Continuing the series of biographies from this chronological list of Irish saints with those whose names begin with the letter C. Once again there is a good spread of saints here including our tertiary patron, Colum Cille, plus his namesake of Terryglass and Saint Brigid's Bishop of Kildare, Conlaeth:
CAILAN, SAINT, first bishop of Down was probably a disciple of Patrick, was for a time abbot of a monastery at Nendrum, the situation of which is now unknown, and was placed over the see of Down about the year 500, which he governed for upwards of twenty years. But little has come down to us regarding his life and labors. He was cotemporary of St. Macnisse bishop of Connor, which see was united to that of Down in 1441. He died in the early part of the sixth century.
CATHOLICUS, (O'DUBTHAY), Archbishop of Tuam, A.D., 1165, was a prelate noted for his great learning and piety. He was a member of the Third General Council of Lateran, and was called Catholicus on account of the extent of his knowledge.
CELLACH, ST., an illustrious Primate of Ireland, born about 1074, and elevated to the See of Armagh in 1106. In 1111 he held a great synod in Westmeath, which was attended by over fifty bishops, and three hundred priests, besides great numbers of the inferior clergy. The Monarch and all the principal princes of the country assisted, so as to be able to carry out the reforms necessary, and to cure the evils which two centuries of devastating war with the Danes had entailed. In 1118 he called another, at which Gilbert, Bishop of Limerick presided, as Apostolic Legate. In this, the church lands were declared free from tribute and rent.
Our Saint was author of a "Summa Theologicae." "Testamentum Ecclesia" and De Successione Malachiae." He was anxious that Malachy O'Moore, (St.Malachy) already famed for his piety and wisdom, should be elected to succeed him, and he sent to him his staff (St. Patrick's staff,) as an earnest of his wishes, and also wrote to the Monarch and Princes of the country on the subject. He died at Aidpatrick, in County Limerick, April 1st, 1129, and the see was usurped for a while by an ambitious prelate of noble birth, named Maurice MacDonald, whom St. Malachy succeeded after a short time.
COLMAN, ST., first bishop of Dromore, equally renowned for his learning and sanctity, was born about 516 in Ulster, and belonged to the sept or clan of the Arads. He was also first abbot of Muckmore, and was sometimes called Mocholmore to distinguish him from other St. Columns, of whom there are more than 200 in Irish records. He died in 610, and his feast is kept on the 7th of June.
COLMAN, ST., a celebrated Irish, divine and missionary, is Patron Saint of Austria, was born about the middle of the tenth century, and acquired a great reputation for learning and sanctity. He was going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem while Austria was at war with some of the Western Provinces, and being suspected as a spy was executed at Stockheran, a town six miles from Vienna, October 13, 1012, on which day his feast is kept.
COLUMBA, SAINT, of Tirdiglas, abbot and founder of a celebrated monastery of that name, was the son of a princely family of Leinster, and became disciple of St. Finian of Clonard. After completing his studies he associated with himself three other holy youths named Coemharn, Finian and Mocumen, whom he directed in learning and the spirit of self-denial. They traveled about for some years studying the rules and discipline of different religious houses and doing good. They all became heads of communities in due course of time. Our Saint settling at Tirdiglas, about the year 548, and died there in the oder of Sanctity, December 13, 552. This institution flourished and became one of the most celebrated schools of learning in Ireland.
COLUMBKILL, ST., sometimes called Columba, one of the most eminent of the Irish saints and missionaries, the apostle of Caledonia, was born at Garton, in Donegal, December 7, 521. He was of royal descent, being of the blood of Niall, of the nine hostages, Monarch of Ireland. It is said that his mother, before the birth of our saint, had a vision symbolic of his future work and destiny. An angel seemed to give her a veil covered with most beautiful flowers. Immediately the veil seemed to be carried by the wind and rolled out, covering hill and dale and mountain. "This, said the angel, represents the son who is about to be born to you, who will blossom from heaven, and be reckoned among the prophets of God, leading numberless souls to Him." He seems, indeed, to have been a child of Heaven, from his earliest years, according to his biographer, Adamnan, ninth Abbot of Iona, (See Montalambert's Monk, of the West, and Dr. Reeves, Protestant rector of Ballymena, translation of the old MSS. life, of the Eighth century) who testifies that his guardian angel was personally visible to the holy child, and held conversations with him. The priest who baptized him was his first instructor in letters, and when old enough, he entered one of the great monastery schools which abounded then in Ireland. Under his special master, St. Finian, founder of the great school of Clonard, he advanced in knowledge and in virtue. While here, still pursuing his ecclesiastical studies, and already advanced to the holy orders of Deacon, the following incident is said to have occurred. An old Bard lived near the college, and our saint who was a passionate admirer of poetry as well as highly gifted in that art, used frequently to visit him for study, and to perfect himself in the noble art. On one occasion while thus engaged outside the door of the Bard's habitation, a young girl ran toward them crying for protection from a robber, who was pursuing her, but before assistance could reach her the robber struck her with his lance, and she fell dead at the feet of the horrified Bard. How long, exclaimed he, will God leave unpunished this crime which dishonors us." "For this moment only, exclaims Columbkill, with prophetic indignation —for while the soul of this innocent victim ascends to Heaven will the soul of this wanton murderer be judged by an angry God," and the words were scarcely uttered when the assassin fell dead.
