Friday, 2 August 2013

Saint Comgan the Culdee, August 2


At August 2, the earliest of the Irish calendars of the saints, the Martyrology of Tallaght, records the commemoration of a holy man, Comgan, to whose name the epithet 'céle Dé' is appended. Unfortunately, this is the only information we have on this saint and inevitably, he is not the only Irish holy man to bear this name. There was a ninth-century anchorite of Tallaght and daltae of the Céle Dé leader Maelruain called Comgán Fota, but whether he is to be identified with the saint commemorated today is unclear. In his entry for the day, Canon O'Hanlon, as he often does when there is not much to say on an individual saint, bamboozles us with all sorts of information on others of the same name only to tell us at the last minute that none of them are likely to be be our man:

ST. COMGAN, OR COMHDHAN, THE CULDEE.

We have often before alluded to that pious fraternity of men, who were so numerous in Ireland during the early ages of her Church, and who served God with such fidelity, as to deserve their distinguishing appellation. One of these occurs, at the present date, in our Irish Calendars. Veneration was given to Comgan the Culdee, at the 2nd of August, as we find entered in the Martyrology of Tallagh. As we have no indication regarding the place where he dwelt, and as the designation of Culdee is too general to afford a clue to his identity, so conjecture has been employed, but in vain, to discover anything appertaining to his place in our ecclesiastical history. The Bollandists have some remarks on St. Comgan, at this date; but, having some doubts, that he had been distinct from a Congan Abbot, venerated on the 13th October, they refer for further consideration of him to that date. They state what Colgan thought, regarding the saint of this name, venerated on the 27th of February and that he is not likely to have been that Comgan, to whom allusion must now be made. According to ancient accounts, one Degill had married Cumene, the sister of St. Columkille, and they had six holy sons; namely, Comgan, Mernoc or Ernan, Moelchuo, Mirilis, Moeldubh, and Teldubh. Other writers add to these Laisren and Bran; but, indeed, the old authorities are very confusing and contradictory, so far as can be judged from what Colgan has collected regarding them. In the Tract on the Mothers of the Irish Saints, Cuman, the sister of St. Columba, is mentioned as having been mother of the two sons of Degill, i.e. Mernoc and Caisene; while another ancient Tract calls her Cuimne, mother of the sons, Meic Decuil, and who are named respectively Mernoc, Cascene, Meldal and Bran, who was buried in Dairu Calchaich, and these were cousins to St. Columkille. About the Comgan, stated to have been the nephew of St. Columba, we do not meet with any further record regarding him. Neither can we be assured, that he is to be found classed among the Irish saints, although there are Comgans or Comdhans so enumerated. However, this may possibly be the St. Comgan, son of Degill and a nephew of Columkille, by his sister Cumenia. Nor do we even know on what authority, this Comgan has been placed among the disciples of his celebrated uncle. In the Martyrology of Donegal, at the 2nd day of August, there is a notice of St. Comhdhain's festival. More than this it should be useless for us to state.

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