Thursday, 27 August 2015

Saint Aedhan, August 27

On August 27 the name of Saint Aedhan (Aidan) appears on the Irish calendars. However, as is so often the case, there are various holy men of this name recorded in our martyrologies so trying to identify this one specifically is well-nigh impossible. Canon O'Hanlon mentions various candidates before admitting that he cannot positively identify them with the saint commemorated on August 27. In his entry for the saint below he also mentions that the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, thought today's saint may possibly be linked to Clontarf, County Dublin and to the family of Saint Brigid of Kildare:

St. Aedhan or Aidan, possibly at Clontarf, County Dublin.

The simple notice of Aidan appears in the published Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 27th of August. The same mode of entry is to be found in that copy contained in the Book of Leinster. There is a saint having this name, and also called Mocukein or belonging to the race of Kien, nephew to St. Columkille, and son of his sister Sinecha. However, it cannot be said, that he was identical with the present Aidan. There is likewise an Aedhan, son to Lughar, and sprung from the race of Eochaidh Finnfuathart, son of Feidhlimidh Reachtmar, son to Tuathal Teachtmar, from whom Brighet descends.  As we have already found, there are several holy men, named Aedh, Aedhan or Aidan, in our Irish Calendars, at different days of the year; many of those are distinguished by parentage or place, while some are simply noted—-as in this instance—without any such clue to their recognition. According to Colgan, the Aidan, belonging to St. Brigid's  family, seems to have been venerated at a Cluain Tarbh—now probably Clontarf, County Dublin—either on the 27th of August, or on the 4th of  September. In the Martyrology of Donegal, at this same date, is entered Aedhan, but without any peculiar recognition of family descent or place of residence.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Saint Fillan of Strathfillan, August 26

August 26 is a second feast day of Saint Fillan of Strathfillan. As I used a Scottish source for the post  on his January commemoration, here I will bring Canon O'Hanlon's account from that date. But first, below is the entry for August 26 from Volume VIII of The Lives of the Irish Saints. Canon O'Hanlon is a little tentative about whether the saint commemorated today is the Saint Fillan also remembered on January 9 but the latest scholarly work, A Dictionary of Irish Saints by Pádraig Ó Riain, confirms that this is a secondary feast of the great Scottish saint.

ST. FOILAN OR FAELAN, OF CLUAIN-MHAOSCNA PROBABLY CLONMASKILL, IN FEATULLAGH, COUNTY OF WESTMEATH.

Reference has already been made to St. Foillan or Faelan, Abbot, at the 9th of January. He probably had a double festival. However, the reader is referred to what has been already written regarding his name and place. At the 26th of August, veneration was given to Faelan, Cluana Moescna, as we find recorded in the published Martyrology of Tallagh. In the manuscript copy of this Calendar contained in the Book of Leinster is found a similar entry; while in a marginal note, the commentator has stated in more detail, that place with which he had been connected. The Calendars of Cashel and of Marianus O'Gorman have his commemoration this day. When the monastery was founded at Cluain Mecsna, in the barony of Fertullagh, County of Westmeath, does not appear to be clearly known. In the Martyrology of Donegal, this present saint is designated in like manner, Faelan, of Cluain Moescna, in Fir-Tulach, in West Meath. Whether the present saint is identical with, or distinct from, the Faelan venerated at the 9th of January, cannot be very clearly ascertained, inasmuch as the name has been associated with the same place, although on different days. It is probable, however, we may have only one saint of the name, connected with this place, while two distinct festivals may have been assigned to him.

And now here is the much fuller entry from Volume I of The Lives of the Irish Saints at January 9. Canon O'Hanlon positively relishes bringing us all the details of Saint Fillan's life, miracles and relics, especially the defeat of the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314:


ST. FOILAN, FELAN, OR FILLAN, ABBOT, IN SCOTLAND.

[SEVENTH AND EIGHTH CENTURIES.]

CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTION—NAME AND PARENTAGE OF ST. FOILAN—HIS BIOGRAPHIES— NARRATIVES  REGARDING HIS BIRTH, BAPTISM, AND EARLY EDUCATION—HIS RELIGIOUS LIFE UNDER THE THE ABBOT MUNDUS.

THE people of Scotland, as well as those of Ireland, have an ecclesiastical and a civil history, of which they may justly feel proud. This might be allowed, although episodes in the course of narrative are often clouded and infelicitous. A saint, connected with so great a military event as the victory at Bannockburn—attributed to his intercession—must excite an interest, beyond that occasioned by narrating the facts of his Life. Through the virtues and miracles of this holy abbot, Hibernia and Albania acquired new glories. Ireland and Scotland combine most interesting historic associations. The 'Land of brown heath and shaggy wood, Land of the mountain and the flood,' has received no inconsiderable amount of Christian blessings and missionary benefit from the Major and older Scotia.

This holy missionary's name is variously spelt, according to the different authorities cited by Bishop Forbes. It is found written Felanus, Foelanus, Faelan, Foilanus, Fillanus, Filanus, Filane, Phillane, Fulanus. Foilan or Faolan is the more Irish mode of wriiting this saint's name. In Scotland he is known more generally as Fillan, and there likewise his memory is greatly held in regard.

The most detailed narrative of his Acts we can find is that contained in the Breviary of Aberdeen, and in additions to it by Camerarius, Dempster,  Colgan and Bishop Forbes. The Bollandists and Rev. Alban Butler insert, likewise, some short notices of St. Filan, Felan or Foelan, abbot in  Scotland. The father of our saint was named Feradach, Colgan supposes him to have been a prince in the Ulster province, or of some place adjoining. At least, he belonged to the family of Fiatach Finn.  His mother was St. Kentigerna, whose acts and origin have been already treated, at the 7th day of this month. Their son, who has acquired such celebrity in Scotland, was a native of Ireland. In this island he was born, probably towards the close of the seventh century.

The Breviary of Aberdeen recounts a curious story, regarding the saint's earliest infancy. But, we may well question the truth of a prodigy, which is found related in the Chronicle of Paisley, and afterwards by Camerarius. His father, as the legend tells us, considering his child to be a monster, had ordered him to be thrown into a neighbouring lake. There he remained for a whole year, during which time he was sustained by angels. Through a Divine revelation, Foelan was found by a holy bishop, named Ybarus or Ibar, while the infant was playing with these ministers of God, Lifting the child carefully from the lake, Ibar took charge of Foelan's maintenance and instruction in the knowledge of holy things. Where this lake was situated does not appear from the narrative.

Foillan was baptized by this holy man Ibar. He could not have been St. Ibar, who, according to some accounts, flourished in Ireland, before the arrival of St. Patrick, in the fifth century, and who, according to other statements, died A.D. 500. Equally futile is the conjecture of Colgan, that he might have been St. lomhar or Imar Ua h-Aedhagain or O'Hagan, who lived in the eleventh century. Yet, the context of our saint's acts seems to favour a supposition, that all we have hitherto described took place in Ireland, where likewise he made a religious profession, under the direction of another  holy instructor, called Mundus.

When the saint grew up, he was transferred from the care of Ibar, and he was given in charge to this good abbot, named Mundus. Under their joint direction, St. Foilan made great spiritual progress. A conjecture has been offered, that St, Mundus was brother to St. Foilan. The disciple's fame for extraordinary sanctity was not only known to his brethren in the monastery, but it was soon diffused over all the country. Having received the monastic rule and habit from Abbot Mundus, desiring to indulge more in heavenly contemplation, our saint built a cell near the monastery.  On a certain occasion, when supper was ready in the refectory, a little messenger was despatched to announce this news to Foilan. Peeping through a chink in the cell, the servant was surprised to see the blessed monk writing in the dark, while his left hand afforded a clear light to his right hand. This he told to the monastic brethren. Foelan had a supernatural knowledge regarding this secret information; and, by Divine permission, an accident happened to the servant. Although displeased respecting the servant's want of secrecy, yet Foilan was afterwards moved with compassion, and he restored the use of that sight which the messenger had lost.

