Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Scholars of Clonard: A poem of Sedulius Scottus

Below is the translation of a poem on the Scholars of Clonard attributed to the prolific ninth-century Irish poet, Sedulius Scottus. Sedulius made his career abroad in the courts of continental Europe, but like all good Irishmen, he never forgot where he came from. In this poem he pays tribute to the tradition of learning established at the monastic school of Clonard and to three of its scholars in particular - Vinnau/Finnian the sixth-century founder, Ailerán the Wise, a seventh-century scholar and Fergus, a scholar of the ninth century who also features in some of the author's other poems.

Look on the marble columns surpassing the stars,
which the sand of the saint-bearing land supports here
happy, famous Ailerán, Vinnau, Fergus,
shining lights made by gift-carrying God.
O He sent a great present of Scotia [i.e.Ireland],
rich relics which Pictonia [i.e. Poitiers] wishes to be its own,
whence comes Titan and where night established the stars
and where midday is hot with blazing hours
[i.e. the east and the west and the south].

David Howlett, ed. and trans., The Celtic Latin Tradition of Biblical Style (Dublin, 1995), 129.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

The Hymn of Saint Cuchumneus in Praise of the Blessed Virgin

Below is a hymn in honour of the Mother of God attributed to Saint Cuchumneus (Cuchuimne), whose repose is recorded in the Irish Annals in the 740s. Hymns like this gave a certain measure of discomfort to the 19th-century Protestant scholars who translated the Irish Liber Hymnorum as they were convinced that the 'Celtic Church' shared their own 'reformed' outlook. It was to counter such views that Catholic scholars of the period presented their own image of the Irish church as essentially Catholic, a viewpoint with no more doughty a champion than Patrick Francis, Cardinal Moran. In an essay on Devotion to the Blessed Virgin he published the text of this hymn and a translation in the style of the hymnography of his own times. There have since been other and better translations and perhaps I can publish one of these on another occasion. For now, here is both the Latin original and the translation of the hymn Cantemus in omni die from Dr Moran's collection of essays on the early Irish church:

St. Cuchumneus, a contemporary of Adamnan, towards the close of the sixth century, composed a Latin hymn in honour of the Mother of God, which soon became celebrated, and had a place assigned to it amongst the liturgical hymns of our Church. The German hymnologist, Mone, discovered three MSS. of this hymn, one belonging to the ninth, the others to the eighth century. Colgan, too, had an ancient copy of it in his possession, and it is also contained in the celebrated Liber Hymnorum, from which we now present it to the reader:

Hymnus S. Cuchumnei in laudem B. Virginis.

1. "Cantemus in omni die concinentes varie,
Conclamantes Deo dignum hymnum sanctae Mariae.

2. “Bis per chorum hinc et inde collaudamus Mariam,
Ut vox pulset omnem aurem per laudem vicariam.

3. "Maria de tribu Juda, summi mater Domini,
Opportunam dedit curam aegrotanti homini.

4. "Gabriel advexit verbum sinu Patris paterno,
Quod conceptum et susceptum in utero materno.

5. "Haec est summa, haec est sancta, virgo venerabilis,
Quae ex fide non lecessit sed extitit stabilis.

6. "Huic matri nec inventa ante nec post similis
Nec de prole fuit plane humanae originis.

7. "Per mulierem et lignum mundus prius periit,
Per mulieris virtutem, ad salutem rediit.

8. "Maria mater miranda patrem suum edidit,
Per quem aqua late lotus totus mundus credidit.

9. "Haec concepit margaritam, non sunt vana somnia,
Pro qua sane Christiani vendunt sua omnia.

10. "Tunicam per totum textam Christo mater fecerat,
Quae peracta Christi morte, sorte statim steterat.

11. "Induamus arma lucis loricam et galeam,
Ut simus Deo perfecti, suscepti per Mariana.

12. "Amen, amen, adjuramus merita puerperae,
Ut non possit flamma pyrae nos dirae decerpere.

13. "Christi nomen invocemus angelis sub testibus,
Ut fruamur et scribamur litteris coelestibus.

"Cantemus in omni", etc.

TRANSLATION.

Hymn of Saint Cuchumneus

1. "In alternate measure chanting, daily sing we Mary's praise,
And, in strains of glad rejoicing, to the Lord our voices raise.

2. "With a two-fold choir repeating Mary's never dying fame,
Let each ear the praises gather, which our grateful tongues proclaim.

3. "Judah's ever-glorious daughter chosen mother of the Lord-
Who, to weak and fallen manhood all its ancient worth restored.

4. "From the everlasting Father, Gabriel brought the glad decree,
That, the Word Divine conceiving, she should set poor sinners free.

5. "Of all virgins pure, the purest ever stainless, ever bright
Still from grace to grace advancing fairest daughter of the light.

6. "Wondrous title who shall tell it? whilst the Word divine she bore,
Though in mother's name rejoicing, virgin purer than before!

7. "By a woman's disobedience, eating the forbidden tree,
Was the world betray 'd and ruin'd was by woman's aid set free.

8. "In mysterious mode a mother, Mary did her God conceive,
By whose grace, through saving waters, man did heav'nly truth receive.

9. "By no empty dreams deluded, for the pearl which Mary bore,
Men, all earthly wealth resigning, still are rich for evermore.

10. " For her Son a seamless tunic Mary's careful hand did weave;
O'er that tunic fiercely gambling, sinners Mary's heart did grieve.

11. "Clad in helmet of salvation clad in breast-plate shining bright
May the hand of Mary guide us to the realms of endless light.

12. "Amen, amen, loudly cry we may she, when the fight is won,
O'er avenging fires triumphing, lead us safely to her Son.

13. " Holy angels gathering round us, lo, His saving name we greet,
Writ in books of life eternal, may we still that name repeat!

" In alternate measure chanting", etc.

[We are indebted for this translation to the kindness of Rev. Mr. Potter, All Hallows' College.]

…. Each strophe of the above hymn of St. Cuchumneus proclaims some prerogative of the holy Virgin. She is "the Mother of the great Lord," "the greatest, the holy venerable Virgin;" "none, throughout all time, is found like unto her," … She it is that gives a healing remedy for the wounds of man; and as the world was once ruined by Eve and the forbidden tree, so through the virtue of this new Eve is it restored to the blessings of Heaven. Hers it was to weave the seamless garment of Christ, emblem of the Church's unity; - and hers is it now to present us to God, and protect us from all the attacks of the evil one.

Rev. Dr. P. F. Moran, Essays on the Origin, Doctrines and Discipline of the Early Irish Church, (Dublin, 1864), 225-228.


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Sunday, 3 December 2017

Saint Banbán, December 3

At December 3 both the Martyrology of Gorman and the Martyrology of Donegal record the name of 'Banbán, Bishop'. This is an interesting and ancient Irish name whose most well-known saintly bearer is Banbán, Bishop of Leighlin. This saint has a feast on November 26 which raises the possibility that today's commemoration could be the octave day of the Leighlin bishop rather than the feast of a different individual who happens to share the name. There are two further commemorations of Saint Banbán in the Irish calendars, both in the month of May. This saint is described as 'Banbán the Wise', but in his Dictionary of Irish Saints, Pádraig Ó Riain argues that the May and the November feast days probably all relate to the same saint. Interestingly, the May dates fall on the first and the ninth of the month, which again means that we are dealing with an octave day.  Ó Riain does not discuss the December 3 feast, but is it just a coincidence that it too can be read as an octave day for the feast of the Bishop of Leighlin?

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Saturday, 2 December 2017

Saint Nuadha of Clones, December 2

December 2 is the feast of a holy man bearing the ancient name of Nuadha who is associated with the monastery of Clones, County Monaghan. The most famous of the saints of Clones is the founder Saint Tighernach, presumably, Nuadha was one of his successors. The passing of Nuadha is recorded in the Irish Annals at the middle of the eighth century and his feast day noted in some of the Irish calendars. The Annals of Ulster record the year 750 as the date of Nuadha's death, the Annals of the Four Masters give the year 746. The seventeenth-century Martyrology of Donegal records this entry at December 2 :

2. G. QUARTO NONAS DECEMBRIS. 2.

NUADHA, son of Dubhsleibhe, Abbot, of Cluain-eois. 


The age of Christ when he went to heaven was 750.


The twelfth-century Martyrology of Gorman notes in its appendices:

Nuadu, abb. of Clones, Dec. 2 (acc. Nuadait). Ob. 750 (746, FM.).

Cluain Eoais ('meadow of Eos') Ap. 4, gl. i. Dec. 2, gl. 2, = Cluain Auis, AU. 777, now Clones, co. Monaghan.

The name of Saint Nuadha does not appear in the earlier Martyrology of Oengus.

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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Irish Saints Honoured in Scotland

November 30 is the feast of the Scottish patron, Saint Andrew. Last year I posted an article by the Fort Augustus Benedictine hagiologist, Dom Michael Barrett, on The Saints of Catholic Scotland. To mark the feast this year we can read another of his papers, this time on the Irish saints honoured in Scotland. Like the previous offering, it contains a wealth of detail and is an interesting read. Whilst many of the saints featured are familiar ones, the final holy man, Saint Geradin, was new to me.

IRISH SAINTS HONORED IN SCOTLAND.

IN an article entitled "The Saints of Catholic Scotland," which appeared in a former issue of this Review (July, 1918), it was stated as unquestionable that the majority of those holy ones of bygone centuries whose names were held in reverence as saints of God in the kingdom of Scotland were actually denizens of Ireland. The circumstances which led to such a result may be thus summarized:

1. The large monastery, founded at Whithorn by St Ninian, on the model of the celebrated Marmoutier of his kinsman, St Martin, and popularly styled Magnum Monasterium, attracted crowds of eager students from Ireland. Thither — besides numerous pilgrims of less distinction— came the renowned St. Finnian of Moville, to study the Sacred Scriptures and to drink in the principles of true monasticism, for the benefit later on of his own country. Thither, too, as tradition affirms, came the illustrious St Patrick himself, to visit in loving veneration St Ninian, the helper of the earliest missionaries to Ireland, and his senior by some forty years. For the fishermen of Port Patrick, from the testimony of a priest living here a century ago, were accustomed to point out a certain spar of rock there as the spot where St. Patrick tied up the boat on which he crossed over frequently from the Irish shore.

2. That district of Strathclyde, moreover, where the "Great Monastery" was situated, gained distinction from the fact that it was the traditional birthplace of St. Patrick. "For more than a thousand years," Cardinal Moran asserts, "it was the uninterrupted tradition of Ireland and Scotland that our apostle, St. Patrick, was born in the valley of the Clyde." Although, as he goes on to remark, this opinion was rejected by learned historians of the nineteenth century, many documents which had come to light since then had served to confirm what he styles "the more venerable" tradition, and that to which he himself had always adhered.

