Thursday, 5 March 2015

Saint Ciarán of Saighir, March 5

March 5 is the feastday of Saint Ciarán of Saighir, one of the 'twelve apostles of Ireland', a so-called 'pre-Patrician saint' and patron of the diocese of Ossory. Below is an extract from an address delivered to the Ossory Archaeological Society in 1874 by the then bishop of Ossory, P.F. Moran. The nineteenth century saw the foundation of many local antiquarian societies, these were both a product of and an important contributor to the romantic national revival of the time. Bishop Moran naturally begins his address with an account of his diocesan patron and the tone of his opening remarks illustrates the part which the idea of Ireland as 'insula sanctorum', played in the national revival.


[INAUGURAL ADDRESS delivered by the RIGHT REV. DR. MORAN, Bishop of Ossory, at the first Meeting of the Ossory Archaeological Society, 7th January, 1874.]


Whilst your Diocesan Archaeological Society enters to-day on its mission, which is full of hope and promise for this Diocese, you will permit me to give expression to my heartiest wish that its course may be prosperous, and that it may produce the happiest fruits not only for Ossory but for Ireland; and though I am unwilling to trespass on your attention, as many interesting subjects await your consideration, you will bear with me, I trust, whilst I endeavour to sketch in rough outline the field of your future labours, and to review, as briefly as the matter will allow, a few of the chief points which will engage your attention.

I will ask you to take for your motto the words NOSCE PATRIAM, for as love of country and love of religion are inseparably united in the Irish heart, so the sacred memories of the past, and the heroic deeds of Ireland's history, are at the same time the true glory of our country and the glory of our Church: they won for Ireland, in early ages, the bright aureola of "Insula Sanctorum," and in latter times, they merited the distinctive badge of "the Martyr Island of Holy Church."

Foremost among the subjects to engage your attention will be the lives of the patron saints of this diocese. It was thus that St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, and so many other great ornaments of the Church applied themselves to record the lives of the holy men who went before them in the paths of faith ; and who will say that your labour will be fruitless whilst you preserve the memory of your fathers who enriched our country with the inheritance of divine faith, and left the bright examples of their piety to mark out for their children the paths to heaven? Since history, as Cicero defines it, is "Magistra vitae," surely the lives of the saints must be the noblest branch of history, for they point out the heroism of Christian life, and are the most instructive school of the Gospel virtues.

The life of our chief patron, St. Kieran, leads us back to the "Preparatio Evangelica," so to say, of our nation, and to the first dawn of the Christian faith in this country.

In the mysterious ways of Providence, the first gifts of this Celtic nation were offered to the Cross of Christ upon the shores of the sister-island. When the Roman general, Maximus, withdrew his legions from Britain in 383, to win by the sword the imperial diadem of the West, its provinces were left defenceless, and became an easy prey to Irish and Pictish adventurers. Modern research has placed it beyond the reach of controversy, that towards the close of the fourth and the commencement of the fifth century, many Irish settlements were made on the coasts of the present Cumberland and Lancashire, whilst at the same time the greater part of Wales became an Irish colony. The brave British chieftain, Cunedda, indeed, soon freed North Wales from the dominion of the intruders, but in the south the Irish continued to hold sway; and we find the son of an Irish chieftain, named Brecan (known as Brychan in the Welsh annals), whose name still remains attached to Brecknockshire, ruling there with undisputed sovereignty from 410 to about 450. St. Ninian was the apostle of these Irish colonists. They proved docile to the sweet yoke of Christ, and many famous monasteries sprung up amongst them, one of which, in after times, was known as "the Glastonbury of the Irish." Prince Brecan, of whom I have just spoken, is styled a saint in the Welsh Triads, and twenty-four of his children, or grandchildren, received the same honours. We should not be deceived by the title of " Apostle of the Picts," which from early times has been awarded to St. Ninian, as if that would restrict his labours to the inhabitants of North Britain, for we must hold in mind that the name given by British writers to the Irish settlers at this time was Gwddyl Ffichli, i.e., "the Gaelic Picts."