The dignity of our saints birth, together with the "extraordinary gifts with which he was endowed, both by nature and grace soon made his name famous throughout Ireland, and his influence proportionately great in accomplishing good works. He early founded monasteries, which in those days were schools of learning, as well as houses of prayer and charity, the most important of which, were Derry and Durrow. He appears to have traveled much in the early part of his career, being equally celebrated as Bard and Missionary, while he had a passion for the collection of books of learning, traveling far and wide to find them and make copies. This passion frequently got him into trouble, by the refusal of those who possessed rare books to let him see or copy them, and which always made him indignant at their selfishness, and at last compelled him so to speak—to take up the great work of his life. Our saint desiring a copy of his old master's, the Abbot Finian, Psalter, which was secured in his church, he secretly visited the church in the night, when no one was there, and succeeded in making a copy. Finian learning of the—as he termed it—theft, demanded the copy which Columbkill refused to give up. The matter was referred to the Monarch, who decided against our saint. He strongly protested against the unjust decision, and was still sore from the supposed wrong, when an outrage occurred which he bitterly denounced, and threatened swift vengence on its author—the Monarch. A young Prince at court, son of the King of Connaught, having offended the Monarch, sought refuge with Columbkill, but was seized by force and put to death by Carmid the Monarch. This was a violation of the laws of refuge, and the sacredness of asylum. Columbkill highly indignant denounced the Monarch, and threatening swift vengeance, said to him, "as you have humbled me before the Lords and powerful ones of the land, so will the just God humble you before your enemies in battle." The Monarch sought to detain him at Tara, but he escaped by night to Tyrconnell, and his denunciation of the Monarch stirred up the North against him, and they defeated him in battle, as our saint threatened. It was at this time that he wrote his "Song of Trust" one of the oldest and most authentic records of the ancient tongue. The Latin Psalter, which was the first cause of trouble, was afterwards enshrined in a kind of portable altar, and became the great race relic of the O'Donnell clan, carried by them for a thousand years in battle and still preserved. This conduct of Columbkill drew upon him much censure,and his act was condemned, and he himself excommunicated by a synod at Teilta for causing the shedding of Christian blood. He was condemned before he arrived at the Synod, and of course, without a hearing. He having appeared soon after, the great Abbot Brendon advanced to meet him, and gave him the kiss of peace, and defended him in the Synod. When asked how he could meet an ex-communicated man, he said, “could you see what I do, you would not have ex-communicated him. A pillar of fire goes before him, and angels accompany him, and I dare not disdain a man whom God honors, and who is destined for great things." The sentence was withdrawn, but our saint was troubled on account of the death of so many through his acts. He sought consolation and advice for some time in vain, but at length a holy hermit named Abban, gave him both, but as a penance condemned him to perpetual exile. He accepted the penance with a true spirit of humility, and bidding adieu to all his relations and friends, he sailed for Albania, or the Northern part of Britain, now called Scotland, where the Picts had settled, and which, at this time, was also being colonized by his kinsmen of the North, who afterwards conquered it, and gave it the name of Scotland. The Irish race of that day and for centuries afterwards, being called Scots, from the race of Scoto-Milesians. The Picts who were by far the most numerous, were still heathen, and to their conversion our saint devoted his life. Twelve of his disciples accompanied him from Ireland. He choose a little island near the coast for his home, which was called after him, Colmkill, and known as Iona, here he founded his first monastery, and from this little island began the great work of his life, the Conversion of the Picts, and of those of his own race in Albania, who had not as yet received the faith. Into this, his predestined work, he threw all his energy and power. Like his Divine Master, to win souls he humbled himself as the servant of all, and by constant prayer, humility and mortification he armed himself with power to confound the devil and all his followers, and win the doubting to heaven by fear if not by love. After establishing his first monastery, he immediately set to work to spread the gospel over all the land, and from the first met with extraordinary success, baptizing thousands, and bending the stiff neck of the warlike heathen to the humble yoke of the cross. For over one-third of a century did he traverse those wild mountains of North Britain, established civilization as well as Christianity, building monasteries and churches in every valley, filling them with pious and learned men who dispensed knowledge both religious and secular, as well as charity to the needy and the travelers. The extent of his works in this way is attested by the remains which still exist over all that land. Many traditions exist of his extraordinary acts in the conversion of that people and the wonderful powers of miracles and prophecy with which he was endowed. He accomplished the conversion of the entire Pictish nation, and destroyed forever the authority of the Druids in that portion of Britain. He is also said to have blessed Aidan in 514 and consecrated him King of the Scoto-Milesians, which is said to have been the first consecration of a Christian King.