3. Three Irish chieftains, sons of Erc, and named respectively Fergus Mor, Lorn and Angus, left the district of Dalriada, in Ulster, early in the sixth century, and with their followers settled on the opposite coast of what is now called Scotland. There, north of the Clyde, and westward from the mountain range of Drumalban, in the district now known as Argyle, they founded a little kingdom, which they named after their homeland, Dalriada. Small in its beginnings, the kingdom increased in extent and power during the following centuries, until in the eleventh century the name of Scotia — properly belonging to Ireland, the land of the Scots — was extended to the country which was embraced by the Dalriadan rule on the opposite coast, and eventually to the whole of Giledonia or North Britain. The first settlers in Scottish Dalriada were Christians, who had been blessed by St. Patrick in person, and they formed the nucleus from which faith was to spread later in that part of the country.

From these facts we are able to estimate the close connection which sprang up between the two countries, and especially the surpassing interest felt in the spread of Christianity among the pagan peoples of the north by their Irish neighbors. In Strathclyde — St. Patrick's birthplace — was the further attraction of the "Great Monastery" of St. Ninian, to whom Irish Christians looked for the attainment of sanctity and learning; in Dalriada their own countryfolk had settled, and their boundaries were growing ever wider — stretching on the one hand to the islands of the west and on the other towards the territories of the partly converted Southern Picts beyond the mountains, while to the north lay the vast pagan lands inhabited by Northern Picts. Add to this the fact that as early as the end of the century which saw the death of St Ninian, hundreds of former converts in Strathclyde and among the Southern Picts — dwelling between the Firth of Forth and the Grampians— had relapsed into paganism. The missionary zeal of the Irish was stirred on behalf of peoples whose destitute condition seemed to cry out: "Come over * * * and help us!" And to that appeal they gave a generous answer.

It was to Scottish Dalriada, as was natural, that the first Irish missionaries seem to have come. Among the first of these, if we are to accept the opinion which places his death in 507, was St. Modan. He was certainly one of the most celebrated; traces of his labors are to be found all along the west coast of Scotland. Many places still bear his name, although his life and labors have been forgotten by those who inhabit them. He was the son of an Irish chieftain, and became a monk early in life. All that is known of his after career is gathered from the many dedications in his honor in the districts where he preached. His first oratory was at Balmodhan ("St. Modan's Dwelling"), a short distance from the later priory of Ardchattan, near Loch Etive; St. Modan's Well is still pointed out. The site is one of great beauty and charm. Another ancient church of which he is patron is that of Rosneath, in Dumbartonshire. Its name signifies the "Promontory of the Sanctuary." It was here that he was laid to rest, and his tomb was the bourne of a favorite pilgrimage. Kilmodan, on the Kyles of Bute, and another church in Argylleshire were also under his patronage. Scott testifies to the popular devotion shown to this saint in his "Lay of the Last Minstrel":

"Then each to each his troubled breast,
To some blest saint his prayers addressed —
Some to Saint Modan made their vows,
Some to Saint Mary of the Lowes."

As in the case of saints of Scottish origin, it is necessary for brevity's sake to restrict our view to the chief figures of each century. To touch upon all would demand a volume rather than a few pages. We pass on, therefore, to a prominent saint of the same sixth century, St. Medan (also called Modwenna), an Irish nun who took part in the spread of religion in Scotland by the foundation of as many as six or more churches and monasteries for women. She had received the habit of a nun from St. Patrick himself, and was the dear friend of another of his disciples, the renowned St. Brigid. Medan was born in the district of Conaille, and after spending some years as a recluse in her own land, passed over to Scotland. The chief of her foundations was in Galloway, in the parish known by her name in the corrupted form of Kirkmaiden; her cave chapel is still existing close to the Mull of Galloway, near to the site of the ancient church, which, dedicated to the saint — as were also at least three other parish churches in the same county — gave the place its designation. Other churches were founded by St. Medan in Strathclyde; recent antiquarian discoveries on the top of Trapain Law, East Lothian, are considered by competent judges to have brought to light the remains of one of these. An ancient life of the saint says that one of her churches was situated on Mons Dunpeleder — a corruption of Dunpender, the original Celtic name of the hill in question. But still more interesting is the fact that a similar discovery made in 1918 under the chapel in Edinburgh Castle known as St. Margaret's, has led to the conjecture that another of St. Medan's foundations-that of Edinburgh — must have existed in that spot. If so, it is a striking corroboration of the opinion of the learned Dr. Skene, a former Historiographer Royal of Scotland, that the terms "Maiden Castle" and "Edinburgh" referred to this saint. Her name Medan, or Medana, is formed from Mo-Edana, after a common practice with regard to Celtic names, as will be seen more than once in this article. "Medan's Castle" and "Edana's Burgh," in such cases, have suffered little change in course of time.

St. Medan is said to have died in extreme old age at Longfordan, near Dundee, after a most penitential life, during which she made at least one pilgrimage on foot to Rome. In addition to her ancient dedications and her holy well at Kirkmaiden, the saint's name has been perpetuated in the modem Catholic church at Troon, called SS. Mary and Medan; it stands appropriately in Meddan (or Medan) street in that Ayrshire town.

St. Brendan was another very popular saint in the western parts of Scotland. After missionary labors in Wales and the foundation of many monasteries in his native country, where he is said to have ruled over as many as 3,000 monks, he journeyed to Scotland. The exact sites of the two monasteries he founded there cannot be accurately designated: three in the Hebrides and the Island of Bute are conjectural localities. The many dedications of churches in his honor witness to the devotion shown to the saint, whether or not they were in some instances founded by him. They are Kilbrannan, in Mull; Kilbrandon, in the island of Seil; Boyndie, in Banffshire; Bimie, in Moray; Kilbimie, in Ayrshire, and a ruined chapel on St. Kilda. The fishermen of the Western Isles perpetuated until almost recent times an ancient appeal to the saint for a favorable wind. Though ignorant of the significance of the invocation, they would cry repeatedly: "Brainuilt, Brainuilt!" — a contraction, it is supposed, of the Gaelic equivalent for "Brendan the Voyager!" The title refers to the tradition perpetuated by narratives — probably dating long after the saint's time — of his wonderful missionary voyages to regions hitherto unknown to mariners. Much in these stories is undoubtedly fabulous, but it is undeniable that the saint's journeying was extensive. Some writers have maintained that he actually touched the American shore. However this may be, there can be little doubt that the tradition — familiar in every European country — of St. Brendan's wonderful discoveries of vast countries in the west hitherto unexplored, kept in mind the possibility of lands existing beyond the western seas and led eventually to the discovery of the great American continent. The feast of St. Brendan, on May 16, has been restored to the Scottish calendar. He died in 577.

Considerations of space urge the passing over of such names as St Blane, whose church at Ehmbkine became one of the Scottish Cathedrals; of St. Finbar, of Cork, missionary to Kintyre, whose memory lives in the designation of the island of Barra and in other place-names; of St. Finan the Leper, patron of Glenfinnan, in Argyleshire, where his ancient bronze bell is still treasured, and of others of like renown. The prominent figure among the Irish missionaries of the century is the great Columcille, or, to give him his more customary title, St. Columba. It is impossible to pass by this world-wide saint without a few words of appreciation; yet to treat adequately his wondrous life with its labors, penances and miracles, is out of the question here.

The apostle of the northern regions of Scotland was born of kingly race in 521. He gave himself in his early youth to God's service, and at twenty-five years of age founded his first monastery at Derry — the precursor of the hundred houses of God which Ireland was to owe to his unremitting zeal. As a proof of his boundless energy in the work of transcription which formed the chief labor of his monks, it is said that he actually wrote out with his own hands 300 manuscripts of the Psalter and the Gospels. In his forty-second year Columba was inspired with the resolution of carrying into effect a long-cherished project of leaving his beloved land to carry the Gospel to the pagans of Caledonia. On Whitsunday, 563, after a brief examination of the island of Oransay, he landed with twelve companions on Iona, destined to become the centre of their marvelously successful labors. When on June 9, 597, St. Columba was called to his reward in heaven, after thirty-four years of unremitting effort, his missionaries had carried the faith beyond the Grampians and even to Shetland and Orkney, while churches and schools of sanctity and learning had been fotmded on all sides, both on the mainland and adjacent islands. The traces of the cult paid to this saint in the shape of dedications, place-names, holy wells, fairs and the like, are too numerous to recount St Columba is credited with having founded no less than fifty churches in Scotland.

The work of evangelizing the north was continued with no less zeal by St. Columba's disciples. Two of them deserve special notice. St Machar, called also Mochonna, son of a chieftain of Ulster, was one of the twelve first companions of the great missionary. After being consecrated Bishop he was sent to Strathdon with twelve others, to preach the Gospel there. Tradition says that St Columba commanded Machar to settle at a spot near the river Don, where the shape of a Bishop's pastoral staff was formed by its windings, and that this led him to fix his see at Aberdeen. The old Cathedral there bears his name, as also two parishes in the county. His holy well was venerated near the Cathedral. St Machar's feast falls on November 12 and was restored to the calendar by Leo XIII in 1898.

St. Drostan, the other disciple alluded to, lived beyond the end of the sixth century, and his name is in still greater estimation. He is said by some writers to have been born in Scotland of the race of kings of Dalriada. He became a monk at Iona, and was chosen by St. Columba to evangelize the district of Buchan in Aberdeenshire. In reward for the restoration to life at the prayer of Columba of the son of a Pictish chief, land was given for the establishment of a monastery on the bank of the river Ugie, about twelve miles inland from the Moray Firth. Drostan was left in charge, and his sorrow at parting with his master led to the place being called Deer. The Celtic legend embodied in the "Book of Deer," the oldest Scottish MS. extant, preserved at Cambridge University, thus relates the circumstance:

"Drostan's tears (deara) came on parting with Columcille. Said Columcille, 'Let Dear be its name henceforward.'

