Friday, 18 August 2017

Saint Rónán, August 18

August 18 is the feast of Saint Rónán, a name borne by a number of Irish holy men, most of whom are obscure. Pádraig Ó Riain's Dictionary of Irish Saints records that the name is derived from rón, a seal. Canon O'Hanlon, in his account below, covers the dearth of information about the August 18 Rónán by diverting us to the island of Iona. As he so often does, however, he builds us up to embrace a possible Scottish connection only to let us down by admitting that there is no actual evidence to connect our saint of the day with the Rónán commemorated on Iona. We do get a charming sketch as compensation though:




St. Ronan.

There are several saints bearing this name, included in the Irish Calendars; but of most, we have nothing left to determine their identity or period, or even the localities with which they were respectively connected. At the 18th of August, the Martyrology of Donegal registers a festival in honour of Ronan, having in like manner, no further designation. In Scotland, also, this name appears to have been known, and it is found as a compound word in local denominations. On the east side of Iona, there is an old church, Tempul Ronain, and a village at a landing place, called Port Ronan, a little to the south of the cathedral and chief group of antiquities there. Tempul Ronain was formerly a parish church, dependent on the Monastery of Iona. It had a nunnery connected, in which several prioresses are said to have been buried. Towards the close of the last century, the nunnery church was quite entire, one end of it being arched and very beautiful; then also stood the parish church entire, but tottering. This was a building about the size of St. Oran's chapel, and north-east of the nunnery, but inside of its enclosures. It is not known, however, to which of the saints named Ronan, this place had been dedicated.


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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Saint Eóin of Saint John's, August 17

Today is the feast of a County Down saint whose church site I have visited a number of times, most recently in June whilst on a day tour of ecclesiastical sites with the Down County Museum. It is a site well worth visiting, the church ruins are situated on the coast and have the company of the nearby Saint John's Point Lighthouse. I have previously posted on the elusive Saint John here and now bring the account from Volume 8 of Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints. In the absence of any substantial information on the man, O'Hanlon tells us instead of his church. He doesn't mention the holy well and bullaun at the entrance to the site, but does say that the eighteenth-century writer, Walter Harris, claimed that the church was intact in his day. I am also interested by the fact that a church which appears to have started out as being associated with a local saint was later called the Chapel of Saint John of Jerusalem:




St. Eoin of St. John's, County of Down.

It should be understood, that the proper name Eoin, in Irish, is equivalent to the English name John. The Martyrology of Tallagh records a festival at the 17th of August, to honour St. Eoani mic Carlain. In the beginning of the fourteenth century, his place seems to have been known as the Chapel of Styoun, now St. John's Point. This is a detached townland in the parish of Rathmullan. At this same date, the name occurs in the Martyrology of Donegal, Eoin, son of Carlan, of Tigh-Eoin, in Uladh. This place has been identified with St. John's, in the County of Down. In the year 1183, it would seem to have been designated Stechian, in the time of James I. Stion, and at the time of the Dissolution, it was called the Chapel of St. John of Jerusalem. This ancient chapel belonged to a very antique class of ecclesiastical buildings. It measured only 20 by 13 feet, in the clear. Better than a century ago, the walls were entire. But now, the east wall has been demolished to the foundation, and with it the east window, small and narrow, terminating in an acute angle, formed by two inclined flags. The doorway, in the west wall, is 5 feet, 6 inches, high; 2 feet, 1 inch wide, at the top, but gradually dilating to the threshold, where it is 3 feet in breadth. In the south wall, near the south-east angle, there is a window 2 feet, 5 and a half inches high; 1 foot, 4inches wide, at top, and 1 foot, 9 nine inches, at bottom. In both instances, the aperture is surmounted by a single flag, instead of an arch.

