Monday, 10 November 2014

Saint Áed mac Bricc of Rahugh, November 10

Although he may not be exactly a household name today in Ireland, November 10 is the commemoration of a saint of the Southern Uí Néill whom Kenny has described as 'one of the few Irish saints the basis of whose fame is personal and general, rather than monastic' - Áed mac Bricc. Áed is a most attractive and engaging figure, closely associated with Saint Brigid of Kildare, and with a reputation for the curing of headaches. He is associated with a number of localities in Counties Westmeath and Donegal and I will return to the Donegal connection in future posts. His Life records that despite foretellings of his future promise by no less than two of the 'Twelve Apostles of Ireland' - Saint Brendan of Birr and Saint Cainnech of Kilkenny, the young Áed almost threw it all away:
§3. No teacher taught the boy Áed: he was not educated in letters, nor was he trained in religious rules until his young manhood. Until that time he led a rustic life among the common people, reared by his mother. When he became a young man, he went to his paternal territory, so that he might attain his inheritance. His brothers, though, would by no means accept him or give him his inheritance. Seeing this, Áed carried off a certain girl of theirs, hoping that this loss would force his brothers to give him his inheritance. As Áed was returning with the captured girl and some companions he came near the cell of the saintly bishop Illann. When Illann saw him from a distance and the angels of God that followed him, he said to his attendant, “Go and speak to the youth on the road, so that he might visit with me for a little while.” He came humbly to bishop Illann, who said to him, “What do you seek my son? Paternal inheritance? Look! You have a father who owns the sky and the earth, who will give you a far greater inheritance both in heaven and on earth. Do not seek worldly lands through a wrong. Send this girl to her home.” Áed responded, “Whatever you say to me, I am prepared to do.” Accordingly, the girl was sent back. Áed remained with St. Illann in his monastic settlement, obeying all of his instructions.
His mentor having re-established Áed on the right path, eventually sends him forth:
§7. The saintly bishop Illann, seeing in his mind the miracles of this youth, called Áed to him and said, “O son, how have you performed such miracles already, at so young an age? For, indeed, you rise to the peak of virtue while you have not yet attained the work of self-perfection or entered into a religious life. Go in peace to your mother’s land, and construct a cell there for yourself. Of all the others, it is not proper that you should live under the hand of man, rather than that of God.” Áed departed from there and founded a cell called Enach Midbren for himself, where he stayed and performed many miracles.

( Life of Áed mac Bricc, translated by Kate Peck)

The Martyrology of Oengus commemorates him thus:

10. Áed son of Brecc, of the kingfolk;
he was almost greater than death:
he is high in the great Kingdom,
the champion of the race of hundred-battled Conn.

while the later Martyrology of Donegal records:

10. F. QUARTO IDUS NOVEMBRIS. 10.

AEDH, son of Breac, Bishop, of Cill-Air, in Meath, and of Sliabh Liag, in Tir Boghaine, in Cinel-Conaill. He was of the race of Fiachaidh, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. The age of Christ when he sent his spirit to heaven was 588.

The Life of Saint Áed concludes with this story about his repose:
§52. St Áed had promised to allow one of his monks to accompany him to heaven. And so, at the hour of his death, Áed said to him, “Prepare yourself, so that you might go with me on the heavenly journey.” When he proved unwilling a certain pagan who had just arrived said, “If only you had told me to accompany you!” Áed answered him, “If you wish, wash yourself and lay yourself down on this bed with me.” When he had done these things, he and the saint died together. On the island of Í, St Columcille saw this and said, “This work which bishop Áed does now is mighty. Behold, he leads a sinner, undeserving, with himself to heaven, without any demons bothering him.” Indeed St Áed passed to heaven like Christ with the thief, among the sweet songs of the choirs of angels, where he will rejoice without sorrow for eternity with our reigning Lord, Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

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