The saint ended his days at Deer, and according to the Aberdeen Breviary, was laid to rest in a stone tomb at Aberdour, "where many sick persons," it affirms, "find relief." Before entering Iona, St.Drostan seems to have labored as a missionary in Inverness-shire. The beautiful and fertile valley known as Glenurquhart, opening out from Loch Ness, about twelve miles from Inverness, is associated with him. A small piece of land there is still called in Gaelic "St Drostan's Croft," and the glen was formerly styled Urchudainn mo Dhrostain— "St. Drostan's Urquhart" — to distinguish it from other localities bearing the same name. There are numerous dedications to St. Drostan in Scotland. The churches of Aberdour and Old Deer in Aberdeenshire; Glenesk, Edzell and Lochlee, in Forfarshire; Rothiemay, Banffshire; Alvie and Urquhart, Inverness-shire; Halkirk and Cannisbay, in Caithness, are some of them. No less than five holy wells in the adjacent counties of Aberdeen and Forfar bear his name.

St Moluag, a contemporary of St. Columba, was a monk of Bangor who passed over to Scotland to work for souls. He took up his abode on the island of Lismore, in Argyleshire, and converted many to the faith. He founded churches and monasteries in other localities also, especially in Ross-shire. St Moluag's name is an example of a custom alluded to above, of the addition of the prefix Mo to the actual designation of a person. His real name was Lugaidh (pronounced and sometimes written Lua); its Latin form is Luanus. Mo in Gaelic is a title of honor, and ag an endearing suffix; thus Moluag may be translated literally, "My own dear (little) Lugaidh." Killmalomaig, an ancient burying ground near Fort Augustus, and reserved to Catholics long after the Reformation is named after this saint. St. Bernard, in his life of St. Malachy, relates of St Moluag: "One of the sons of that sacred family (Bangor), Lua by name, is said himself alone to have been the founder of a hundred monasteries"-this refers, of course, to Ireland.' St Moluag died in 592.

Lismore became eventually the seat of the Bishopric of Argyle; and the ruins of the ancient Cathedral-said to be the smallest in Britain, though possibly much of the fabric has entirely disappeared -may still be seen. It bore the saint's name as did also, many churches in the Western Isles as some others on the mainland. The pastoral staff of St. Moluag is in possession of the Argyle family. His ancient bell was lost at the time of the Reformation. Great devotion was shown to this saint both in Scotland and Ireland. He is styled in the “Feilire of Aengus”:

"Luoc the pure, the brilliant, the Sun of Lismore in Alba."

St.Donnan,-another contemporary of St. Columba, was an Irish monk who journeyed with fifty-two companions to the Island of Eigg, in the Hebrides. While the Saint was saying, Mass, the pagans broke in upon them. Respite was asked until Mass was ended, when all were slain. The massacre was ordered by a female proprietor of the island, styled in ancient chronicles the Queen. The saint and his companions were reckoned martyrs, and many churches built in their honour in the Western Isles. The feast of St. Donnan and his companions has been restored to Scotland, and is kept on April 17 - the date on which Sunday fell in the year of their martyrdom, 617.

Mention has been made already of St, Finian, the founder of the celebrated monastery of Moville, in County Down, as haying studied at Candida Casa, St Ninian's "Great Monastery” at Whithorn. It was at Moville that many notable Irish saints and scholars were trained _ St.Columba being one of them. St. Finian's part in the evangelization of Scotland must not be overlooked. The Scottish tradition speaks of his having settled in Ayrshire with a few companions; and established monastic life in the Cunningham district; the abbey of Kilwinning, where Benedictines were established in a later age, is called after him, for its name signifies "Church of Wynnin." The varying forms in which his name appears are to be accounted for by the character of the different languages used, There is a still more startling change of this kind in connection with the same saint.- After a pilgrimage to Rome, whence he returned to his own land with a treasure — precious in those early days — under the form of a manuscript copy of the Sacred Scriptures, Finian traveled to Italy a second time. Staying for a time in the city of Lucca, when that see was vacant, the people became so struck with his holiness that they procured his consecration as their Bishop. His life and miracles in that place form the subject of a portion of the "Dialogues" of St Gregory the Great. In Italy this saint is known under the designation of Frigidian. He died in 572."

Another missionary of that epoch was St. Mirin, who preached the faith at Paisley, where his tomb became the bourne of many pilgrims. His name was perpetuated in the dedication of the important abbey of Cluniac Benedictines, founded there in a later age. There are many traces of other dedications to this saint and of holy wells called after him. The seal of the abbey bore his image with the inscription: "O Mirin, pray to Christ for thy servants!" Lights were kept burning round his tomb for centuries, and a small chapel of great beauty, built in the late fifteenth century by a devout citizen and his wife, in honor of St. Mirin and St Columba, is still to be seen annexed to the ruins of the ancient choir of the abbey. It is used as a mortuary chapel by the Abercorn family, who came into possession of the monastic property.

A female saint who inspired great devotion in Scotland was the virgin Triduanna. She lived as a solitary at Rescobie, in Forfarshire, about the seventh century. Of her a popular legend related that when a prince of that country conceived an unlawful passion for her and pursued her with his unwelcome attentions, Triduana plucked out her beautiful eyes— her chief attraction — and sent them to him. In reward she obtained the power of curing diseases of the sight She died at Restalrig (anciently written Lestalrig), a village about two miles from Edinburgh. Her tomb became a popular place of pilgrimage from all parts of Scotland, and was the most important shrine in that part of the country. Her holy well there was frequented by those who suffered from any affection of the eye Sir David Lyndsay, the satirical poet of the Reformation, ridicules the superstition of those who resorted to "St Trid Well" "to mend their eye." On account of the popularity of this church, and the fact that Dean Sinclair, the superior of the collegiate body established there, was one of the most prominent opponents of the Reformation, the building was ordered by the General Assembly of the Kirk in the first year of the supremacy of the Reformers (1560), "to be razed and utterly cast down as a monument of idolatry." This was so completely done that only fragments were allowed to remain.

In 1907, after the building had served for some seventy years (by means of partial restoration) as a chapel of ease to the parish church of South Leith, a scheme was set on foot to restore a small six-sided building hard by, which went by the name of "Chapter House," but which had become entirely filled with earth and rubbish with trees growing out of it. Wonderful to relate, this was found to be a beautiful Gothic building which had once stood over a well of water, to which steps led down. There could be no doubt in the minds of antiquarians that this had been the famous "Trid Well" of pre-Reformation fame. The building has been put into complete repair. The saint's name is met with in many different parts of Scotland, but in some cases it has undergone such changes as to render it almost unrecognizable. It occurs under the forms of Tredwell, Tradwell, Traddles, Trallew, Trallen, etc, and is found as far north as the Orkney Islands."

It may be noticed here that legends speak of the coming of St Brigid to Scotland in an earlier century; there was certainly a widespread devotion to her, and one of her disciples founded a monastery for women at Abernethy, to which it is possible she may have come. The sacred songs of the Western Islanders are filled with the praises of Brigid, Patrick and Columba. Many churches too, bear St Brigid's name.

Other Irish female recluses visited Scotland. Among these were St. Kentigerna, daughter of one Irish prince and wife of another, who took up her abode on an island in Loch Lomond, after her husband's death. The island acquired the name of Innis no Catilich ("The Nun's Island"), and is still so called. The old parish church of Buchanan, built there, was dedicated to her. It is now in ruins. St Kentigerna died in 733. A century later two other holy women from Ireland came over to Scotland to live a more hidden life and to pray for the people of the country. One of these emigrants was St. Baya (or Vey), a virgin recluse who lived in solitude on the island of Little Cumbrae, in the Firth of Clyde, where ruins of her chapel are to be seen. St. Maura, another Irish virgin, who governed a community of nuns on the mainland, used to visit her friend Vey for spiritual converse from time to time. She died at Kilmaurs ("Church of Maura") in Ayrshire. These two saints flourished in the ninth century.

With St Kentigerna came her young son Foelan, both being in charge of her brother, - Comgan. The latter was prince of his province in Ireland, but had to fly for his life on account of opposition to his Christian rule, and took with him for safety his sister and her son. St. Comgan lived in great austerity in Lochatsh, Argyleshire, and died at an advanced age. There were many dedications in his honor in different parts of the country. One of the most important was Turriff, in Aberdeenshire, where a collegiate church was founded in the thirteenth century for the benefit of thirteen poor men who were maintained there. It was known as St. Comgan's Hospital.

St. Foelan (or Fillan) spent some years with his uncle at Lochalsh, but the scene of his labors was Perthshire, where Strathfillan is called after him. Near Houston in that district are the ruins of an old church which bore his name, a stone hard by is called Fillan's Seat, and a holy well once existed there, until a parish minister of the eighteenth century caused it to be filled up as a remnant of superstition. A fair was formerly held there also on the saint's feast day. In Strathfillan are the ruins of another ancient chapel, close to the Holy Pool of St. Fillan, whose waters in Catholic ages were believed to have power in curing the insane. Even now it is much frequented — chiefly by Protestants — for the cure of various maladies; about a century ago a visitor relates that he saw hundreds of persons bathe in the water: the stones at the side were covered with gloves, handkerchiefs and bandages — a relic of Catholic practice in bygone days. Near Struan Church, in the same county, another well of this saint was once greatly esteemed as miraculous; St. Fillan's fair was held there annually on his feast, January 9, and continued after the Reformation.

There are two notable relics of St. Fillan still in existence. His crozier is in the National Museum, Edinburgh; his bell, once kept near his holy pool, was carried off to England by a visitor more than a century ago, but was restored to Scotland later, and is now preserved in the museum of the Antiquarian Society in Edinburgh. The relic of the arm of the saint is said to have been instrumental in gaining for Robert the Bruce the victory of Bannockburn. The custodian had feared to risk the loss of the relic, and had brought to the battlefield the empty case only, but on opening the latter before the battle, the relic was found within it; the miracle is said by the chronicler, Boece, to have given such valor and confidence to the army that their success was the result. The saint's feast was restored to Scotland by Leo XIII.

St. Adamnan, abbot of Iona, is famous for his Vita S. Columbae, styled by a Protestant writer of repute "the most complete piece of such biography that all Europe can boast of, not only at so early a period, but even through the whole Middle Ages." He was born in Ireland, about 626, and belonged to the family of St. Columba. At the age of thirty-five he entered the monastery of Iona, and was raised to the abbacy about twenty years later. For learning and literary ability he ranks very high among ecclesiastics of his time, being well versed in Scripture and acquainted with both Hebrew and Greek; he is extolled for his holy and penitential life by St. Bede, Alcuin and many other of his biographers. Devotion to this saint is evidenced by the many churches dedicated to him, and the place-names still in use. His chief churches were Aboyne and Forvie (Aberdeenshire), Forglen (Banffshire), Kileunan (Argyleshire), Dull, Blair-Athole and Grantully (Perthshire), Kinneff (Kincardineshire), and Abriachan (Inyerness-shire). Many holy wells bore his name, and fairs were held on his feast day in some places. The name of Adamnan has passed into various forms in different localities; it has been, corrupted to Aunan, Arnty, Eunan, Ounan, Teunan ("Saint-Eunan"), Skeulan, Arnold, Eonan and Ewen — the latter being a favorite Christian name in the Highlands. St. Adamnan's feast falls on September 23.