A great deal of doubt prevails with regard to the St. Mundus, who was the master of our saint. In one passage, Colgan seems to regard them both as the sons of Feredach. But again, he inclines to an opinion, that the baptizer must have been St. Fintan Munnu, and the son of Tulchan. Camerarius more widely errs against chronology, when he makes this St. Mundus, an abbot in the territory of Argyle, in Scotland, and who died A.D. 962. In this latter case, it is easy to understand, that St. Foilan could not have been his disciple, much less, that he could have succeeded Mundus as the ruler of a monastery. A Scottish author says Fillan was brought up in virtue and literature, in the Monastery of Pittenweem, and that a short time before his death he retired to the solitary desert of Tyrus.

CHAPTER II.

ST. FOELAN SUCCEEDS ST. MUNDUS AS ABBOT—SAID TO HAVE VISITED HIS UNCLE ST. CONGAN—RETIREMENT AT GLENDORCHY—HIS CONNEXION WITH SCOTLAND.

When the blessed father Mundus died, by unanimous consent of the brethren, the holy monk Faolan, although reluctant, was elected abbot over the monastery. This he governed wisely, for his virtues and good example instructed his brethren in all holiness, chastity, and humility. Those who believed in Christ, he regarded as true and special friends. He exercised hospitality, through love for God and in the noblest spirit of charity.

After his baptism, and probably during the early stages of youth, St. Kentigerna was careful to rear her offspring in the most tender sentiments of piety. It is said she had a brother, named Comgan or Congan, who, with his sister and her sons, emigrated to Scotland. There he took up his residence, at Loughelch, in Northern Erchadia or Argyle. Here it is thought all lived together for a time.  Again, we are informed, that in obedience to an angelic message, St. Foelan went to his uncle, St. Congan, living at a place called Sirach or Siracht, in the upper parts of Glendeochquhy, or Glendorche. Whether this place was in Ireland or in Scotland has been disputed. But, it must be allowed, there are accounts in the acts of this saint which have been confused, very probably owing to the ignorance of those early waiters who have treated about him and his relatives.

While Camerarius calls the place of our saint's retirement Sira, not far from Glendorchy, this latter district he localizes in Fife, and he associates St. Fillan with Pittenweem. Again the place is called Sirach. On the other hand, Colgan has Cerete, the desert of Sirach, at Glendorche, formerly a forest, on the confines of the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh, in the Ulster province. Wherever this spot may have been situated, we are told the site for a basilica had been Divinely pointed out to him, with his seven serving clerics. There he was given altogether to prayer, contemplation, and exercises of penance. It would not be easy to account for the great veneration in which St. Faolan was held throughout Scotland, unless he lived for a considerable time in that country. As we know his mother Kentigerna chose it for a place of residence, and, as it is stated, other relations were there domiciled, every motive urges us to believe the present saint selected Caledonia as a theatre for his missionary labours.

While at Glendorchy, St. Foelan, with his little dog, drove away a ferocious boar that had devastated this district. He also converted many of the people there from the errors of Gentilism. While building the basilica at Glendorchy, wains and oxen were used to draw materials. A miraculous occurrence is  related, which enabled the saint to prosecute his good work without interruption. It must be observed, however, that a certain St. Faolan, surnamed "the Stammerer," is stated to have belonged to Rath-Erran, in Alba, and also to Cill-Fhaelain, in Laoighs, of Leinster. Now, it seems just possible, he was really the saint so greatly venerated in Scotland, and to whom so many churches and places have been dedicated. He is also said to have been a leper. Yet, the authority of Bishop Forbes determines the probability of greater celebrity to St. Faolan or Fillan, whose feast is celebrated on this day.

For the most part, Scottish historians endeavour to claim this saint as a native of Scotland. This pretension, however, cannot fairly be allowed. This Colgan attempts to show, but in the effort he seems to admit very inappropriate chronologies. But, it would seem he rather quoted popularly national names to prove the force of historic tradition, in favour of his arguments. First, St. Foelan's mother was Kentigerna, daughter to a king of Leinster, as already appears from the life of this holy widow, and from an account, found in Scottish documents, cited by Camerarius himself Secondly, he was baptized by St. Ibar, who was an Irishman. This Colgan promised to show, in his notes to the acts of St. Ibar, bishop, at the 23rd of April. Thirdly, our saint was a disciple of St. Mundus, who he assumes not to have been a Scottish, but an Irish saint. This would appear, from Colgan's note to the present Acts, as also from a Life of St. Mundus and corresponding notes, which it was intended to publish at the 21st of October. Fourthly, because the natalis of our saint was observed in Ireland on the same day as in Scotland, viz., on the 9th of January, at Cluain Moescna, in the region of Feratulach, according to St. Aengus, to Marianus O'Gorman, the Commentator on Aengus, the Martyrology of Tallagh and Cashel, at the same day. While, therefore, St. Foilan is venerated in Scotland, because he reposed there, he is also reverenced in Ireland, because he was a native and an abbot belonging to our country. Fifthly, the natalis of our saint's sisters, who are called daughters to Feradach, is observed in Ireland, on the 23rd of March. This must appear, from what has been previously observed, and from notes to St. Kentigerna's Life, published at the 7th of January. And lastly, Foelan is expressly numbered among our Irish saints, at the 9th of January, by the Martyrologies of Tallagh, and of Cashel, as also by the Commentator on Aengus. Thus, while Ireland is honoured by his birth, education, and training, Scotland deserves a participation in the honour acquired, owing to his missionary career, his death there occurring, while his tomb and relics had been preserved, with so many great benefits conferred on his adopted country.

St. Foelan seems to have laboured at missionary work in Scotland. Bishop Forbes tells us, that the chief scene of his labours was in the parishes of Glendochart and Killen, in the uplands of Perthshire. There a river and strath are called after him. The saint's cave is yet shown at Pittenweem, in Fifeshire. This seems to indicate his close connexion with the locality.There is a place of worship dedicated to him at the chapel-yard, parish of Largs. In Wigtown there is a Kilphillane. In the parish of Largs, and  in the lands of Skelmorlie or Cunningham, are the lands of St. Fillan's Well. There was a chapel of St. Phillane, within the castle of Down, and another chapel of St. Phillane, without the same fortress, on the banks of the Teith. St. Philan is said to have had a monastery, dedicated to him, in Knapdale, where St. Cathaldus was educated. There is a Killellan—a corruption of Kill-Fillan—near Lochalsh, formerly in Northern Argyle, now Ross-shire, where our saint is said to have built a church in honour of his uncle, St. Congan. Srowan has a fair called Feile Fhaolain. There is a parish, called Killallan or Killellan—a corruption of Kill-Fillan—in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Near the kirk there is a large stone, with a hollow in the middle. This is called St. Fillan's Seat; and a little distant from it, there is a spring called Fillan's Well. At the close of the last century, a local minister had it filled up, to prevent devotions there practised. Here there is a fair in the month of January. The time for holding it is called indifferently, Fillan's Day, or Fillan's Fair. The "Kalendarium Drummondiense" states that Felan departed to Christ, in Ireland, on the 9th of January. At the same day, his feast occurs in the "Kalendarium de Culenros," in the "Kalendarium de Arbuthnott," in the "Kalendarium Breviarii Aberdonensis," in Adam King's Kalendar, in Dempster's "Menologium Scoticum," as also in the Scottish entries in the " Kalendar of David Camerarius." Dempster tells us, that his natalis was particularly observed at Lough Levin, and he is called Abbot in Argyle. From some of the foregoing authorities we learn, also, that his office was contained in Nine Lessons.


