Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Saint Lassar, July 23

One of a number of Irish female saints with the name of Lassar (Lasair, Lasre, Lassara) is commemorated on July 23.  Canon O'Hanlon in his Lives of the Irish Saints initially seeks to associate this one with the locality of Killasseragh in County Cork. Lassar of Killasseragh is one of a trio of sisters whose memories are preserved in folk tradition within County Cork, where each was assigned the patronage of neighbouring parishes. One popular story was that angels made a road between the parishes so that the sisters could more easily communicate with each other. However,  in his Dictionary of Irish Saints, Pádraig Ó Riain argues that the County Cork Lassar is commemorated in the Martyrologies on May 7, the day after her sister Inneen of Dromtarriff. Thus although Canon O'Hanlon has plumped for Killasseragh as the locality associated with today's Saint Lassar in the heading of his account, he has no firm basis for doing so, a fact he later concedes. Such are the complexities of dealing with homonymous saints that we may never know the precise identity of the holy woman commemorated on this day:

St. Lassar, or Lasre, of Killasseragh, Parish of Kilmeen, County of Cork.

At the 23rd of July, the name of Lasre is met with, in the Martyrology of Tallagh. St. Lassar's day, although marked in the Calendar at the 23rd of July, seems to have been commemorated by stations at the 24th. The townland of Killasseragh, in the parish of Kilmeen, and barony of Duhallow, county of Cork, is called after this saint. It seems very probable, also, that another townland so called, in the parish of Ballynoe, barony of Kinnatalloon, in the same county, has derived its name from the present holy virgin. In the south-west of the county of Fermanagh, the ruins of an old church, with a holy well, dedicated to a virgin called St. Lassara, are still to be seen. It is now called Killassery. In the glen of the Marble Arch, where there are very remarkable caves, and on its western side—upon the brow of a hill not difficult of access—is shown St. Lasser's cell. This is a souterrain. It has, however, no further connexion with a church in the neighbourhood, dedicated to the patron St. Lasser. Some inconsiderable remains of this old building yet exist. We do not undertake to say, that the foregoing localities are in any manner connected with the present St. Lassar; for, there are other saints bearing her name, and not distinguished by any special locality; but, we thought it not amiss, to place upon record here, information which may somewhat help towards a future identification, regarding one or other of the Lassars or Lassaras mentioned in our Calendars. The Martyrology of Donegal notes Lassar simply, at the 23rd of July.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Saint Moroecha Mac Naeb, July 22

On July 22 Canon O'Hanlon brings details of an Irish saint described as a 'boy-saint' in the seventeenth-century Martyrology of Donegal. I think this is the first time I have come across an Irish saint specifically recorded as a child. The memory of Saint Moroecha Mac Naeb is first preserved in the earliest of the surviving calendars, the late eight/early ninth-century Martyrology of Tallaght and his youthfulness prompts Canon O''Hanlon to sound very Victorian when musing on the nature of the Irish children of his own day at the end of the piece:

St. Moroecha Mac Naeb, or Morecha, a Boy-Saint.

It seems quite probable, that this holy child did not exceed the years of puberty, and that " he was taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding,  or deceit beguile his soul." [Wisdom, c. iv., v. ii.] At the 22nd of July, a festival is  recorded in the Martyrology of Tallagh,  in honour of Moroecha Mac Naeb. Further particulars are hardly known concerning him. Again, the Martyrology  of Donegal registers him at the same date, as Morecha, a boy-saint. In our day, we have had a knowledge of the simple and guileless innocence of Irish children, whose good and almost sinless dispositions gave promise of a riper sanctity. Parents find real treasures in such children, and they are greatly open to censure, if the arch-enemy afterwards be allowed to destroy the working of God's grace, in the souls of their dearest charge.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Seven Bishops of Tamhnach Buadha, July 21

On July 21 the Irish calendars record another of those interesting groups of saints, in this case seven bishops. It often happens that we do not have the names of the individuals who make up these sorts of groupings but the seventeenth-century hagiologist, Father John Colgan, suggested that our septet were brothers and preserved Latinized names for them. Canon O'Hanlon starts off his account by explaining the sacred significance of the number seven before getting into the details preserved in the sources of The Seven Bishops of Tamhnach Buadha:

The Seven Bishops of Tamhnach Buadha. 

