Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Sons of Gerán, April 1

We can begin the month of April with the commemoration of an obscure grouping of saints, known as The Sons of Gerán. How many individuals comprised the group is not recorded, indeed the only information Canon O'Hanlon is able to bring us is the recording of their names on the various Irish calendars:

The Sons of Geran, or Goran.

Who these holy persons were has not been known, nor can it be ascertained, at what particular time they flourished. In the published Martyrology of Tallagh, the entry, Mic or "sons of" Gerain, at the 1st of April, will be found, although incorrectly placed by the scribe. The Bollandists notice them, as "Filii Gorani," at this date, and on the same authority. On this day was celebrated a festival, in honour of The Sons of Gerán, as we find recorded, in the Martyrology of Donegal

Monday, 30 March 2015

Saint Fergus of Downpatrick, March 30

On March 30 we commemorate a bishop of Downpatrick, Saint Fergus. In his account of the saint below Canon O'Hanlon refers to the work of the scholarly hagiologists of earlier centuries and their inability to resolve all of the difficulties concerning our saint's place in the episcopal succession of Downpatrick, but his feast is attested by both the Irish calendars and the annals:

St. Fergus or Fergussius, Bishop of Downpatrick.
[Sixth Century]

The brief notices, contained in Colgan's work, are all we can find, referring to Fergus, or Fergussius. This saint appears to have been a distinguished person. Fergusius was son to Aengus, and he descended from Coelbadh, King of Ireland, who died, in the year 357. Aengus was the son of Chrimthann, son to Eochod, son of Colla, son to Coalbad, son of Crunn Badhrai. Our saint was born, probably in the early part of the sixth century. He built a church, or cell, at a place, called Killmbian. This name, which might be Anglicised Kilbean or Kilmean, is thought now to be obsolete. Without authority, Colgan states, that a monastery was at this place, the situation of which was unknown although Archdall places it in the county of Down. However, it is natural enough to suppose, that Killmbian was in that part of the country. Here, too, Harris conceives, that he presided, as an Abbot. Although distinguished Irish writers have believed the identification of his place to be unknown; yet, still it is asserted, that the cemetery of Cill-bian is still known as Killybann, in the townland of Barnamaghery, parish of Kilmore, barony of Upper Castlereagh, and not far from Crossgar. From the church of Killmbian, Fergus was called to preside over the church of Downpatrick. It is called, likewise, Dromlethglas, for which several old writers have Dun-da-leith-glas. Sir James Ware commences his list of the Downpatrick bishops, with St. Cailan. From having been Abbot of Nendrura, Cailan was made Bishop over the church of Down, about the close of the sixth century. For this statement, he refers to Acts of St. Cailan, cited by Usher. It is thought, that St. Fergussius must have been first bishop of Downpatrick, by a learned Irish Church historian, [the Anglican Bishop William Reeves] who supposes, there are no sufficient proofs to show that Cailan, or Coelan, was his predecessor, as some writers maintain. But, according to Mr. John W. Hanna, those who maintain such an opinion have overlooked the true conclusion to be derived from the dates, which show, that whereas Mochoe, Abbot of Nendrum, died 496, it was quite consistent, that another Coelan should be elevated to Down, in 499. Besides, Ussher, who possessed his " Life and Acts," could not have been deceived.

Near Downpatrick are the celebrated Struell Wells, which seem to have been resorted to by pilgrims, from times very remote, and where numberless miraculous cures have been effected...It is supposed, that St. Patrick often resorted to Struell, for penitential purposes, and to sing Psalms while in retirement at Downpatrick, from which it is only a mile or two distant. That see St. Fergus governed, with great prudence and sanctity, until the day of his death, which took place on the 30th of March, A.D. 583, in the sixteenth year of the reign of Aidus, King of Ireland, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, and, likewise, to those of Ulster. The latter have it noted again, under A.D. 589. The Annals of Tighernach have his decease recorded, under A.D. 584. The Annals of Boyle place his death, so early as a.d. 557. The Martyrologies of Tallagh, of Marianus O'Gorman, and of Maguire, have the festival of this saint, at the 30th of March. But, although they call him Bishop, they do not name that see, over which he presided. In like manner, Ferghus, Bishop of Druim-Lethglaisi, is recorded, in the Martyrology of Donegal, as having a festival at this date. Again, under the head of Druim Lethglaisi, Duald Mac Firbis enters, Fergus, bishop, quievit 583, at March 30th. At this day, likewise, the Bollandists have a brief notice of Fergus, although doubting if a cultus were due to him.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Saint Fulartach of Clonard, March 29

