Favourite Celtic Saints

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Bridget, therefore, could be recognized as the first woman priest. St Columba was an Irish missionary who founded the monastic community of Iona and preached Christianity to the Picts of Caledonia. Crimthain, meaning "fox" or "cunning wolf", came of noble Irish families on both sides of his lineage and was a descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages, who led the raid in which St Patrick was captured and taken to Ireland.

As a young boy he could often be found in prayer and so acquired the nickname Columcille, meaning "the dove of the church" - Columba in its shortened Latin form, and the name by which he is now remembered. His father was called Phelim O'Donnell and his mother was named Eithne. Since then, among all the Gaelic people, Thursdays have been an auspicious day on which to begin a new task or undertaking, such as weaving or starting a journey.

In Columba's youth his guardian angel visited him and invited him to choose two virtues. He chose chastity and wisdom, and the third gift of prophecy was bestowed upon him also as a reward for his wise choosing. From childhood he was destined for the priesthood, and he went to the monastery of St Finian at Movilla, at the head of Strangford Lough in County Down , to study theology as well as the arts of copying and illuminating manuscripts. Here he was made a deacon of the church. After a time he traveled on to Leinster and placed himself under the tutelage of the bard Gemman, from whom he learned of poetry and music and many of the ancient traditional tales of Ireland.

Some of Columba's own poems are preserved in manuscript form in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. His studies continued under another Finian at Clonard, and then at the monastery of Mobhi at Glasnevin near Dublin , until in , when he was only twenty-five years old, Columba founded his first monastery. It was on the site of a Druid sacred grove at Doire Calgach, later called Doire Cholm Cille for nearly years and now known as Derry.

Nothing remains of the buildings today, although the round tower stood until as late as This was the place that Columba loved best and which always remained dearest to his heart.

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S o much for the historical broad-brush. Here, at Avrolles, Patrick was consecrated bishop and embarked on the work for which he had waited so long. As part of the purpose of her foundation, Ita set up an educational establishment for young boys; by tradition, St Brendan was one of her pupils. The King refused the little band admission to his fortress and the great doors were barred against them. He is kept busy on a daily basis, searching for keys, phones, wallets, cheques — the whole shabang!

This was a bitter punishment for Columba, but in the year he sailed away with twelve companions. They came to shore on the island of Oronsay, but Columba found that he could still see the coast of his beloved Ireland from there, and so after resting they continued their voyage northwards. Above this bay there is a pile of stones known to this day as the 'Cairn of the Back Turned to Ireland', which the saint climbed to assure himself that he could no longer see his native land. Odhrain of Latteragh, who had died thirteen years before and was Columba's cousin, had already founded a church here, and in the cemetery known as Rilig Odhrain the Irish kings of Dalriada were buried.

The monastery on Iona became St Columba's chief foundation and for many years, until superseded by St Andrew, he was the patron saint of Scotland. Many missionary journeys were undertaken from Iona, and on one occasion Columba traveled north to visit Brude, a Pictish king.

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The King refused the little band admission to his fortress and the great doors were barred against them. However, the saint made the sign of the cross and the gates swung open, allowing them to enter. Brude and Columba became firm friends and the chieftain was instrumental in securing the tenure of Iona for the monks. He died 9th of June in the year , the very year that St Augustine was sent from Rome and landed in Kent.

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St. Patrick of Ireland is one of the world's most popular saints. He was born in Roman Britain and was 14 when he was captured by Irish pirates. Thomas of Green - Patron saint of sensitive knees We're a very sporty country and in particular, GAA can be a sport which takes no.

He was buried on Iona, but it is said that his body was later taken to Downpatrick to lie in a grave along with those of St Patrick and St Brigid. Each year on his feast day, 9 June, a three-mile pilgrimage or 'turas' takes place at Glencolmcille. He saw angels descending and then returning, bearing a soul of exceeding brightness to Paradise.

