly must have been actively employed during that time.

Scandinavian accounts of voyages and attempted settlements in America by princes of that race from Greenland about the year 1000 are very definite, and of undoubted authority. One of their accounts translated and published by Rafn, the Danish historian, admits that the Irish had already settled on the coast of America at more southerly parts, before their time, and they called the place "Ireland it Mekla" or Great Ireland,'and that some of the Norse voyagers visited them, "a white people different from the Esquimaux of the north, having long robes or cloaks and frequently bearing crosses in religious processions and their speech was Irish." Those undoubtedly were the remains of colonies who settled in the days of St. Brendan and prior to that time… St. Brendan after his return settled at Clonfert where he founded one of the most eminent of the early Irish schools, and which gave to Ireland and Europe many great saints and scholars. Its schools were of vast extent and contained at times thousands of students, not only from all parts of Ireland, but from Britain and the continent. He himself became famous for his wisdom and sanctity, and was constantly consulted by the most eminent bishops and scholars. He was the author of several works, among them, "Life and Miracles of St. Bridget." He died about the year 577 at a great age (94 years,) and was buried in his Monastery at Clonfert. In confirmation of his voyage there are still many old MSS. In the "Bibliotheque Imperiale" at Paris there are eleven Latin MSS., dating from the eleventh century, besides many other scattered over the continent in Latin and Irish, besides the confirmation of the fact by the Scandanavian MSS. according to the testimony of Prof. Rafn, the Danish Historian.

BRENDAN, SAINT, of Birr, a man eminent for his learning and sanctity, was the son of Loralgine, a member of a distinguished family of Munster. He became a disciple of St. Finian, of Clonard, by whom he was held in the highest honor for his virtues, learning and supernatural gifts. He was intimate with the great Columbkill; and foretold him on his leaving Ireland, what some of his future labors would be. He wrote some of his works in verse, and founded a monastery and school at Birr. He died in November, 571. A fact known to St. Columbkill at the time, although then in Iona.

BRIDGET, SAINT, one of the most eminent of the Irish saints, was born about 453. Her father's name was Dubtach and her mother's Brochessa, and were said to have been Christians at the time of our saint's birth; this is opened to doubt as according to the most ancient authorities, Brochessa was but a handmaid and slave, and it appears under the Druidical religion, so among the Hebrews, it was permissible for rich men to take a handmaid to wife. It is stated that the wife of Dubtach compelled him to dispose of Brochessa, and that he sold her to a Druid, but conditioned that he should return the child which she was then bearing in her womb. While the Druid was on his way home with Brochessa, he stopped at the house of a pious Christian, who, while praying, is said to have received a divine intimation, that the child of the slave was destined for great things; and told the Druid that he must treat her kindly, and that innumerable blessings would come to his house. Our saint was born at Faugher, a village near Dundalk, but the native place of the Druid was Connaught, where St. Bridget spent her early years and was reared by a Christian nurse. Many wonderful things are told of her infancy, which foreshadowed her wonderful gifts and graces. She grew up full of every grace and virtue, meek, kind and sweet in manner, and so entirely unselfish, that she gained the love and admiration of all, under the careful training of her mother. She developed a wonderful spirit of prayer from her tenderest years. Her spirit of charity was not less marked, while her spirit of obedience was not satisfied with carefully doing all she was desired to, but in anticipating every wish of her superiors. After some years Dubtach demanded her from the Druid according to agreement. Her parting from her mother and from her kind protector the Druid was her first great grief, but though most heartbroken, she submitted with that meekness and patience which never forsook her during life. The Druid kindly allowed her mother to accompany her which was her only consolation. Her father received her very kindly, but her step-mother with coldness and contempt, which she did not seek to conceal. She subjected her to ill-treatment, and tried to humiliate her by requiring her to do the most menial offices of the household. As her virtue and the admirable beauty of her character shone out more from the attempted degradation, winning the love and admiration of all, so did the malice of this wicked step-mother multiply and increase, and she tried to poison the mind of her father against her, by putting wrong constructions on all her actions. It is said that about this time she accompanied a pious woman to a synod held in the plains of Liffey, and that St. Iber saw in a vision, one whom he supposed was the Blessed Virgin, standing in the midst of the Bishops, but on beholding this child of grace, he recognized in her the Virgin of his vision. She was treated with great honor by the assembled Bishops, and it is said that miracles attested her great virtues and the singular favor in which she was held by "her Divine Master. After this she was allowed to visit her mother, and while there, she had charge under her mother of the Druid's dairy. Her ever burning charity could not see want go unrelieved, and when she was asked to make a return of all the proceeds, she became alarmed lest trouble might come from her generosity, and she fervently implored God to aid her. Her prayers seemed heard, for her gifts to the poor did not reduce the property of the Druid. The Druid, seeing the tender attachment of the mother and child, and the pain that separation gave, was moved with compassion and gave the mother her freeedom, and told her to go with her beloved daughter. Their gratitude knew no bounds, and weeping with joy they blessed him, and he, it is said, soon afterwards became a Christian. It is recorded also, that after returning to her father's house, she took the jewels out of the hilt of a sword which had been presented to him by the King of Leinster, and sold them to relieve the wants of the needy. This came to the ears of the King, and being present at a banquet at her father's house, he called the little maid and asked her how she dared to deface the gift of a King. She answered that she did it to honor a better King, and that rather than see Christ and his children, the poor, suffer for want, she would if she could give all that her father and the king possessed, yea, "yourself too," if necessary. The King was struck with the answer of one so young, and said to her father, she is priceless, let God work out in His own way His holy will, and do not restrain the extraordinary graces conferred on her.

