Tuesday, 4 April 2017

St. Tighernach of Clones and Clogher - god-son of St. Brigid

Dr. Lanigan, in his work, An ecclesiastical history of Ireland, Chapter IX, relates of St. Tigernach, as follows:

"St. Maccarthen of Clogher, whose history I have been obliged to anticipate, died, as already stated, in the year 506; and, as some say, on the 24th of March. He was succeeded by St. Tigernach, who fixed his see or residence at Cluaneois (Clunes or Clones) in the county of Monaghan, still retaining government of the church of Clogher, for which reason he was surnamed Ferdachrioch, or the man of two districts. He is said to have been of a princely family, grandson, by his mother, of a king Echodius, and to have had St. Brigid for godmother, through whose recommendation he was raised to the episcopal dignity. He had received his clerical education, as we are told, in the monastery of Rosnat in Great Britain under the holy abbot Monennus, and, it seems founded that of Clones before he was appointed bishop."

Dr. Lanigan comments on the association of St. Brigid with St. Tigernach:

"If this narrative deserves credit, we must suppose that St. Brigid's standing as godmother for Tigernach was in her younger days, and, at least 30 years before A.D. 506. On this occasion it is observed that whoever was recommended for the episcopacy by St. Brigid, was immediately approved of and chosen by the clergy and people. (Compare with what has been said about Conlaeth of Kildare Chap. VIII, No. 10)"

Dr. Lanigan, in a passage that is a model of his scholarship and his prose, speculates upon the location of Rosnat Abbey:

"Where was that monastery of Rosnat? Neither the Monasticon Anglicanum, Stevens, Tanner, Nasmith, nor Camden have, as far as I could discover, a word about it, although it is often mentioned in the Acts of some Irish saints. In those of Tigernach, quoted by Colgan (ib.) it is observed that it was otherwise called Alba, or white. Colgan hence concludes that it was no other than the famous monastery of Bangor or Banchor near the river Dee a few miles from Chester, which must be carefully distinguished from the present episcopal town Bangor, which lies far to the West of where the monastery stood. (See Usher, p. 183.) His chief argument is that Ban, in Irish, signifies white, and so Ban-chor was the same as white choir. But, waving certain doubts concerning the said monastery having existed at that early period, it is to be recollected that Ban has not that signification in the British language, which is that to be looked to in this inquiry. I suspect that Rosnat or Alba was the celebrated see called Candida casa or White house, now Whitethorn. (See Not. 149, to Chap. 1.) The illustrious Ninia or Ninian had founded that see in the 5th century, and there can be no doubt of an ecclesiastical school having been established there. (See Usher, p. 661. seqq.) When we read of Nennio being the bishop, to whom some Irish students were sent, this, I believe, must be understood as originally meaning that they were sent to the school held in the see or Nennio or Ninia, who was dead before Tigernach or Finnian could have repaired thither. And in fact Finnian's master is called Mugentius, and what is very remarkable, the place Candida (AA. SS. p. 634). The master of Endeus of Arran, who is also said to have been at that school, is called not Nennio but Mansenus. Let me add that Candida casa lay very convenient for students from the North of Ireland; and it is worth observing, that of those, who are spoken of as having studied at Rosnat or Alba, scarcely one is to be found that was not a native of Ulster. There is a village and parish in Dumbartonshire, called Roseneath, anciently Rossnachioch, (Stat. Acct. of Scotland, Vol. IV. p. 71.) But there is no mention of a monastery having been there."

He goes on to quote from the Four Masters regarding the death of the Saint:

"An. 548 (549) St. Tigernac, bishop of Cluaineois, died on the 4th of April."

The Martyrology of Donegal gives his death as 4th April, 548, and gives something of his descent as follows:

"Bishop of Cluaoi-eois in Fera-Manach, or it is between Fera-Manach and Oirghialla Cluain-eois is. Tighernach is of the race of Cathaoir Mór, Monarch of Erinn, of the Leinstermen. Dearfraoich, daughter of Eochaidh, son of Criomhthann, king of Oirchiall, was his mother."