So it was that Cuthbert was prompted by his vision to leave his foster mother, Kenswith, and offer his life and service to God. He duly sought entrance to the great abbey of Melrose, but was turned away and told to return when the borderlands were more peaceful. After spending some time as a soldier he again sought admittance to the religious life.

Later in Ripon, Eata and his monks were under pressure to conform to the Roman style of Christianity. Rather than that, he drew his inspiration from the Celtic Iona, and being unwilling to do this they eventually returned to Melrose, where Cuthbert became prior. In Boisil foretold that in three years' time there would come a pestilence from which he would die but Eata and Cuthbert would recover.

In the Yellow Plague struck. The monks prayed all night that Cuthbert might be spared, and he did recover but was left with a permanent internal disability that troubled him for the rest of his life. Cuthbert's missionary activity stretched from the coast of Berwickshire and Northumberland to the shores of the Solway, where the town of Kirkcudbright is named after him. After the Synod of Whitby in , Cuthbert became Prior of Lindisfarne, and his gifts for healing were widely celebrated.

However, his real desire was to live the solitary life of a hermit and to be alone with God. He used to withdraw to St Cuthbert's Isle, which is just off the coast of Lindisfarne, but this proved not sufficiently isolated and so in he sought permission to retire to the Farne Islands, further out to sea, which St Aidan had used as a retreat before him. Here he lived in a tiny cell, with an adjoining oratory, sunk into the ground so that no view of land or sea might distract him from his prayers and meditation. In , at the Synod of Twyford, the King and clergy unanimously elected Cuthbert to the see of Hexham, but nothing could persuade him to leave his hermitage.

A fleet of boats containing both noblemen and monks, with the King at their head, sailed for the Farnes to beg him to accept the office. Reluctant, yet conscious of the prophecy of his mentor Boisil, he complied and was consecrated in York on Easter Day, 26 March Immediately he travelled north to see his old friend Eata, now Bishop of Lindisfarne, and arranged to exchange sees so he could remain on his own familiar ground. Two years later, sensing his impending death, he returned to the Farnes.

The monks from Lindisfarne tried to visit regularly because they were concerned for his welfare, but a storm prevented them from crossing for a period of five days. When they finally reached the saint they found that his total food store was five onions, only one of which had been nibbled.

Soon after this Cuthbert died, and his passing was signalled to Lindisfarne by the waving of two torches through the night. Next day a boat came to collect his body and he was buried in the tiny church of St Peter on Lindisfarne. Today his body rests behind the high altar in Durham Cathedral, but his remains were carried over a large part of the north of England and southern Scotland to avoid pillage by the Danes before he finally came to rest here. Patron Saint of Wales. A leader of the 6th c monastic revival. St David , or Dewi Sant as he is known by the Welsh. His father was Sant, of the royal house of Ceredigion.

Sant, for whom David was named, heard in a dream an angel voice which told him that on his hunting expedition the following day he would kill a stag near the River Teifi and in the same place would find a fish and a hive of bees. These three tokens anticipated David's life, for it was thought that stags ate snakes, which showed the victory of Christianity over the ancient serpent. The fish signified his abstinence from strong drink, which earned him the name Ddyfrwr, the Waterman. As for the hive of bees, this symbolized his great wisdom and his capacity to perceive the spiritual in all things.

David was educated to the priesthood at the Celtic monastery of Henfynyw. Later he undertook missionary journeys to various places including Glastonbury, and then returned to found his own monastery at Glyn Rhosin. During his life David undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was consecrated as a bishop some say archbishop by the Patriarch John III, who gave him gifts of a staff, a bell, a golden tunic, and a portable altar.

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In Penmon Priory on Anglesey there is a tenth-century stone cross bearing a carving of St Antony, a third-century monk who lived a solitary and ascetic life in the Egyptian desert. He was the first of many people who followed his example and sought to live in poverty and silence so that they might come closer to God and increase their love of their fellow men through self-discipline, prayer and meditation. Manual work was also a part of their daily routine, for they needed to provide food, clothing and shelter for themselves.