A close intercourse was for a time maintained between these Irish colonists and the parent country, and we must not be surprised to find frequent mention in the lives of our early saints of British families scattered through our island, and such ancient names as Bally-Breathnach, or Ballynabranna, point to places where these families made peaceable settlements amongst us. Through them, and still more through the preaching of St. Palladius, the Christian name became known among our people, and from that Celtic colony in South Wales St. Patrick was able to choose many of his associates who laboured with him in the apostolate of our nation.

I will not discuss the merits of the various theories which have been advanced regarding the chronology of St. Kieran's life. No one at the present day will seriously maintain that he lived to an age of three hundred years, or that for one hundred and fifty years he discharged the duties of the episcopate in this island. To me it seems sufficiently proved, that it was through the preaching of St. Palladius that our Saint, when he had attained the age of manhood, was awakened to the knowledge of Christian truth, and it seems equally certain that it was in the year 432 that he proceeded to Rome, and received there the saving waters of baptism. As we read in his ancient Life, "Kieran set out for Rome of Letha, for it was made known to him by heaven, that it was there he would receive divine instruction, and be promoted to the highest dignity, because Rome was the fountain of the faith." (MSS. British Museum, Egerton, 91).

This same ancient record further attests that he remained in Rome for thirty years, leading a life of heroic sanctity, and emulating in that corrupt capital of the decaying empire, the virtues and austerities of the fathers of the desert. How eventful were these thirty years for the Christian world! St. Sixtus III., and, after him, the Great St. Leo, ruled the Church of God. With what joyous acclamations was the news received in Rome, that the Council of Chalcedon had restored peace to Christendom! Terror and dismay took the place of joy, when it became known that Attila, with his countless hordes of Huns, had crossed the Rhine, and vowed the destruction of the empire. And how must the degenerate citizens have trembled, whilst the venerable Pontiff, arrayed in his sacred robes, went forth from the defenceless capital to confront their merciless enemy ! But with what triumph did they welcome him, on his return from the banks of the Ticino, when his words of peace had rolled back the tide of invasion, and saved themselves from utter ruin! It is probable that St. Kieran left Rome early in the year 461. It was in that year that Genseric, with his Vandal army, pillaged the city, and led away its noblest families into slavery, and it was only through the prayers of St. Leo that the Basilicas were honoured as inviolable sanctuaries, and that the lives of the citizens were spared.

St. Kieran received the episcopal consecration at the hands of that great Pontiff, and returning to Ireland, hastened to the territory of Eliach, where he erected for himself a cell in a dense wood, on the brink of a spring-fountain which was called Saiger. There his sanctity and miracles soon gathered a large number of disciples around him, and in the presence, and with the blessing of St. Patrick, he, in 462, laid the foundations of his great monastery, which continued for centuries a centre of learning and piety, and diffused throughout Munster and Leinster the blessings of religion. The reader of the Saint's life will be, perhaps, surprised to find recorded in it many things performed by the badger and the wolf and other wild animals. We owe to a distinguished antiquarian among our citizens the suggestion, that these were merely the names borne by some of the religious brethren of our Saint's monastery; and this suggestion is confirmed by the fact, that similar names were at the same period familiar in the monasteries of Gaul and Italy. In the letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, and other cotemporary records, we meet at every page with bishops and monks called Ursus, Aper, Lupus, and so forth, such names being chosen for humility sake by some of the brightest ornaments of the continental monasteries.

The labours of St. Kieran were not confined to Ireland. He passed several years on the western coast of Britain, and, as we learn from Blight's "Churches in West Cornwall," his memory is still cherished there. Four ancient Cornish parochial churches bear his name : these are Perran-zabuloe, or St. Piran-in-the-sand ; Perran-arworthal ; Perran-uthnoe, situated near the coast opposite St. Michael's Mount, and styled in the taxation of Pope Nicholas " Ecclesia de Lanudno;" and St. Kevern, or Pieran, which in Domesday-book is called Lanachebran. St. Kieran's holy well is also pointed out on the northern coast of Perran-zabuloe. The parish church of St. Keverne stands in the district called Meneage, which terminates at the Lizard Point, the southernmost land of England. The name Meneage is supposed to mean, in the old Cornish dialect, " the deaf stone," and the reason given for it is, that though there are several mineral veins or lodes in the district, on trial they have been found to be of no value, and hence are called deaf or useless. Tradition tells that St. Kieran inflicted on the inhabitants, as a punishment for their irreligion, that the mineral veins of the district would be un-productive, and the old proverb is still handed down, "No metal will run within the sound of St. Kieran's bell."

