Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Saint Lactean of Freshford, March 19


March 19 is the commemoration of a County Kilkenny saint, Lactean of Freshford. Although no written Life of Saint Lactean has survived, the saint features in the Lives of a number of other Irish saints and thus Canon O'Hanlon is able to present a full account of the miracles ascribed to him. These begin, as is commonplace in hagiography, even before the saint's birth and continue after his death:


ST. LACTEAN, OR LACTINUS, ABBOT OF FRESHFORD, COUNTY OF KILKENNY.
[SIXTH AND SEVENTH CENTURIES.]

Near some of our large modern towns and cities, the thought of death seems to be concealed, even in their cemeteries, under the garniture of shrubs and flowers, or under those refined sentiments, produced by the sculptor's chisel, and over partial epitaph. Not so, however, do holy persons seek to disguise from themselves, realities of life and death, in a religious course. This saint, called also Lactenus, Lactinius, and Lactanus, is commemorated in Colgan's work, and in the Bollandists' great collection. He was a member of Corpre Musc's illustrious family, belonging to Muskerry, in the county of Cork. An imperfect Life, in which our saint is constantly called Laccinus, was obtained by the Bollandists, from a Dublin Manuscript, and that memoir appears to have been originally of some length, since only the early period of his career is preserved, and written with some degree of prolixity. It states, that while St. Molua lived under the discipline of St. Comgall, at Bangor, an angel appeared to him, and predicted the birth of Lactinusafter an interval of fifteen yearswho was to be his future friend and companion. Afterwards, it was related, that Molua never smiled, until he heard of the infant's birth. He was lineally descended, from Connor the Second, King of Ireland. The father of our saint is called Torphurus and Torben, by some, according to a mode of speaking, not uncommon among our ancient writers; however, Colgan supposes, that this had been the name of an ancestor of Lactinus, omitted in the genealogy. Elsewhere, this pedigree deduces his origin, from Connor, Monarch of Ireland. According to other accounts, he is called son to Corpre, son of Nuachar, son to Carthinn, son of Cannach, son to Corpre Musc, son of King Connor, who was the son of Moglam. Our saint was born some time in the sixth century, and his mother is called Senecha. The Rev. S. Baring-Gould has some account of this saint.

Before the birth of the infant, and while he was borne in his mother's womb, a miracle is recorded, as foreshadowing his great sanctity; for a blind old man, called Mohemeth, received light, which gave him a miraculous vision of Rome, and of distant places, on land and on sea. Thus might the child be compared to Jacob, Jeremias and St. John the Baptist, sanctified in advance of their nativities. At the time of his birth, no river, spring, or water, was to be found near; but, the venerable Mohemeth, taking the child's hand, made with it a sign of the cross on the dry earth, and immediately a living fountain sprung up from the soil. Then Mohemeth, giving thanks to God, baptized the infant in the water, delivered him to his parent, and then departed with great joy, towards his own part of the country. Either forgetting or ignorant of the fact, that the infant had been duly baptized, some of his friends brought him to Blessed Elpheus for baptism. But, the latter had a revelation, that this Sacrament had been already received, and he properly refused to reiterate it; while filled with a prophetic spirit, he predicted the future sanctity and merits of the child, who was brought back to his parents. During infancy, Lactinus was miraculously preserved from suffering, although he had taken very unwholesome food; he also healed his mother from a dangerous tumour; nor were his miracles confined to human beings, for he was instrumental in removing a cattle plague, which prevailed in his neighbourhood.

In the fifteenth year of St. Lactinus' age, his Angel Guardian, called Uriel, gave an admonition, that he should proceed to Bangor, where the great abbot, St. Comgall, had just commenced his religious foundation. The fame of this holy man, as an instructor, had spread to distant parts of Ireland, and St. Latinus was brought by Uriel, who moulded his pious dispositions, to become a disciple. St. Comgall received him, and appointed St. Molua to become his teacher. Under such a guide, the scholar was indefatigable in study, and he became a thorough proficient in a knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, when he had spent diligently the time, until he attained the thirtieth year of his age. An old Life of St. Molua indicates, that according to a prediction of St. Dagan, the latter prophesied, St. Lactinus was destined to succeed the former, in his well-known seat, at Clonfert Molua.