About this time, according to Jocylin, Bridget assisted at an instruction given by St. Patrick and had a vision. Patrick, knowing that she had a revelation, asked her to relate what she had seen. She answered, “I beheld an assembly of persons clothed in white raiment; and I beheld ploughs and oxen, and standing corn all white, and immediately they became all spotted; and afterwards they became all black; and in the end I beheld sheep and swine, dogs and wolves, all fighting and contending together," and St. Patrick said: The whiteness represented the church of Ireland as it was then, for all the prelates and servants of the church were pure and faithful and diligent in all things. The things which were spotted belonged to the succeeding generation, which would be stained by evil works. The blackness represented the following and more remote times, when the world would be profaned by evil and the renouncement of faith. The contest of the sheep and swine, the dogs and wolves, represented the contest of the pure and unpure prelates, and good and bad men, which in the lapse of time would come to pass. Bridget's step-mother having failed in all her evil designs, urged her father to get her married. As she was very beautiful, a most desirable match could be easily arranged but Bridget firmly refused and told her father that she had long since resolved to devote herself to God. It is said her step-brother lifted his arm to strike her for disappointing their wishes, when it became paralyzed. Having communicated her intentions of consecrating herself to God to some of her pious companions, they resolved to accompany her. Having arranged all their matters, the band of pious maidens directed their steps to Ussna Hill, in the County of Westmeath, where the holy Bishop Maccaile was. He graciously received them, and the next day they made their vows before him, he placed white veils on their heads and a white mantel or habit to wear. This took place in her sixteenth year, about 469. Some authors say it was St. Mell from whom she received the veil, but they admit the presence of Bishop Maccaile. Bridget's first community was established at Bridget's Town near Ussna Hill, under the spiritual directions of Bishop Maccaile. She governed her house with great prudence, sweetness and firmness, and here her charities knew no bounds; the needy never went empty away, and her charity and miracles soon drew crowds to receive benefits from her hands. Her work partook of the nature of the apostolic, for she is credited with the power of casting out devils, which she often used. She did not confine her labors or good works to her convent, but went about serving and instructing the poor, and reproving and converting the pagans, many of whom she brought within the fold. The fame of her works spread all over Ireland, and she was invited by many pious Bishops to establish branches of her community in their diocese.

It is said that once while at Ardagh the See of St. Mell, a great banquet was given by the Prince of Longford, at which a servant let fall a, vase of great value and it broke in pieces. The Prince, in a rage, ordered the man executed, and St. Mell was called upon to intercede without avail. When he ordered the fragments of the vase to be sent to Bridget, when she immediately restored it to its original perfection, at which the man was pardoned and many conversions followed. Stopping once at the house of a pious family who had a deaf and dumb child, and being alone with the child when a beggar called, she asked the child where the provisions were kept, who immediately answered, and the parents were filled with joy on their return to find their deaf and dumb one perfect. It is also related that she confounded a wicked woman who made a false charge against one of Patrick's disciples named Bronus, by making the sign of the cross on her lips, compelling her to speak the truth. On this occasion St. Patrick appointed the holy priest Natfroich to be her chaplain and to accompany her on all her journeys. She visited the eastern part of Ulster and also Munster establishing convents and performing wonderful works of mercy, curing the sick, giving sight to the blind and even abating a pestilence. It is said while in Limerick a female slave fled to her for protection from her mistress; Bridget pleaded for her liberation, but the woman seized the slave, who clung to the saint for protection, and commenced to drag her away when her arm became paralized. She became frightened and begged the saint to restore her arm which she did on release of the slave. Bridget established her communities all over Ireland, founding convents, and placing over them the most worthy of her disciples. She spent much time in Connaught particular in Roscommon, and established many convents throughout the province, besides gaining many souls to the faith by her miracles. Her fame was now second only to St. Patrick's. He sowed the good seed and she was cultivating it to rich blossoms and an abundant harvest. While she was thus engaged, the people of her own province Leinster became uneasy lest they should not be blessed with her presence again, so a deputation of prominent men were sent to invite her back to her native home. She consented, and returned with them. When they arrived at the Shannon which they were to cross, no boats were there, and some pagans who were present taunted Bridget saying, "Why don't you walk over, if your God is so powerful? "Some of the men asking the prayer of Bridget and God's assistance immediately proceeded to walk across, which they did safely to the great discomfiture of some pagans and the conversion of others. Her tour through Ireland, establishing houses occupied about seventeen years, and they rivalled the monasteries in numbers, the sanctity of their inmates and the abundance of their charity. St. Bridget was received by the people of Kildare with great affection and joy, and a large convent soon rose which proved of inestimable benefit to its people; a source of joy to the rich and benediction to the poor. The convent of Kildare was erected about the year 487. Near it stood a great oak, which Bridget blessed, and which stood for centuries afterwards, giving the name to the place which it retains to this day Kil-dara, Church of the oak. It finally yielded to time and relic hunters. Here our saint was visited by pious souls from all parts of Ireland, and even Britain and Scotland, to seek advice, to ask her prayers and blessing. Saints, bishops and nobles came; mothers brought their children to be blessed, the poor to be fed and the sick to be healed. So great was the crowds that came that the place soon grew up into a large town, the chief one in Leinster. Kings and nobles vied with each other in favoring it, and it was made a city of refuge. Bridget desired that it might be made a see and at her request, Conlaith, who was an humble hermit, was made its first Bishop. It has preserved an unbroken line ever since, and is one of the most ancient sees in Europe. Bishop Conlaith aided by Bridget built a Cathedral which in the course of time became large and imposing. Cogitosus, who wrote about 200 years after Bridget, describes it as extending over a large surface of ground and of an imposing elevation. It was adorned with paintings and contained under one roof three spacious oratories separated by wooden screens, while the wall at the eastern end of the church ran across the whole breath of the structure from side to side, frescoed with holy figures and ornamented with rich tapestry. This had two entrances, one at each end. The one on the right was for the Bishop and his regular college, and through the other no one entered but the abbess and her community. This church contained many windows and one ornamented door on the right, through which the men entered, and another on the left through which women entered.