Penitential austerities were the characteristic virtue of St. Kieran; though the richest gifts were made to him, all were distributed among the poor. His only meal each day was at sunset, and consisted of a little barley bread and undressed herbs. His drink was from the fountain; the bare ground was his bed ; and skins and sackcloth were his only garments.

There is not in the whole range of Irish hagiology a sweeter scene than that of the Saint's death, as described in the ancient Irish documents. Knowing that the time was come for St. Kieran's repose, St. Finnian, of Clonard, hastened to be with him in his last moments; for, although our Saint in his declining years had enrolled himself among the disciples of St. Finnian, yet it was from him that St. Finnian had learned the first lessons of heavenly wisdom. Thirty bishops also came to Saigher, all of whom had been trained by St. Kieran in piety, and had received the sacerdotal ordination at his hands, These being assembled around him, he said to them: "'My brethren, pray with me to God that I may not stand alone before His judgment seat, but that His holy saints and angels may be with me ; and pray that my path unto the King may not be through darkness, and that His smile may welcome me.' And turning; to his religious; he blessed them, and bequeathed them to God and to Mochuda : he exhorted them to uphold piety, to love their monastery, and to guard themselves against the son of malediction, that their days of blessing might not be shortened." And then raising his eyes to heaven, he prophetically added: " For a time will come when evils shall prevail, and the churches shall be demolished, and the monasteries be reduced to a wilderness, and sacred truth shall be corrupted into falsehood, and holy Baptism be tinged with corruption, and each one will seek not what is his own, but what does not belong to him."

"He then went at their head into the Regies, or church of the monastery, where he was wont to celebrate, and there at the altar he offered the holy sacrifice, and having partaken of the Body and Blood of Christ, and received the last sacrament of Extreme Unction, he asked the brethren to inter his body in a secret place, which none but themselves should know, close to the spot which was hallowed by the relics of St. Martin, and where the remains of the holy men who preceded him had been laid. And now, having perfected his victory of abstinence and penance, and attained his triumph over the demons and the world, the choirs of angels came to meet the soul of Kieran, to give to him the greetings of heaven, and to conduct him to God. At midnight he breathed his last, but so many were the lights that burned around him, that night seemed changed into day. His remains were wrapped in precious linen, and for seven days hymns and canticles were chanted in thanksgiving to God for the mercy shown to him, and earth seemed to breathe the fragrance of heaven; but his soul was in bliss, in the company of St. Patrick and St. Martin and the other saints of God."

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Saint Foila of Killeely, March 3

A female saint of the west, Foila of Killeely, County Galway is commemorated on March 3. Canon O'Hanlon has this account of her:

St. Foila or Foilenna, Virgin, and Patroness of Kill-faile now Killeely Parish, County of Galway.

Colgan could not procure any special Acts of this saint, who was venerated in the southern parts of Connaught, in his own time. However, he and the Bollandists have short notices of her, at this day. St. Foilenna, Failenna, or Fallenda, or as more commonly called, St. Foila or Faila, also denominated Foilend, or Faoileann, is thought to have been daughter to Aidan, surnaraed Draignech, son to Lugadius, son to Dathy, King of Ireland; and, her mother, Cuillenn, or Cullenda, was likewise descended from a distinguished family. She had three brothers, Colgeus, or Colga, Aldus and Sorarius, who are numbered amongst the saints of our country. At what particular time St. Foila was born, we are not informed ; but, it was thought, probably, in an early part or towards the middle of the sixth century. It seems probable, she lived in Kill-faile. This place is identical with the present parish of Killeely, in the barony of Dunkellin, county of Galway. The old church there is yet in good preservation, being, in the opinion of Dr. O'Donovan, modernized during the 14th or 15th century. Measured on the inside, it is 63 feet long by 21 broad. The pointed or Gothic style there prevails. It is remarkable, that this parish joins Kilcolgan, where St. Faile's brother, Colga or Colgan had been venerated. Both churches were near Ath cliath Medhruidhe, the ancient name for Clarinbridge. Both saints also belonged to the race of the Hy Fiachrach Aidhne. The church of Kill-faile derives its name from St. Foila, and it is situated within the diocese of Kilmacduagh. During her lifetime, St. Foila performed many miracles. The day and year of her death is not recorded ; but, the former probably fell on the 3rd of March, when her festival was kept, in the church of Kill-faile. It is commemorated on this day, according to the Martyrologies of Tamlacht, of Marianus O'Gorman, of Maguire and of Donegal. After her death, frequent pilgrimages were made to St. Foila's tomb, from distant parts of the country, by persons afflicted with various maladies. For the cure of these, they reposed great confidence, in her merits and intercession.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Saint David and Naas

