Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Children of Senchán, June 23

I have always been interested in the collective commemorations of groups of saints found in the Irish calendars. There are two such groups remembered at June 23, the Daughters of Moinan, a post on whom can be read here, and The Children of Senchán. Often these groups incorporate the sacred number seven and today's actually comprises fourteen individuals.  I wish it were possible to find out more about them and of their Scottish connection. Canon O'Hanlon brings only the the barest details:
Article III.—The Children of Senchan.
In the Martyrology of Donegal, a festival intended to honour the children of Senchan is set down, at the 23rd of June. Among the saints of Scotland, we find enumerated the fourteen sons of Senchan or Clann Senchan, for this same date.
Article IV.—The Children of Senan.
We read in the Martyrology of Donegal,  that the children of Senan were venerated, at the 23rd of June. We think, however, that this is only another form for a previous entry.
The same double entry for 'Senchán's children and Senán's' is found in the Martyrology of Gorman, but their names are not found at all in the earlier martyrologies of Oengus and Tallaght.

The Calendars edited by the Scottish Bishop Alexander Forbes also list Senchán's clan:
SENCHANIUS, the Fourteen Sons of June 23.—These are probably the Clann Senchain who are commemorated in the Mart. Donegal at 23d June. A curious " Description of the Island of Sanda," by Father Edmund MacCana, makes mention of the sepulchre of the fourteen sons of Senchanius in that island. It is printed with observations by Dr. Reeves in the Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., vol. viii. p. 132.
Father McCana was an Irish Franciscan who visited the island of Sanda, which lies a few miles off the Mull of Kintyre, in the early seventeenth century.  The text published by Bishop William Reeves is written in Latin and includes these details of the twice seven sons of Senchán:

Corpora bis septem, tota veneranda per orbem, 
Senchanii natum Sanda beata tenet.
 Doctorum divumque parens, Hibernia quondam . 
Quos genuit sanctos, Scotia terra tegit .....

The paper is available through the Internet Archive here. If your Latin is as rusty as mine you may find it more useful to consult the reprint in the appendix to a 2010 paper on the island, as it includes a translation, here:

‘Fourteen bodies, throughout the world revered,
Of Senchanius born blessed Sanda holds.
Ireland, the mother of divine teachers, once
Begat the saints whom Scotland’s soil covers....

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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Saint Sillen, June 21

Canon O'Hanlon brings details of a reputed feast of Saint Sillen (Senilis, Siollán) at June 21. The original source is the Scottish hagiologist, Thomas Dempster (1579-1625). He was something of a hate figure for the Irish as he conveniently ignored the fact that in the early middle ages the term Scotia was applied to Ireland and thus he claimed the myriad of 'Scottish saints' found in the sources for his own country. The name Sillen, or more correctly Siollán, is shared by a number of Irish saints and it seems from what Canon O'Hanlon has to say that the Bollandists linked the June 21 commemoration to the saint of that name who was the teacher of Saint Columbanus. This Sillen or Sinell was associated with an island monastery in Lough Erne, his feast is remembered on November 12. There was also an abbot Siollán of Bangor who had a reputation as a master of the science of the computus, his feast is celebrated on February 28. Whether either of these has any connection to the saint claimed by Dempster as having a feast at June 21 is thus far from clear. But if nothing else Canon O'Hanlon's entry below, from Volume VI of his Lives of the Irish Saints, illustrates some of the difficulties in understanding those lives:

Reputed Feast of St. Senilis.

 According to Dempster, [1] the early teacher of St. Columban in Scotia had a feast, at the 21st of June. He is called Senilis, by that writer, [2] whereas, the true name was Silenis or Sillen. The Bollandists [3] who note this reputed festival, at this day, have nothing more to state about him, and they postpone further mention of him to the 21st of November, the feast of his renowned disciple St. Columban.


[1] In his "Menologium Scotorum." In Dempster's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum," there is no notice taken of him.

[2] Thus : "In Scotia, Senilis S. Columbani praeceptoris." See Bishop Forbes' " Kalendars of Scottish Saints," p. 203.

[3] See "Acta Sanctorum," tomus iv.,  Junii xxi. Among the pretermitted feasts, p. 66.



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Monday, 20 June 2016

Saint Cassán of Cluain-Ratha, June 20

There seems to be some confusion over the date of the feast of Saint Cassán of Cluain-Ratha with a disagreement between earlier and later calendars. The earlier Martyrology of Tallaght records his feast at June 19, whereas the Martyrology of Donegal, compiled in the seventeenth century, records it at June 20. The feast also appears at June 20 in the twelfth-century Martyrology of Gorman, it does not appear at all in the Martyrology of Oengus at either date. Pádraig Ó Riain's Dictionary of Irish Saints lists several holy men of the name Casán, but none of them are linked to a June feast day. Canon O'Hanlon has no further details to bring us, so I do not know when or where this saint flourished:

St. Cassan, of Cluain-ratha.

At the 20th of June, we find the name Cassan, of Cluain-ratha, entered in the Martyrology of Donegal. The Martyrology of Tallagh gives this commemoration, at the previous day.


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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Saint Columba and the Woman Escorted by the Angels to Paradise

June 9 is the feastday of Saint Colum Cille [Columba] of Iona.  As I have previously noted on the blog, Iona's founder shares his feastday with his immediate successor and kinsman, Baithin. Canon O'Hanlon, however, has another feast to record for this day, one which comes directly from Book III of Adamnán's Life of Saint Columba:
Feast of a Holy Woman whose Name is unknown, and who was borne into Heaven by Angels. [Sixth Century.]

At this date, we find introduced into a Calendar the festival of a beatified woman, whose name is not known, but whose soul St. Columkille beheld ascending into Heaven. After a great struggle with demons, the Angels came to receive her into the mansions of everlasting bliss. This festival is noted by the Bollandists, among the pretermitted saints. 
The calendar to which Canon O'Hanlon refers is named in the footnotes as the 'Gynaeceo Arturi'. I was unable to find out any further information on this source. Below is the text from the Life of Saint Columba from which this feast is drawn. It is interesting to note that the witness to this miracle was a Saxon monastic who worked as a baker at the monastery of Iona:
[III 10] Of a vision, in which St. Columba beheld angels bearing to heaven the soul of a virtuous woman

Likewise, on another occasion, when St Columba was dwelling in Iona, one day he suddenly looked up towards heaven and said:

'Happy woman, happy and virtuous, whose soul the angels of God now take to paradise!'

One of the brothers was a devout man called Genereus the Englishman, who was the baker. He was at work in the bakery where he heard St Columba say this. A year later, on the same day, the saint again spoke to Genereus the Englishman, saying:

'I see a marvellous thing. The woman of whom I spoke in your presence a year ago today - look!- she is now meeting in the air the soul of a devout layman, her husband, and is fighting for him together with holy angels against the power of the Enemy. With their help and because the man himself was always righteous, his soul is rescued from the devils' assaults and is brought to the place of eternal refreshment.'
Richard Sharpe, ed. and trans., Life of Saint Columba, (Penguin Classics, 1991), 213.

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