In the same eighth century flourished St Maelrubha, another Irish saint, very popular in Scotland. He passed over from Ireland in his thirtieth year and founded at Applecross, in Ross-shire, a monastery which eventually rivaled the Irish monastery where he had been trained; over it he ruled as abbot for more than fifty years. Throughout the whole of the west of Scotland and the adjacent islands he acquired a widespread reputation for sanctity. Scottish tradition has ranked, him with the martyrs, as having been slain by pagan Norsemen, but in this the Irish record do not concur. Antiquarians have maintained that with the exception of St. Columba, no saint had more churches dedicated in his honor in the western districts of Scotland than St Maelrubha, As in the case of St Adamnan, this saint also is known wider the most varied appellations — Malruf, Molroy, Mury, Maree, Errew, Olrou and the like. At many places fairs, were held, on his feast: at least twenty-one churches are enumerated as bearing his name - many of them, formerly considered as dedicated to St. Mary,.are now held by historians as having St Maree for titular.

Loch Maree, a beautiful fresh-water lake in Ross-shire, renowned for its magnificent scenery, is the most interesting locality connected with this saint. One of its many islands contains the remains of an ancient chapel and burying ground; a deep well near it was famed for the efficacy of its water in curing lunacy. The feast of St. Maelrubha falls on August 27; it was restored to the Scottish calendar by Leo XIII.

St. Adrian and his companion martyrs belong to a later century. An old legend, now held as unauthentic, made him a native of Hungary, who journeyed to Scotland with several companions to preach the faith there. It has been demonstrated by modem antiquarians that this saint is identical with Odhran, an Irish missionary, who took up his abode with several companions on the Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, and there founded a monastery, which became in later ages a famous place of pilgrimage, after he and his monks had been martyred by the Danes. A Benedictine priory, under the jurisdiction of Reading abbey, in Berkshire, was established there by King David I. in the twelfth century; it was later transferred to the Austin Canons. St. Monan, one of the martyrs, who had preached the Gospel in Fifeshire, became patron of Abercrombie, in that county; the town became known as St Monance, on account of the translation thither of the saint's relics, but is now generally called by its former title. St. Adrian and his companions were put to death about the year 875. 

St. Geradin (or Gervadius) was an Irish hermit who took up his abode in the province of Moray in the latter half of the ninth century. The site of his cave was long pointed out at Lossimouth, now an attractive little watering place about five miles from Elgin. For many centuries this habitation was left intact; an ancient Gothic doorway and small window were built into the face of the rode, which acquired the name of "Holy Man's Head." More than a hundred years ago the stonework was demolished by a drunken sailor, and eventually the whole rock, with the sacred spring known as Gerardin's Well, was scooped out by stone quarriers. No trace is left of it. The saint had an oratory at Kinnedar also; the spot is now identified with the churchyard of Drainie, the parish in which Lossiemouth is situated.

Tradition tells that the saint was accustomed on stormy nights to wave a lantern to and fro, in order to warn passing vessels of the proximity of dangerous rocks. It is interesting to find this tradition perpetuated in the armorial bearings of the modem burgh of Lossiemouth: St. Gerardin, lantern in hand, is there portrayed, and above him runs the motto: Per noctem lux. A recently built Presbyterian church there has been named — contrary to the usual custom — after this local saint St. Gerardin died in 934.

Many illustrious examples might be added to the above: the great Bishops Aidan, Finan, Colman, Malachy — all prominent in the history of their times — as well as others less known, such as SS. Boniface, Ronan, Voloc, Mamock, etc.; the abbots Regulus, Canice, Kieran, Kevin, Cumine, Baitan and the martyred Blaithmaic; the hermits Fiacre, Molios, Ethernasc, Fechin, Mahew, Fillan the Leper and others; these with many more took part in the evangelization of Scotland by prayer, preaching, and — more powerful than all else — the virtues of a saintly life.

Enough has been said to show the immensity of Scotland's spiritual debt to the Island of Saints, and her acknowledgment of it by the loving reverence paid throughout the ages of faith to those holy sons and daughters of Ireland. May that devotion revive and increase in our own generation; then we may surely hope to experience the effects of the powerful intercession of the saints in the restoration of the faith of old to the people of Scotland. 

Michael Barrett, O. S. B.

Fort Augustus Abbey, Scotland.

The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. 44, (1919), 331-343.




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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Saint Columbanus, November 21

November 21 is the feast of Saint Columbanus, one of the most distinguished Irish saints to have left these shores for missionary work in continental Europe. Below is an account of the man and his mission by an English writer, Father John Golden. The work was originally published in 1890 by the Catholic Truth Society in London, presumably as one of its pamphlets, it was collected with a variety of others into a bound volume of CTS Publications issued in 1900. I tried but failed to find out something about the author, only that he was associated with Saint George's Cathedral in Southwark. Golden's account of Saint Columbanus is a typically late-Victorian presentation, complete with poetic quotations and a somewhat defensive tone when dealing with the relationship of the Irish Church to the Holy See. The author quotes some of the miracles associated with Saint Columbanus, I particularly enjoyed how the pagan god Wodan was deprived of his offering of beer when Saint Columbanus breathed upon the container and shattered it:  "The barbarians were surprised and said he had a strong breath." Yes, indeed!

SAINT COLUMBANUS (539-615)
BY THE REV. JOHN GOLDEN 

We have here no permanent city, but we seek one to come. — Heb. xiii. 14. 

Ancient in name and in history, the little town of Bangor is situated on the southern shore of Belfast Lough. On the opposite coast of the fine bay is seen Carrickfergus, with its picturesque situation and strong mediaeval castle. Bangor, too, had its ancient stronghold, as the noble ruins thereof clearly testify. Of its far-famed monastery, however, nothing but memory and history remain. "The parish church occupies the site " — that is, dear reader, the Church of the followers of the eighth Henry and his daughter, Elizabeth. Bangor was called "the Valley of the Angels," at the time when its great monastery flourished. The founder and first Abbot of this illustrious institution was St. Comgall, who lived between 516 and 601, was the contemporary of St. Columbkill, and "has justly been considered among the fathers of the Irish Church." 

Bangor Abbey, one of the most distinguished in ancient Ireland, was founded in 559, according to some historians; but Alban Butler places its foundation in 550. The high reputation for sanctity and learning of its Abbot attracted students from Erin, Alba, Britain and the Continent. Its situation, at once convenient,  picturesque, and salubrious, was an additional attraction. This was the age when, according to Camden and others, Ireland was the mart of sacred and secular learning, to which the English Saxons flocked in large numbers. Of Sulgenus, in the 8th century, it is written: — 

With love of learning and example fired, 
To Ireland, famed for wisdom, he retired. 

In 674, Marianus Scotus, quoted by Alban Butler, makes this remark in his Chronicle: — " Ireland was filled with saints or holy men." Among these, and a disciple of St. Comgall at Bangor, St. Columbanus finds an honoured place. One of the noblest sons of France, the great St. Bernard, refers to Bangor in the following terms: " Its disciples not only filled Ireland and Scotia, but swarms of its saints spread themselves through foreign countries, among the number of whom was St. Columbanus, who went to France, where he founded the monastery of Luxen." These are the words of a holy man, whose name and authority all revere, and they afford a light whereby we can read the character of the institution which, for long centuries, adorned " the Valley of Angels." 

The birth of St. Columbanus is assigned to various years, ranging between 539 and 546. That he was born within this limit may be regarded as certain, and the balance of proof points to the year 539. Leinster was his native province, and he sprang from an illustrious family. His first tutor was the great St. Senile, Abbot of Cluain-inis in Lough Erne, one of the broad and romantic expansions of the Shannon. The sequestered and delightful situation of this monastic school exercised a healthy influence on the gifted mind of the youthful Columbanus; it helped to develop his love of contemplation and study. So remarkable was his progress in sacred studies, that he composed some tracts and wrote  an exposition of the Psalms while yet in his youth. The venerable Abbot of Lough Erne, once the disciple of St. Finnian of Clonard, was well qualified to have the moulding of a mind endowed with talents of the highest order; for St. Senile was remarkable for a high degree of sanctity and extensive knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. The classics, too, of Greece and Rome, and the usual course of science, St. Columbanus studied under this venerable master and servant of God. He left Lough Erne in early manhood, and returned to the home of his parents, who sought to divert his mind from the religious to the secular state. But Columbanus, though young, had already formed the cherished design of embracing the monastic life. A mind like his, imbued with the love of holy solitude and of a strong intellectual grasp, was not likely to yield under any pressure. Against his mother's earnest wish, and rejecting brightest prospects, he fled his native province and directed his steps to St. Comgall at Bangor. His vocation was from God, and he must needs obey God rather than father or mother. Bangor received with joy a young man so distinguished for high attainments in virtue and knowledge; and Columbanus was fortunate in having for his master, during many years, the wise, holy, and learned St. Comgall. Here he made his religious profession and received Holy Orders; and here, too, he cheerfully engaged in the religious exercises, the labours and studies, of that great institution, from which "Alfred selected professors, when he founded the university of Oxford."

Manual labour formed, by rule, part of the occupation of the monks of Bangor, as indeed was the case in all the abbeys of the island; but manual labour, whether in the field or in the workshop, was not permitted to interrupt the rule of constant contemplation. While the body was engaged in useful industry, the mind was employed in communing with God; and in this manner did St. Columbanus, one of the brightest luminaries of the Irish Church, spend at Bangor a large portion of his useful and edifying life. To him, as to all the servants of God, " blissful solitude" was very dear —

Reaping immortal fruits of joy and love,
Uninterrupted joy, unrivalled love,
In blissful solitude.