On March 29 we commemorate Fulartach, an eighth century saint of Clonard, County Meath. As Canon O'Hanlon explains, there are two saints of this name, one with a feast on March 29 and the other on December 21. This leaves the possibility that we are dealing with one saint with two feast days or with two distinct individuals, each with his own feast day. O'Hanlon himself plumps for the latter view but lays out all the evidence from the calendars, the annals and the earlier scholars on the matter:


Some account of this holy bishop is to be found, in Colgan, with a very succinct notice, in the Bollandists. From the former, we learn, that St. Fulartach, or Fulartus, as he is sometimes called, was son to Brec, or Brecus, and he was descended from an illustrious family, in Ulster, as may be collected from the names of his progenitors. Thus, Brec was son to Scandal, son of Boedan, son to Eochod, son of Cella, son to Coelbad, son of Crunn Badhra, according to the Genealogies of the Irish Saints. It is probable, he was born in the province of Ulster; but, in what year has not transpired. He built an oratory, in Hy-Falgia territory, and, at a place, which derives its name from the founder, having been called Disert Fulartach. Here, it is said, he lived an eremitical life, for a time. Nearly all our ancient records state, that from this place, he was translated to the See of Clonard. This he governed, with distinguished merit and virtue. However, the Rev. Dr. Lanigan appears to think, that St. Fulartach, of Disert Fulartach, may have been a different person from the bishop, as some writers have made a distinction between them. Accordingly, the Annals of the Four Masters specify, that Fulartach, son to Breac, an anchorite, died in the year 755 while, Fulartach, Bishop of Clonard, departed a.d. 774. However, it is remarked, by Colgan, that the Annals of the Four Masters do not state expressly, the former died in 755, as they do, regarding other persons named with him; hence, they may have only intended to indicate, that he flourished in such year, and that, subsequently, he became Bishop of Clonard, after obtaining which dignity, he died in 744, a date assigned by our Annalists for the death of the prelate of this See.

There are two festivals, in honour of St. Fulartach: one of these was celebrated, on the 29th day of March. Furlartach mac Bricc is the only entry concerning him, as found in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at this date. Cathal Maguire and Marianus O'Gorman have a like entry; the latter with the remark, that he was Bishop of Clonard," while the commentator adds a more eulogistic notice. This day, we find, set down in the Martyrology of Donegal, the name of Fulartach, son of Brec, Bishop of Cluain-Eraird, and of Disert Fulartaich, in Ui Failghe. The Calendarist adds, there is found a Fulartach, son of Brec, and descended from the race of Irial, son of Conall Cearnach, according to the Naoirahsenchus. In the table appended to the Donegal Martyrology, a commentator adds, in a marginal note, this saint had another festival, at the 21st of December. To that date, the reader is likewise referred. However, there were two distinct saints, bearing the same name; both of whom are treated of, by Colgan, on this particular day. This writer is of opinion, that the memory of each saint belongs to a different day; but, he is unable to assign for either individual the date of his own peculiar festival.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Saint Mochelloc of Kilmalloch, March 26

Saint Mochelloc of Kilmalloch is commemorated on March 26. As Canon O'Hanlon's account brings out, this saint's festival is very well-attested on the Irish and other calendars, albeit at the cost of the saint's name being somewhat mangled along the way. There seems to be some confusion over the locality in which Mochelloc flourished and it is interesting to learn of a tradition that he died in Rome, he would not be the only early Irish saint to be linked with pilgrimage to the Eternal City. Canon O'Hanlon begins by examining the saint's genealogy, for as he reminds us ' the pedigree of a saint is at least interesting, as that of a monarch':