March 1 is the feast of Saint David, the patron of Wales. Ireland, however, can also claim to have a long tradition of devotion to the Welsh patron and the parish church at Naas, County Kildare, is dedicated to Saint David. As diocesan historian, Father Michael Comerford explains, the dedication can be traced back to the influence of Cambro-Norman settlers, many of whom had links to the Pembrokeshire area:

The parochial church of Naas, since the Norman invasion, has been dedicated to St. David. It is supposed that the present Protestant church occupies the site of the church of the olden time, and that portions of the walls of the ancient structure are built into the modern church. There are strong reasons for judging that the parish church of Naas, in the early Christian era, was dedicated to St. Patrick. The Egerton Tripartite (quoted by Father Shearman), recounting the miracles of our national Apostle makes mention of the Dominica of Naas. This would, in itself, go far to prove that the original church was under the invocation of St. Patrick. Dr. Joyce (Irish Names of Places), would deduce additional proof of this from the fact that the great fair of Naas was (until a few years ago) held on St. Patrick's Day. It is conjectured that William Fitzmaurice, on whom Naas was bestowed by Henry II,, finding the old church of St. Patrick either ruinous or destroyed, rebuilt it, and on the occasion, substituted St. David, the patron of his father's native country, Wales, as the Titular. (Loca Patr).

Rev. M. Comerford, 'Naas: An Historical Sketch', in Transactions of the Ossory Archaeological Society, Vol. II (1880-1883), 111-112.

Canon O'Hanlon, who has a lengthy entry for Saint David in Volume III of his Lives of the Irish Saints, also comments on the link between Saint David and the patronage of Naas, starting with the old parish church and then moving on to the building of the Church of Our Lady and Saint David, which commenced just two years before Catholic Emancipation:

"It was only natural, the ancient Welsh colonists should desire their chief patron, St. David, to be regarded as titular of Naas, in Ireland. Accordingly, at an early period, no doubt, such an honour awaited the church first raised there, to the invocation of this beloved and venerated patron. The site of the old church of St. David, at Naas, is in the centre, and on the east side of the town. It is popularly agreed, that the present walls of this church, with an ancient tower on the south-west end, are repaired portions of the old parochial church of St. David. There were three chantries formerly within it, viz. : that of the Holy Trinity, of St. Mary, and of St. Catherine. The Church of St. David is surrounded by a cemetery, where Catholic families still continue to bury their dead. Some remains of old tombs and armorial bearings, carved in stone, are found within this graveyard enclosure. The soil seems to have accumulated to a considerable height over the foundations, owing chiefly to interments continued for centuries past. No very ancient monuments, however, can be found there at present.

The old parish church, now appropriated and re-modelled for the purposes of Protestant worship, appears to rest on a part only of its original foundations. Near the side walls, traces of extension may be discovered, so as to indicate, that it had probably been cruciform in design. The foundations of one lateral transept are visible. It was known as the Lady Chapel. Another transept probably corresponded with it, on the opposite side, where a poorly-designed porch now extends. Internally, as well as externally, it is an easy matter for the antiquarian and architect to discover alterations, from a much purer type of building. Hardly in any one instance can the more recent modifications be regarded as improvements. The walls are of extreme thickness. The interior contains some tablet memorials, a rich stained glass window, an organ, &c.; but, it is deformed with a cumbersome gallery, high pews, and other unsightly obstructions and designs.

