Friday, 15 February 2013

Saint Berach of Kilbarry, February 15

Today sees the commemoration of the patron of Kilbarry, County Roscommon, Saint Berach (Berachius, Barry). A number of Lives of this saint have survived and they show him to have been a disciple of Saint Kevin of Glendalough. His first teacher was Saint Daigh (Dageus) of Iniscaoin, County Louth, and it was while a student there that Saint Berach worked one of his most famous miracles, as recorded by the Martyrology of Donegal:
15. D. QUINTO DECIMO KAL. MARTII. 15. 
BERACH, Abbot, of Cluain Coirpthe in Connachta. He was of the race of Dobhtha, who is of the posterity of Brian, son of Eochaidh Muighmhedhoin ; and Fionmaith, sister of Cruimhther Fraech of Cluain Conmaicne, in Muinter-Eolais, was his mother.
When he was a disciple to Bishop Daigh, son of Cairell, Daigh sent him to a certain mill in Magh Muirtheimhne with a sack of wheat to grind it, and he found a woman and a boy of the people of the territory before him at the mill, they having with them a sack of oats to grind it; and Berach asked of them their turn of the mill, but they did not give it to him, and they put together the oats and the wheat into the mill, and a division was made between them in the mill through the miracles of God and of Berach, so that the wheat was on one side and the oats on the other side without the admixture of the meal of the one with that of the other, as is evident in his life, in which many miracles and signs are read of.
The Life of Saint Berach records that after this miracle, Bishop Daigh felt that his pupil should move on to greater things and sent him to Saint Kevin at Glendalough. He first though equipped the young Berach with his famous relics - first, the Clog-Beraigh or the bell of Berach and secondly, his staff or bachull called the bachull-ghear, the 'short staff'.

He spent seven years at Glendalough at the end of which Saint Kevin took Saint Berach to Bishop Etchen for ordination. Afterwards Saint Berach had a vision that he was to leave the monastery of Saint Kevin and follow a deer which would lead him to the site where he was to found his own hermitage. The site has been claimed as both Disert Beraigh, or Berach's Desert, now Dubberaith, in Bregia, East Meath and as Kilbarrach, "the church of Berach" in County Roscommon. His Life also records that Saint Berach ministered in Scotland.

His feast is well-attested on the Irish calendars, as Canon O'Hanlon summarizes:

The simple entry, Berach, Cluana Cairpthi, occurs, in the Martyrology of Tallagh at the 15th of February. We are told, that St. Oengus styles him " the tutelary Berach." The Calendar of Cashel, and Marianus O'Gorman call him Berach, of Cluain Coirpthe, in Connaught, and they give his genealogy in full. This saint is also called Beri, and he is regarded as a bishop, in a more modern insertion of his feast, which was celebrated with an office of nine lessons. This we find, in that Calendar, prefixed to the ancient Martyrology of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Dublin at the XV. of the Kalends of March. All notice of him, however, is omitted from that Martyrology. Cathal Maguire has not forgotten to state his family descent, and to characterize his place Cluain-coirpthe, as being in the desert of Cinel-Dobtha, in Connaught. He was also venerated in other countries besides Ireland. In the Kalendar of Drummond, at the 15th of February, in Hibernia, the festival of St. Beraig, confessor, is noted. On the 15th of February is registered, in the Martyrology of Donegal, Berach, Abbot, of Cluain Coirpthe, in Connaught. In the table, postfixed to this Calendar, his name is Latinized, Barrachias.

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