In the Life of St. Tighernach, quoted in Butler's Lives of the Irish Saints, it is stated that, while passing through Kildare, city of St. Brigid, with his foster-father, Cormac, who may well have been his maternal grandfather, the future saint was baptised by St. Conleth. Butler continues:

"From the foregoing narrative, Bollandus infers, that as Conlaid had been a bishop, when he baptized St. Tighernach, his elevation to the episcopal rank must have been accomplished previous to A.D. 480. For, St. Maccarthen died in the year 506; and, he was immediately succeeded in the See of Clogher by St. Tighernach. Supposing correctness in the foregoing account, it is conjectured, his baptism must have taken place, at least thirty years before the latter date, and during the younger days of his godmother, St. Brigid."

St. Tigernach of Clones and Clogher, pray for us!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

St. Senchel of Clane and Killeigh

St. Sinell, or Senchell, one of the most distinguished ecclesiastics of his time, founded a Monastery of Killeigh at the beginning of the sixth century. This monastery became afterwards known as the Priory of the Holy Cross of Canons Regular of St. Augustine. St. Senchell, who is stated to have been St. Patrick’s first convert, was the son of Kennfinnain, and grandson of Inchad, or Finchada, of the royal blood of Leinster (Colgan, Trias. Thaum.) The father of the saint was ninth in descent from Cathair Mor, monarch of Ireland. In both the Martyrology of Tallaght and the Feiliré, St. Aengus notes the 5th of April as the Feast of the first Baptism conferred by St. Patrick in Ireland: —“Baptisma Patricii venit ad Hiberniam.” (Mart. Tall.)

“Excellent Patrick’s baptism was kindled in Ireland.” (Feiliré.) On this latter the gloss in the Leabhar Breac adds, “i. Smell, son of Finchad of the Ui-Garrchon, he is the first person Patrick baptised in Ireland.” It is related that St. Ailbe, of Emly, presented him a cell, in which he had himself lived for some time, at Cluain Damh (now Clane, County Kildare). We find St. Senchell afterwards at Killeigh, where he founded a monastery, which in course of time became very celebrated. In order to distinguish him from another St. Senchell, a relative of his, who lived with him at Killeigh (and who is styled Bishop in the litany of St. Aengus), he is usually called senior.

Having lived to a good old age, he died on the 26th of March, AD 549, in his monastery at Killeigh, and was interred there. Petrie states that St Kieran and the two Senchells died of the Plague which raged in 549.

In the litany of St. Aengus Ceile De, written in AD. 799, we have evidence of the celebrity and holiness to which this religious establishment had attained. “Thrice fifty holy bishops with twelve pilgrims, under Senchell the elder, a priest; Senchell the younger, a bishop; and the twelve bishops who settled ia Cill Achaidh Dromfota in Hy Failghi. These are the names of the bishops of Cill Achaidh: —Three Budocis, three Canocis, Morgini, six Vedgonis, six Beaunis, six Bibis, nine Glonalis, nine Ercocinis, nine Grucimnis, twelve Uennocis, twelve Contumanis, twelve Onocis, Senchilli, Britanus from Britain, Cerrui, from Armenia. All these I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ.” And again: —“ The twelve Conchennaighi, with the two Senchells in Cill Achaidh, I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ.” (IE. Record, May, 1867.) The learned editor of this litany (which he copied from a MS. in the archives of St. Isidore’s at Rome), in a note on the eight monastic rules of the early Irish Saints extant, writes as follows “We may add that we have ourselves discovered another, some-what different from these, in the St. Isidore MS. from which this litany is published, and we regret that want of space alone prevents us from laying it before our readers. It is entitled— The Pious Rules and Practices of the School of Senchil. This was Senchil, surnamed the Elder. The Rules and Practices are 38 in number. When we say that an ardent desire of hearing, and offering up the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and frequent confession were amongst the rules and practices of a school which was celebrated in the first half of the sixth century, we have said enough to prove under what system of education Ireland became ‘another name for piety, and learning in most of the languages of Europe.”

The Irish Annalists relate that in the year 1163 “Glendalough was burned with the house of Kieran, the house of Kevin, and the Church of the two Senchells.” Commenting on this passage, Petrie writes “I am disposed to conclude that the unnamed Church to the S. of St. Kevin’s house (at Glendalough) is that called by the Annalists “The Regles of the two Senchells.’ I may add that we may infer, with every appearance of probability, that all these buildings were of contemporaneous age, and that, if not erected by the persons whose names they bore, those called after St. Kieran and the two Senchells were erected by St. Kevin in their honour, as, though they were all contemporaneous, and Kevin was the dearest friend of Kieran of Clonmacnoise, he survived both him and the Senchells more than sixty years, having lived, according to Tighernagh, to the extraordinary age of 129.” (Petrie’s Round Towers, p. 436.)