The mystic number of seven in relation to our Irish saints and ecclesiastics has been as frequently recorded in our ancient books, as it has been found so often noted in the Sacred Scriptures. When Noe was commanded to enter the ark with his family, God said to him: "Of all clean beasts take seven and seven, the male and female." Pharaoh, in his dream, saw "seven kine, very beautiful and fat, come up from the river" and " other seven also came up out of the river, ill and lean fleshed." Again, God ordered Josue to go with his army in procession around Jericho during seven days, and on the seventh, "the priests shall take the seven trumpets," etc. Then with reference to sacrifice, we read that Balaam said to Balac, King of Moab: "Build me here seven altars, and prepare as many calves, and the same number of rams, and they laid together a calf and ram upon every altar." Again, when Ezechias purified the temple of God, profaned by the wicked King Achaz, "they went into the house of the Lord, and they offered together seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he-goats, for sin." Examples of the same kind could easily be multiplied, but we have now to deal with an instance of seven Bishops in the Irish Calendars, and united on the same day for popular veneration. A festival, to honour Secht n Eps. Tamhnaighe, appears in the Martyrology of Tallagh. There were seven bishops, named respectively Saints Aidus, Diermit, Foebarchuo, Maclasrius, Manchinus, Tarchell, and Tinius, while these are said to have been seven brothers. They were sons of Muredac, son to Fochern, son of Dichull, son to Crimthann, son of Armedac, son to Senach, son of Aid Loga, son to Oscuon, son of Mienach, son to Lugad, son of Imchad, son to Fidchur, son of Eochod, son to Ennius Monchaoin, son of Ros, surnamed Rig-Foda, son of Fiacha Suighde, son of Feidhlemid Reachtmhar, founder of the Desies family. Colgan thinks those may be the seven bishops venerated at Tamnach-Buadha, on this day. Selbach enumerates twenty-three saints descending from Fiach Suighdhe, and venerated in our different Calendars. At this date, the Martyrology of Donegal records the Seven Bishops of Tamhnach Buadha [Bishop Tedda of Tamhnach.] We find seven bishops, the sons of one father, adds the Calendarist, while their names and history are among the race of Fiach Suighdhe, son to Feidhlimidh Reachtmhar, son of Tuathal Teachtmhar. There is an almost incredible number of Irish townlands, denominated Tamhnach—Anglice Tawny or Tawnagh either singly or in composition; yet, among these, it appears no easy matter to identify Tamhnach Buadha with any one of them. The ancient etymon probably has become obsolete among our modern local names. Under the head of Tamhnach Buadha, Duald Mac Firbis enters the seven bishops from Tamhnachbuadha, at July 21st.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Saint Caramnan, July 20

Another name to add to the ever-growing list of obscure Irish saints appears in the calendars on July 20. Canon O'Hanlon can write only a couple of sentences about Saint Caramnan:

St. Caramnan or Carmnan. 

The name of St. Caramnan, without any further addition, appears in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 20th of July. In the Martyrology of Donegal, at this same date, his name is written Carmnan.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saint Aedhan of Lismore, July 19

On July 19 the Irish calendars record the commemoration of Saint Aedhan,  an abbot of Lismore, County Waterford. We will start with a summary of the history of this famous foundation by a diocesan historian:   

The church and monastery of Lismore, which grew to be one of the renowned centres of ancient Irish learning and piety, owed its foundation to St. Mochuda of the 7th century. Mochuda, otherwise Carthage, was a native of Kerry, and he had been abbot of Rahan in Offaly. It is probable that there had been a Christian church at Lismore previous to the time of Mochuda, for in the Saint's Life there is an implied reference to such a foundation. Be this as it may, Mochuda, driven out of Rahan, with his muintir, or religious household, migrated southward, and, having crossed the Blackwater at Affane, established himself at Lismore in 630. In deference to Mochuda's place of birth the saint's successor in Lismore was, for centuries, a Kerryman. Lismore grew in time to be a great religious city, and a school of sacred sciences, to which pilgrims from all over Ireland and scholars from beyond the seas resorted. The rulers of the great establishment were all, or most of them, bishops, though they are more generally styled abbots by the Annalists. Among the number are several who are listed as Saints by the Irish Martyrologies, scil:

Aedhan, abbot of Lismore .. . ... July 19.

Patrick Power, Waterford & Lismore - A Compendious History of the United Dioceses (Cork, 1937), 5-6.

Canon O'Hanlon's account of Saint Aedhan, brings in a few other sources:

St. Aedhan, Abbot of Lismore, County of Waterford.