CHAPTER III.

VARIOUS OPINIONS REGARDING THE DATE OF ST. FOILAN'S DEATH—PLACE OF INTERMENT, AND VENERATION PAID TO HIS MEMORY—BELL OF ST. FILLAN—HIS
CROZIER—THE VICTORY AT BANNOCKBURN ATTRIBUTED TO HIS INTERCESSION—
ACCOUNT OF THIS BATTLE, AND OF THAT MIRACULOUS INCIDENT CONNECTING ST.
FILLAN WITH IT—CONCLUSION.

The exact year of this saint's death cannot be ascertained. Were we to credit Camerarius, he died A.D. 649. But it would seem, this is almost—if not altogether—a century too early. St. Foilan probably died, about the middle of the eighth age. He seems to have departed, on the 9th day of January; and at that date, our native martyrologists' record a festival in honour of a Faelan or Foilan, of Cluain Maosgna, in the territory of Feara-Tulach. Whether or not he must be identified with the present holy man seems open to great doubt. Some of the Scottish historians state, that St. Faolan was buried at Strathfillan. There for a long period his remains were religiously preserved. There too a celebrated fountain, known as "St. Fillan's Well," was held in great estimation throughout Scotland, on account of the many cures said to have been wrought in favour of pilgrims to it. Here a fair was held, and most likely on the day of this saint's festival.

An elaborate notice of the ancient bell of St. Fillan, with two excellent wood engravings illustrating it, has been prepared, by the Right Rev. A. P. Forbes, D.C.L., Protestant Bishop of Brechin. This object of art is very minutely described by the learned dignitary.  In this paper the bishop stated that, when on a visit to Lord Crawford in the autumn of 1869, he met an English gentleman, who told him in a casual conversation regarding the early Scotch Church, that in the house of a relation of his in Hertfordshire there was preserved St, Fillan's bell. The father of that relation, partly in frolic and partly to abolish a still existing usage, had carried it away in the year 1798. The result of this communication was, that ultimately the bell was handed over to the custody of Lord Crawford and the bishop. It was then placed on the table, for the purpose of being deposited in the society's collection. This bell was held in great reverence, and it was believed to possess miraculous powers. It is of yellow bronze—now covered with a fine patina— four-sided as all those ancient bells are. It is about twelve inches high. But the most remarkable portion of this bell is the handle, on which there is twice repeated the well-known emblem of the Phallus. This symbol has never hitherto been found in any of the Scoto-Irish metal work, although the cultus of the Menhir, which is the same in stone, still survives in Brittany. It was a moot question, whether St. Fillan's bell was Christian or pre-Christian. After careful consideration, Bishop Forbes came to the conclusion, that the bell belonged either to the bronze period, anterior to Christian times, or that, if Christian, it had been imported from southern lands. It might, in the latter case, have come from Italy, for, according to the legend, St. Ternan is  said to have got his bell from Pope Gregory the Great. 

At Strathfillan are the ruins of a building, 120 feet in length, and 22 broad. Some of its walls are standing, and the structure itself is said to have been a cathedral. Again at this place, there was a deep pool called the "Holy Pool," where even to the beginning of the present century insane people were brought. These were dipped after sunset and before sunrise, on the first day of the quarter, and their friends had hope of a restoration to sanity. Certain functions took place at the well, and afterwards in a corner of the ruined chapel, which was called "St. Fillan's Bed." This bed still exists. For a long time, a stone called " Fillan's Chair," and seven small stones, that are said to have been consecrated by the saint, had been kept at the mill of Killan. These were regarded as sacred objects.

Long after the time of St. Foelan, his staff or crozier had been preserved in the wilds of Glendochart, in Perthshire, where the saint is said to have been buried. As usual among the Irish and Scotch, a certain family had charge of this relic. The possessors enjoyed special privileges in consequence of their trust. Among these were the holding of maintenance lands. This relic of St. Fillan was called the Coygerach, and its holders sought a royal charter, early in the fifteenth century, to confirm their rights. On the 22nd of April, A.D. 1428, the Baillie of Glendochart called an inquest of the men of the glen to give their verdict, regarding the authority and privileges of the relic of St. Fillan, commonly called the "Coygerach." Their verdict was, that this relic, then in the keeping of Finlay Jorc, had been originally granted by the successor of St. Fillan to one of Finlay's progenitors. Finlay himself was declared the rightful "heir of the office," whose privileges had been in exercise from the time of King Robert Bruce, and downward to their own day. Malise Doire was keeper of the "Coygerach" forty years later.'"

Many miracles were wrought by St. Foilan. To his intercession is attributed that glorious victory of Bannockburn, obtained by Robert Bruce over the English forces. The details of this celebrated battle are recorded by the mediaeval and more modem Scottish and English historians. Edward II., King of England, collected a force, amounting, it is stated, to one hundred and fifty thousand foot, with several thousand horse, for the invasion of Scotland. To oppose this immense army, comprising men of various nations, Bruce could scarcely muster thirty-four thousand men. Placing his whole trust in God, the Scottish King betook himself to prayer. Entertaining a great veneration towards St. Fillan, he entreated a certain abbot or priest, who was custodian, for a relic of this saint. The relic was an arm of St. Fillan, which had been preserved in a silver case. Fearing this relic might be lost in battle, the priest removed it fi:om the shrine, which was then presented to King Robert. In presence of many persons, the shrine was seen to open suddenly, and afterwards to close of its own accord. The priest then approached, to behold the result of this miraculous occurrence, when he saw the arm of St. Filan deposited again within its shrine. He related what had occurred to the King. Filled with admiration, on account of this incident, the priest exclaimed that Heaven should prove favourable to their cause. On the eve of this great battle, the Scottish King obtained some successes. Thus inspired with hope, although greatly fatigued, Bruce spent the remaining part of that night in prayer, and in acts of thanksgiving. On the following day, he ordered the Holy Sacrifice of Mass to be celebrated. He desired all his soldiers to partake of the Holy Eucharist, that thus they might be spiritually strengthened. A certain abbot, named Maurice, celebrated the Divine Mysteries on an eminence. He administered the Holy Sacrament to King Robert and to his nobles. Through the ministry of other priests, the entire army received Holy Communion. Afterwards, taking a crucifix in his hands, and showing the image of Christ crucified to the Scottish soldiers, Abbot Maurice exhorted them to defend their country with courage, trusting solely in God's goodness.  He then desired the warriors to prostrate themselves in prayer.

After a spirited address to his soldiers,  the army was placed in position by Bruce, while the English cavalry and archers advanced. Immediately the onset commenced, and the Scots fought with determined courage. After a fierce conflict, victory declared in their favour. Both armies were engaged not far from the castle of Sterling, then besieged by the Scots, and on the glorious field of Bannockbum. This battle took place on Midsummer Day, the Feast of St.  John the Baptist, A.D. 1314. The forces on both sides are variously estimated by English and Scottish writers. The English summoned a large host belonging to various nationalities; but the Scots appear to have had not alone the advantage of a brave and able leader, but a greater perfection of military discipline and order in their ranks. Soon after the battle commenced in earnest, the English skirmishers and vanguard fell into disarray. Bruce, leading the centre division and bringing up his reserves, added to their confusion, and the Scots advancing in compact bodies ensured their foes' discomfiture. The valiant Scottish king pushed forward the various divisions of his army. After a vigorous charge, the English horse and infantry became panic-stricken. At last the invading host gave way, and Edward's forces fled from Bannockburn in the wildest disorder. Many, trying to escape across the river in their rere, were driven into its waters and drowned; while a vast number fell under the battle-axes and spears of their opponents. An immense booty was the prize of the Scottish army. Like chaff scattered before the whirlwind, the English fled in dismay, and with continuously diminishing bands, towards the northern borders of England. Stirling almost immediately surrendered to King Robert, while Scotland recovered her independence, in a manner, most creditable to her military prowess, and most complete in the results achieved. It was believed, the great triumph at Bannockburn had been owing solely to St. Fillan's intercession, and to the mercy of the Almighty. Fifty thousand of the English are said by Scottish writers to have fallen in battle, or afterwards in the pursuit. Only a very small number of the Scottish army, and especially of their nobles, had been slain. The English king escaped with great difficulty, and he crossed the River Tweed, in a small boat, with only a single attendant.