AD. 548. St. Senchell the Elder, son of Ceanannan, Abbot of Cill-Achaidh-Droma-foda, died on the 26th day of March. Thirty and three hundred years was the length of his life. (Four Masters.) Colgan (AL SS., p. 747), thinks this number should be one hundred and thirty. In the Mart. Tal. we find at 26th March, “Sinchelli, Abb. Chilli Achaidh; and at 25th June, “Sinchell Cilli Achaidh.” The former refers to St. Senchell, Senior, the latter to St. Senchell, Junior.

The Feiliré makes the 26th of March the “Feast of the two perennial Sinchells of vast Cill Achid;” to which entry the gloss in the Leabhar Breac adds

“Three hundred years—fine satisfaction! That was (the elder) Siachelfs lifetimeAnd thrice ten years brightlyWithout sin, without sloth.”

26 March. Sincheall, Abbot of Cill-achaidh-dromfota, i.e., the old Sincheall. It was of him this character was given after his death: -

“The men of heaven, the men of earth,
A surrounding host,
Thought that the day of judgment
Was the Death of Seancheall.

There came not, there will not come from Adam,
One more austere, more strict in piety;
There came not, there will not come, all say it,
Another Saint more welcome to the men of heaven.”— (The Martyrology of Donegal)

From Dr. Comerford's Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin

St. Senchel of Clane and Killeigh, pray for us!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

A Collect for the Feast of Saint David

As today is the feast of Saint David, patron of Wales, I have made a post at my own site on some of the Irish sources which honour him. Saint David is represented in the earliest surviving Irish Martyrologies as well as the Irish Annals and the hagiographies of some Irish saints including Saint Ailbe of Emly and Saint Molua. His own hagiographer,  Rhygyfarch, mentions a number of Irish saints, Patrick and Brendan among them. Some manuscript versions of Rhygyfarch's eleventh-century Uita Sancti Dauid also preserve some of the texts of the Mass of Saint David, something made all the more important by the fact that there are no surviving copies of pre-Reformation Welsh liturgical books. So, for all those in Ireland who celebrate the feast of Saint David, especially for the good people of Naas, County Kildare, who enjoy his patronage, here is the collect for the feast as preserved in the Vita:

O God who didst foretell thy blessed confessor and bishop, David, by the message of an angel to Patrick, prophesying thirty years before his birth: we beseech thee that by his intercession, whose memory we are keeping, we may attain to eternal joys. Through...

Silas M. Harris, Saint David in the Liturgy (Cardiff, 1940), p.14.

If you are interested in further reading on the links between the Welsh patron and the Irish I have reprinted a paper on Irish devotion to Saint David from the Irish Rosary magazine of 1921 which can be read at my own site here. An earlier post on Saint David and Naas is available at this site here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

St. Farnan of Downings

Most Rev. Dr. Comerford, in his entry for the Parish of Caragh and Downings in his historical work on the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, gives us the following information on St. Farnan of Downings:

"Here are the ruins of an old Church, measuring, according to Father O’ Hanlon (Lives I.S.S. 2, p. 564.) 42 ½ feet by 16. Tradition states that this Church occupies the site of the cell of St. Farnan, whose feast occurs in the Irish Calendar on the 15th of February. This Saint flourished in the sixth century, and was descended from King Niall of the Nine Hostages. Beside the ancient cemetery is the Well of St. Farnan; and it possesses - so the local story goes - the valuable property, imparted to it by the blessing of the Saint, that those who drank of it never afterwards have any relish for intoxicating drinks. The Dun from which this place probably takes its name (Dooneens, “the little fort,”) may still be seen a short distance from the village of Prosperous, on the left of the road to Caragh. The only doubt about its being so arises from the fact that, instead of being small, it, on the contrary, is one of considerable dimensions."