The present building has evidently undergone many alterations. It is near the site of an old castle, which, in a great measure, has been modernized, and at present serves to form a rectorial residence. It is still known as St. David's castle. The adjoining grounds and accessories are ornamental. Not far removed, an endowed grammar school is entered, through the cemetery gate. Where the steeple once stood, a huge unfinished tower was erected, nearly one hundred years since, by an Earl of Mayo. It has within it, on a slab, the following inscription :—" Ruinam invent, Pyramidem reliqui, Mayo." ["I found a ruin,"—the old Catholic erection then in ruins.—"I left this steeple in its place, Mayo." In the tower, is a bell, bearing the following inscription: "Os meum laudabit Dominum in Ecclesia S. Davidis de Naas." ("My mouth shall praise the Lord in the Church of St. David of Naas.") R. P. W. C, 1674.] Some time after the Catholics were deprived of this church, they built another, where the Moat School now is, and which served until the present building was erected.

The first stone of this commodious edifice was laid, August 15th, 1827.This church is dedicated, under the joint patronage of our Lady and of St. David. The church itself is divided into nave and aisles, by two rows of columns, the nave being 30 feet wide, and the aisles 15 feet, each. The total length, from the eastern wall, behind the high altar, to the western wall of the tower, is 138 feet; and, the height of the nave to the ridge plate 52 feet, a good and beautiful proportion. Forty years after the opening, the interior began to be finished. About twenty years after the opening, a steeple, modelled after that of Ewerby, in Lincolnshire, set up in the 14th century, was commenced, and was finished on the last day of the year 1858. It is 200 feet high. The style is what is called the transitional; that is, what prevailed between "the early English" and "the decorated" periods. The tower consists of three stages. The Priory of Great Connell, within a few miles of Naas, was dedicated to our Lady and to St. David. Canons Regular of St. Augustine occupied this religious establishment, and the Prior had a seat in the Upper House. Great Conall was founded by Meyler Fitz-Henry, Lord Justice of Ireland, in the beginning of the thirteenth century. Although St. Kieran of Clonniacnoise seems to have been the first patron saint of Ardnurcher, a parish located partly in the barony of Kilcoursey, but chiefly in that of Moycashel, county of Westmeath; yet, St. David—most likely the present one—has been patron saint for many centuries back, and there is a holy well dedicated to him, at Ballinlaban. It is still much frequented. In Mulrankin parish, county of Wexford, a patron was formerly held, on the 1st of March. Probably this was in honour of St. David. A Ballydavid Townland and Head are to be found, on an extremely remote shore of western Kerry, in the barony of Corkaguiny, not far from the old ruined church, in Kilquane parish".

Canon O'Hanlon concludes with a final reminder that there are good reasons why the Irish people should not hesitate to seek the intercession of the patron of Wales:

"It must always constitute a pleasing and truly Christian state of society,to find international kindness and courtesies, with charitable and religious offices, exchanged between the people of different countries. Such kindly relationship appears to have prevailed, on the part of our Irish ancestors and the Cambro-Britons, except on rare occasions, when ambitious, adventurous, and unprincipled leaders conducted marauding expeditions, against those exposed to their predatory incursions. The bad passions of men, thus mutually excited, led oftentimes to bloody reprisals. Nor can we doubt, but the period and contemporaries of St. David witnessed many of those devastating raids. Yet, it is consoling to find, that the holy men of Hibernia and Cambria maintained an intimacy, strengthened by bonds of mutual friendship and religious associations, even from opposite shores. Intercommunication by sea voyages brought Menevia within easy reach of Irish students, many of whom were proud to acknowledge St. David as their master in sacred and secular learning. Again, the schools of Ireland were not less celebrated, about the same time, and had been resorted to by numbers of Cambro-Britons, who spent precious years in the acquisition of similar knowledge.We have already seen, that several renowned Irish ecclesiastics are specially named, as having sought the companionship and guidance of holy David. Some of their Acts are recorded, in connexion with him, and these even serve to illustrate his biography. Encouraged by his example and emulating his piety, while cultivating their natural mental faculties. Almighty God was pleased to reserve them for a career of further usefulness, when returning once more to their native Isle beyond the waves. Hence, in life, St. David was honoured and venerated by some of our most distinguished saints, and it is only just, therefore, when he has passed from life to the happiness of immortality, that in our Island, as within his specially privileged principality, the name of this great and good bishop should be well remembered and invoked. Through his ministry, blessings descended on our forefathers, and so may his protection secure other spiritual favours for those people, who have adopted him as their special patron".