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Saints Marinus and Anianus, August 16

At August 16 in Volume 8 of his Lives of the Irish Saints, Canon O'Hanlon mentions that the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, had intended to publish an account of a saintly duo, Marinus and Anianus on this date. Sadly, he died before he could do so. Canon O'Hanlon did not know of this pair, which is surprising since his Anglican contemporary, the scholarly Bishop William Reeves, with whose work O'Hanlon was certainly acquainted, delivered a paper on them to the Royal Irish Academy in 1861. Their accepted feast day is November 15 so on what basis Colgan assigned them to August 16 is not clear. The pair were seventh-century missionaries to Bavaria, Marinus, a bishop and his companion Anianus of a lesser ecclesiastical rank. Both were martyred, there is some interesting speculation on the identity of their 'Vandal' attackers here. I will, however, hold over the Reeves paper until November 15, he too has some interesting speculations to offer on the original Irish names that might lie behind the Latinized forms in which they have come down to us. For now, Canon O'Hanlon has to admit defeat:

Saints Marinus and Anianus.

At the 16th of August, Colgan intended to have published the Lives of Saints Marinus and Anianus, as we learn from the posthumous list of his Manuscripts. Elsewhere, I have not been able to find any account, that might serve to explain their connection with Irish hagiology.



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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

'The Clouds are Her Chariot' - The Feast of the Assumption, August 15


August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and below are a couple of brief quotations relating to the feast connected with the monastery of Bobbio. Bobbio was, of course, founded by the Irish Saint Columbanus. In the late seventeenth century, a visiting Benedictine monk, Jean Mabillon, visited Bobbio and discovered in its library a wonderful codex dating from a thousand years earlier. The 'Bobbio Missal', as the codex is now known, has been described as 'one of the most intriguing liturgical manuscripts that were produced in Merovingian Francia'. Earlier generations of scholars were keen to assert a firm Irish provenance for this seventh-century Gallican liturgy, but modern scholars have failed to prove any direct Irish link, apart from the manuscript's location at Bobbio. In her 1938 historical account of Irish devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Helena Concannon quoted some snippets from it relating to today's feast:


From the Mass for the Feast of the Assumption found in the Bobbio Missal:

"...her soul is wreathed with various crowns; the apostles render sacred homage to her, the angels intone their canticles, Christ embraces her, the clouds are her chariot, paradise her dwelling, where, decked with glory, she reigns amidst the virgin-choirs."

From a Sermon on the Assumption Preached at Bobbio:

“Celebrating today (the preacher says) the Assumption of the Holy Mother Mary, dearest Brethern, it behoves you to rejoice in spirit, in that God has willed for your salvation to raise her from the earthly dwellings to the heavenly mansions. The Mother of Our Lord is assumed today by God, the Creator of all things, to the heavenly kingdom, and she who by her chaste child-bearing brought life to the human race, today ascends to Heaven to pray to God at all times for us. Let it be our prayer, whilst we keep the day of the Assumption, that she may assist us by her merits, and may protect us from the snares of Satan, that so through her we may deserve to attain the joys of Paradise.”

The Queen of Ireland – An Historical Account of Ireland's Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by Mrs Helena Concannon (Dublin, 1938), 41-42.


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Sunday, 6 August 2017

St. Lughaidh of Cluain Fobhair, August 6

August 6 is the feast of an Irish saint with an ancient name - Lughaidh. He is associated with a locality called Cluain Fobhair. Despite the fact that he appears on the earliest calendars and that the seventeenth-century hagiologist,  Father John Colgan, intended to include him in his work, both the man and the place are impossible to identify with any certainty, as Canon O'Hanlon explains:

St. Lughaidh, of Cluain Fobhair.

The present saint most probably flourished before the tenth century, for his name is commemorated at this date, in our most ancient Irish Martyrologies. It seems to have been Colgan's intention to have edited the Acts of St. Lughidius, on this day, as would appear from the posthumous list of his MSS. He was connected with a place, designated Cluain Fobhair. There is a townland called Cloonfoher, in the parish and barony of Burrishoole, in the County of Mayo; a Cloonfore, in the parish and barony of Rathcline, in the County of Longford; a Cloonfower, in the parish of Termonbarry, barony of Ballintober North, and County of Roscommon, as also a Cloonfower, in the parish of Kilkeevin, and barony of Castlereagh, County of Roscommon. Those denominations are all equivalent to Cluain Fobhair. The Martyrologies of Tallagh and of Donegal mention, that at the 6th of August, veneration was given to Lughaidh, of Cluain Fobhair. In the Irish Calendar, preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, there is a similar entry.