When Bishop Macdonnell, who lately died in Upper Canada, and at a very advanced age, left the Highlands of Scotland, he brought with him that old staff and crook, used by the Abbot of St. Fillan to bless the Scottish army, before the battle of Bannockburn. It was of solid silver, and the workmanship proves its genuineness and antiquity. A relic is inclosed behind a white stone. This precious heirloom is yet preserved by the Catholic Bishop of Toronto. The Scots knelt before the abbot while holding this staff, according to tradition. The English monarch is said to have remarked, that his northern foes were then kneeling to sue for mercy. But, as of old, the chosen people of Israel trusted in the God of Battles when their cause was just, and referred to Him all the glory of victory; so did an oppressed nation wrest from ambitious and cruel invaders their rights and freedom, of which they had been so treacherously deprived. Our saint prayed for the devoted soldiers, who combined patriotic ardour with religious feeling and duty. The issue was fraught with triumph, right gloriously prevailing against the efforts of human might and despotic power. So should the warrior, especially in the trying moment of battles and danger, strengthen his soul by spiritual exercises, and trust his valour and his safety to the protection of the Lord of Hosts.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Saint Michan of Dublin, August 25

August 25 is the feast of a Dublin saint, Michan, a visit to whose church forms an essential part of any visit to the Irish capital. The fame of the church is centred on the mummified remains in the crypt which include a knightly figure known as 'The Crusader' and two brothers of the Shears family who were executed during the 1798 Rebellion. The founding saint however, is a shadowy figure around whom there are three main theories regarding his identity:

1. A 16th-century writer, Meredith Hanmer, suggested that Saint Michan was of Danish origin, a theory which is still held by some today.

2. A 17th-century hagiologist, Father Henry Fitzsimon, is the source of a quite extraordinary Life of the saint which showed that he was heir to the King of Canaan. Despite this he becomes a priest and then a bishop in the eastern church, even taking charge of Constantinople at one point. Canon O'Hanlon gives a summary of this Life in footnote 2 of the first chapter of his entry on Saint Michan in Volume VIII of The Lives of the Irish Saints:
The Bollandists alluding to him, at the 25th of August, relate, that they had an apocryphal "Vita Sancti Micheae," but that abounded altogether in fables; and to prove this statement, they adduce some specimens of absurd narratives drawn from it. This tract was contained in a drawer, among other Manuscript Lives of Irish Saints, received from Father Henry Fitzsimon, and it was marked + M.S. 167 A. That " Vita Sancti Micheae" was to be found at fol. 20 et seq. In it, the father of St. Michee is stated to have been King over the Chananaeans, and his name was Obeth, the son of Eliud; while his mother was named Alipia, and she was daughter to the King of Arabia. For twenty years she was sterile,when an angel predicted the birth of Michee, and the boy was afterwards baptized by Magonius, Bishop of Alexandria. When he was seventeen years old, Obeth died, then Michee was offered succession over the Kingdom of Chananaeum, but this he refused. He then went to the city of Alexandria, where he received the monk's habit from the bishop, and he was initiated to the priesthood, in the thirtieth year of his age. Then returning to his native country, he was consecrated bishop, and governed in that capacity for twenty-two years. Afterwards he left that place under angelic guidance. The narrative then continues in the original Latin: "inde perveniens ad ripam Nili fluminis, sociis LX sibi assecutis, fluminis impetum benedictionis oppositione constringens, cum omni comitatu suo securus pertransiit. Deinde ad littus Maris Rubri cum sociis veniens, secundum illud Israelitici populi, ab expugnatione Pharaonis per Dominum salvati, sic (sicco) vestigio transiturn fecit." The narrative then continues, that having spent two months at Jerusalem, there he continued to exercise the patriarchal ministry for seven years. During that time, he was directed by an angel to Mount Sion, and there he was shown that tree, from which the precious wood (of the cross) had been cut. By order of the angel, he also cut three baculi from it, and the angel took a fourth baculus. Subsequently, Michee is sent to Constantinople, and there he presided over that church. Again, having spent seven years there, he passed over the Alps. Furthermore accompanied by seven thousand companions he travelled over Gaul, the angel accompanying him, and coming to the English sea, he found no ships in which to cross; yet, with his companions, Michee passed over with dry feet. With such abbreviated notice of the narrative, the Bollandists derisively close their account, thinking they had already given more than sufficient of such absurdities. See " Acta Sanctorum," tomus v., Augusti xxv. Among the pretermitted Saints, p. 3.
3.  It is equally possible that Saint Michan is a native Irish figure, a thesis which has been advanced again in a recent academic work on medieval Dublin.  In a short historical piece here by the Irish Capuchins, they suggest that he may also have had a Welsh link. However, given that Saint Michan's name does not occur in the earlier Irish calendars and occurs for the first time in the 12th-century Martyrology of Gorman, this Welsh link might reflect a Cambro-Norman influence. A Norman influence also seems to be at work in the dedication of the south aisle of Saint Michan's Church in Dublin to the Anglo-Saxon female saint Osyth of Chich. There is a useful critical edition of her Life which describes the use the Normans made of this saint here.

So, with all of this in mind we can now turn to Canon O'Hanlon's account of Saint Michan. I have omitted much of the detail of the later history of the church, but the original volume is available through the Internet Archive if anyone wishes to follow it up:

ST. MICHAN, PATRON OF ST. MICHAN'S PARISH, AND CHURCH, IN THE CITY AND COUNTY OF DUBLIN.

[PROBABLY IN THE TENTH OR ELEVENTH CENTURY.]

IT appears rather strange, that a Saint, intimately connected with a city, which contains so many records of its early history, should have left little trace of his own personality to our time. The forms of his name are very various—Thus, Michanus, Mighan, Myghan, Michee, and Mahano are found in different mediaeval documents, which have reference to him and to the well-known church and parish of which he is the patron. The name Michanus is entered at this date, in the anonymous calendar, published by O'Sullivan Beare. For all that is personally known of the present holy man, we might end the account in a very few paragraphs. But the history of his parish, and of the churches there dedicated to him, may have some interest for our readers.Whether St. Michan is to be regarded as a Danish or an Irish saint is a matter contested. One of our most learned Irish antiquaries seems inclined to think he was of the former race. If we are to follow the prevailing  popular opinion of the inhabitants of Dublin, in the sixteenth century, we are likely to concur in the statement of Rev. Dr. Meredith Hanmer, who calls St. Michan a "Dane and Bishop."  Notwithstanding the latter distinction accorded him, and for which Hanmer appears to have had even documentary warrant, it does not seem likely, that Michan had been advanced to the episcopal dignity. A very probable opinion may be formed, as the name Michan, in any of its forms, is not found historically to have been at all common in Irish families, that the present holy man was of Danish origin, and born in Dublin, which in his time had been colonized by Scandinavians, who had embraced the Christian faith. The period when he flourished is unknown.