St. Farnan of Downings, pray for us!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

St. Brigid of Kildare (Walsh)

The following is from Fr. Thomas Walsh's History of the Irish Hierarchy, published in New York in 1854, chapter xlviii, at p. 483-6:

St Brigid the foundress of Kildare and the patroness of the church of Ireland was descended of an illustrious family of Lein ster Her father Dubhtach was of royal blood being of the race of Eochad brother to the celebrated Con of the hundred battles Her mother Brocessa was of the noble house of O Connor in the southern part of the territory of the Bregii between Dublin and Drogheda Both were Christians according to the most creditable account The mother of the holy virgin is everywhere spoken of as the wife of Dubhtach and consequently it cannot be admitted that St Brigid was of illegitimate birth Her father is represented as a noble and pious man still more noble through his spouse and their holy offspring Dubhtachus ejus erat genitor cognomine dictus clarus h omo meritis clarus et a proavis Nobilis atque humilis mitis pietate re pletus Nobilior propria conjuge prole pia Nor could such an assertion be reconciled with the circumstance of the parents having been Christians and strict ones as then were in Ireland nor with the rank of her mother's family Usher Ware and others have passed over the narrative of this circumstance as undeserving of notice St Brigid was born at Faugher about two miles north of Dundalk and in a district which was formerly considered a part of Ulster Various are the surmises regarding the year of her birth but it may with Usher be assigned to the year 453 Adhering to this computation she was twelve years of age or allowing her birth to have occurred in 451 the earliest assigned she was in the fourteenth year of her life when St Patrick died AD 465 neither does St Brigid in the most consistent and authentic account of St Patrick appear to have been consecrated a virgin nor to have founded a monastery during the lifetime of the apostle She may have been known to him on account of her singular sanctity conspicuous even in her early life In the tripartite life of St Patrick mention is made only once of St Brigid when it relates that the saint listening to a sermon of St Patrick's fell asleep and was favored with a vision relative to the then state of the Irish church and its future vicissitudes St Patrick desiring her to tell what she saw Brigid informed him that she at first saw a herd of white oxen amidst white crops then spotted ones of various colours after which appeared black and dark coloured oxen these were succeeded by sheep and swine wolves and dogs jarring with each other The Almighty conceals from the wise and imparts to the little ones in whom there is no guile the secrets of his ways and while the scribes and pharisees and the other enemies of our Redeemer were contriving plans to ensnare the Son of God and put him to death the children of Juda received him in triumph exclaiming Hosanna to the Son of David In the narrative then of this vision there is nothing repugnant to the councils of God Our patroness received a good education and to singular modesty and propriety of manners united an extraordinary degree of charity towards the poor Instances are related of the interposition of Providence in replenishing the store which she applied to her benevolent purposes When arrived at a proper age her parents were anxious to have her settled in the married state but she announced her resolve to remain a virgin to which they assented She then applied to the holy bishop St Maccailleus who being well assured of her good disposition admitted her into the number of sacred virgins by covering her with a white cloak and placing a white veil over her head This occurrence is said to have taken place at Usny hill Westmeath where probably the holy bishop resided or was engaged in the exercise of his pastoral functions St Brigid must have been then in the sixteenth year of her age as that was the earliest at which the ceremony of admission was permitted We are assured that when kneeling at the foot of the altar during the time of her profession the part on which she knelt being of wood recovered its original freshness and continued green to a very late period It is also related that seven or eight other virgins assumed the veil with her and that some of them together with their parents besought her to remain with them in their country a wish with which she complied and being named to govern her companions by the bishop she remained for some time in a place which the bishop assigned them in his district supposed to have been about Kilbeggan in Westmeath In her new position the fame of her sanctity spread far and near and crowds of young women and widows applied to her for admission into her convent As it would be inconvenient to assemble so many persons in one place and as the good of the church required that those pious ladies should be established in other districts and of which they might have been natives we find St Brigid visited other parts of the country Teffia of which St Mel was bishop having been the first Ere the bishop of Slane was one of her friends whom she is said to have accompanied to Munster when paying a visit to his relatives as he was of that country A synod having been held in the plain of Femyn Ere spoke highly of St Brigid and of the miraculous powers with which she was endowed by the Almighty Thence she is said to have gone with her female companions to the house of a person with whom she spent a considerable time and who lived near the sea In those early days of the church of Ireland before the erection of nunneries virgins consecrated to God were wont to live with their friends and relatives and could as often as duty required appear their virtue and sanctity being as Fleury observes their cloister We next find her in the plain of Cliach in the county of Limerick where she obtained it is said from a chieftain liberty for a man whom he held in chains From that country she went to the territory of Labrathi Hy Kinsellagh in south Leinster and tarried there for some time having not seen her father for several years she thence proceeded to his residence to pay him a visit and after a short stay set out for Connaught and fixed her residence together with some ladies of her institution in the plain of Magh ai or Hai in the level country of Roscommon While in this territory she was occupied in forming various establishments for persons of her own sex according to the rule she had drawn up As the great reputation of St Brigid and the supernatural gifts with which she was endowed attracted persons from all parts of Ireland to the place of her residence the people of Leinster thought that they were best entitled to her services as being of a Leinster family they accordingly sent a deputation to the part of Connaught where she then was consisting of several respectable persons and friends of hers to request that she would come and fix her residence among her own people she acceded to their wishes and having arrived in that district was received with the greatest joy she was immediately provided with a residence for herself and the pious companions of her journeys and to which was annexed some land as a help towards the mainten ance of her establishment this place obtained the name of Kildare there being a large oak tree near her habitation St Brigid and her nuns were poor and frequently alms were brought to her nunnery still whatever she possessed she liberally shared with the poor and it is said that in order to find relief for the destitute she gave in charity some very valuable vestments the bishops used to wear on solemn festivals to strangers and particularly bishops and religious persons she was particularly hospitable her humility was so great that she occasionally tended the cattle on her land The establishment at Kildare being resorted to from all quarters it became necessary to enlarge the buildings in proportion to the number of her nuns and postulants as well as provide for the spiritual direction and assistance both for the institution itself and its frequent visitors And knowing that such an advantage could not be efficiently supplied without a bishop she applied and procured the appointment of a holy man to preside over the nascent church of Kildare and the others belonging to her institute Some privilege of this sort existed in the days of Cogitosus as Kildare was the ecclesiastical metropolis of Leinster This is perhaps one of the earliest instances of religious being exempted from the jurisdiction of the ordinary or the bishop of the district in which such houses were situated Conlaeth was the person whom St Brigid recommended as worthy of being raised to the exalted dignity of bishop In his transit to the other life St Conlaeth bishop of Kildare preceded the holy foundress having died on the 3d of May 519 The nunnery of Kildare was founded about the year 487 St Brigid died on the 1st of February 525 as St Columbkille is said to have been born four years prior to the death of our national patroness AD 521