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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Saint Oswald of Northumbria, August 5


August 5 is the feast of the seventh-century Saint Oswald of Northumbria. Although not an Irish saint, King Oswald was the royal protégé of the Iona-trained Saint Aidan and was himself the recipient of an Irish religious education. Saint Oswald met his end at the hands of a pagan rival king and in his tribute to the royal martyr below, Irish Bishop, later Cardinal, P.F. Moran provides some very good reasons why the memory of this holy king should be cherished by the Irish. He also provides an account of the wonderworking relics of Saint Oswald, whose cult later extended beyond these islands into continental Europe:


...From the outset of his episcopate, St. Aidan was not without anxieties and sorrows. Above all he was overwhelmed with affliction by the death of Oswald, on the field of battle, in 642. This dire calamity fell upon the Northumbrian church and kingdom at the hands of Penda, the pagan king of Mercia. For two years war had raged between Northumbria and Mercia, and Oswald had been so far successful that he added the district of Lindsey, with its chief town of Lincoln, to his dominions. It was on the 5th of August, 642, that the decisive battle was fought, at a place called Maserfield, near the Shropshire town, which still commemorates Oswald in the name of Oswestry. The brave prince fell fighting for his religion and his country, as Bede takes occasion to mention, and "seeing himself hemmed in by armed assailants, he ended his life with words of prayer for his own soldiers: whence arose the proverb, God, have mercy on their souls, as Oswald said when falling to the ground." Another proverbial saying is recorded by Henry of Huntingdon: "The plain of Mesafeld was whitened with the bones of the saints." Thus perished, at the age of thirty-eight, Oswald, marked by the Church among her martyrs, and by the Anglo-Saxon people among its saints and heroes of most enduring fame. Ireland may well be proud of having trained to piety this first royal saint and martyr whom the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms added to the Calendar of Holy Church. The ferocious Penda caused the head and hands of Oswald to be cut off, and exposed on wooden stakes, but after some months they were rescued, and the hands were placed in a silver box, at St. Peter's Church, on the summit of the rock of Barnborough, whilst the head was consigned to St. Aidan, and interred with due solemnity in the monastic chapel at Lindisfarne. Of his other relics, we learn from Bede, that thirty years after the battle of Maserfeld the niece of Oswald brought them with great state to the Lincolnshire monastery of Bardney, which was in the Mercian kingdom, but the monks received them with coldness, saying that he was an enemy of Mercia, and left the wain, which had arrived with them in the evening, to stand outside their doors with a pall thrown over them. All that night a pillar of light, reaching from earth to heaven, shone over the remains, and was seen throughout the whole surrounding district of Lindsey. At the dawn of morning eagerly were the doors thrown open, the remains were reverently encased, and over them was suspended the gold and purple royal banner which had been borne before Oswald on the field of battle.

The spot on which King Oswald fell long continued greener and fairer than the ground around, and pilgrims, even from remote parts, flocked thither to pay the tributes of their devotion to God. Both places were indeed honoured, where he first planted the standard of the Cross entering on his career of victory, and where he ended his course, pouring out his life-blood for the cause of God. The latter, howrever, seems to have borne away the palm: "The monks of the great and magnificent Church of Hexham (writes Montalembert), went in procession every year to celebrate the day consecrated to Oswald at the site of the cross, which he had planted on the eve of his first victory. But the love and gratitude of the Christian people gave a still greater glory to the place of his defeat and death. Pilgrims came thither in crowds to seek relief from their sufferings, and had each a miraculous cure to relate on their return. The dust which his noble blood had watered was collected with care and conveyed to great distances as a remedy for disease, or a preservative from the evils of life. By dint of carrying away this dust a hollow was scooped out, of a man's size, which seemed the ever-open tomb of this martyr of his country. On seeing the turf around this hollow clothed with an unwonted verdure, more delicate and beautiful than elsewhere, travellers said that the man who had perished there must needs have been more holy and more pleasing in God's sight than all the other warriors who rested beneath that sward. The veneration of which his remains were the object spread not only among all the Saxons and Britons of Great Britain, but even beyond the seas in Ireland and among the Greeks and the Germans. The very stake on which the head of the royal martyr had been fixed was cut up into relics, the fragments of which were regarded as of sovereign efficacy in the healing both of body and of mind."