This saint is called Mottelog, by some writers, but more correctly Celloc, Cellenus, or Kellenus, by others, who derive his name Mochelloc, by which he is best known, from the endearing prefix, "mo," Anglicised into "my," being joined with Chelloc. Certain authorities say, that his father was named Oblen, and that he descended from the noble and ancient race of Connor, King of Ireland. However, Colgan is of opinion, that Oblen must have been the name of his grandfather, or great-grandfather. The Martyrologies of Tamlacht and of Marianus O'Gorman, with the Irish Calendar, state, that our saint's father had been named Tuladhran. So far, have we been enabled to collect illustrations, in reference to this holy man's genealogy and, the pedigree of a saint is at least interesting, as that of a monarch. The Bollandists have published short Acts of this saint, and following closely the accounts of him, as left us, by Colgan. This pious servant of Christ was a relative to, and contemporary with, Finan, of Kinnetty. Our saint appears to have flourished, about the close of the sixth, and beginning of the seventh, century. He is usually called Mochelloc, of Cathuir-mac-Conchaigh, or Conchaidh,an ancient city near Lismore, in the present county of Waterford... The place of our saint was in the Munster Decies. Archdall declares himself unable to assign the exact location for Cathuir mac-Conchaigh. We are told, by Keating, that this saint was founder of Kilmallock church, and this name is supposed to be a contraction from Kill-mochelloc...It is possible, that as Kilmallock had become a more remarkable place than Cathuir-mac- Conchaigh, or the church of Kill-Odhrain—where likewise he was venerated —the former town might have been a bishopric, or abbey, over which Mochelloc presided. Kill-odhrain was perhaps only another name for Cathuirmac-Conchaigh, and this the Calendar of Cashel indicates. Having attained a very old age, our saint died, at a place called Letha —thought to have been Fiodh-Lethan, near Lismore—on the 26th of March, the day for his festival, after A.D. 639, and before A.D. 656, during the joint reigns of Connall and Kellach. Letha was a name, given by our historians to Latium, or Italy; and, there are writers, according to Maguire, who say, that our saint died, in Rome. Others again tell us, that he departed at Killdachelloc, in Hy Cairpre, of Munster. The festival of this holy man, with that of the two Sinchells, is found in the Festilogy of St. Aengus, at the 26th of March:

" In Letha they perished—
Mochelloc after many days,
The feast of two ever-living Sinchells,
Of vast Cill Achad."

The name Mochelloc, son of Tulodrain, of Calthir mic Conaich, is inserted, in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 26th of March. The Calendar of Cashel, Marianus O'Gorman, and Cathal Maguire, mark his festival, at this same date. In the O'CIery's Martyrology is found, at this date, as an entry, and within brackets : [Mocheallog, who died in Letavia.—Felire Aonghuis.] The Carthusian Martyrology distinguislies a Mottelog, Abbot and Confessor, from this saint, who is named Mokellock, Bishop and Confessor. There is hardly a doubt, but this is the Motalogus, mentioned at the 26th of March, in the anonymous list, published by O'Sullivan Beare. However, these names only characterize but one and the same person the denomination being somewhat varied by different writers. The Kalendar of Drummond, at the vii. of the April Kalends, or 26th of March, commemorates: In Hibernia, the Holy Confessors, Mochelloc and Sinchele, who, on this day, went to Christ.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

This illustrious saint was a man of work, prayer and penance...

This illustrious Saint was a man of work, and prayer, and penance. To his last breath he ceased not to teach his people. His daily devotions were countless. It is related that he made the sign of the cross many hundred times a day. He slept little, and a stone was his pillow. He travelled on foot in his visitations till the weight of years made a carriage necessary. He accepted no gifts for himself, ever deeming it more blessed to give than to receive.

His simple dress was a white monastic habit, made from the wool of the sheep ; and his bearing, speech, and countenance were but the outward expression of his kind heart and great, beautiful soul. Force and simplicity marked his discourses. He was a perfect master of the Irish, French, and Latin languages, and had some knowledge of Greek. 

He consecrated three hundred and fifty bishops, erected seven hundred churches, ordained five thousand priests, and raised thirty-three persons from the dead. But it is in vain that we try to sum up the labors of the Saint by the rules of arithmetic. The wear and tear of over fourteen hundred years have tested the work of St. Patrick: and in spite of all the changes of time, and the malice of men and demons, it stands to-day greater than ever — a monument to his immortal glory. 

Read the rest here.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Saint Brigid, March 14

March 14 is the feast of a Saint Brigid, around whose precise identity much confusion reigns. Canon O'Hanlon's source is Bishop Forbes' Scottish Kalendars and so we can turn directly to this account:
BRIGIDA II. V, March 14.—
A Scotch S. Brigida's relics were preserved in Abernethy. It is probable that there were two saints of this name. —(See Ussher, Works, edition Elrington, vol. vi 256, 257, 451.) A Brigida is said, in the Irish Life of S. Cuthbert, to have been brought from Ireland, and educated by S. Columba with S. Cuthbert at Dunkeld.—(Libellus de Nativitate S. Cuthberti, c. xxi.) The Brigida of Abernethy is associated with the nine Maidens. See Mazota. [1]

O'Hanlon reproduces this information but ends by saying that 'Most likely, the present St. Brigida, or Brigid, was an Irish saint.' He does not, however, have any supporting evidence to offer nor does he address the Scottish links in the sources.