St. Bridget was probably first amongst the saints of Europe who gathered into communities holy women under certain rules of obedience. The Abbess of Kildare exercised control over all the convents of the Bridgetatine Order in Ireland, as is now the general custom with religious communities, being all subject to a mother house; but in those days it was not so, as the Augustinian nuns were subject only the superioress of the house in which they lived. The church of Kildare and its plate and property belonged to the nuns, and this mother house became in the course of time very wealthy from the gifts and largesses it continually received from the rich and noble. St. Bridget was held in high esteem by the holy men of her day, as well as by the kings and princes of the land, who often came to profit by her advice and instruction. She stood sponsor for the nephew of King Echodius and prophesied that he would be raised to the episcopacy. He afterwards became bishop of Clogher, succeeding St. Maccartin. She also foretold of the birth and greatness of St. Columbkill.

Bridget practiced the most severe austerities, spending her nights in prayer and contemplation, and as her body was not vigorous she suffered severely. St. Patrick highly extolled her virtues and mission, and looked upon her as one raised up by God to perfect the good work he had commenced. She frequently visited him for his blessing, advice and encouragement. She was warned of his approaching end, and set out with four of her nuns to receive his dying benediction and to attend his obsequies. Her life was filled with acts of mercy and charity. She labored in every way to promote the glory of God, and the good of souls. The consolations of a life overflowing with good works, was hers, as she calmly and serenely awaited the inevitable call, a call to her full of sweetness and hope, as coming from her Divine Spouse for whom she so ardently sighed. She was forewarned of her approaching death, and told a favorite nun named Derlugdacha of the event, who was distressed at the prospect of losing her beloved mother; but the saint told her to be consoled for one year from the day of her death she would be united with her in heaven. The prediction was fulfilled and St. Bridget having received the Blessed Sacrament from the hands of St. Neunnidh, she soon after passed away in the odor of sanctity on the 1st of February, 525, in the 72d year of her age. The venerable St. Conlath had died some time before, and was interred on one side of the high altar. On the other, the holy remains of St. Bridget found a resting place. Her tomb was the resort of pious pilgrims for centuries, and innumerable cures were attributed to her intercession. During the invasion of the Danes, her remains which had been enshrined were removed to a place of safety. This church was plundered by them in 831. The remains were subsequently deposited with those of St. Patrick in the Cathedral of Down where they remained for nearly 400 years, or until the more barbarous reformers plundered and destroyed the shrine. The relics or portions appears to have been preserved, for we find by Cardosus, that the head of St. Bridget was in a church of the Cistercian nuns near Lisbon, where her festival and an office is yearly held on the 1st of February, and that outside church door was a slab with this inscription, "In these three graves are interred the three Irish Knights who brought the head of the glorious St. Bridget who was born in Ireland, and whose relics are preserved in this chapel. Erected in the month of January, 1283."

Few saints were perhaps ever honored during their lifetime as was Saint Bridget. She was not alone regarded as a model of all sanctity, but also as a special friend of God, who could obtain any favor asked. She was consulted by holy Bishops, and it is said that her opinion was asked for by an Irish Synod and taken as authoritative and 'the people called her, "Altera Maria,“ another “Mary and Mary of the Irish." Churches in her honor were founded all over Europe. In Ireland, her name is justly held in the highest veneration, and the praises bestowed on her by the saintly writers who were her cotemporaries, show that she was indeed preeminent for saintly qualities, when so marked in days in which the Isle was filled with saints. The ruins of the ancient church of Kildare still exist.

BRIEUC, SAINT, was born in Ireland and flourished in the 5th century. He went to the continent to preach the gospel, and founded a monastery which was the origin of the present town of that name in the department of Cote du-Nord-France. He converted large numbers of the Franks and other barbarians to Christianity, and established schools where all the learning of the age was taught.

James O'Brien, Irish Celts: a cyclopedia of race history, containing biographical sketches of more than fifteen hundred distinguished Irish Celts, with a chronological index, (Detroit, 1884).

Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Chronology of Irish Saints: A

Yesterday I posted a chronological list of Irish saints from a nineteenth-century encyclopedia, now we can look at the biographical entries for those mentioned on the list starting with the letter A:

ADAMNAN, ST., a holy and learned Irish Abbot, successor to St. Columbkill, was of kingly extraction, born about A.D. 630, in the Province of Ulster,and early imbibed that love of virtue and learning which afterwards distinguished him. While yet comparatively young, he withdrew from the world and with five companions sought a lonely and deserted rock, where they gave themselves to study, contemplation and prayer. He afterwards became a monk in the abbey of Iona, and about 679 succeeded as abbot. He became the spiritual guide of Finnachta, the Monarch, and exercised a powerful influence in promoting good works and preventing evil ones. Aldfrid, the Northumbrian Prince, after being dispossessed by his brother Egfrid, a warlike and ambitious prince, took refuge for a while in his monastery of Iona, and became his warm friend. After the defeat and destruction of his brother Egfrid and his forces, by the Scots, (Irish) and Picts, Aldfrid returned to his kingdom, and our saint through his influence with him, reclaimed many Celtic or Scotic captives who had been taken and enslaved by Egfrid in his excursions. Our saint was an indefatigable worker, and wrote several works, one being a description of the holy places of Jerusalem, besides interesting sketches of Damascus, Constantinople and adjoining places which he compiled from the narrative of a Gallish Bishop named Arculfe. The venerable Bede refers to the incident, thus: "Arculfe was driven by a violent storm on the western coast of Britain, and at length came to the aforesaid servant of Christ, Adamnan, who, finding him well versed in the Scriptures, and of great knowledge of the Holy Land, joyfully entertained him, and with much pleasure hearkened to what he said, insomuch that everything he affirmed to have seen in those holy places, he committed to writing, and composed a book profitable to many, and especially to those living far from those places, where the Patriarch and Apostles resided and could get knowledge of only from books. Adamnan presented this book to King Aldfrid, by whose bounty it fell into the hands of more inferior people to read." He also wrote a life of St. Columbkill, who was his relative, and also an account of his prophecies. St. Adamnan not only governed the Abbey of Iona, but also one at Raphoe, which he himself founded. He conformed to the Roman custom of keeping Easter, which was different from that introduced by St. Patrick, and followed by the Irish monks and prelates. Although he succeeded in having it followed at Raphoe, the monks of Iona would not depart from the custom of their predecessors. He governed Iona for thirty years and died in 704. His remains were taken to Ireland in 727, but after a few years were returned to Iona.