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Prayer to Saint Odhran

February 19 is the commemoration of Saint Odhran, whom tradition remembers as Saint Patrick's charioteer and as a martyr who sacrificed his life for his master. Below is a prayer to Saint Odhran, taken from the 1941 edition of the Catholic prayerbook, Saint Anthony's Treasury. The prayer to Saint Odhran sounds like a product of the 19th-century nationalist revival, there is a strong emphasis on the land of Ireland but combined with an appreciation of the saint's heroism and a desire that his 'noble sacrifice' should not be forgotten:

Prayer to St. Odran

(St. Patrick's Charioteer)

(Who gave his own life to save that of his master)

Blessed Saint Odran, faithful and loyal to God and man! you whose name is almost forgotten by those who owe you an everlasting debt of gratitude, accept our poor thanksgiving, offered in the name of all Ireland, for your noble sacrifice of your life to save that of Ireland's Apostle. You had toiled in his service long and devotedly; you had learned what priceless service he could render to God and the Irish land and, when the moment came when he or you should die, by pagan hands, quickly and resolutely you laid down your life, that your master might live and labour for the Divine Master of all.

By your crown of martyrdom so gloriously won, by your centuries of endless peace and joy, we beseech you to look down on the toiling sons of Ireland and on those who try to guide them to their eternal rest. Look down on us all, O blessed Saint! for the love of him whose heart burned with love for Ireland, and pray that the blessing of the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Ghost - may descend on us and remain with us for ever. Amen.

St. Anthony's Treasury - A Manual of Devotions (Anthonian Press, Dublin, 12th edition, 1941), 285-286.

Saint Nuad of Armagh, 19 February

A ninth-century Archbishop of Armagh, Saint Nuad (Nuada or Nodtat), is commemorated on February 19. Canon O'Hanlon records:

St. Nuad, St. Nuada or Nodtat, Archbishop of Armagh

[Eighth and Ninth Centuries.]

At the 19th of February, Colgan and the Bollandists have entered some biographical notices of this holy archbishop, who enjoyed the supreme ecclesiastical dignity in Ireland for a brief period. Nodtat or Nuada, bishop, is mentioned in the Martyrologies of Tallagh, of Marianus O'Gorman, and of Donegal, on this day. He was at first a monk, and also an anchorite. From this state of life, and even against his own will, he had been promoted to the abbatial, and thence translated to the archiepiscopal dignity. His birth-place or residence is said to have been situated at Lough Uama. This signifies the "lake of the cave," the water being said to rise out of a cavern, and the position is also assigned to Breiffny. Here, it is thought, he led the life of an anchoret. The lough, to which allusion has been made, was in the present county of Leitrim. It sometimes flowed back into that cave, whence it issued ; and, the people living on its borders especially believed, that this was an indication of the Dynast's approaching death, or that of his children. Ancient Breffny comprehended the present counties of Cavan and of Leitrim. It was divided into Upper and Lower, or East and West Brefiny. In the latter division, called Brefiny Hy-Ruairc, our saint must have lived, until he was called to a higher dignity, on the death of St. Torbach Mac Gorman. This event took place, on the 16th of July, A.D. 812. Archbishop Nuad visited Connaught, A.D. 810 or 815; and, he is there reported, to have made a reformation of some abuses, which had crept into the churches. The Catalogue of the Armagh Primates allows three complete years, for the presidency of Nuad ; but, these must be understood, with the addition of some months, reckoning from the death of Torbach, on the 16th of July, A.D. 812, to the 19th of February, A.D. 816. Other authorities, however, place his demise before this date, viz., at the year 811 or 812. Under the year 811, this passage occurs in the Annals of Ulster, "Nuad of Loch-Huama, bishop, anchorite, and Abbot of Armagh, fell asleep."