His name occurs in the Calendar prefixed to the Martyrology of Christ Church, Dublin, under 25th August—viii. Kal., Sept.—as S. Michee Confessoris; while he is described in the Martyrology itself in these terms, and at the same date: "Eodem die; sancti Michee episcopi, confessoris." However, we are told, that the insertion of the word episcopi is in a more recent hand.  In the Calendars prefixed to two ancient Breviaries—one of these belonging to St. John's Church, Dublin, the other to Clondalkin—and now in Trinity College Library, Dublin, the word "Episcopi" is inserted before "Confessoris." By some writers, he is regarded, as not having advanced beyond the grade of priest; and this opinion is altogether probable, since no record presents his parish in the character of having been a primitive See. St. Michan must have lived in the eleventh or perhaps the preceding century; but the year for his decease has not been recorded. The Danes or Ostmen, who had settled in Dublin, and who had surrounded their city with walls, embraced Christianity in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Their conversion from Paganism placed them on more friendly relations with the Irish. Many of the Dublin Ostmen then chose to live on the north side of the Liffey, about 1095 and owing to this circumstance, all that district near the river was known by the denomination of Ostmantown— afterwards corrupted to Oxmantown Green. These residents are thought to have built the Church of St. Michan. This church was dedicated to him, on the 14th of May, and Dr. Meredith Hanmer places the foundation of St. Michan's Church on the Fair Green or Commune, afterwards called Ostmontowne Green. This parcel of land is said to have been given by Murchard or Moragh, King of Leinster, for that purpose.

The festival of St. Michan was celebrated always on the 25th of August, and it seems to have been held as a general holy day in that parish, to refrain from servile works. Doubtless religious ceremonies were also prescribed, for its greater solemnity. In the year 1565, we have a glimpse of the manner in which St. Michan's feast had been observed in Dublin, or at least in that parish of which he was patron. The parish of St. Michan, during six centuries, was the only parish on the north side of the River Liffey, and it is supposed to be coeval with the earliest parishes in the City of Dublin "Within the Walls." About the year 948, a Benedictine Abbey, since known as St. Mary's Abbey, was founded on the northern bank of the Liffey. It was endowed with all the rich and fertile pasture land, stretching eastwards along the banks of the River Liffey, so far as the Tolka. The parish of St. Michan is one of the oldest parishes in Dublin. It extended from the River Liffey northwards, so far as Little Cabra; and from St. Mary's Abbey it reached westward, to Oxmantown Green. In Archbishop Alan's Register, the church is called " Ecclesia S. Michie," and " Ecclesia S. Micheani." And in the Calendar prefixed to the Martyrology of Christ Church, the 14th of May is assigned as the date for the dedication of the Church of St. Michan :—" ii Id Maii, Dedicacio Ecclesiae Sancti Michee." In the Repertorium Viride of Archbishop Alan, it is likewise noticed as " Ecclesia de Sto Mahano."...

...A somewhat remarkable feature attached to the church of St. Michan is, that its founders dedicated the building to St. Michan, and the south aisle to St. Syth, or Osyth. In the vestry-books of St. Michan's parish it is often referred to as "St. Syth's Aisle." Here stood the "Counting Table," and doubtless, here also were held the meetings of a guild which was called after her name. St. Osyth was a daughter of Redwald, King of East Anglia, who married a king of the East Angles, but the same day she obtained his consent to live always a virgin. That king, confirming her in such religious purpose, bestowed on her the manor of Chick. Having made a vow of virginity, she retired to Chick, now a parish in the hundred of Tendring, County of Essex. There she founded a church and a nunnery, and she presided over them for several years with great sanctity; but these were afterwards plundered by the Danes, who beheaded the foundress near an adjacent fountain. This happened about the year 870, during the inroads of Hinguar and Hubba, the barbarous Danish leaders. For fear of the Northmen pirates, her body, after some time, was removed to Ailesbury, and it remained there forty-six years, after which it was brought back to Chick or Chich, near Colchester, and which was remarkable for its noble Abbey of Regular Canons in times long past, while its name has been derived from St. Osyth, the patroness. This house continued till the dissolution of the monasteries, and it was famous for the possession of relics, which were honoured with the performance of many miracles. The festival of this holy virgin, variedly called Osyth, Syth, Sitha. Scite, is noted on the 13th of May, in some of our Martyrologies and Calendars. Her festival was celebrated with an Office of Nine Lesson, as we find in a Manuscript Breviary of the fifteenth century, and now preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. In the original hand of this Manuscript is the entry "Scite Virginis, ix. lc." This Breviary was written in Ireland, as appears from an entry on the first leaf; and there is, therefore, some reason to think, that Sitha may be an Irish saint, although no other native Calendar to which the writer has access contains her name, nor is she mentioned by Aengus, Colgan, or any other authority. The introduction of her name into the Calendar, as appears from the recent entries in the Christ Church volume, and in the Chain-Book of the Dublin Corporation, must have taken place, at least in the Diocese of Dublin, about the end of the fifteenth century...

As has been already stated, at this date, in the ancient Martyrology of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, and now known as Christ Church, Dublin, there is a record of St. Michan, Confessor. A more recent hand has there inserted his title as a Bishop.  In the Martyrology of Donegal, at the 25th of August, we find that a festival was celebrated to honour St. Michan of Cill Michen, in Ath-cliath, now Dublin city. No records seem to have been preserved, and which might serve to attest the year, when St. Michan's Church had been first erected; but, it is not probable, that an earlier building stood on the site of its present vaults. However, the upper structure was remodelled or repaired at different periods. Nor is there good warrant for the statement, that St. Michan's body is yet preserved in one of the church vaults. It is altogether probable, however, that the holy ecclesiastic himself may have built that church during his life-time, and that he may have been buried therein, or at least, in the cemetery adjoining. It is likely, moreover, that the original church and cemetery were laid out, at one and the same time.

There is a place called Cloonymeaghan, in the barony of Corran, and county of Sligo, and it has been rendered "Cluain-michan, i.e., the retreat of Mhican." According to tradition, it is stated, that St. Mhican, the patron of a parish in Dublin, which bears his name, was a bishop and confessor, and perhaps an abbot. ...

Monday, 24 August 2015

Saint Gildard, August 24

Among the saints detailed at August 24 in Volume VIII of his Lives of the Irish Saints, Canon O'Hanlon brings us something of an historical mystery surrounding a Saint Gildard. The name of this saint is found in the earliest surviving Irish calendar, the Martyrology of Tallaght, but he seems to have been associated with the diocese of Nevers in France.  Canon O'Hanlon's account is largely drawn from continental sources, I found it interesting that some of these link our saint with another called Patrick, with whom he shares his feast day:

Reputed Feast of St. Geldarius, or Gildarius.