AILBE, ST., a cotemporary of St. Patrick, and first bishop of Emly. He was already a missionary in Ireland at the time St. Patrick commenced his mission, and according to some authors, even a bishop, but the date of his death seems to preclude the idea. He was more probably a disciple of Patrick, and what is more certain founded the see of Emly, and also a celebrated school at which many of the great lights of the Irish church were educated; as St. Colman, St. Molna and others. He appears to have met, or was present with St. Patrick at Cashel, at the time of the conversion of Aengus, King of Munster, and certainly acknowledged the authority of Patrick. He appears also to have had considerable influence with the king, for the abbot, Enna, desiring to get a certain isle named Arne, for the purpose of building a monastery on it, begged St. Ailbe to ask it for him, and it was given. It was afterwards celebrated for the sanctity of its religious. Our saint was called the Patrick of Munster, and ranked as an Archbishop. He was not only renowned for his great sanctity of life, but also for his writings and eloquence. He died at a great age about the year 520.

AILERAN, surnamed the Wise, sometimes called Aireran, and also Erchan; a celebrated Irish scholar of the seventh century, and head of the great school of Clonard, in Meath. He was cotemporary of St. Fechin, and was a writer of great learning and authority. He wrote lives of Sts. Patrick, Bridget and Fechin, and an "Allegorical exposition of the geneology of Christ." This last work was published in 1667. He died, according to the annals of Ulster, in 665.

ALBIN, a famous Irish scholar, who flourished in the eighth century, and was conspicuous in his age for wisdom, piety and learning. He went to France in company with his friend and countryman Clement, and was greatly esteemed by Charles the Great, or Charlemagne. Notker Balubus, a French writer of that day, says, "They arrived in France in company with some British merchants, and seeing the people crowding about the merchants to buy their wares, Albin and Clement cried out, if anyone wants wisdom, let him come to us, we have it to sell." The King hearing of it, sent for them, and asked them what they wanted. They replied, convenient appointments, with food and raiment, to teach wisdom to ingenuous souls." The Emperor being impressed with their learning, gave them all they required, and afterwards sent Albin to Italy to spread learning amongst the people, assigning him the Monastery of St. Augustin, near the present city of Pavia; that “all who desired, might resort to him for instruction." There he remained teaching and preaching till his death. He is sometimes confounded with the English Alcuin.

ALBUIN, ST., an Irish monk and missioner, was born about A.D. 700. After becoming noted for his learning and virtue in the schools of Erin, he left his country, says Trithemius, in 742, appeared in Thuringia, Upper Saxony, when he converted great numbers to the Faith, and soon became famous by his apostlic works. He was called to the See of Buraburgh, afterwards Paderborn, which he governed with great wisdom and success. Arnold Wion calls him the Apostle of the Thuringians.

ARBOGAST, ST., a learned and pious hermit missionary of Alsace, was born in Ireland about A.D. 600. He became a monk and missionary, traveled to the continent and preached the gospel along the Rhine, in France and Germany. He converted many pagans, built an oratory, according to Gaspard Bruchius within the confines of the present City of Hagueneau, where he devoted himself to prayer and fasting; but often left his retreat to preach Christ crucified to the idolatrous tribes around. King Dagobert had him appointed Bishop of Strasburg in 646, which See he ruled with great zeal and success for twelve years. In his great humility he strove to imitate his Divine Master, and requested that he be interred at the place of public execution, Mount Michel, out of his desire to imitate the debasement of his Divine Model. There, afterwards, a great monastery was built, and called after him, and around it grew the present city, and its great church. He composed a book of homilies, and commentaries on the epistles of St. Paul.

ASICUS, SAINT, a disciple of St. Patrick, and first Bishop of Elphin. He appears to have been an artist, and skilled in working in gold. He early became a convert, and followed Patrick for sometime, increasing in grace and fervor. He possessed an extraordinary spirit of self-denial, and lived much like the first hermits, fasting and praying; living on berries and herbs, and performing extraordinary fasts. He had a cell in the mountains of Slive League, Donegal, where he often retired for penance and prayer, and while there was directed by a heavenly messenger to join Patrick. He accompanied his master into Connaught, and assisted him in the work of conversion. Here St. Patrick founded the church of Elphin and placed over it Asicus as its Bishop. Asicus died about 470 at Rathcurge in Tirconnel.

James O'Brien, Irish Celts: a cyclopedia of race history, containing biographical sketches of more than fifteen hundred distinguished Irish Celts, with a chronological index, (Detroit, 1884).

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Chronological Index of Irish Saints

Below is a list of Irish saints with an indication of the era in which they flourished, taken from a nineteenth-century encyclopaedia published in the United States. I am always interested to see which saints are included in sources like this and there is quite a selection here. There are the well-known saints of Ireland I would expect to find such as our three patrons - Patrick, Brigid and Colum Cille - but there are also saints who would not have been household names such as Aileran. The Irish missionary saints and scholars are well-represented. Particularly interesting is the reputedly fourth-century Saint Eliph, the earliest cited. Female saints too feature in the list, among them are the well-known such as Saint Ita (Ida) but also the less famous such as Breaca and Burian. Tomorrow I will begin to post the biographies which accompany the list.


Chronological Index of Contents.


SAINTS.