Lactean thus received his early education, at the School of Bangor, founded by the illustrious St. Comgall - and under the rule of this abbot, he made great proficiency, in virtue and learning. Especially, in a knowledge of Holy Scriptures was he distinguished; so that, at length, it pleased St. Comgall to send him forth with other disciples, to found religious houses, in different parts of Ireland. Among other houses, which he established, our saint founded one, at a place, called Achadh-ur, which lay on the confines of Ossory, and it is supposed to have been identical, with the present Freshford, in Kilkenny County. At this place, a prebend, called Aghour, is yet known;  and this has probably become a corruption of Achadh-ur, Fresh Field, or Green field, as rendered in St. Mochoemoc's ancient Life. It was so designated, on account of the number of rivulets, which intersected this part of the country. Some curious remains of an old church are to be seen, at this place. A very beautiful and an ancient Irish Romanesque's doorway is especially remarkable, for its elaborate mouldings in stone. An Irish inscription on it reveals the name of the founder of this church, but not the period when he flourished. A projecting porch surrounds the doorway, and the west gable has pilasters at the angles. Near the ruins is Tobar Lachtin, or "Lachtain's Well," once regarded as sacred to the saint's memory, but now deserted.


In the old Life of St. Mochoemoc, we are told, that whilst he lived at Rathen, compassionating the distressed state of his community, our saint brought with him to this place a present, consisting of thirty cows, one bull, two herdsmen and some utensils. Leaving these a short distance from the monastery, which he entered alone; he there asked for some milk to assuage a pretended necessity. The servant told St. Mochoemoc, that St. Lactinus who was infirm, requested some milk. The Abbot Mochoemoc ordered a measure to be brought, which being filled with water, on blessing it, this water immediately became changed into new milk. Having had a manifestation, regarding what had taken place, St. Lactinus received the measure, which again blessing, he converted its contents into the original element, saying to the servant who brought it, "I asked for milk, and not for water." Our saint was hospitably received by the Abbot Mochudda; but he only partook of food, when this latter holy person consented to receive the present, which he brought. When the cattle were driven to the monastery, St. Mochoemoc said, "I did not wish to receive cattle from any person whilst in this place, however through reverence and honour for you, I will receive your gift." St. Lactinus replied, "From this day, there shall always be an abundance of temporal possessions with thy brethren, and a number of religious men in thy city; whence, thou shalt pass away to Christ, but whence thou shalt also be expelled." On departure, these holy men embraced each other, with most tender demonstrations of friendship. Colgan tells us, that Cumineus of Connor, in his work on the special prerogatives and virtues of some amongst the principal Irish saints, indicates St. Lactinus to have been a strenuous defender of the Munster people, during some contests that took place between them and certain princes of Ireland. The same Cumineus says, our saint was a man, who practised frequent vigils, and who mortified his flesh, in a very remarkable degree.

Our saint is related, to have wrought many miracles, and even to have raised the dead to life. Besides, its being said, that he ruled over or erected many monasteries, he is likewise called bishop, in different Martyrologies. Thus, the Carthusian Martyrology, that of Ferrarius, of Canisius, and of Joannes Kerkested, have distinguished him, by such a dignity; but, whether he held it, at Freshford, or in some other place, is not easily ascertainable. If he were a bishop, Dr. Lanigan believes, that Achadh-ur must have been his See; for, he is always called Lactinus of Achadh-ur. Besides, the monastery of Achadh-ur, another church denominated Belach-abrat, or Belach-Febhrat, seems to have been connected, in some measure, with our saint, as Colgan remarks.

The ruins of Lislaughtin priory are to be seen in northern Kerry, This was founded for Franciscans, or Brothers Minor of the Strict Observance, in 1464, by O'Connor Kerry, according to some writers, or in 1478, as others have stated. The steeple, choir and other parts of this priory stood, in the last century. The parish church, at this place, is said to have been dedicated to an Irish saint, named Laghtin, who died in 622. He must therefore be identical with St. Lactean of Achad Ur, according to Colgan. But, it is urged, that he incorrectly confounded our saint, with the Abbot Lactean, who was a neighbour to St. Senan of Iniscathy, and with a Lacten, who succeeded St. Molua, at Clonfert Molua.

St. Lactinus departed this life, on the 19th day of March, and in the year 622 according to our Irish Annalists, and Martyrologists. Thus, St. Aengus the Culdee, the Martyrology of Tallagh, the Calendar of Cashel, the Martyrologies of Marianus O'Gorman and of Maguire, as also that of the O'Clerys refer his feast to this date; while, the Martyrologies of the Carthusians, of Canisius, of Ferrarius, of Florarius, of Father Henry Fitzsimon, and of Herman Greuen, accord. A notice of this saint is in Bishop Forbes' work. Not only during his life, but even after the death of St. Lactean, miracles were wrought through his intercession. Especially, at a place, called Liosnascaithnow identical with Lisnaskeain the diocese of Cashel, this was noticeable. Here, many infirm persons were cured from various diseases, at a well, which had been consecrated to his memory. Colgan tells us, he had accounts of these miracles, and of other supernatural incidents, from the lips of persons, who had experienced the efficacy of our saint's intercession. As the special patron of this place, St. Lactinus was often invoked on behalf of paralytics, and of possessed persons, while his merits were found effectual, against incantations and diabolical agency.

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