Saint of the Month

Saint Finnian

Feast Day

December 12th

The flourishing of Christianity in Ireland, especially in its very committed monastic expression, was in no small measure due to the establishment of a monastic community by St Finnian in Clonard, Co. Meath in the 6th century. Finnian is often referred to as ‘the father of Irish monasticism’ or ‘the teacher of the saints of Ireland’ or even ‘the father of the twelve Apostles of Ireland’. These titles were given to Finnian by authors of the Vitae (Lives of the Saints written in later centuries). St Brigid of Kildare and St Enda of the Aran Islands were also among the very early leaders of this extraordinary monastic movement that took place in Ireland from the late 5th century onward.

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St Columbanus (Columban)
Feast Day
November 23rd

The Jubilee year commemorating St Columbanus began on 11th October 2014 and ended on 23rd November 2015. It was 1,400 years since the life and death of this remarkable man. The year began with Mass in St John Lateran Basilica in Rome attended by 2000 people from all over Europe. Throughout the year pilgrims arrived at Luxeuil, Annegray and Fontaine in France, at Bregenz in Austria, and at Bobbio in Northern Italy, all places strongly associated with Columbanus. Former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese had her tracing the footsteps of St Columbanus documented in ‘Mary McAleese and The Man Who Saved Europe’.

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Saint Gall Feast Day October 16th

 St Gall, an Irish monk of the 6th and 7th centuries is better known in Continental Europe than in his own homeland. The city of St Gallen in Switzerland evolved from St Gall’s hermitage. His humble hermitage developed into a monastery which in turn gave rise to the city and canton of St Gallen. The Abbey of St Gall in the city is a major tourist attraction and is in fact a Unesco World Heritage site. The present day Cathedral is a magnificent building and the library houses rare manuscripts from the 9th century onwards.

St Gall was among the early Irish pilgrim monks who went to Continental Europe. He accompanied St Columbanus who departed from the monastery of Bangor shortly before the year 600.

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Saint Ciarán Feast Day September 9th

St Ciarán, though he died at the young age of 33, was the founder of the great monastery of Clonmacnoise, which has been a place of prayer and pilgrimage from the 6th century to the present day.

‘In a quiet watered land, a land of roses, stands St Kieran’s city fair’.   T.W Roleston.

Today’s ruined churches, splendid round towers, sculptured high crosses and many grave slabs give an indication of the former importance of the monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise as a centre of piety, scholarship, artistic endeavour and craftsmanship.

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Saint Attracta

St Attracta, Patroness of the Diocese of Achonry, is said to have lived in 5th/6th century and to have been a contemporary of St Nathy who is its patron. Veneration of St Attracta is still strong in Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon. Many churches, holy wells and schools are dedicated to her. Her principal feast day is August 12th and she is also associated with February 9th.

The Vita (Life) of St Attracta is incomplete and was written long after her lifetime probably in the Cistercian Abbey of Boyle, Co Roscommon.

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Saint Oliver Plunkett feast day

1st July

The accepted date of Oliver Plunkett’s birth is 1 November, 1625. He belonged to the Co. Meath branch of the Plunkett family of Norman lineage but by the time of Oliver’s birth the Plunketts had been at least three centuries in Ireland. The Plunketts were much involved in the Confederation of Kilkenny and presumably the young Oliver came into contact with the papal representative, Father Scarampi, and travelled to Rome with him in 1647. Here he entered the Irish College and after seven years study he was ordained priest on 1 January, 1654.

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  St. Columba

June 9th

Columba, also known as Colmcille, was an athlete, scribe, poet, mystic, ‘statesman’ and ‘politician’. His strength of character, empowered by God’s Spirit, enabled him to give expression to his variety of gifts and capabilities.

Columba was born into the O’Neill royal family, it is thought, on 7th Dec 521 in Gartan, Co Donegal. As a youth he was send to Finnian in Moville, Co Down for Christian instruction. From these early days, he developed a great love for the Psalter, the Book of Psalms.

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St Kevin

Feastday   June 3rd

St Kevin, revered even in his own day, founded a monastery at Glendalough, Co Wicklow that became known throughout Ireland and Europe. Kevin lived in the 6th century. The Vitae or Life’s of St Kevin were only written from the eleventh century onward. From this literature a picture emerges of a man who was very much in tune with the created world and who loved solitude in order to commune with God. It is said that an angel visited Kevin’s mother when she was pregnant and told her that the son to be born to her would be dear to God and people.