Adamnan … 630

Ailbe … 500

Aileran … 600

Albin … 750

Albuin … 700

Arbogast … 600

Asicus … 450

Benignus … 430

Breaca and Burian … 475

Brendan … 483

Brendan of Birr … 525

Bridget … 453

Brieuc … 450

Cailan … 547

Cellach … 1106

Christian … 1138

Christian … 1150

Colman … 516

Colman … 950

Columba … 530

Columbkill

Conlaeth … 470

Declan … 500

Desibod … 620

Dymphna … 480

Eithne … 550

Eliph … 380

Enda … 530

Fearghal … 755

Felix … 1170

Finochta … 675

Finian … 530

Finian … 550

Florentinus …

Fridolinus … 450

Gelascus … 1160

Gilbert … 1080

Gunifort … 400

Ibar … 480

Ida … 500

Jarleth … 530

Kevin … 550

Kiaran … 530

Kilian … 650

Livinus … 630

Macartin … 500

Malchus … 1120

Mannon … 1202

Mansury … 100

Mochelloe … 600

Molocus … 620

Muerdach … 450

Munchin … 480

Navel … 550

O'Toole, Laurence … 1150

Patrick … 450

Rumbold … 750

Sedulus … 785

Senan … 540

Tigernach … 550

Wiro … 640

James O'Brien, Irish Celts: a cyclopedia of race history, containing biographical sketches of more than fifteen hundred distinguished Irish Celts, with a chronological index, (Detroit, 1884).

Friday, 24 July 2015

Some Famous Irish Missionaries

We continue with J.M.Flood's tribute to the Irish monks who laboured in continental Europe with his account of some famous Irish missionaries:

With a few exceptions, we have but few and meagre details of the lives and works of individual Irish missionaries who laboured in the various countries of Europe. Of that large multitude of devoted men, who went from Ireland in a continuous succession for three centuries — “the death of one apostle being but the coming of another" — the records are scanty and satisfactory, consisting mainly of casual references made by contemporary Writers. The period in Europe was not favourable to the cultivation of letters, and our native annals generally do not make any reference to the Irish ecclesiastics who went abroad except in a few cases. Thus we find it recorded that Vergilius of Salzburg died in 788, Dunchadh of Cologne died A.D. 813, Gilla-na-naemh Laighen, Superior of the monastery in Wursburg, died A.D. 1085; but there is no mention made of Columbanus, Gall, Cathaldus, Fiachra, Colman or Killian.

St. Vergilius, Archbishop of Salzburg, was born, reared, and educated in Ireland, according to the testimony of Alcuin, who was almost his contemporary, but the place and date of his birth cannot be ascertained with exactness. It appears from a statement in the Annals of the Four Masters that before leaving Ireland he was Abbot of Aghaboe. He arrived in France about the year 741 and spent two or three years at the Court of Pepin-le-Bref, father of the renowned Charlemagne. Pepin esteemed Vergilius highly on account of his great learning, and when he was leaving France, gave him letters of recommendation to Ottilo, Duke of Bavaria. Bavaria had at this time been partially converted to the Christian Faith by St. Boniface and the object of St. Vergilius in going to the country was to help in completing the work which St. Boniface had begun. He settled at Salzburg, and his life there was one of unceasing effort, not only for the conversion of Bavaria, but of Carinthia and the neighbouring provinces, which were still for the most part pagan. The monks of the Benedictine monastery of St. Peter at Salzburg chose him to be their Abbot, and he rebuilt the monastery in a style of great splendour. He was consecrated Bishop of Salzburg about the year 744, and he presided over the diocese for forty years. He sent many missionaries to preach the gospel throughout the country, and paid frequent visits to the newly-established churches, so as to confirm the people in the faith. He built a stately church in honour of St. Stephen, and a great basilica dedicated to St. Rudbert, the founder and first bishop of the church of Salzburg. He died about 784 and was buried in the monastery of St. Peter.

St. Vergilius was not only a great missionary saint, but was also distinguished on account of his learning, and as an astronomer he was far in advance of his age, for he held the sphericity of the earth and the existence of Antipodes long before Copernicus startled Europe with his teaching on this subject. In spite of opposition he stoutly maintained that the earth was round, that the sun passed beneath it, and that there must be inhabitants on the other side. The doctrine and other views of Vergilius were unpalatable to the ecclesiastical authorities in Germany and charges against him were brought before the Pope. He was represented as holding astronomical doctrines which were, in fact, different from those which he really advocated, and his teaching was condemned. Vergilius would appear to have explained his real tenets to the satisfaction of the Pope, for no punishment was inflicted, and he was shortly afterwards promoted to the See of Salzburg.

St. Fursey, a famous Irish missionary in France, was the son of a Munster prince named Fintan. He was trained in Connaught at a monastery on the island of Inchiquin in Lough Corrib by St. Brendan, an uncle of his father's, and by St. Meldan, who succeeded St. Brendan as head of the community. After spending some time in England St. Fursey went to the north-east of Gaul, and landed with twelve companions at the mouth of the Somme, A.D. 638. He settled for a time at Peronne, but afterwards went to Lagny-sur-Marne at the request of King Clovis II., who was desirous of having him near his court. From the records that we possess of his life, he appears to have been a man of a quiet and retiring character. Bede describes him as being renowned both for his words and actions, as remarkable for great virtues, and as being desirous to live a pilgrim for the Lord, whenever an opportunity should offer. The same writer tells us that by the example of his virtues and the efficacy of his discourse, he converted many unbelievers to Christ, and confirmed in his faith and love those who already believed. Though St. Fursey does not appear to have possessed the learning for which his countrymen were celebrated, there was a certain exaltation in his nature which earns for him the epithet “sublime" from the Venerable Bede. He wrote an account of his ‘Visions of Heaven and Hell' which became well known in Europe, and which are the most remarkable writings of their kind anterior to the great epic poem of Dante. They show a great spiritual insight, and are full of the most excellent moral precepts. They reflect the profound religious convictions of religious men of the period, and no small amount of imaginative power is shown in the treatment of the subject. It does not seem unlikely that the great Florentine poet was acquainted with St. Fursey's ‘Visions,' and derived inspiration from them in the writing of the ‘Divine Comedy.' The Venerable Bede, who speaks with the greatest reverence of St. Fursey and his " Visions," was one of the writers whom Dante honoured in a special measure, and there are parallelisms between certain of the speeches in the "Inferno " and the words used by St. Fursey which would support this conjecture.