About his fiftieth year, St. Columbanus conceived an invincible desire of following in the wake of other Irish missionaries, who went to evangelize various countries abroad. This longing he regarded as the will of Heaven. His age, wisdom, solid piety, and extensive learning rendered him a most valuable assistant to his venerable master, St. Comgall. Master and disciple were among the great men of that age, so fertile of greatness in the Isle of Saints. They were attached to one another with all the earnestness of saintly and noble minds. Long years of holy friendship had cemented between them a union such as the angels love to contemplate. So we find that St. Columbanus cheerfully obeyed the voice that called him away from his beloved monastery and native soil; and that St. Comgall not only acquiesced in his wish, but even selected twelve companions, who should accompany him on his mission of mercy to nations either wholly pagan, or only partially Christian. Some twenty-six years before this, St. Columbkill set out with an equal number of disciples for the conversion of Caledonia. The fascination which this number had for missionary chiefs going forth from ancient Ireland, arose from the fact that our Lord had chosen twelve disciples to propagate the Gospel. Chief among the disciples of St. Columbanus were St. Gall, St. Dichuil, latinized Deicola, St. Columbanus the younger, St. Cummin, and St. Kilian. It appears certain that this missionary band visited Britain first, and that they established there the rule of St. Comgall, though their sojourn in that country was brief. Their arrival among the Franks of Gaul is set down to 589 or 590.

Toilsome and perilous was the mission upon which St Columbanus now embarked, but he possessed zeal, fortitude, and knowledge equal to the enterprise. To correct abuses of long standing, and to restore discipline among a half-civilized people, is an undertaking as laborious as it is necessary for the well-being of religion. And this, together with the conversion of pagan tribes, was the work which St. Columbanus accomplished. Jonas, Abbot of Bobbio, in the middle of the seventh century, gives a sad account of the state of society and of religion in the Gauls, that is, Burgundy and Austrasia, at the time under consideration. On the dissolution of the Roman Empire, numerous tribes of hardy and cruel barbarians, pagan to boot, came down from the north and the east upon the fair plains of France. Conquest and plunder were their pursuit. In a word, frequent wars, incursions of fierce enemies, and a consequent relaxation of discipline, had all but effaced the virtue of religion. Though faith had survived the rude shock, penance and mortification had become almost unknown. Alzog does not hesitate to say that, "owing to the fury of war and the negligence of the bishops, ecclesiastical discipline had become greatly relaxed, and Christian morality almost unknown." But a great and salutary change is at hand. What Christ said of the house of Zacheus may be applied to Gaul, on the arrival of St. Columbanus and his monks: "This day is salvation come to this house." For several years they traversed the country up and down, preaching the Gospel, exhorting by, word and example, and everywhere diffusing the "good odour of Christ." No labour was deemed arduous in the noble work of reformation and conversion, to which all their endeavours were directed. Bearing well in mind the command of our Lord: " So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven," they furnished in their own lives bright examples of every Christian virtue. God blessed their work, and vouchsafed them a rich and abundant harvest.

In the kingdom of Burgundy, and amidst the wild forest-clad mountains of the Vosges, there was an old Roman castle, now no better than a picturesque ruin. This was the stronghold of Annegray, and, ruined as it was, St. Columbanus was glad to receive it from the king as his first settled residence. Here indeed, there was sweet solitude —

The shadowy desert,
unfrequented wood;

but there was also a lack of all the necessaries of life, St. Columbanus and his numerous disciples being reduced to the hard necessity of subsisting for nine days on grass and the wild produce of the forest trees. But it is from trials and the Cross that the way leads to the throne, and St. Columbanus was too well versed in the science of the saints not to understand the value of trials. Extreme want would be followed by abundance, and by an increase of the blessings of heaven. Caranticus, Abbot of Salix in the neighbourhood, having heard of the distress at Annegray, sent a supply of provisions, and thus did Providence reward the patience of the sufferers. But another reward of a higher order was bestowed on them. The daily increasing fame of their sanctity brought to Annegray multitudes from all quarters, and the name of God was glorified in cures and conversions.

Owing to the abundant influx of disciples, a more commodious residence became a matter of prime necessity, and Goutran, the king, bestowed on St. Columbanus the strong old fortress of Luxeuil, some eight miles from Annegray. According to Jonas, St. Columbanus was the first who established the monastic order among the French, and Luxeuil became a most celebrated monastery and a great centre of perfection. Its foundation is ascribed to the year 591, and its situation was in the deep solitude of the Vosgean mountains. "Luxeuil was in Franche-Comte, in the diocese of Besancon, at the foot of the mountains of the Vosge towards Lorraine." The rapid increase of disciples very soon rendered a third institution necessary and it was from the highest grades of society that candidates chiefly came. The new monastery was named Ad Fontanes, the Fountains, because of the springs which abounded there. St. Comgall and St. Columbkill had several minor houses subject to them; and so St. Columbanus had precedents to follow when he made Annegray and Fountains subordinate to Luxeuil. The celebrated rule he drew up for the government of his monks was founded on that of St. Comgall of Bangor. The instructions which he gave the monks, sixteen of which are preserved in the Library of the Fathers, Mabillon and others highly extol. The discipline of Luxeuil found almost universal favour in the monastic houses of France, and it was followed by several in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. At the Council of Macon, in 627, the French Bishops stamped it with their approval, and, after it had done glorious service in the Church for some centuries, it was finally incorporated with the rule of St. Benedict, in the reign of the Emperor Charlemagne. Alban Butler remarks that "the rule of St. Columban was highly esteemed, was observed in many great monasteries, and is still followed jointly with that of St. Benedict. Both excelled as law-givers, and the nations owe them a debt of gratitude."

What those great Fathers of the cloister taught by wise and enlightened rules, which are a "treasury of invaluable precepts," they had themselves practised for long years; "and hence the sound of truth was mighty on their lips." The regeneration of society, shattered and broken like the Roman Empire, was due to the marvellous self-denial and heroic zeal of the children of Benedict and Columbanus. The sombre forest and the barren desert yielded to the persevering toil of the monks of Luxeuil, and became productive. While manual labour subdued the soil, the eloquent preaching of the Word, supported by angelic holiness of life, softened savage manners and created in them a change truly marvellous. In the secluded shades of the cloister, science and literature were cultivated with eminent success; and the treasures of Greece and Rome were preserved by the persistent multiplication of manuscripts, the loving work of monks. Besides all this, intervals were allotted to the reciting of psalms, anthems, and the canonical hours. Prayer, study, and labour alternated by rule; and of St. Columbanus it is said, that he left his monks a rule of life so admirable as to merit universal eulogium; that he was a man profoundly versed in the science of salvation; and that he was endowed by the Holy Ghost with grace to conduct souls to the highest state of perfection. The Columban Rule was very rigorous in punishing faults, while it allowed but one meal in the day — towards evening— the food being of the roughest and meanest kind. The monks to the letter followed the precepts of St. Columbanus, and what a charm did the fulfilment thereof impart to their sacred characters! In the midst of all their varied duties there was maintained a continual application of the mind to God, and day and night they beheld nothing but our Lord Jesus Christ hanging from the wood.

The mode of computing the Easter time gave rise to a dispute between St. Columbanus and the French bishops. This was the great Paschal question, which regarded discipline only, and touched no dogma of faith. What was the exact time of celebrating Easter became, however, a question that gave rise to many serious difficulties and disturbed the peace of the Church from very early times. The General Council of Nice, held in 325, decreed that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox, i.e. after the spring full moon. This rule, which was the famous Jewish cycle of eighty-four years, was the one which St. Patrick introduced from Rome into Ireland, and the early missionaries into Britain. St. Columba and his monks followed it at Iona and throughout Caledonia and the north of England. But this system of computation was found to contain an error, which the Alexandrians were the first to discover. In 444, a difference of nearly a month was found between the days on which Easter was celebrated at Alexandria and at Rome. The Alexandrian system of calculation — that of nineteen years — was the more correct one; and the adoption of this cycle in Rome, through the exertions of the Abbot Denys the Little, secured uniformity in the Eastern and Western Churches on the vexed Paschal question.

The new system of calculating the Easter festival had been introduced into France not many years prior to the arrival of St. Columbanus in the country. In Ireland, however, it was not adopted till the year 633, when the ambassadors, despatched by the Irish Bishops to Rome, reported on their return, that people from all quarters were of one mind on the question, and that all celebrated Easter on the same day as the great centre of Catholicity. The Irish Bishops, in sending a deputation to the Pope, proved their loyalty to the Holy See, and also to the famous canon of St. Patrick, that "if any questions arise in this island (Ireland), they are to be referred to the Apostolic See." The report of the ambassadors as to the practice in Rome placed the question beyond controversy, and the Irish Church accepted the decision of the Successor of the Apostles. But St. Columbanus had departed from Ireland many years prior to this date, and had taken with him to France the custom handed down from St. Patrick and scrupulously observed, both at home and abroad, by all Irish missionaries. The deep veneration he entertained for St. Comgall, St. Columba of Iona, and all the venerable fathers of the Irish race, made him very reluctant to change at the bidding of the French bishops. As no question of faith was involved, and as Rome had not yet enforced the new cycle in Ireland, Columbanus firmly and religiously adhered to the discipline he had brought from the great monastery of Bangor. This occasioned much irritation between him and the French prelates. A tract which he composed on the Paschal question, defining and defending his own position, he directed to St. Arigius, the first bishop of Gap — in Latin, Vapincum.

In 602, the bishops held a Synod, and St. Columbanus, writing to them, thanked God they had assembled, and expressed his wish that, according to the Canons, they should do so more frequently. He entreats them to examine dispassionately which is the correct tradition, and refers them for explanation to his letter to the Bishop of Gap and to three different communications addressed by him to Pope St. Gregory the Great. For twelve years he had lived in the wilderness for the love of Jesus Christ, and now that a tempest was raised against him, he would say, in the words of Jonas the prophet: "If I am the cause of this tempest, make it cease by casting me into the sea." Yet he was of opinion that, instead of disturbing poor strangers, they should have afforded them comfort. He begged to be allowed to adhere to the traditions of his elders in Ireland, and disclaimed any idea of disturbing others in their observances. In the first Council of Constance, it was decreed that the Churches outside the Roman Empire are to be administered according to the traditions of their fathers. This decree St. Columbanus claimed in his favour, as Ireland, his native country, had never come under the dominion of Rome. And though he maintained, with warmth and vehemence, the traditional customs of his native land, he declared his entire willingness to comply with whatever instructions should arrive from Rome. Indeed, no heart could be truer to Rome than that of St. Columbanus, as is abundantly manifest from his own words. If St. Columbanus in France, the Irish missionaries in Scotland and the North of England, and the Irish Church at home, were so tenacious of what, after all, was a matter of discipline only, but a discipline originally received from Rome, what would they not have been prepared to do and to suffer for the essentials of religion, for the faith of St. Patrick and of the Apostolic See? The great revolt of the 16th century found them ready to shed their blood and lay down their lives for the faith of Rome. Had the occasion arisen, St. Columbanus and his monks at Luxeuil would have cheerfully sacrificed their lives for the faith of St. Peter and his successors. Relative to the Paschal question, his feelings and motives should have won more respect.