Amidst all his labors and work, however, his soul ever yearned for his native land, his lost Erin was always before his eyes. "My sad heart ever bleeds," he exclaimed. "There is a grey eye which ever turns to Erin, which never in this life shall it see—nor her sons nor her daughters. I look over the sea and great tears are in my eyes." The greatest penance which to his mind, he could inflict on the most guilty sinner amongst the Scots, was that they should never return to their native land. The spirit of prophecy with which he was filled however, gave him knowledge of events happening in his native land and which he would speak of at the time as of something present to him. It is said that when absorbed in prayer, his people often saw a halo of light surround him. On one occasion of this kind his face which seemed lit up with a supernatural joy, was suddenly clouded with sorrow. His companions begged him to tell them what made the change. He said, "I have long prayed that my exile might end with the thirtieth year of my labors and sorrows, and my prayers seemed to have been heard, for a band of angels were coming to take my longing soul to its heavenly country, but they stopped yonder, for the prayers of the churches which I have established, asking God to retain me, here, have prevailed and my exile is extended four years, but in four years these holy angels will come back, and I shall take my flight with them to my Lord." He continued his labors to the last day, and conscious of his approaching end, although without sickness, he passed around the little island and blessed the monks at their labors and the island itself, which tradition says freed it from all venimous reptiles. Having done this, he said to his faithful attendant, Dermid, "This very night I shall enter into the path of my Fathers. Weep not but console thyself, it is my Lord Jesus Christ who deigns to invite me to rejoin him and who has revealed to me that my summons will come to-night." He continued his customary duties, transcribing at the time that Psalter and as far as the 33rd psalm on which he was engaged when he stopped and said, "I must stop here, Baithen will write the rest." When the midnight bell rang for the matins, the almost glorified old saint, poet, priest and apostle, went joyfully to the chapel to take his usual place before the altar, and prostrated himself in prayer and thanksgiving for the last time, for when his faithful disciple Dermid, reached him, he was dying. He was soon surrounded by his brethren, who, with tears, beheld their dying chief and master. Raising himself by the aid of Dermid, he lifted his right arm in benediction, and the sanctified spirit immediately took its flight to the arms of the master he had served so well.
Our saint was the author of numerous poems and religious hymns. Montalambert says, "After Oisin (Ossian) Columbkill opens a series of two hundred Irish poets, whose memories and names in default of their work have remained dear to Ireland, and Dr. Reeves says, three Latin Hymns of considerable beauty, are attributed to him, in the ancient Liber Hymnorum" and in the Irish "Farewell to Aran," a poem of twenty-two stanzas, and the "Song of Trust," of seventeen stanzas, besides fifteen other poems in one of the ancient O'Cleary MSS., preserved in the Burgundian Library, at Brussels, and a larger collection still in the Bodlein Library, Oxford. The so-called prophecies of Columbkill are pronounced by the best authorities to be a forgery of very modern date, no ancient biographer ever refer to them. His remains were removed to Ireland sometime in 800, on account of the Danes plundering the island and destroying its churches and monasteries. Up to that time it was the burial place of the Scoto-Milesian Kings of Albania or Caledonia.
CONLAETH, SAINT, first bishop of Kildare, The establishment by St. Bridget of her own community at Kildare, after her travels through Ireland, organizing holy women into religious communities, soon made the place famous, and it grew rapidly, especially in religious importance, and at her request it was placed under the rule of a Bishop. Conlaeth or Conlian, a priest and hermit whose virtues were widely known, was pointed out by St. Bridget, as a proper person for the dignity, and consequently, about the year 490 he was consecrated, there being a large assemblage of bishops and ecclesiastics present on the occasion. Conlaeth laid the foundation of his Cathedral, which not being completed till after the death of Bridget, was dedicated to her memory. He governed his see for twenty-nine years, and was buried in his Cathedral near the high altar. His bones were placed in a silver case about the year 800. Many miraculous cures were attributed to the saint while living, and to his relics when dead. He died about 520. This see is one of the few ones in Ireland, and in fact in any country, which presents an unbroken succession of prelates for nearly 1400 years.
James O'Brien, Irish Celts: a cyclopedia of race history, containing biographical sketches of more than fifteen hundred distinguished Irish Celts, with a chronological index, (Detroit, 1884).
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