St. Cathaldus was born about the year 615 A.D. in Munster, and went to study at the great school of Lismore. He eventually became a professor there, and the fame of his learning" and virtues attracted many pupils to the school. In addition to teaching, St. Cathaldus preached the Gospel and founded churches in the country of the Desii. He was consecrated Bishop of Rachan, a locality which was probably in Munster, but which it is difficult to ascertain. When he had presided over the diocese of Rachan for some years he set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with his brother Donatus and several companions. On their way homeward from Palestine the vessel in which they sailed was wrecked in the Gulf of Taranto. St. Cathaldus escaped from the wreck, and arrived at the city of Taranto. He found the city practically pagan and the effeminate and licentious inhabitants were almost entirely addicted to pleasure and vice. He preached to them in moving language, imploring them to return to the rule and practices of Christianity, and performed many striking miracles in their sight. The bishopric of Taranto happened to be vacant at the time, and the Tarentines besought the Irish Saint to assume the office, promising to follow his councils. St. Cathaldus assented, reluctantly, in the hope that he might be able to win them back to the faith. His labours amongst them were crowned with success, Taranto became a Christian city in reality as well as in name, and the inhabitants venerated St. Cathaldus as their patron and apostle. His remains are still preserved with great honour in the cathedral, and the inscription on his tomb, ‘Cathaldus Rachan' commemorates the debt which Southern Italy owes to Southern Ireland.

St. Donatus was bom of a noble family in Ireland, near the end of the eighth century, and was educated at the monastic school of Inishcaltra in Lough Derg. He became a priest, and obtained high distinction as a professor and a man of learning. He taught in Ireland for a number of years, and was raised to the dignity of a bishopric. He left Ireland to make a pilgrimage to Rome, accompanied by Andrew, a youth of a noble Irish family, who was one of his favourite pupils. They journeyed through France, visiting many places of pilgrimage, and then made their way through Switzerland and Northern Italy to Rome. They received there the blessing of the Supreme Pontiff, and, after staying for some time in the city, set out towards Tuscany on their return journey to Ireland. They arrived at Fiesole, situated on the mountains overlooking Florence, where there were at the time many churches and memorials of Christian Saints and martyrs. They stayed for a time at a monastery at Fiesole before resuming their journey, and the monks and people of the town became greatly attached to the two Irishmen on account of their kindly simple ways and great sanctity. Shortly after their arrival the Bishop of Fiesole died, and the clergy and people resolved that Donatus should be his successor. They approached him on the subject, but Donatus who was a man truly humble of spirit, declined the office. He told them that he was only a poor pilgrim from Ireland, and that he did not wish to be their bishop as he was not fitted for the position since he hardly knew their language or customs. The clergy persisted in their request and at length Donatus consented, and was consecrated Bishop of Fiesole about 824 A.D. He became a great and successful pastor, and laboured for thirty-seven years at Fiesole, winning the love and reverence of the people. He died in the year 861. His name is still honoured at Fiesole, and his tomb and other memories of him are held in high veneration. There is extant a short Latin poem in which he recorded his love of his native land, which he had left for ever, and celebrates the beauty of its climate, the worth of the ancient race that inhabited it, famed in the pursuits of war and peace, and noted for their attachment to the faith.

Many legends have grown around the life of Saint Fridolin, the 'Wanderer.' He was born in Connaught and gained a great reputation for learning. After travelling through various parts of Ireland, he distributed his possessions amongst the poor, and went to Gaul. He entered the monastery of Saint Hilary of Poitiers, where he remained for many years. His brother monks loved and esteemed him, and elected him as their Abbot. He left Poitiers and went to the north-east towards the Moselle founding churches on the way. Arriving at Strasburg he founded a monastery there, which was for a long time under the direction of Irish monks. Then he went to a place called Seckingen a little to the east of Basle, where he built a church, and lived for a time. His wandering and restless spirit would not allow him to remain anywhere for a lengthened period, and we find him soon again travelling through Switzerland, and converting the people of Glarus, who still bear his figure on their cantonal banner, in memory of his missionary labours in the country…

J. M. Flood, Ireland: its saints and scholars (Dublin, n.d.), 70-77.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

'Pilgrimage for the love of Christ': The Irish Mission to the Continent

The month of July contains the commemorations of a number of interesting and important Irish saints who laboured in Europe and below is an excerpt from a book which describes some of the features of the Irish mission to the continent. The author, J.M.Flood, dedicates chapter six of his work to describing the practicalities of their endeavours. He does not hold back from describing the many hardships and dangers the Irish monks faced nor the fact that their presence wasn't always entirely welcome:

We owe our knowledge of the labours and influence of the Irish monks in England and the Continent almost entirely to foreign sources, and, with a very few exceptions, our native annals are almost silent concerning the missionaries who went forth from Ireland in such great numbers. So frequently were they to be met with on the Continent that Walafried Strabo, a writer of the ninth century, remarks that the custom of travelling appeared to have become a part of the Irishman's nature. St. Gildas notes that to voyage overseas, and to journey over broad tracts of land was to the Irish monks not so much a weariness as a delight. "Most of them," he writes, "appear to have been born under a wandering planet." ... Various reasons may be assigned to account for the large number of Irish monks that went abroad, and they certainly did not leave their native land because of any idle curiosity to see foreign countries or through a desire to wander about on the Continent. There was a multitude of monks in Ireland, and an urgent and great need for missionary effort in France and Germany. The Irish Saints had a real vocation for the apostolate, and many of them were impelled by the call to a higher degree of the ascetic life. They fully realised that charity began at home and they did not go away until the faith was secure in Ireland. An early canon attributed to the epoch of St. Patrick states: — One's first work must be to instruct the people of one's own country, following the example of Christ. It is only in the case when no results can flow from such instruction that one is permitted to abandon it following the example of the Apostle.