The name of St. Aedhan, Abbot of Lismoir, appears in the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 19th of July. In the list of Aids or Aedhans given by Colgan, the present holy Abbot is included. In the Irish Calendar, compiled for use of the Irish Ordnance Survey, at xiv. of the August Kalends, there is an entry of this holy man, who is not designated, however, as Abbot. His name also occurs in the Martyrology of Donegal, at this date, as Aedhan of Lis-mor.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Saint Minnborinus, Abbot of Cologne, July 18

As an interesting contrast to Saint Cobhthach, Abbot of Kildare, whom we met on this day last year, July 18 is also the feast of a tenth-century Irish Abbot of Saint Martin's Monastery in Cologne, Germany. Saint Martin's was one of the Schottenklöster or Irish monasteries which flourished for many centuries after the golden age of the Irish peregrini in Europe. Canon O'Hanlon is not able to tell us a great deal of the specifics of this abbot's life but does put the times in which he flourished into context:

Minnborinus, Abbot of St. Martin's Monastery, Cologne. [Tenth Century]

It seems very probable, that the present holy man was born in Ireland, about or a little later than the beginning of the tenth century. The form of his name is an unusual one in our early Annals, but it may have been somewhat transformed when he went to the Continent. Where he had been educated has not transpired, nor when he left the shores of Ireland. In his early days, however, the country had been woefully harassed by the Danes and other Northmen, so that it is not unlikely, many Irishmen betook themselves to more distant countries, where greater protection had been afforded than could be enjoyed at home. The city of Cologne, on the left bank of the Rhine—at first known as Ara Ubiorum —had been founded by Claudia Agrippina Augusta, wife of the Emperor Claudius, in the first century of the Christian era; and, in succeeding ages the church was well established there, with numerous pious votaries. Several fine churches were erected in it, and other religious institutions. It suffered greatly during the ravages of Attila and the Huns, in the fifth century. Especially after the apostolate of St. Boniface in Germany, the church was placed on a secure foundation in Cologne. It was erected at first into an episcopal See, and afterwards it became the See of an archbishop, who possessed very extensive powers during the middle ages. This city became likewise a great emporium of commerce, and there ships sailing Up and down the Rhine reached the most distant countries of the known world. On account of the power, influence, and numbers of its clergy, as also owing to the variety of its churches, chapels, monasteries, nunneries, and relics, Cologne has been styled "the Rome of Germany."…

...It seems most likely, that Minnborinus professed the religious life in Cologne, or at some place near it, after the middle of the tenth century. We have not been able, however, to ascertain such particulars. Ebergerus, who was then Archbishop of Cologne, bestowed the monastery of St. Martin in that city, for use of the Scots, as the Irish were then called, in 975. On the site, which was originally an Island on the River Rhine, a church had been built, but this has long disappeared. In its place arose the Gross St. Martin, which was dedicated A.D. 1172, but its lofty tower was not added, until the beginning of the fifteenth century. The lines of that church assume the form of a Greek cross. The first abbot placed over the first monastery here founded was Minnborinus, a Scot, i.e., an Irishman, and he was chosen for the position, on account of his eminent piety and character. The holy Minnborinus presided happily over St. Martin's house twelve years. He died on 15th Kal., Aug. A.D. 986. He was succeeded by his countryman Kilian, an Irish Scot, who ruled over that establishment as Abbot for sixteen years, when he departed this life on 19th of the January Kalends, A.D. 1003. Afterwards, the supply of Irish inmates seems to have declined. In consequence of misconceiving the historic name Scotia— as formerly solely applicable to Ireland—this house and its possessions had been surrendered in the middle ages to a community of Scotch Benedictines. The interior of the fine church there was modernized in 1790, and the place is still one of special interest and curiosity for most Irish and Scottish Catholic tourists.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Saint Sistan of Lough Melge, July 17

The memory of a saint associated with Lough Melvin and described as a priest is preserved in the Irish calendars on July 17. This is really the only detail we have and Canon O'Hanlon thus starts off his account of Saint Sistan or Siostan of Lough Melvin with some romantic musings on how the very soil of Ireland has been hallowed by the remains of these long-forgotten holy men:

St. Sistan or Siostan, Priest, of Loch Melge, now Lough Melvin, Counties, of Fermanagh and Leitrim.

The merits of several holy servants have ascended like incense before the throne of God, and have secured his rewards. However, hardly can the patient pilgrim even alight on the sod, where their bodies rest. Yet, their undiscovered remains have sanctified that earth, with which they have long since mingled. Record or vestige of many holy persons that once existed in our Island can hardly be found ; still a magical spell, like an indescribable charm, hallows the surrounding lovely scenes, blessed with their presence during life. In the Martyrology of Tallagh, at the 17th day of July, is the following entry: Sistan sac. for Loch Melge. From the contraction sac. meaning sogarth we may probably conclude that he had been a priest. The Lough Melge, now Lough Melvin, with which he was connected, is a beautiful sheet of water, bordering on the counties of Fermanagh and Leitrim ; but, it lies chiefly within the bounds of the latter county. From the shores of Lough Melvin, its former holy inhabitants have departed long ago from the scenes of this life. Their souls have been received into a brighter and happier world. The Martyrology of Donegal records a festival in honour of Siostan, Priest, of Loch Melghe, at the 17th of July. In a table appended to this record, this saint's name is Latinized Xistus.