The life of the saints is the continual carrying of the Cross. "If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow Me."  So spoke our Divine Lord, the master of the school of tribulation, "who, though exempt from sin Himself, was not exempt from suffering."  The disciple must not seek to be above his master; and as it is with gold refined in a furnace, so with the soul purified by suffering: each comes forth improved in lustre and in value. St. Columbanus was tried in the school of tribulation. We refer to the persecution he suffered from Thierry, King of Burgundy, and his grandmother, the impious Brunchilde. St. John the Baptist lost his liberty and life for reproving the vices of Herod's court. St. Columbanus was banished from Luxeuil for raising his voice against the corruptions of the Burgundian court. The Baptist's worst enemy was the wicked Herodias: the Abbot of Luxeuil experienced the greatest hostility from the ambitious and designing Brunchilde. Fearing to lose power, if the young Thierry engaged in lawful wedlock, the haughty Queen Dowager dissuaded him from marriage and encouraged him to lead a vicious course of life. St. Columbanus remonstrated with the King by letter and by personal interview. The deep and heartfelt interest he took in the monarch's salvation, influenced him powerfully, and would have effected in him a thorough and permanent conversion, had not Brunchilde's relentless hostility and dark intrigues interposed to frustrate the Abbot's charitable endeavours. Filled with holy zeal and fearless of consequences, he inveighed against the scandals in high places; and the hostility of the Court, increasing by lapse of time, culminated in his banishment from the Vosges. "In the world you shall have distress; but have confidence, I have overcome the world." Inspired by the divine example and pro- mise, St. Columbanus wavered not in his character of apostle and reformer. Hence the persecution. "What fellowship has light with darkness?" Later on we shall see how it fared with the man of God, and how with his enemies.

In 610, St. Columbanus was forcibly expelled from his beloved monastery. The monarch himself attempted the ignominious task. The energy of the Abbot's reproving words inspired him with fear and horror. When attempting to invade the enclosure, he was met and driven back by those terrible words of the Saint : "If thou, sire, art, come hither to violate the discipline already established, or to destroy the dwellings of the servants of God, know that in heaven there is a just and avenging power; thy kingdom shall be taken from thee, and both thou and thy royal race shall be cut off and destroyed on the earth." It happened to Thierry and his race according to the Abbot's prophetic words. Courage failed the guilty king and he desisted; but satellites were not wanting to execute his will. Brunchilde, thirsting for vengeance, succeeded in bringing matters to this crisis. And the stormy scene she excited did not abate until St. Columbanus was banished first to Besancon, and then to Nantes on the western coast, whence it was intended to send him a prisoner to Ireland. His Irish monks were permitted to share in his banishment. Grief filled the hearts and tears the eyes of the other monks who were forced to remain behind. The scene was very touching; but St. Columbanus, as far as sympathetic words could effect, relieved the distress of his disciples. "God will be to you a father, and will reward you with mansions where the workers of sacrilege can never enter."

 Long was the way — a via dolorosa — from the neighbourhood of the Rhine to the port of Nantes. Ragamund, the captain of the guard, executed his commission with much severity. When at Auxerre, St. Columbanus uttered these prophetic words to Ragamund, who had spoken disparagingly of Clothaire, King of Soissons, on the north-west of Gaul: "Remember what I tell you. Clotharius, whom you now despise, will be your master in three years." At Nevers on the Loire, when embark- ing for Nantes, one of the guard struck a holy monk named Dua. Here again St. Columbanus uttered a true prophecy — the unfeeling soldier would be struck by God on the very spot where he had committed the wanton deed. On his return journey, the soldier found there a watery grave. Ragamund refused the citizens of Orleans the consolation of ministering to the servants of God, though provisions had now entirely failed them. But the designs of Providence are not to be frustrated. A Syrian woman, having met two of the monks in quest of supplies, became to them a good Samaritan. She invited them to her hospitable abode, and treated them with kindness and generosity. A stranger herself, but in easy circumstances, her sympathies were with those strangers in distress. " Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy."  The miraculous cure of her blind husband, at the prayer of St. Columbanus and his companions, amply rewarded her devotion to the saints. The report of this miracle brought to them large numbers of suffering humanity; and the captain of the guards, willing or not, was obliged to leave the people free in supplying St. Columbanus with the necessaries of life.

At the historic city of Tours, St. Columbanus was refused permission to visit the tomb of St. Martin. By the will of Heaven, however, it happened that the boatmen, unable to row away, were compelled to tarry there over night; and thus an opportunity was afforded the monks of satisfying their pious desires. The good Bishop of Tours, Leuparius by name, extended to them his kind hospitality, and wished them a prosperous voyage. They reached at length the ancient port of Nantes, at the mouth of the Loire. Providence willed this to be the termination of their weary pilgrimage. While some treated them here with coldness and desired to expedite their departure, two pious ladies, Procla and Dola, proved themselves veritable Veronicas. The monks were now embarked out in the harbour, and St. Columbanus was about to rejoin them by sailing down the river in a boat. But lo! a great storm arose: mighty waves rolled in: the ship was driven back ashore and stranded for three days; and the captain, divining the cause, liberated the monks, and was rewarded by the calming of the winds and the waves. St. Columbanus and his monks had yet work to do abroad, and Divine Providence would not permit their enemies to frustrate His purpose.

As the storm abated in the port, as soon as the monks disembarked, so the storm of persecution ceased, the one being a significant prelude to the other. They were prisoners no longer, and the guard offered them no further molestation. Their meekness and patience edified all, and the citizens of Nantes were indignant at the unworthy treatment they had experienced. They were now the victors, and the people rejoiced at being able to render them the services of charity. St. Columbanus, before leaving Nantes, sent written instructions to Attala, whom he had placed over the monks at the Vosges. He was to remain at his post; "but if,"the Saint adds, "you see danger, I mean danger of disunion, which may be caused by the Paschal question, you may come to me: "whence it appears that the Easter Computation was still a probable danger to the peace of the community near the Rhine.

The King of Soissons (or Neustria), Clothaire II., received St. Columbanus with joy and affection. He would have him and his monks establish themselves in his dominions, but this did not seem good to the Saint, whose face was set to other regions more in need of his apostolic labours. But St. Columbanus rendered Clothaire a service of much importance. By his advice, the King abstained from taking part in the dispute, which, at this juncture, disturbed the peace between the brothers Thierry and Theodebert, respecting the boundaries of their kingdoms; and he foretold, as afterwards fell out, that in three years Clothaire would be monarch of the whole of France. The King lent him an escort on his way through Paris and Meux to the dominions of Theodebert. At Paris he cured a man possessed by an evil spirit; and at Meux a generous nobleman, Chameric, took him under his own protection. St. Columbanus gave the nobleman's family his benediction, and devoted to God his youthful daughter, Brugundofora, who afterwards shone as a model of virtue. Though he drank of the cup of bitterness from the Rhine to the sea, his return journey was all a triumph, God vouchsafing to magnify His servant by many striking miracles.

After many vicissitudes of travel, St. Columbanus and his companions arrived in the kingdom of Theodebert. This monarch, always well-disposed, treated them with the utmost courtesy and hospitality. Several of the monks of Luxeuil had now rejoined their dear Abbot, and their arrival cheered his heart. Theodebert offered sites for new monasteries, held out various inducements to the servant of God to fix their abode in his realm. The Bishop of Metz was equally desirous for them to stay, and gave many proofs of his affections for the monks. But the Bishop failed to detain him at Metz, and as he was left free to make his own selection, he directed his steps to the lake region of South Germany, which was a portion of the dominions of Theodebert. Alzog summarises his journey up the Rhine in the following passage: "He ascended the Rhine from a point below Mayence, till he reached the lake of Zurich, made a short stay at Theergau and Arbou, and finally established himself at Bregenz, on the lake of Constance. His chief assistant in these missionary labours was another Irishman by the name of Gall, as daring and resolute as Columbanus himself, well educated and eloquent, and able to preach in the German as well as in the Latin language." The people at Lake Zurich, rude and impious pagans, raised a violent storm of persecution against the monks, and St. Columbanus, seeing that no good could be effected, departed from them. They had conspired to murder St. Gall, whose zeal promoted him to burn down their pagan temples and cast the offerings of idols into the lake. St. Columbanus was to be scourged and banished. The monks, having got notice of hostilities, escaped the hands of the infidels. At Arbon, Willimara, "a worthy priest," cheered them by his hospitality, and procured a boat and trusty rowers to convey them across the lake of Con- stance, to the pleasant valley where stood the old Roman town of Brigantium, now Bregenz, a frontier town of Austria on the lake. The situation was very picturesque at the mouth of the river Bregenz, where it enters the lake between the Swiss and Bavarian territories.

St. Columbanus reaped an abundant harvest on the shores of the beautiful lake of Constance. The people, that is, the ancient Suevi, were little better than those at Zurich, who sought the lives of the monks ; but the courage and address of our Saint disarmed opposition and won them to the Church. At Bregenz, he found an oratory dedicated to St. Aurelia, and also a temple now in the hands of the pagans, but originally Christian. On the walls of this temple were brass images, to which the people, some utter pagans and others lapsed Christians, used to point, saying: "These are our ancient gods and protectors." St. Gall preached with such fiery zeal that they allowed him to break their idols and cast them into the deep lake. Most of them were thoroughly converted. St. Columbanus purified the temple with prayer and holy water, anointed the altar, and, having deposited there the relics of St. Aurelia, celebrated Mass, to the great joy of the new converts. The solemn dedication of this church was an event of great importance, marking a new era of religious life at the lake of Constance. A miracle helped to win the hearts of the people and to bring about most happy results. Wodan was the false god of the Suevi, and to Wodan they were about to make an offering of beer, when St. Columbanus, breathing on the vessel, caused it to be smashed in pieces and the contents to be scattered on the ground. The thirsty god had to do without his beer that day and ever after. "The barbarians were surprised and said he had a strong breath."

 The new monastic institution at Bregenz continued to flourish and grow in usefulness under the rule and guidance of St. Columbanus. Here the Saint would have gladly remained, had not an untoward event decided otherwise. In 612, his friend and benefactor, Theodebert, having suffered defeat first at Toul and next at Tolbiac, was made prisoner at Cologne by his brother Thierry; and at the instigation of the vindictive Brunehilde, her grandson was cruelly put to death. The kingdom of Austrasia, which was Theodebert's, having fallen thus into the hands of Thierry, St. Columbanus resolved to seek safety in flight.