…The Irish missionaries were wholly absorbed by the great mission which they had undertaken, and in the execution of it they took but little thought of their own welfare. They wandered about from place to place, sometimes through trackless solitudes, always trusting that God would provide for their support. King Clothaire the Second, while hunting the wild boar in the forest of Sequania, met one of them, St. Deicola, and asked him what were his means of livelihood, and how his brethren fared in such a wilderness as that. “It is written," said Deicola, "that they who fear God shall want for nothing. We are poor, it is true, but we love and serve the Lord, and that is of more value than great riches." Special hostelries had to be founded for their support in many parts of the Frankish realm by the charity of their fellow-countrymen. In one of the capitularies of Charles the Bald drawn up after the Council of Meaux, in 845, there is mention made of the hostelries of the Scots, which holy men of that nation built and endowed with the gifts acquired by their sanctity.

It is to be remembered that the Irish monks had been trained in a hard and severe school, where it was the rule that the members of the community were to support themselves by the labour of their own hands. Mendicant orders whose members were dependent chiefly on the offerings of the faithful for subsistence did not exist in Ireland at this time, and were not introduced until many centuries later. The stronger brothers in the early monasteries devoted themselves mainly to manual labour, and all the brethren, including even the scribes and artists, were required to work in the fields. Thus everything that the little community needed was produced by themselves, and it became self-supporting. The companions of St. Columbanus by their incessant labour transformed one of the wildest and most deserted regions in France into fertile cornfields and vineyards. St. Fiacre and his fellow monks changed the portion of La Brieu, near Meux, from a wild forest into a smiling garden. The biographer of St. Remi tells how he received certain pilgrims from Ireland and settled them in suitable places near the Marnei where they might visit and help one another. "They did not," he says, "live only on the charity of those to whom pious Remi had commended them, but also on their own industry and the labour of their hands, in accordance with the custom of the religious bodies in Ireland. This life, united to wonderful holiness and constant prayer, won for them a great love among the natives of the country."

The Irish missionaries usually travelled in groups as it would have been dangerous in that  age of violence to journey alone. The group consisted generally of a dozen individuals and their chief, who was to be the Abbot of the future settlement. They set sail first for Great Britain, and then passing through that country, re-embarked at some Kentish port for the Continent. In Europe they travelled for the most part on foot, and according to the rules of certain orders of monks could not travel in any other way, as these rules permitted only an Abbot to use a carriage of any kind. They were clad in coarse woollen garments, worn over a white tunic, their hair was tonsured from ear to ear across the front of the head and long flowing locks hung behind; they carried long staves, and bore at their sides leather water bottles and wallets in which they kept their food, writing tablets and manuscripts. They appeared thus amidst the Franks and Allemani, speaking to them with fiery eloquence, at first through an interpreter, and afterwards in the language of the country which they acquired.

Wherever they settled down they erected little wooden huts and a church within a large enclosure. They supported life by cultivation of the land and fishing and asked for nothing for themselves but a space where they might found their settlement and, at times, a little food. They laboured all day to teach and civilise and sought to influence the people who surrounded them by precept and example. They won the people by their gentleness, earnestness and humility, and both Franks and Romans joined them, so that eventually similar colonies were formed far and near from the first settlement as a starting point.

They were men whose whole mind was devoted to the great work in which they were engaged, to the exclusion of all thoughts of their own personal interests. When King Segebert offered gifts to Columbanus, the Saint replied : — '' We are followers of Christ, who has plainly said, 'Whosoever will be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up the Cross and follow me.' The things which are in your power to bestow do not attract us, for in these things there is nothing to satisfy the heart of myself and my companions. We seek not comforts, nor to dwell in fertile lands, nor to gratify the flesh. We seek for solitude and some secluded place wherein to live in penitence and devotion." They took no thought of the dangers which they might encounter in travelling to foreign and hostile peoples. A story is told in King Alfred's Chronicle of three Irish missionaries who were washed on the shores of Cornwall. “They came,” writes Alfred, "in a boat without oars from Hibernia, whence they had stolen away, because for the love of God they would be on pilgrimage — they cared not where. The boat in which they fared was wrought of three hides and a half, and they took with them enough meat for seven nights." An old French chronicle tells of the arrival about the year 589 of two Irishmen named Caidoc and Fricor with twelve companions at the little town of Quentonvic, at the mouth of the Somme, and how they followed the great Roman road into the country, preaching the gospel on their way. They arrived at Centule (now St. Riquier) and, as the chronicler puts it, "fought on, perceiving that the inhabitants were blinded by error and iniquity, and were subjected to the most cruel slavery; they laboured with all their strength to redeem their souls and wash them in their Saviour's blood." The people could not understand the language of these missionaries, and rebelled against their teaching. They asked angrily what these adventurers, who had just escaped out of a barbarous island, were in search of, and by what right they sought to impose their laws on them. Violence would have been used towards the missionaries, were it not that a young noble named Riquier interfered in their favour. He took the strangers under his protection, and entertained them at his house. He learned from them to love God above all things, and was filled with sorrow for his past life which he had spent as an unfruitful servant. He resigned all the splendour of his high rank, cut the long locks which were a symbol of his nobility, and became a servant of God. Henceforth his life was one of prayer and mortification, and when he had taken orders he became the founder of the celebrated Abbey of St. Riquier, where Caidoc and Fricor were buried, and where two Latin epitaphs written by St. Angilbert commemorate their virtues and the land of their nativity.

