Monday, 11 January 2016

Saint Ernan of Cluain-deochra, January 11

An entry recording Saint Ernan or Ernin of Cluain-deochra on the 11th of January appears in the Martyrology of Tallaght. The entry from the Martyrology of Donegal reads as follows:


ERNAN, of Cluaindeochra. It was for him Colum Cille composed the prophecy

The translator has added in a footnote, that in the original an instruction which translates as 'write it' appears beside this notice of the prophecy. This suggests that the text of the prophecy was to be transcribed at a later date, but, alas, never was.

The identity of Saint Ernan is rather problematic. O'Hanlon summarizes the evidence that this saint may be a disciple of St Colum Cille's from Tory Island, Co. Donegal, who might have been commemorated on this date. He cites Colgan's "Trias Thaumaturga", Quarta Appendix ad Acta S. Columbae, cap. x., p. 490.

Dean Cogan in his 3-volume history of the Diocese of Meath agrees with this identification:

The festival of St. Ernan of Cluain-Deochra was celebrated on the 11th of January. He was most probably the same as Ernan, for some time abbot of Torey Island, to whom, in 640, the Roman clergy, after the death of Pope Severinus, and during the vacancy of the Holy See, addressed a letter regarding the Paschal controversy and the Pelagian heresy.

(Diocese of Meath, Ancient and Modern, (Dublin, 1870) Vol III, 556).

For O'Hanlon, however, this connection to a Paschal controversy epistle of 640, throws the Columban connection out, as the dates simply do not work. The Life of Columb Cille by Manus O'Donnell identifies Ernan of Torey Island as having been given charge of a church by Saint Columcille before he left Ireland. Bishop William Reeves, in a note to his translation of Adaman's Life of Columba, identifies Ernan of Torey Island, commemorated on August 17th , with the Paschal Epistle, but agrees with O'Hanlon that he therefore cannot be a contemporary of Saint Columba.

There is also a second Saint Ernan commemorated today on the Martyrology of Donegal – Ernan son of Caomhan. He is also mentioned in the Martyrology of Tallagh and on the calendar of Marianus O'Gorman, but without any further information.

Indeed, O'Hanlon says that there are no less than 25 Saint Ernans commemorated on the various Irish calendars and helpfully lists them in a footnote:

1.St. Ernan, son of Eoghan, at the 1st of January.
2. St. Ernain, of Cluain Deochra, at the 11th of January.
3.St. Ernain, son of Caomhan, same day.
4.St. Ernain of Tegh Ernan, at the 17th of January.
5. St. Ernain, bishop, 26th of January.
6. St. Ernin Cass, of Lethghlinn, at the 23rd of February.
7. St. Ernin, at 28th of February.
8. St. Ernin, bishop, at 12th of April.
9. St. Ernin, at 12th of May.
10. St. Ernain, son of Aedh, at 16th of May.
11. St. Ernin, of Creamhchoill, at the 31st of May.
12. St. Ernin, of Cluain, at the 4th of June.
13. St. Ernin, of Cluain-finn, at the 28th of June.
14. St. Ernin, at the 1st of July.
15. St. Ernin, of Inis-caoin, at the 13th of July.
16. St. Ernin, of Cluain-Railgheach, at the 5th of August.
17. St. Ernain, at the 17th of August.
18. St. Ernin, i.e., Memog, of Rath-noi, at the 18th of August.
19. St. Ernin Ua Briuin, at the 27th September.
20. St. Ernan, of Miodhluachra, at the 26th of October.
21. St. Ernan, at 27th of October.
22. St. Ernin, Abbot of Lethghlinn, at the 12th of November.
23. St. Ernin, son of Dubh, at the 13th of November.-
24. St. Ernin, son of Senach, at the 14th of December.
25. St. Ernin, at the 23rd of December.

Whatever the truth behind the identity of today's saints, may the intercession of both of them be with us.

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