The simple entry, Geldarius, without any other designation, appears in the  published Martyrology of Tallagh,  at the 24th August. In like manner, the  name is entered in the Book of Leinster copy,  and as classed among the Irish Saints. This is probably the St. Gildard, a priest, who formerly gave  singular edification to the inhabitants of the parish of Lurcy-le-Bourg, in the diocese of Nevers, France, and where he died on the 24th of August. The Bollandists have notices of him, taken from old Martyrologies, on this day. Little seems to be known, regarding his personal history. In some of the  ancient Martyrologies, his name is associated with that of St. Patrick, Abbot, in the territory of Nivernais. Thus, in the editions to the Martyrology of Usuard, edited by the Jesuit Father Soller, we find such entries in the Codex of Centule, and in that of Rheims. Likewise, in the Martyrologium Parisiense, published in 1727; having set down the feast of St. Patrick of Nivernais, at the 24th of August, an addition of St. Gildard's feast is prescribed.  However, in other Martyrologies, his name, profession and feast are separately entered. The Latin name of his place, Luperciacum, within the former territory of the Aedui, had been a fortified town, and it was surrounded with walls. Such strongholds were known by the term Burgos. Hence it came to be called Leurcy le Bourg, in modern French. The Martyrologium Parisiense has a marginal note, which places the present saint in the seventh century; yet, this chronotaxis is set down, without sufficient authority. St. Gildard died on the 24th of August; but, as the festival of St. Bartholomew fell on the same day, his feast had been transferred to the 31st of the present month. St. Gildard was buried in the Church of St. Loup, near Nevers. It is a curious subject for enquiry, to learn how his name had been inserted in the Martyrology of Tallagh, as if he were to be classed among the Irish Saints.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Saint Eugene of Ardstraw, August 23

August 23 is the feastday of the episcopal patron of the diocese of Derry, Saint Eugene or Eogan of Ardstraw. I have previously posted an account of his life and some of his miracles here, but below is a fuller extract from Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints, including a wonderful introduction to the Ireland of Saint Eugene's time as a land of saints and scholars and an equally delightful homiletic flourish at its conclusion.

ST. EOGAN OR EUGENE, BISHOP OF ARDSTRAW, AND PATRON OF DERRY. [FIFTH AND SIXTH CENTURIES.]

UNDER the ceaseless labours of blessed Patrick, Ireland soon became a favoured spot in the vineyard of the Church, when sainted men, like the Apostles of old, left all things at his preaching to follow Christ. Princes and nobles were not ashamed to lay aside the pomps of royalty, and to put on the humbler garb of the Christian missionary. Tender virgins were crowding to the cells of Brigid—the Mary of Erin—and consecrating their lives to the service of God and of His poor. Those were truly the ages of faith, when churches and monasteries rose as if by magic on every mountain and in every valley ; when the music of sacred hymns and of Divine psalmody was borne on every breeze, and when that golden era foretold in burning words by Isaiah of old seemed to be fully realized in this Island. "The land that was desolate and impassable, shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and nourish like the lily." Whether viewed in a political or religious aspect, Derry is a spot dear to the heart of the annalist, for hallowed reminiscences cluster round it, and the golden glory of bygone days sheds still their lustre on the See of Eugene and the city of Columkille. From immemorial ages, the "place of the oaks " was sacred ; for here, even the Druids, it is traditionally held, had one of their most famous colleges. From the Holy Island—for such formerly Derry was—went forth the royal poets, the sage legislators, the learned astronomers, and the well-instructed annalists. There the mystic rites of Druidism were once studied, and there in after times the young aspirant to the priestly dignity underwent his long and arduous novitiate.

The festival of St. Eogan or Eugene dates from a very early period in the Irish Church, and it was held on this date. The learned hagiologist, Colgan, had intended to publish the Acts of St. Eugene, at the 23rd of August, as may be inferred from his list of unedited Manuscripts. However, these Acts of St. Eugenius, bishop of Ardsrata, are preserved in the Burgundian Library at Bruxelles. They have since been edited and published  by Carolus de Smedt and Joseph de Backer, Bollandist Fathers, under the auspices of the Right Hon. John Patrick, Marquis of Bute. At the 23rd of August, the Bollandists present us with Acts of St. Eugene, by some anonymous writer. A previous commentary is added, with several notes, by Father William Cuper, S.J. These Acts were composed as a panegyric on the saint, and evidently they were intended to serve as a sermon for his festival. Briefly, too, does Bishop Challoner enter his record at this day. The Rev. Alban Butler has a short article in reference to him at this same date, as likewise the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, and the Petits Bollandistes. The Life and Acts of St. Eugene are involved in much obscurity, since the most ancient memoir we possess seems to have been written centuries after his period, and it abounds in legends. Still, it must be observed, there are certain coincidences that correspond or are not irreconcilable with synchronous persons, times and places, as gleaned from independent records.

Eugene belonged to a Leinster family, on the paternal side. He sprung from the race of Laeghaire Lore, son to Ugaine Mór, from whom the Leinstermen are descended, according to the O'Clerys... We are informed, that Cainnech of Leinster was father of Eugenius, while his mother is named Muindecha, and she belonged by race to the territory of Mugdarnia, in the present county of Down. The illustrious St. Kevin ot Glendalough was a near relative...

While yet of tender years, Eugene, with a great number of other boys and girls, received his early education with the youthful Tighernach, in the school at Clones. From that place, the child was carried away captive to Britain by marauding pirates, and Tighernach also shared this captivity. We are informed, that the holy and wise Neunyo, also called Mancenus, and who was in Rosnat monastery procured their liberation from the King of Britain. Afterwards, he took charge of their religious training, and he found them to be docile students. For some years, they were under the tutelage of St. Ninnian, together with a holy youth named Corpre, who was afterwards bishop of Coleraine, in Ireland. A second time, Eugene, with his companions, was carried into captivity and brought to Brittany—supposed to be in Gaul —as the pirates were from this latter country. They were detained as slaves in Armorica, by a Gallic King, who obliged them to work in a mill. The passion for reading was still strong with the three holy youths, Tighernach, Eugene and Corpre ; but one day, while thus engaged, the milling business appears to have been suspended, when the king's steward surprised the students, and roughly ordered the work to proceed. When he left, the youths piously besought the Almighty, to give them a respite from labour, and an opportunity for reading. Instantly, the Angels of God appeared, and kept the mill-wheel revolving, while the youths were reading. When the king was informed about this circumstance, he declared that they should return to Rosnat monastery to continue their studies. Having thus recovered miraculously their freedom, they were again restored to their beloved master, giving thanks to God for the favours bestowed on them. After obtaining his liberty from the king, Eugene studied for some years in the monastery of Rosnat. At length, with the earnest recommendation and prayers of his monks, Nennius was induced to sail for Ireland, with both of his disciples, Tighernach and Eugene. They founded monasteries afterwards in the territory of Lagenia, now Leinster.

It was on this occasion, that Eugene established the monastery of Kilnamanagh, in Cualann—the modern district of Wicklow—and he there led a life of sanctity, mortification and prayer. Over that house he presided as Abbot, for fifteen years, enjoying a character without stain or reproach. There, too, he moulded the minds of many most illustrious prelates and saints, of whom not the least distinguished is said to have been his nephew, Coemghen or Kevin, who, for his singular and unearthly beauty, was stated by the legend to have been baptized by an angel.

In obedience to a Divine admonition, Eugene set out for the north to preach the Gospel. Still, it was with some degree of regret; especially as his monks sorrowfully asked him who should be their Abbot, if he departed from them. Their holy superior replied: "Let each one of you become Abbot, and prior, and minister; I, although absent in the body, shall be with you in spirit. I shall hear what you say, even when spoken in whisper, and still more when you speak aloud." About the same time, St. Tighernach left Leinster, and in conjunction with St. Eugene, he founded a celebrated monastery at Clones, otherwise denominated Gaballiunense ; while another religious domicile was founded at a place, the Latin equivalent of which is Sylva humilis. Both of those holy prelates continued that tender affection and firm friendship they had early formed as school-fellows; and as their respective places were not very far apart, they often enjoyed each other's society, and formed a spiritual alliance in their companionship. Seeking a suitable place to fix his own residence, Eugene, the son of Cainech, in obedience to orders received, established a monastery at Ardstraw. This is at present the name of an extensive rural parish, and it is merely an anglicized form of the ancient Ard-straha which means the height by or near the bank of the river...There, too, it is believed, that St. Eugene established a primitive See, after he had been consecrated a Bishop.