Lanigan's Ecclesiastical History of Ireland says that 'in 811 Nuad made a visitation of some part of Connaught and on that occasion relieved some churches there from an annual offering, which used to be made to that of Armagh' (Vol 3, p.252).

The Ancient List of the Coarbs of Patrick lists Nuada as the 33rd holder of the episcopal see of Armagh.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Saint Ossan of Rathossain, February 17

17 February is a date on which many saints are commemorated in the Irish calendars of whom Saint Ossan of Rathossain in County Meath is one of the lesser-known . In O'Hanlon's account below I find it curious that there are supposed to be two different saints of this name commemorated on the same day, but the earlier, Patrician saint is not as well-attested as the seventh-century Ossan whose repose is recorded in various Irish Annals.

St. Ossan, Bishop of Rathossain, County of Meath. [Seventh Century.]

Colgan has some notices, regarding this saint, at the 17th of February. He was born, most probably about, or after, the beginning of the seventh century. According to Duald Mac Firbis, we find a Bishop Ossan, from Rath-Ossain, to the west of Ath Truim. It is thought,that he died on the 17th of February, A.D. 686. He is considered to have lived, at a period, somewhat earlier, than another homonymous saint venerated here, and on the same day. Colgan thinks, that a St. Ossan, at or near Trim, is alluded to, as one of the makers of sacred vessels for St. Patrick, under the name of Essa. Yet, this is clearly irreconcilable with chronology. However this be, Ossan, Bishop, is the only mention made of him, in the Martyrology of Tallagh. The Martyrologist, Marianus O'Gorman, calls him "candidus." In a moral sense, this word indicates his character for intergrity or innocence. If it refer to his physical appearance, we may assume that he was a man of clear or fair complexion. We read, as entered in the Martyrology of Donegal, on this day, Ossan, Bishop, of Rath Ossian. His place is particularly pointed out, as being near the western gate of the ancient borough or city of Trim. The " Annals of the Four Masters " place his death at A.D. 685, while calling him Bishop of Mainistir, or "of the Monastery." The "Annals of Ulster" have his demise at A.D. 686.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Saint Forannan of Clonard, February 12

February 12 sees the feast of an eighth-century abbot at the monastery of Clonard, County Meath - Saint Forannan. O'Hanlon has a brief entry on what is known of him:
St. Forannan, Abbot of Clonard, County of Meath.
[Eighth Century.]

We read on this day, in the Martyrology of Donegal, that Forannan, Abbot of Cluain Eraird, was venerated. He is said, also, to have been Abbot of Kildare, and to have died, on the 12th of February, A.D. 740, according to the Annals of the Four Masters,- or according to those of Ulster, A.D. 744.

In his diocesan history of Meath, Anglican rector John Healy recorded something of the context for the lives of the successors to Saint Finian:
The establishment at Clonard continued to exist down to the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. It produced a long succession of men who were eminent in their day, but whose names now sound unfamiliar — such is the evanescent character of all human greatness. The annalists for the most part record for us simply their parentage and their decease. Sometimes, however, they give us small details that make us wish that they had not been so concise in all their statements, but had given us some particulars of the lives of these remarkable men . Thus they tell us of Bishop Tola, who was " a worthy soldier of Christ," and of Faelgus, who was " a wise man of Clonard." They tell of Suairleach, " bishop, anchorite, and abbot of Clonard, doctor in divinity and in spiritual wisdom, in piety and good deeds, so that his name spread over all Ireland : " and
yet again of Ruman the amiable, a bishop who was " a shrine of wisdom, illustrious, acute, a man of virgin purity," and " loved by the hosts of the assembled people." Then we have Colman, the " wise doctor," and Maelmochta, " the head of the piety and wisdom of Ireland ; " Tuathal, the bishop, who " died after a good life," and Oengus, lord of Laeghaire, who, after a life of turmoil, retired to spend at Clonard his declining days, but was followed thither by his foes, and slain by the lord of Delvin. Such entries suggest many thoughts, but it is left to the imagination to fill in the picture. They tell, however, that the place was the abode of learning and piety, where good and learned men served their generation by the will of God.