Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Saint Sinchell of Killeigh, March 26

March 26 is the feast of an early monastic founder, Saint Sinchell (Sincheall, Sinell, Senchell) associated with Killeigh, County Offaly. Tradition records that there were two saints of this name, the younger Sinchell being nephew to the elder. The Martyrologies preserve two separate feast days for Sinchell of Killeigh, that of the elder on March 26 and that of the younger on June 25. Below is an account of the saint's life and locality from the Rev. M. Comerford's Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin:

The parish of Killeigh is situated partly in the barony of Upper Philipstown, but chiefly in that of Geashill. It consists of the union of the former parishes or ecclesiastical districts of Killeigh, Ballykeane and Geashill. This district is noted in both the secular and still more in the ecclesiastical annals of Ireland. The name of Killeigh is common with another ecclesiastical establishment which, according to Colgan, was situated in East Breifny. The Killeigh with which we are at present concerned is situated in Ofalia, and is always distinguished from the other by the addition droma foda. Achadh-droma-foda signifies the field of the long ridge, and Cill was prefixed after St. Sinchell had erected his church there. The name, as Dr. O’Donovan adds (Note to Four Masters) is very descriptive of the locality, for a remarkable, long, low druim or ridge extends south-west-wards, immediately over the village of Killeigh. The entire of the ancient Ofalia, from Slieve Bloom to the Hill of Allen, and from the Sugar-loaf hill to the Great Heath is a plain nearly as level as the surface of a tranquil sea, and the droma-foda, though not high, becomes a remarkable feature in so level a district.

St. Sinell, or Senchell, one of the most distinguished ecclesiastics of his time, founded a Monastery of Killeigh at the beginning of the sixth century. This monastery became afterwards known as the Priory of the Holy Cross of Canons Regular of St. Augustine. St. Senchell, who is stated to have been St. Patrick’s first convert, was the son of Kennfinnain, and grandson of Inchad, or Finchada, of the royal blood of Leinster (Colgan, Trias. Thaum.) The father of the saint was ninth in descent from Cathair Mor, monarch of Ireland. In both the Martyrology of Tallaght and the Feiliré, St. Aengus notes the 5th of April as the Feast of the first Baptism conferred by St. Patrick in Ireland: —“Baptisma Patricii venit ad Hiberniam.” (Mart. Tall.) “Excellent Patrick’s baptism was kindled in Ireland.” (Feiliré.) On this latter the gloss in the Leabhar Breac adds, “i. Sinell, son of Finchad of the Ui-Garrchon, he is the first person Patrick baptised in Ireland.” It is related that St. Ailbe, of Emly, presented him a cell, in which he had himself lived for some time, at Cluain Damh (now Clane, County Kildare). We find St. Senchell afterwards at Killeigh, where he founded a monastery, which in course of time became very celebrated. In order to distinguish him from another St. Senchell, a relative of his, who lived with him at Killeigh (and who is styled Bishop in the litany of St. Aengus), he is usually called senior. Having lived to a good old age, he died on the 26th of March, AD 549, in his monastery at Killeigh, and was interred there. Petrie states that St Kieran and the two Senchells died of the Plague which raged in 549. In the litany of St. Aengus Ceile De, written in AD. 799, we have evidence of the celebrity and holiness to which this religious establishment had attained. “Thrice fifty holy bishops with twelve pilgrims, under Senchell the elder, a priest; Senchell the younger, a bishop; and the twelve bishops who settled in Cill Achaidh Dromfota in Hy Failghi. These are the names of the bishops of Cill Achaidh: —Three Budocis, three Canocis, Morgini, six Vedgonis, six Beaunis, six Bibis, nine Glonalis, nine Ercocinis, nine Grucimnis, twelve Uennocis, twelve Contumanis, twelve Onocis, Senchilli, Britanus from Britain, Cerrui, from Armenia. All these I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ.” And again: —“ The twelve Conchennaighi, with the two Senchells in Cill Achaidh, I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ.” (IE. Record, May, 1867.) The learned editor of this litany (which he copied from a MS. in the archives of St. Isidore’s at Rome), in a note on the eight monastic rules of the early Irish Saints extant, writes as follows “We may add that we have ourselves discovered another, some-what different from these, in the St. Isidore MS. from which this litany is published, and we regret that want of space alone prevents us from laying it before our readers. It is entitled— The Pious Rules and Practices of the School of Senchil. This was Senchil, surnamed the Elder. The Rules and Practices are 38 in number. When we say that an ardent desire of hearing, and offering up the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and frequent confession were amongst the rules and practices of a school which was celebrated in the first half of the sixth century, we have said enough to prove under what system of education Ireland became ‘another name for piety, and learning in most of the languages of Europe.”

ANNALS OF KILLEIGH

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

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

“Three hundred years—fine satisfaction!
That was (the elder) Sinchell's lifetime
And thrice ten years brightly
Without sin, without sloth.”

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

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

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

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