After landing in Europe they had to go amidst people whose language was unknown to them, and though themselves often of noble descent, they found that they were poor and friendless in a strange land. It is frequently recorded how great were their sufferings from poverty, fatigue and lack of equipment, and how many met their death on the way. Yet in the service to which they had devoted themselves they bore all their trials with resignation and a stout heart.  "They were competent, cheerful, and self-supporting, faced privation with indifference; caring nothing for luxuries ; and when other provisions failed them, they gathered wild fruit, trapped animals, and fished with great dexterity, and with any sort of rude appliances. They were rough and somewhat uncouth in outward appearance, but beneath all that they had solid sense and much learning. Their simple ways, their unmistakeable piety, and their intense earnestness in the cause of religion attracted the people everywhere, so that they made crowds of converts." [Joyce: "Social History of Ireland," Part I., p. 341.]

Near the end of the seventh and at the beginning of the eighth century the Irish monks had established a series of monasteries which extended from the mouth of the Meuse and Rhine to the Rhone. Throughout the chronicles and the lives of the Saints of this time references are often made to them; and names purely Irish are constantly found such as Caidor, Furseus, Fuilan Ultan, Frillan, Livin. Thus in the life of St. Remi, mention is made of his hospitable reception of ten pilgrims from Ireland. " From that island, I say, seven brothers started on a pilgrimage for the love of Christ. They were men of great piety and virtue. These were Gebrian, Helan, Tressan, Germanus, Veranus, Hebranus, Petranus, and three sisters, Franda or Francla, Portia and Possena.'' In the life  of St. Riquier it is recorded how a body of Irishmen preached the faith in Picardy. In Belgium they worked in Malines, Ghent and other places. In the ninth century the number of Irishmen travelling in France waas so great as to be almost burthensome and the Council of Chalons-sur-Saone made canons against the wandering Scots. There is also frequent mention made in the histories of the time of ' episcopi vagi,' bishops without any fixed diocese, who journeyed through France, and of whom the great majority appear to have been our countrymen. Many of the missionary establishments in Germany were either originally Irish or were the offsprings of Irish foundations. In the tenth century we find a great number of Irish monasteries in Germany. Otho I. of Germany consecrated a monastery in the Ardennes which was to remain the property of the Scots, and of which the Abbot was to be a monk of that nation. Adalberon II. decreed that the Abbey of St. Clement in Lorraine was only to receive monks of Irish origin, while that nation supplied sufficient recruits, and his biographer states that he always held the Irish monks in the highest esteem. Cologne in the tenth century possessed a large Irish colony, and the monastery of St. Martin in that city was given to the Scots in perpetuity by Archbishop Eberger in 975. From this date to 1061 the Abbots were all Irishmen. Desibod constructed the monastery of Desibodenberg near Treves, and St. Kilian was the Apostle of Franconia. The monasteries of Honau on the Rhine and Altomunster were of Irish origin and Tirgilius became the Abbot of Salzburg. That Irish monks were present in considerable numbers in the North of Italy is evidenced by the fact that a hostelry was built near Bobbio in 883 for their reception.

In South Germany Marianus Scotus, a native of the North of Ireland, settled at Ratisbon on his way to Rome and founded a monastery in 1076. In less than forty years this monastery was not sufficiently large to accommodate the Irish monks who were labouring at Ratisbon, and a second house, the monastery of St. James, was built. From Ratisbon twelve Irish monasteries were established in various parts of South Germany, and at the time of its greatest prosperity the Abbot of Ratisbon controlled the monasteries of Dels in Silesia, Erfurt in Thuringia, Wurzburg, Nuremberg, Eichstadt in Franconia, Memningen and Constance in Swabia, and Vienna in Austria. Johannes, one of the associates of Marianus, went to Gottweich in Austria, where he died as an Anchorite; another of his monks went to Kief, and a third went to Jerusalem. Frederick of Barbarossa found in Bulgaria a monastery governed by an Irish Abbot, and there are letters still extant from the Irish Abbot of Ratisbon petitioning King Wratislaw of Bohemia for an escort for his messengers through that country on their way to Poland. There is authentic evidence that these Irish monks who went to Germany in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries were worthy successors to the Saints and Missionaries who laboured in France at an earlier period. The houses which they founded were closed to Germans, and almost entirely recruited from Ireland, so that while in France the second generation of monks was largely composed of Frenchmen, the German establishments continued to be thoroughly Irish even in the constitution of their members.

J. M. Flood, Ireland: its saints and scholars (Dublin, n.d.), 55-66.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Saint Arbogast Restores a King's Son to Life

Vignettes from the Lives of the Irish Saints: Saint Arbogast Restores a King's Son to Life

The only son of King Dagobert went one day to the chase. While his companions had scattered through the forest with the hounds, a wild boar rushed forth. His horse took fright and threw him from the saddle. He hung from the stirrups and was dragged along by the frightened animal. After a long search he was found by the hunters, and amid loud lamentations was borne to his home. He died the next day. The sorrow of the people mingled with that of his parents. Following the advice of his people, the king sent a messenger to St. Arbogast, Bishop of Strasburg. The latter immediately set forth. The king and the bishop could scarce exchange words on account of their grief. The queen came forward and fell on her knees, weeping aloud. The bishop, sympathizing with her in her anguish, lifted her to her feet. Without waiting for any refreshment after his journey, Arbogast retired to the church. Before the shades of evening fell, he entered the room where the dead young man lay. God did not leave his servant long in anxious suspense. While Arbogast was praying the young man raised his head. Overcome with joy, the saint raised the boy to his feet. Then he ordered that the shroud should be removed, and the prince clothed in his royal attire.

Those who were present could not restrain themselves from breaking out in cries of joy. The king and queen were lifted from the depths of sorrow to the pinnacle of joy. They offered the richest gifts to the saint. The latter, however, would accept nothing, but simply expressed his desire that in thanksgiving to God the king should make an offering to the Church of Our Blessed Lady in Strasburg.

St. Arbogast is honored as the patron saint of Strasburg to the present day.

Short Instructive Sketches from the Lives of the Saints for the use of Parochial and Sunday Schools, Academies &etc. (New York, 1888), 59-61.

Note: July 21 is the feast of Saint Arbogast, an Irish saint who laboured in continental Europe. A post on his life can be found here.