The relentless enemies who banished him and his Irish monks from the sweet solitude of the Vosges, would not fail to banish them from their new abode at Constance also, and from whatever place St. Columbanus might select in their dominions. Old as he now was, and greatly enfeebled in health, he resolved to cross the Alps and extend the sphere of his usefulness to the classic land of Italy. It so happened that St. Gall, his most zealous assistant, was unable to accompany his beloved master owing to a violent fever. Divine Providence had other work for St. Gall amidst the mountains of Switzerland. St. Columbanus saw in this malady an indication of the will of God in his regard, and accordingly he offered no opposition to his remaining behind. The city of St. Gall and a province of the same name, commemorate to this day the labours and the virtues of that great man, who founded the illustrious monastery of St. Gall, and did so much for the propagation of the faith.

In 612, St. Columbanus crossed the Alps and reached the historic city of Milan, the capital of Lombardy. At that time, Agilulf and his virtuous Queen, Theodelinda by name, held their Court at Milan. Devoted children of the Church, the King and Queen rejoiced at the arrival of St. Columbanus and his monks; and the good King of the Lombards offered St. Columbanus his choice of sites to found a Monastery. It was the monarches pleasure that the servants of God should settle wherever they deemed fit. The abbot Jonas, biographer of our Saint, mentions that while at Milan, he confuted the Arians in a very learned tract, which is not extant. From Milan also he wrote his celebrated letter to Pope Boniface IV., and this he did at the urgent request of King Agilulf, who hoped that the Pope might take such action as would confound the heretics of his kingdom, and restore to the Church the peace which they had violently disturbed. " An extract from the letter in question will show how strongly St. Columbanus felt and wrote on the doctrine of Papal Supremacy, and that the faith of the Irish people, and the opening of the seventh century, was the same as that of their posterity at the close of the nineteenth. It runs as follows: "For we, Irish, are disciples of St. Peter and St. Paul, and of all the divinely-inspired canonical writers, adhering constantly to the evangelical and apostolical doctrine. Among us neither Jew, heretic, nor schismatic can be found; but the Catholic faith, entire and unshaken, precisely as we have received it from you, who are the successors of the Apostles. For, as I have already said, we are attached to the Chair of St Peter; and although Rome is great and renowned, yet with us it is great and distinguished only on account of that apostolic chair. Through the two Apostles of Jesus Christ, ye are almost celestial, and Rome is the head of the Churches of the world." Splendid testimony of the faith of our ancestors and of their unshaken fidelity to the See of Peter, from which St. Patrick derived his authority and came to our shores with the benediction of a holy Pope.

In other parts of the famous document referred to, St Columbanus designates the Popes "their Lords and Fathers in Christ;" and "the first Pastors set higher than all mortals;" and again, "the most beautiful Heads of all the Churches of the whole of Europe." He is profuse in the titles and encomiums he bestows on the Apostolic See and its occupants. The Popes are "the Princes of the Leaders;" "the Steersmen and the Pilots of the Spiritual Vessel;" and "no one is to discuss with Rome." "The Pontiffs give the bread of doctrine to those who seek it;" and "the Irish are bound to the Chair of Peter." Elsewhere he tells why Rome is great among the Irish: it is "through this Chair." The Irish " are the servants, scholars, and children of the Popes." "The principal seat of orthodoxy and the head of the Churches of all the world," behold what he calls Rome. These and many other vigorous expressions St. Columbanus employs to show the faith of the Irish in the Papal Supremacy, and with a view to rouse the Pope to greater zeal against the heretics and schismatics. Because the Vicar of Christ was higher than all mortals, he should raise his voice like a trumpet, in order to protect the flock and confound the enemies of the Church. "You are the Prince of the Leaders, and have to endure the perils of the whole of the Lord's army — therefore I strive to stir thee up." Here we have a monk coming forward as the adviser of the head of the Church, and urging him to action. St. Bernard and St. Peter Damian in later periods, and Cardinal Miccara, acted similarly, respecting the Popes of their times. Men of wisdom and holiness of life have used strong but respectful language to the Holy See, when occasion required. So with St. Columbanus, whose heart was ever in Rome and in the interests of holy faith. The heretics and schismatics of that day he would have quickly condemned; and the pretended union they affected with Rome he repelled with all his orthodox soul. "Let the cause of schism be immediately cut off with the sword of St. Peter, that is, by a true confession of the faith in a synod, and the detestation and anathematisation of all heretics." The great and high-souled Abbott is fired to indignation because the heretics had aspersed the character of Boniface, and therefore he urges him to have them condemned in a Synod, and thereby to prove that their heresy precludes the possibility of union with Rome. "The Roman Church," he writes, "admits to its communion none who impugn the Catholic faith" words as true today as when they came from the heart and the pen of St. Columbanus — words whose import all non-Catholics would do well to study.

At the time when St. Columbanus came to Lombardy, the North of Italy was in a state of great agitation relative to the affair of the "Three Chapters " or writings condemned in the East. The famous Three Chapters were publications which favoured the heresy of the Nestorians, who sought to undermine the belief in the mystery of the Incarnation; and were the productions of three Oriental bishops, Theodoret of Cyrus, Ibas of Edessa, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. At the General Council of Chalcedon, celebrated in 451, the authors of these mischievous writings retracted their errors, by making a profession of Catholic faith. Later on. Pope Vigilius, in hope of promoting peace, condemned the Three Chapters himself, with this reservation: "In accordance with the authority of the Council of Chalcedon." But this did not restore peace, and another General Council, that of Constantinople, convened in 550, opened the whole question afresh and condemned the Three Chapters. Though the action of this Council established comparative tranquillity in the East, there still prevailed considerable commotion in Africa and Italy. The want of more frequent communication with the East and ignorance of its language caused the question to be misunderstood in Italy. Alban Butler, in his life of St. Columbanus, remarks that "Pope Gregory the Great tolerated the conduct of those in the West, chiefly in Lombardy, who, upon mistakes concerning facts which passed in the East, defended the Three Chapters, but did not on that account break off communion, till they could be better informed, as their faith was in all respects orthodox." St. Columbanus deeply felt the unsatisfactory position of affairs and hence his letter to Pope Boniface IV.,  in which "the author expresses great zeal for the honour of the Roman See, and professes himself inviolably attached to it." The Saint may be taken as a type of the race from which he sprang; for, "the Irish, though far removed from other nations, excelled all their neighbours by the fervour of their faith."

Their attachment to the Holy See, then, as ever since, corresponded with "the fervour of their faith." In 610, St. Columbanus foretold that Thierry and his race would "be cut off and destroyed on the earth;" and he also predicted that, in three years, Clothaire, king of the small territory of Soissons, would become monarch of all France. Let us see how these two predictions were verified. In 612, by the defeat and assassination of his brother Theodebert, Thierry became ruler of the whole nation, except Soissons. That portion, too, he coveted; but in 613 he died at Metz, when on the point of waging war with Clothaire, who, thereupon became sovereign of the whole French monarchy. As for the illegitimate offspring of Thierry, some were put to death, while others fled, no more to appear on the scene of political action. As for the old sinner, Brunchilde or Brunhant, the cause of many wars and misfortunes to France, she was found guilty of putting to death several Kings, besides the saintly Desiderius, Bishop of Vienna, because he had reproved her public scandals; and according to Alban Butler, "she was put to the rack for three days, and afterwards dragged to death, being tied to the tail of a wild mare."

Now firmly established on the French throne, and seeing the prophecies literally fulfilled, Clothaire became most anxious for the return of St. Columbanus. Eustasius, Abbot of Luxeuil, was dispatched as ambassador to invite the man of God to the Court. This was in 614. The Saint excused himself on the plea of age and infirmities, but sent messages of wisdom to the King, and instructions for the government of the institutions he had founded on French soil. Never had he coveted worldly honours; much less had they any charms for him now. "St. Columbanus from Ireland sung the shame and folly of avarice." Of him might it well be said:

Full of zeal and faith, esteemed light
All worldly honour, empire, treasure, might.

 At Bobbio it was that Eustasius delivered the royal message to St. Columbanus. Bovium, or Bobbio, a site at once romantic and retired, lies in a deep gorge of the Apennines, between Genoa and Milan, but nearer to the former city. Agilulf, the Lombard King, bestowed on him this picturesque site as his choice, and here, on the banks of the rapid Trebia, he founded, in 613, one of the most celebrated monasteries of Christendom. An old church, dedicated to St. Peter, and sadly in need of repairs, he found in the wild but beautiful gorge. This he caused to be renovated, and by its side he laid the foundation of the great Abbey. Bobbio has to-day a Cathedral Church and episcopal palace, and a population of about 4,000 souls. But St. Columbanus, sighing for complete solitude, built himself a little oratory, apart from the Church, and in the cavern of a large rock. This became to him a kind of Bethlehem, and he dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin. In this secluded dwelling he spent the residue of his days in the practice of prayer and mortification, and close communion with his God. Remembering that "man shall go into the house of his eternity," he shut himself in from the world and found in his sweet grotto that deep repose which he loved so well, and in which he employed all his time in preparing his soul to meet the great Judge. Others he had served during many long years, and now he felt the force of the great truth —

What to thee is other's good.
 If thou neglect thy own ?

 And so, in his lonely grotto, he resolved

To finish the short pilgrimage of life,
Still speeding to its close on restless wing.

 In this beloved retirement he closed a most eventful and brilliant career on the 21st of November, A.D. 615, about three years after he had left Bregentz on the lake of Constance. His sacred remains found an honoured resting place at Bobbio, where, with some of his companions, he lies buried in the crypt of the Cathedral. Jonas mentions that many miracles were performed at his tomb, and Jonas, first and chief among his biographers, published his life in 650.

The town of San Columbano, in Northern Italy, derives its name from our Saint, and he is honoured in many churches in France, Italy, and other countries. St. Columbanus was chief among the long roll of Irish saints and missionaries, who in the French, German, and Helvetian nations converted various tribes, founded numerous churches and monasteries, subdued wild forest and desert places to the use of man, and gave an impetus to religion, science, and civilization. "The breviary of the French Benedictines styles him one of the chief patriarchs of the monastic institute, especially in France, where many of the principal monasteries followed his rule, till, in the reign of Charlemagne, for the sake of uniformity, they all received that of St. Benedict."  How impressive is the beautiful story of his grand life! how serene the death of so great a servant of God! and how glorious a reward awaited him in Paradise! Trials, contradictions, and persecutions he endured in life; but "the God of all consolation," in Whose service he persevered to the end, enabled him to convert tribulations into blessings. Internal joy accompanies the patient endurance of afflictions, and Providence has ordained that those who suffer with Christ 'here shall reign with Him hereafter. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy," (Ps. cxxv. 5).