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St Brendan

Feastday May 16th

St Brendan, known as ‘the Navigator’ is a much loved and revered saint of early Irish Christianity. We learn about his life from the various versions of ‘Vita Brendani’ and especially from the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis, the ‘Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot’. While these books were written from the 8th century onwards, Brendan himself lived in the 6th century.

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St Dympna

Feastday May 15th

We do not have much historical evidence for details of Dympna’s life. However, we are fortunate that there is a strong tradition in both Ireland and Belgium that help us put together some of her story.

St Dympna lived in the 7th century. She was the daughter of a pagan Chieftain and a Christian mother. It is said that both she and her mother were extremely beautiful. When Dympna was fourteen she consecrated her life to Christ.

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St Enda Feast day 

March 21st

St Enda was a major contributor to the unique way Christianity developed in Ireland.  From the 6th century onwards monastic communities of prayer, scholarship and artistic expression were to be found throughout the country. These places were the bedrock of our Christianity.  Many of the founders of these monasteries had first spent time with Enda on Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Co. Galway.

Enda himself was originally more interested in the life of a warrior.  Influenced by his sister Fainche, he decided to dedicate his life to God.  Enda spent some time in formation in the monastic way of life in Scotland at Candida Casa or the ‘Great Monastery’ founded by St Ninian in Whithorn, Galloway.

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Saint Patrick Feast Day

March 17th

Iconic buildings throughout the world turn green and large festive parades celebrate St Patrick’s day.  Patrick is identified with Ireland as he is the National Apostle. The day set aside to recognise Patrick becomes a day to acknowledge and celebrate being Irish and being of Irish descent.

We will look at the man behind all these celebrations.  The two earliest biographies of Patrick come from the 7th century.  Muirchu’s Life of Patrick and Bishop Tirechan’s Account of St Patrick’s Journey promoted the cult of Patrick.   However, a much more personal account of his life comes from his own hand.  In his ‘Confessions’, Patrick outlines his spiritual journey.  It was written towards the end of his life and is an outpouring of his soul to God.

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St Gobnet (Gobnait)
Feastday 11th February

Historical details about the life of St Gobnet are sparce yet she is venerated in many parts of Ireland.

It is said that Gobnet was born in Co Clare in the 6th century.  Later, she spent some time on Inis Oirr (Thiar), Aran Islands.  A story has come down to us saying that an angel invited her to travel around the country to find the ‘place of her Resurrection’.  She was to travel until she found a field where there were nine white deer grazing.  It was near the border of Cork and Kerry, in a place called Ballyvourney, that she settled and built up the Christian community.

Her feastday occurs on February 11th.  She is venerated as the patron of health and bee-keeping.  People celebrate the ‘pattern’ day (patron day) at a number of holy wells especially on Inis Oirr, Co Galway and Ballyvourney Co Cork.  Hundreds of people gather around her shrine or well and do ‘rounds’ of prayer.

There is a Harry Clarke stained glass window of St Gobnet, spelt Gobnait (her name in Irish) in the Honan Chapel of Cork University.  It depicts the story of Gobnet driving a brigand away with a swarm of bees.  There are townlands named Kilbognet (the church of Gobnet) in Co’s Kerry, Cork and Waterford.

Helen Grealy

St Brigid Feastday

February 1st.

Most scholars agree that St Brigid of Ireland inherits much from Brigit the goddess.  It is mostly in the area of imagery and symbolism that we see this relationship.  Before the coming of Christianity, the Celts believed in gods and goddesses.  Brigit, the triple goddess was revered and loved.  She had a special relationship to the earth and the elements .  The attributes associated with Brigit were in the areas of birthing, nurturing and nourishing.  She was seen to be goddess of poetry, wisdom, learning, the hearth, medicines and smithcraft.  Perhaps the strongest image associated with Brigit was that of fire whether this was the fire of inspiration or the fire needed for warmth or preparations of food, medicines and metals.

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St Ita 

Feast day 15th January

Today, a number of our towns/villages/ townlands bear the name of St Ita, e.g. Kilmeaden Co. Waterford and Killeedy and Kilmeedy Co Limerick ; (Kill (Cill) translates as ‘church’, the ‘m/o’ is ‘my’ and ead/eed is ‘Ide’, the Irish for Ita, thus ‘the church of my Ita’.  Ita, our 6th century saint is still honoured in our place names, revered in many parishes as well as being Patron of the Diocese of Limerick.

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