One of the miracles narrated by Bede is given on the authority of St. Willibrord, Archbishop of the Frisians, and happened when that apostolic man, "being as yet only a Priest, led a pilgrim's life in Ireland, for love of the eternal country." A certain Irish scholar, "a man indeed learned in worldly literature, but in no way solicitous or studious of his own eternal salvation," was reduced to the last extremities, having caught the contagion which then prevailed. Willibrord coming to him, and finding that he cherished a great devotion to the holy Oswald, said to him that he had "a portion of the stake on which Oswald's head was set up by the pagans when he was killed: and if you believe, with a sincere heart, the Divine goodness may, through the merit of so great a man, both grant you a longer term of life here, and render you worthy of admittance into eternal life. He answered immediately that he had entire faith therein. Then I blessed some water (adds St. Willibrord) and put into it a chip of the aforesaid oak, and gave it to the sick man to drink. He presently found ease, and recovering of his sickness, lived a long time after, and being entirely converted to God in heart and actions, wherever he came he spoke of the goodness of his merciful Creator, and the honour of his faithful servant." St. Willibrord added, that even in his distant mission among the Frisians miracles were wrought through the relics of Oswald.

I have dwelt thus on the memory of this holy prince on account of his being trained to piety in the Irish schools, his zealous co-operation with St. Aidan in sanctifying his people, and the devoted affection which he ever displayed towards his Irish masters. He bequeathed a bright example of Christian heroism to the royal families of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and many were those who sought to emulate his perfect life. His festival was kept throughout England "with joyous and blessed gladness" on the 5th of August, and his name is entered in the Irish, Scottish, and Roman martyrologies on the same day. A foreign historian of England has well appreciated his true chararcter when he writes that "as his life was distinguished at once by activity and by a spirit of fervid Christian beneficence, so his Christian merits and his martyrdom rendered him a hero of the Christian world" and we may add with Montalembert, that, "crowned by the love and devotion of the people on whom he bestowed the blessings of peace and of divine truth, spending his life for its sake; gentle and strong, serious and sincere, pious and intelligent, humble and bold, active and gracious, a soldier and a missionary, a king and a martyr, slain in the flower of his age on the field of battle, fighting for his country and praying for his subjects. Where shall we find in all history a hero more nearly approaching the ideal, more richly gifted, more worthy of eternal remembrance, and, it must be added, more completely forgotten?"

Right Rev. P.F. Moran, Irish saints in Great Britain (Dublin, 1879), 236-240.


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Friday, 4 August 2017

Saint Molua and Saint Munna's Angelic Visitor




August 4 is the feast of the great Irish monastic founder, Saint Molua. Canon O'Hanlon has included in his account of the saint the story of a miracle at the time of Saint Molua's death involving another Irish saint, Munna of Taghmon:

The Angel of God was accustomed to make two visits each week—namely, on each Sunday and Thursday—to the holy abbot Munnu, of Taghmoon, in Hy Kinsellagh; but, he came not on the week when our saint died. Munnu had a revelation, that there was great rejoicing in Heaven, on account of our saint's accession to the angelic choirs. After the interval of a week, that angel again appeared. Then Munnu said, "Wherefore, servant of God, have you not come to me as usual, during the last few days ?" The angel answered: "Because on those days the venerable servant of God, Molua, son to Coche, went to Heaven. Therefore, the angels did not visit the saints of Ireland, as usual; for, they rejoiced together, on the arrival of Molua among them." Then, St. Munnu said :" Now doth it appear, he accomplished the will of God, in a manner superior to us all. But, go thou to the Lord, and learn for me, on what account the Almighty was more pleased with Molua's approach, that he should in consequence neglect to visit me." The angel obeyed. Within a short time he returned, saying: " This is the reply to thy question. The face of no man was ever suffused with blushes through Molua, for he was mild to all, and governed his monks with great piety and gentleness. With moderation, he drew them to the right path. However, rejoice, also; for you shall find a similar honour in Heaven, since you must endure suffering in this life, and to the hour of your death." On the following Thursday, Munnu was struck with a leprosy, which covered all parts of his body, and thus was he afflicted, for the remaining twenty years of his life.

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