St. Columbanus was the author of various tracts and poems of a high degree of merit. He was endowed with a genius unusually rich, and he had stored his capacious mind with every branch of learning, sacred and secular. His writings manifest an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures and the early Fathers, with the classical learning of Rome and Greece. His knowledge was acquired ere his departure from Ireland, and chiefly in the great school of Bangor, under his beloved master, St. Comgall. He went out in middle age, ripe in years and wisdom and elegant acquirements, to begin a life of wonderful activity and usefulness. Cave and Dupin, quoted by Ledwick, speak of St. Columbanus as of primitive simplicity and ancient virtue . . . Dupin, who carefully examined, and with ability epitomized his works, declares they are written with wisdom and eloquence, and with a profound knowledge of ecclesiastical history: they are judicious, witty, and learned. The holy and austere life of St. Columbanus; the miracles he performed; the prophecies he uttered; his writings, remarkable for breadth and holiness of thought; his famous Rule, which is full of wisdom and spiritual instruction; and his great school declared to be the first monastic establishment in the Gauls, — all tended powerfully to influence many parts of the Continent, and especially France. The zeal and courage wherewith he reproved vice, even in high places, was characteristic of a true reformer of morals, of a brave champion of Christianity. Persecution he suffered from a depraved Court, banishment, too, from his dear monasteries amid the Vosges; — persecution from the barbarous tribes of Helvetia. What more natural for a faithful and intrepid follower of a crucified Master? "If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you," says the great Master of the school of affliction. But our Divine Lord, Who overcame the world, encourages His servants to "have confidence," and their "distress," after "a little while," shall be changed into everlasting joy.



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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Holiday Customs in Ireland: Saint Martin's Day

November 11 is the feast of Saint Martin of Tours,  a saint much venerated in the Early Irish Church. I have previously given a summary of this devotion here, and now we can turn to having a look at some of the rather strange 'bloodletting' customs associated with the feast, in an extract from an 1889 paper on holiday customs in Ireland. As the author says, Irish practices are but part of a European-wide tradition, living in a city I have no personal experience of any of what he describes but it is certainly interesting. There appear to be two central parts to what takes place, one being the sacrifice of blood and the other being a taboo on wheels or anything else being allowed to turn on this day. Curiously, there is an attempt to suggest that Saint Martin was a miller or that he was a martyr, broken on the wheel à la Saint Catherine of Alexandria, to explain this taboo. Hagiography, however, does not depict Saint Martin as either a miller or a martyr but rather as a Roman soldier who sacrificed his cloak to help a beggarman, only to find that he was helping Christ.

The Holiday Customs of Ireland. 
By James Mooney.
(Read before the American Philosophical Society, May 3, 1889.)

SAINT MARTIN'S DAY, NOVEMBER 11.

We come now to Saint Martin's day, a festival which for some reason seems to be connected with animal sacrifice throughout Christian Europe. Among the ancient Greeks, this day was the beginning of the Vinalia or feast of Bacchus, which lasted four days and was a season of public carousing, being considered the time for trying the new wine, but there is no mention of sacrifices. In modern Europe also it is-or was-a time for testing the new wine and for feasting, drinking and public sports, but, in addition to this, we find among all the northern nations traces of sacrifice, which may have come down from the old Teutonic and Keltic religions. With the more practical moderns, this rite has generally degenerated into a simple provision of the winter's meat. On the continent, the animal commonly selected to die on this occasion is a goose, a preference for which the Norse assign a legendary reason. In England, the goose is killed on Saint Michael's day, September 29, while Saint Martin's day is considered about the proper time to kill beef and hogs for winter, whence it comes that a beef is called a marten in the north of England. In Gaelic Ireland, a beef cow is called a márt (marth). In England, it is said that on this night water is changed to wine, a belief transferred in Ireland to Twelfth-night, while in both countries it is held that on this day "No beam doth swinge, nor wheel go round."

Saint Martin, who has been styled the second apostle of France, came of a noble family in Pannonia, now included under the government of Hungary. By his father, he was designated for the military profession, but this life was distasteful to him, and he became a religieux, being finally appointed bishop of Tours. He died, surrounded by his clerical companions, about the year 397. In the history of his life, even as related in Butler's "Lives of the Saints," a work which deals largely in the marvelous, we find nothing to account for the strange legends and practices connected with his name, and the conclusion seems irresistible that these belong proper connected earlier pagan god or hero. Can it be that under the name of Saint Martin, the modern peasant is honoring Mars, the ancient god of war? The bloody rites which so distinguish this day from all others might well bear out such an assumption.

In Ireland, the poorer people sacrifice a goose or a rooster, while the wealthier farmers and graziers offer a sheep. When a rooster is to be the victim an effort is made to procure a black one, and in some districts it must be a coilleach Martain, or March cock, i. e., one hatched in March from an egg laid in the same month. Strangely enough, a rooster is never sacrificed in some parts of Kerry, where the people dislike to kill one under any circumstances. The doomed animal is previously "named for Saint Martin," that is, dedicated for a sacrifice in his honor on Saint Martin's day, and the vow is sealed by "drawing blood" from it. In the case of a sheep, this is done by cutting a piece from its ear. A weakly sheep is sometimes thus consecrated, and so well tended in consequence that it may become the best in the flock, but no money would tempt the owner to sell it for any other purpose, although there is no objection to selling the wool. The animal is killed on the day preceding the festival, and the flesh is eaten on Saint Martin's and succeeding days until consumed, a portion being also given to the poor in honor of the saint. The chief object in killing the animal is not to feast upon its flesh, but to "draw blood" for the saint, and it is believed that if any fail to draw blood for Saint Martin, he will draw blood from them.

In illustration of this belief, there is a story told in Connemara to the effect that a man once named a sheep for Saint Martin, but as the day approached the animal was in such fine condition that his avaricious wife was constantly urging him to sell it instead. Afraid to break his vow, and equally unwilling to incur his wife's displeasure, he secretly killed a fowl and smeared the bed with the blood. Then getting into bed and covering himself up as if sick, he persuaded the woman that the saint was drawing blood from him in punishment of the contemplated impiety, until such fear seized her heart that she was as anxious as himself to see the sheep killed.

In Kerry, they tell a story of a man who had been always mindful to draw blood for Saint Martin, but who, for some reason, was at last banished from his native land. One night, in his new home, he was going along a road all alone when he suddenly rememberd that it was Saint Martin's eve, and there came over him a feeling of deep regret that he could not be at home to draw blood on the occasion. At that moment a horseman rode up from behind and inquired where he was going. On being told, the stranger said that he was going the same way and invited the man to ride behind him on the horse. He consented and mounted behind the other.  Soon the night grew so dark that he could not distinguish objects about him, until, at last, the stranger set him down at the end of his journey, and, sure, where did he find himself but at his own door at home in Ireland. "It was supposed from this," added the old man who told the story, "that the horseman was Saint Martin."

Like the other festivals, Saint Martin's day is considered to begin at midnight and to last until the following midnight. The blood must be drawn before the "day" begins-usually on the eve as it is a common saying that the saint will take it before, but not after. A part of the blood is soaked up with tow or cotton and preserved for use in connection with certain prayers in the cure of various ailments. In parts of Galway the blood is not preserved but is sprinkled about the house and upon the people, and a bloody cross is marked upon the forehead of each member of the family. Those who are too poor even to afford a rooster sometimes gash one of their own fingers for this purpose.

The following detailed account of the practice as it exists today on the west coast, together with the reason assigned for the usage, is given by Lady Wilde, and applies equally well to other districts where the primitive customs are still kept alive: "There is an old superstition still observed by the people, that blood must be spilt on St. Martin's day; so a goose is killed, or a black cock, and the blood is sprinkled over the floor and on the threshold. And some of the flesh is given to the first beggar that comes by, in the name and in honor of St. Martin.

"In the Arran isles, St. Martin's day is observed with particular solemnity, and it was held necessary, from ancient times, to spill blood on the ground in honor of the saint. For this purpose a cock was sacrificed; but if such could not be procured, people have been known to cut their finger in order to draw blood, and let it fall upon the earth. The custom arose in this way: St. Martin, having given away all his goods to the poor, was often in want of food, and one day he entered a widow's house and begged for something to eat. The widow was poor, and having no food in the house, she sacrificed her young child, boiled it, and set it before the saint for supper. Having eaten and taken his departure, the woman went over to the cradle to weep for her lost child; when, lo! there he was, lying whole and well, in a beautiful sleep, as if no evil had ever happened to him; and to commemorate this miracle and from gratitude to the saint, a sacrifice of some living thing is made yearly in his honor. The blood is poured or sprinkled on the ground, and along the door-posts, and both within and without the threshold, and at the four corners of each room in the house.

" For this symbol of purification by blood the rich farmers sacrifice a sheep; while the poorer people kill a black cock or a white hen, and sprinkle the blood according to ancient usage. Afterwards the whole family dine upon the sacrificed victim. In some places it was the custom for the master of the house to draw a cross on the arm of each member of the family, and mark it out in blood."

 Another legend makes it his own son whom Saint Martin, like Abraham of old, was about to sacrifice out of love to God, because in his great poverty he had nothing else to offer him. Although he loved the boy more than life, he killed him late one night, and then lay down, intending to complete the sacrifice at daybreak. On opening his eyes in the morning, he was surprised to see a sheep hanging up in front of him, all skinned and dressed. Full of wonder he went over to his son's bed, and there he found the boy sleeping quietly and in perfect health, with not even a mark to show where his father had driven the knife. The saint gratefully offered up the sheep as a sacrifice to God in the place of his son, and thus the custom originated in remembrance of the miracle.

Saint Martin is stated to have been a miller, and his festival is said to commemorate the day on which he was "drawn on the wheel," an expression which seems to hint at martyrdom and the rack, although there is no authority for believing that he was either a miller or a martyr. In accordance with this tradition, it is held that no wheel should turn, or anything go round, on this day; no yarn may be spun, no mill may grind and no cart may be driven on the highway. Even a stocking should not be knitted, because in so doing it is necessary to turn it round upon the band, and the boatman will not put out from shore on this day, because in starting it is customary to turn the boat round on the water. So strong is this feeling that even in the city of Limerick the large factories sometimes find it difficult to procure a working force on the eleventh of November.

PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, VOL. XXVI. JULY TO DECEMBER, 1889. No. 130, 377-427 at 413-416.
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