Miss Agnes Dunbar in her work on women saints also mentions the Scottish Brigid of Abernethy:
The Aberdeen Breviary, in the story of St. Mazotta, says that St. Brigid of Abernethy was cousin of Graverdus, king of the Picts, who during his wars with the Britons was admonished by supernatural means to send to Ireland for Brigid, and follow her advice. She came with St. Mazota and eight holy virgins, and settled at Abernethy, and there built a church, where the king was baptized. [2]
and the Dunkeld Brigid:
St. Brigid March 14. An Irish virgin, brought up at Dunkeld with St. Cuthbert, by St. Columba. Bishop Forbes, Scot. Cal [3]

There may be a third possiblity, that Brigid of Abernethy is a manifestation of the cult of Saint Brigid of Kildare in Scotland. It is interesting that the Aberdeen Breviary mentions that the Pictish King 'sent to Ireland for Brigid' and Abernethy seems to have enlisted not only Ireland's patroness but also our patron in its foundation story:
Special notice has here been taken of St Bridget's connection with the church of Abernethy, in as much as the Aberdeen Breviary links the story of St Mazota with that of the Abbess of Kildare, thereby removing Mazota to a date earlier than her own. The narrative in the Breviary is thus given by Bishop Forbes: "Graverdus, son of Domath, the distinguished king of the Picts, and cousin of S. Brigida, while fighting against the Britons, is supernaturally warned to send for her to Hibernia and to obey her precepts. S. Brigida obeyed the summons, and with nine holy virgins came from Hibernia to Scotia, and settled at Abirnethy close to the Taye on the south, in which places he erected a basilica in honour of Almighty God and the Virgin Mary, in which the king with all his family was baptized. Mazota was the most remarkable of these virgins, and she followed in all things the steps of Brigida. The king of the Picts promised that the church should be dedicated by S. Patrick, at that time dwelling in Scotia, and there Mazota with the other virgins continued to serve God, till they all died and were buried. No tongue can tell the miracles that God in Heaven caused to take place by her agency." We may remark in passing that an interesting reminiscence of St Bride's Nine Maidens was to be met with till recent times in Sanquhar parish, Dumfriesshire, where "it was customary to resort on May-day to St Bride's Well, where each maiden presented nine smooth white stones as an offering to the Saint, which correspond in number with St Bride's nine virgin attendants." [4]

Interesting too in this regard is the fact that Saint Darlugdacha, the immediate successor to Saint Brigid at Kildare, is also part of the foundation legend of Abernethy:
Thomas Innes says, "The death of Brigid was soon after followed by that of Darlugtach Virgin, her disciple : the same who came over to Britain in the time of Nectan, the third king of the Picts, and conversed with him on the first foundation of the ancient church of Abernethy. Her feast is celebrated February the first."—(Innes, Civ. and Eccl. Hist, of Scotland, p. 128: Spalding Club. See Irish Nennius, p. 163) [5]

So, in summary we can say that there is a record of the commemoration of a Saint Brigid in Scottish sources on March 14 with two possible identities proposed (1) Brigid of Abernethy and (2) Brigid of Dunkeld. I doubt though that we will ever be able to say with any confidence who exactly the Saint Brigid commemorated on March 14 actually was.

[1] Alexander Penrose Forbes, D.C.L. Bishop of Brechin, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, (1872), 291-2.

[2] A dictionary of saintly women (Volume 1) (London, 1904), 135-6.

[3] ibid.

[4] J.M.Mackinley, 'Traces of the Cultus of the Nine Maidens in Scotland' in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 40 (1906), 259.

[5] Forbes, op.cit., 321.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

St. Indreachtach O'Finachtain, March 12

On March 12 Canon O'Hanlon brings the details of a ninth-century abbot of Iona who may also have been a martyr. The final reference to William of Malmesbury would seem to make our saint the same Saint Indreachtach commemorated on February 5:

St. Indreachtach or Innrechtach O'Finachtain, Abbot of Iona, Scotland, and Martyr.

[Ninth Century.]

We learn, from the Annals of Innisfallen, that the surname of this holy man was Ua Finachta or Ua Finachtain. Idreachtach O'Finachtain is called Coarb of Columbkille, and from this it has been inferred, he was abbot over Londonderry Monastery, in the olden time. However, this title he obtained, because he was the twenty-first Abbot of Hy, and he held office A.D. 849, in which year he went to Ireland, with St. Columba's relics. As the date of his predecessor's death is not recorded, although we know, that Diarmait, the twentieth abbot, visited Ireland, on a similar errand; it cannot be known, when St. Innrechtach began his rule, over the Iona monks. He was regarded as an eminent sage. On the 12th of March, A.D. 852, he suffered martyrdom, among the Saxons, according to the Annals of the Four Masters. He was on his way to Rome. According to the Annals of Ulster, the date for his departure to Christ is A.D. 853, while the Rev. Dr. Reeves places it, at A.D. 854. A legend, by William of Malmesbury, misdates his martyrdom, by one hundred and sixty-five years, and places it near Glastonbury.