Considerable doubt exists as to the precise year of his coming to Tyrone; for while some represent him as having been the disciple of St. Patrick, others with more probability assert, that he was the contemporary of St. Columkille, St. Kevin, and St. Canice. This appears the more certain, from the date of his death, which the Irish authorities fix at a late period in the sixth century; while the year 617, or 618, of the Christian era, has even been stated for that event, by some of our annalists... In the monastery at Ardstraw, Eogan led a most holy life, being distinguished for his miracles and for a spirit of prophecy.

It is stated, that Eugene was living, about the year 570. Having attained a mature term of years, and a full measure of merit in the sight of God, he was happily called out of this world, some time in the sixth century. Having been seized with a grievous infirmity, which grew on him day by day, calling his monks around him, he received Extreme Unction and the Holy Viaticum, with sentiments of the most pious resignation. When such religious rites had been administered, his monks separated into two choirs, and standing, they alternately chaunted appropriate psalms. During that pious and solemn celebration of the Divine Office, Angels received the soul of Eogan, and bore it to Christ, whom he had so long and so faithfully served. It is most generally allowed by our writers, that St. Eugene of Ardstraw died some time in the sixth century although other authorities have prolonged his life to the seventh. The Annals of Clonmacnoise state, that Eugene died so late as A.D. 618...

The published Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 23rd of August, inserts a festival in honor of Eoghan, Bishop of Arda Sratha. Somewhat differently spelled is that entry, in the Book of Leinster, at x. of the September Kalends. He is recorded, in the Martyrology of Donegal, at the same date, as Eoghan Bishop, of Ard-Sratha, in Cinel Moain, in Ulster. It is generally thought, that he died on the 33rd of August; for then his festival occurs in all the Calendars. In the Diocese of Derry, the feast of this holy Patron is celebrated on that day for a Bishop and Confessor, as a Double of the First Class with an octave.

...Like the charming flowers, that cover the face of our fair Island on each returning May-day, and whose places and forms soon fade even from our view, are many of our holy countrymen. The fragrance of their virtues however remains, and after death again they arise and bloom in a state of immortality, while their remembrance is still treasured among our best inheritances. Their examples yet inspire us to labour for the heavenly crown. We should bear in mind to attain such a reward, that four things especially concur in justification : the infusion of grace, the motion arising from grace and free-will, contrition and the pardon of sin. The saints had an early intuition of God's purpose to make them vessels of election; they corresponded with the Divine call with alacrity and zeal; they were humble and contrite; while such dispositions were sure to give them place among the true followers of Christ on earth, and a high degree of happiness and glory among the beatified in Heaven.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Saint Gunifort of Pavia, August 22

August 22 is the feast day of an Irish holy man who flourished in Italy, Saint Andrew of Fiesole. It is also, however, the feast of yet another saint reputedly from Ireland remembered in that country, Saint Gunifort. I have been reading Fra Anselmo Tommasini's account of Saint Gunifort in his Irish Saints in Italy, but below is that of Canon O'Hanlon, who has accessed the medieval Acts of the saint. Once again it seems that the claims of Irish nationality for this holy man rest only on a tradition that he was a 'Scot' and so once again I must remind my long-suffering readers that in the earlier middle ages this term was applied to the Irish. It's not a firm foundation on which to base claims of Irish nationality, but later Irish hagiologists like Fathers Colgan and White added him to the lists of native saints whose memories they commemorated. Certainly Canon O'Hanlon's willingness to place Saint Gunifort 'probably in the fourth or fifth century' raises a red flag for me as this would seem remarkably early for an Irishman to have enjoyed this type of missionary career, given that Christianity was only brought to Ireland in the fifth century. I would be far from convinced that Saint Gunifort was an Irishman but below is the evidence from Canon O'Hanlon's Lives of the Irish Saints:

ST. GUNIFORT, MARTYR, IN ITALY.
[PROBABLY IN THE FOURTH OR FIFTH CENTURY.]

The Acts of St. Guinefortus, Martyr, have been published almost from the very infancy of printing, and in the fifteenth century, by Boninus Mombritius, or Mombrizio, a distinguished poet and scholar of Milan. He collected this account from an ancient Passionarium, found in a vellum Manuscript, preserved among the Lateran archives, and which he printed during the Pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV. This holy martyr St. Gunifort is specially mentioned by Peter Paul Bosca in his Martyrology of the Church of Milan ; as likewise, by Joannes Baptista Carisius and by Aloysius Tattus, in his Martyrology of the Church of Como, in Italy. Also Ferrarius, Jacobus Gualla, and Petrus Galesinius have notices of him, at the present date, in their respective Martyrologies. In his "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum," Thomas Dempster inserts an account of St. Gunifort. The Bollandists, likewise, present their Acts of St. Gunifort, at the 22nd of August. These Acts, in two Chapters, have a Prologue, and are comprised in seventeen paragraphs. Their author is unknown, nor can it be discovered when or where he lived. The editor, Father William Cuper, S.J., has given a previous critical commentary in fifteen paragraphs, and he has added notes. A brief account of St. Gunifortis is given by Rev. S. Baring-Gould. Among the list of lives unpublished by Colgan, as we find from Charles MacDonnell's paper, is the name of St. Gunifort, and entered for the 22nd of August.

With the history of the present holy man is associated that of a saintly brother, named Guiniboldus, and two sisters, whose names are unknown; but, all of these suffered death, for the sake of Christ. The period when these holy persons flourished has been contested by several writers.

According to Dempster, who has an account of him, the Martyr St. Gunifort and his two sisters were natives of Scotland. However, only in a general way do the most ancient accounts term them Scoti, or Scots; and, it is now universally conceded, by the modern historians of Ireland and of Scotland, that long after the introduction of Christianity to both countries, the terms Scotus and Scoti applied in use, only to a native or natives of Ireland.

However, those pious brothers and sisters were Scots by race, and of a noble family, as declared in their ancient panegyric. Whether their parents had been Christians is not distinctly stated. Still, it is related, that inspired with a desire to gain over souls to Christ in Pagan lands, and if necessary in this endeavour to encounter martyrdom; the two brothers and their two sisters resolved on leaving their parents, friends, and native country to make that heroic sacrifice. Their parents and friends remonstrated in vain, offering various inducements and persuasions, to divert their minds from such a purpose.

Having borne with this opposition for a long time, in the kingdom of Scotia; at length, they were resolved to seek escape from such importunities, and all four left their native country to journey afar in strange and distant lands. After enduring much fatigue in their travels and many hardships, through the Providence of God directing, they came to the territory of the Pagan Teutons. There the fury of persecution beset the most holy brothers, Guinefortus and Guiniboldus, with their two devoted sisters. These latter were remarkable, not alone for beautiful features, but for their purity of heart and strength of mind. By the ferocious Teutons, this noble band of brothers and sisters had been subjected to every species of insult and injury. At length, both of the holy sisters were martyred in the territory of the Teutons; yet, that particular kind of death they endured has not been recorded. However, they thus escaped all temporal torments, and passed to the embraces of their Divine spouse, Jesus Christ. Their sacred remains appear to have rested in the place of their martyrdom, although no knowledge of the exact spot has been preserved.

The two surviving brothers grieved that their beloved sisters had been thus deprived of life, or rather that these had preceded them, in obtaining the glorious crown of martyrdom. The brothers even reproached the cruel Teutons, according to the Legend, that they were not offered up as sacrifices at the same time for the cause of Christ. For using these words, although threats and angry manifestations were returned, yet the Pagans could not but admire their wonderful fortitude and courage. They deigned, even, to ask for an explanation of the Faith that was in them ; and, the holy brothers gratified them in that respect, but apparently without making much impression on their obdurate and stony hearts. Nevertheless, the Teutons persisted in requiring that they should offer sacrifice to idols. The holy brothers then declared their resolution to die, rather than do so. Whereupon, admiring their resolution, and knowing them to be good men, the Teutons would not put them to death.