Sunday, 29 January 2017

St. Blath of Kildare

Among the several daughters of St. Brigid renowned for sanctity stands St. Blath (orse St. Flora) of Kildare. St. Blath is commemorated, if she is remembered at all, on 29th January. She was a lay-sister in the Convent of Kildare founded by St. Brigid.

As cook of the Convent, she earned a reputation not only for her heroic sanctity and her personal devotion to her foundress but also for her cooking. It is said that, under the care of St. Blath, the bread and bacon at St. Brigid's table were better than a banquet elsewhere.

She is recorded as having been born to heaven in the year 523, about two years before the death of the great St. Brigid.

At the risk of a pun or an anachronism, it might be said that St. Blath was the Little Flower of Kildare.

St. Blath of Kildare, pray for us!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

St. Aedh of Kildare

The life of King Aedh Dubh (Hugh the Black) of Leinster is to be found both in the Annals of the Four Masters and the Annals of Ulster. His name, under the latinized form of Aidus, is to be found in several martyrologies.

His hair colour, rather than any misdeeds, is the source of his designation 'the black'. This distinguishes him from King Aedh Finn of Ossory, Hugh the Fair, on account of his hair colouring - although his deeds were high and holy too.

The great ecclesiastical historian Colgan recounts King Aedh's abdication about the year 591, whereupon he entered the monastery of Kildare for the remaining forty-eight years of his life.

He went on to become Abbot of Kildare and, from 630 to his death in 638 or 639, he was Bishop of Kildare. c.f. Colgan's Trias Thaumaturga, and the Secunda Vita S. Brigidae, cap. xxxv, ps. 523-4. This is a point of singular interest. Some writers ascribe to St. Conleth, and to the Bishops of Kildare after him, a joint role as Bishop-Abbot. However, St. Aedh is the first of the Bishops of Kildare who is recorded as having held both posts.

O'Donovan, in his Annals of the Four Masters vol. i, pps 256-7 gives the year of St. Aedh's death as 638. Colgan gives his feast day as 4th January and prefers the latter year for his birth to Heaven.

St. Aedh of Kildare, pray for us!