After the death of their sisters, the two noble brothers, Guinifort and Guinibold, filled with the heroic desire to gain like them the crown of martyrdom, resolved on travelling to Italy, where persecution raged against the Christians at that period. This seems to have been during the time of the Pagan Emperors; and before the Arians had attempted to spread their errors there, notwithstanding a doubtful observation contained in the Acts of our saints, which might lead the reader to suppose that their persecutors were heretics.

Their journey was made accordingly to the city of Como, where the Roman authority then prevailed, and where the followers of Christ were daily subjected to torments and death. However, they were not afraid to appear in the public places of the pagans, at Como, and to announce themselves Christians, while reproaching the lictors for great cruelties towards their brethren in the Faith. To the authorities they were then denounced, and the Praetor ordered them to be arrested and brought before him. At that time, Guinifort and Guinibold were found preaching the doctrines of Christ to a great multitude of willing listeners in the public streets. However, the brothers did not obey that first summons, and [the Praetor's emissaries returned to him with a report, that they disregarded his threats, and that nearly all the inhabitants followed them.

Whereupon, the chief magistrate at Como ordered a great number of armed men to proceed thither, and making them prisoners, to bring them into his presence. Being asked whence they came, and why they attempted to seduce the people, the brothers courageously replied: "We are Scots by race, and Christians by profession; but, we seduce not your people, rather do we invite the sons of God to the country of eternal happiness." Then the Prefect asked whom did they regard as the sons of God, when they immediately replied, "Those whom He hath redeemed with His most precious blood." Filled with rage, on receiving such a reply, the tyrant commanded them to be led through the public streets of that city, and afterwards to be decapitated. Thinking that by ordering one to be sacrificed in presence of the other, the survivor might be moved through fear of death to apostatize; while the brothers were congratulating each other, that they were to suffer martyrdom together, Gunibold was beheaded, at the place of public execution, and Guinifort was released for that time. During the night, the Christians came stealthily and removed the remains of the martyr Gunibold for interment. From that to the present period, his sacred relics have remained at Como.

It does not seem likely, that Guinifort long survived. However, filled with zeal to preach the words of life, he went alone to Milan, where he converted many to the true Faith, for which he still desired to suffer, and to share the glorious crowns of his beloved sisters and brother. Nor were his hopes long deferred, for having been apprehended once more, Gunifort was again brought before the judges, and ordered by them to sacrifice before their idols. He replied: "I desire most earnestly to sacrifice myself to the living God." "Whom do you call the living God?" asked his persecutor. He then answered: "Jesus Christ is the living God and man, who created and redeemed me with His precious blood." Then, the pagan judge commanded him to be conducted without the city, and to be beheaded. Moreover, while he was led to that place destined for his execution, the lictors were ordered to inflict severe stripes upon him, and to discharge arrows against his body. That cruel sentence they strictly obeyed. They struck him repeatedly with stones and arrows, until he was all covered with wounds. Fainting through loss of blood, the glorious Martyr fell to the ground, before he arrived at the place destined for his execution. Then he exclaimed : "O Lord, King of eternal glory, O clement Father, receive my body and soul, which I offer to Thee as a sacrifice." He then lay prostrate on the earth, and apparently lifeless. Thinking he was dead, the persecutors left him there, and then departed.

After remaining for some time in that state of helplessness, it pleased the Almighty to give Guinefort strength to rise; yet, although thus severely injured and acutely suffering, with arrows fixed in his body and which he could not extract, he was enabled nevertheless to reach the noble city of Papia. In the Roman times, it was called Ticinum after the river Ticinus, now the Tesino, which flows by its walls ; but, between the sixth and eighth centuries, the ancient name disappeared, and it assumed the appellation of Papia, softened by Italian euphony into Pavia. There a pious Christian woman, who dwelt near the Church of St. Romanus, received him with great charity and veneration, while she tended him with great care for the three days he survived in her house. But then his time had arrived to receive the eternal crown, and departing this life, his soul ascended to join his sisters and brother in Paradise. At that moment, the wonders of the Almighty were manifested on behalf of his devoted servant ; for the Angels of Heaven stood around the sacred remains, filling the whole house with resplendent light, and with a most fragrant odour. At the same time were heard these joyous words of Divine praise: "Blessed be the Lord, who is always glorious in His saints."

In the Panegyric of St. Guinefort, we are told, that he was interred on the eleventh of the September Kalends (August 22nd), in the Church of St. Mary, near the Church of the great St. Romanus, where afterwards the Almighty was pleased to work many miracles, in honour of His holy Martyr. Many blind persons visiting his tomb were restored to sight. Numbers of lepers and other infirm persons, on going there, were also restored to health, through the prayers of St. Guinifort. These miracles shed no slight lustre and renown on Pavia, the city in which his relics had been preserved. Without the walls of Pavia is a church dedicated to St. Gunifort; but at Milan, where he suffered for the Faith, although the common people usually called him Bonifort, little was known regarding him, and such was likewise the case in respect to his brother the Martyr Guinibold at Como.

The present holy Martyr is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology, on the 22nd August. Besides, on this same day, various ecclesiastical writers have noted his feast, which appears to have been celebrated, not on the day of his death, but on that of his interment at Pavia. Among these writers are the author of his ancient Acts, Pietro Paulo Bosca, Joannes Baptista Carisius, Aloysius Tatti, Jacobus Gualla, Petrus Galesinus, and the Bollandists. Philip Ferarius, and Father Stephen White also commemorate him. Dempster—who claims him as a Scot, together with his brother St. Gunibald and his sisters—agrees as to the date for his feast. Gunifort, also called Gunifortis and Gunifortus in ancient writings, was regarded with special veneration in the city of Pavia.

Among the courageous and zealous Irish Martyrs who suffered for the Faith, the holy brothers Guinefort and Gunibold, with their two nameless sisters, deserve to be held in especial veneration. From the society of family and of friends, and from the attractions of home, they resolved to take up their cross and to follow Christ. Faithful to Him in their lives and deaths, their sacrifice was accepted, and their final reward had been secured, when their sufferings were over in this world, and crowned with the laurel of martyrdom.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Saint Masse, August 21

One of the many obscure Irish female saints is commemorated on August 21, but as is so often the case all we know of Saint Masse is the recording of her name on our calendars. For some reason the Martyrology of Tallaght links her name to that of another saint with whom she shares her feast day, Celba of Kilbeg.  Canon O'Hanlon also reports that in the later Martyrology of Donegal the word species is appended to her name. In a footnote he adds that one of the original translators of this seventeenth-century calendar, the Anglican scholar Bishop William Reeves, gave this explanation: 'Dr. Reeves interprets this word as the Latin equivalent for her name, Maisse, which in Irish signifies beauty. Speciosa occurs in the Martyrology of Molanus, at the 18th March'. So, here is O'Hanlon's brief account of the beautiful Saint Masse, taken from Volume VIII of his Lives of the Irish Saints:

St. Masse, or Maisse, Virgin.

Sheltered from the baneful influence of a corrupt world, this holy Virgin grew each day in goodness, unconscious of evil, and in innocence like the angel who watched over her. The name of Masse occurs in the Martyrology of Tallagh at the 21st of August. Both in the published and unpublished copies, this name is united with that Celba, already noticed. Nothing, however, seems to be known, regarding her place or period. The name of Maisse, Virgin, appears in the Martyrology of Donegal, at the 21st of August. In the table, superadded to this latter work, after her name, we find the word species occurring.