They formed loosely-knit communities, meeting regularly for the celebration of the Eucharist but otherwise living in separate cells or canres. They were frequently sought out for their wisdom and counsel, and became known as the Desert Fathers. These people were the forerunners of the ascetic tradition in the West, for St Antony of Egypt, the founder of this style of eremitical life, was taken as a model by the monks of the Celtic church. It was the Celt John Cassian who first brought the concept of monasticism out of Egypt to Gaul when he established his two religious houses, one for men and one for women, near Marseilles.

St Patrick and St Illtyd are said to have studied at the men's monastery at Lerins. However, Celtic foundations in Britain and Ireland evolved directly from the monastery set up by St Martin at Tours, which was subsequently used as a pattern by St Ninian at Whithorn in Galloway. Many Celtic places of retreat and prayer are found on islands or inaccessible coastal promontories, and thus the sea became the equivalent of the sandy wastes of the desert in enhancing isolation and separateness.

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This idea was further developed by private places of retreat such as St Ninian's Cave, a few miles from his monastery, and St Cuthbert's place of withdrawal on the Farne Islands. So it is that a cross on Anglesey de Picts an Egyptian monk, in recognition of his enormous influence on Christian practice over many centuries.

Information about Celtic women saints is, sadly, somewhat sparse, with the notable exception of St Bridget of Kildare in Ireland. However, the Cornish town of St Ives, once famed for its fishing fleet but now better known for its artistic associations, is named for St Ia, a virgin of noble birth said to be an Irish princess of the fifth century. In the Cornish language the settlement is known as Forth Ia. St Gwinear and his companions had already set sail for Cornwall by the time Ia reached the coast, but she touched a leaf with her staff and by a miracle it grew to the size of a boat.

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The type of Irish boat or curragh which brought her may indeed have been leaf-shaped. Ia's fellow missionaries are thought to have come ashore further north, at Hayle Estuary. They included her two brothers, Euny and Erth, and to this day traces of these saints' names can still be found in local place-names of the area. The saintly band were slaughtered by a cruel local king called Teudar, but Ia escaped.

Dinan, a benevolent chieftain , built her a church, possibly on the site of the present parish church, and in medieval times her tomb was venerated here. Her holy well, Venton Ia, is situated below the cemetery overlooking Porthmeor Beach, and at one time there was another well and chapel bearing her name at Troon near Camborne. Plouye in Brittany may also have been a centre of her cult, showing yet again the close links that existed between the Celtic peoples.

Her cult still thrives today, her feast day is a local holiday. Killeedy means 'church or cell of Ita' and it was here that this sixth century abbess founded her religious community and school. She was born around near Waterford , of the much-respected Deisi Clan.

Originally her name was Deirdre, but it was changed to Ita because of her thirst for holiness and divine love. Other spellings include Ite and Ide. Even as a child miraculous events surrounded her, and people remarked on her gentle generosity, purity and gracious behaviour. Like St Bridget's, Ita's father was resistant to the new faith and when she reached a certain age a marriage was arranged for her with a suitable young man, also of noble birth. Her family was duly persuaded to allow her to move away and settle near the foot of Sliabh Luachra, where other women who also wished to live the religious life joined her.

The people of Ui Conaill came with their chieftain offering her much land but she took only four acres for a vegetable garden. She spent long periods in solitary prayer and meditation during her ascetic life. She also possessed gifts of prophecy and healing and was much sought after as an adviser and counsellor. The waters of her nearby holy well were reputed through the centuries to cure smallpox and other diseases. As part of the purpose of her foundation, Ita set up an educational establishment for young boys; by tradition, St Brendan was one of her pupils.

A true soul-friend and confessor to many, there are dedications to Ita in Cornwall as well as in Ireland, and she was even invoked in ancient litanies on the continent.

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Loth, a British chieftain, was determined that his daughter Tannoch would marry a prince called Ewan, but the young girl, who had become a Christian, preferred to dedicate herself to the service of God. She was cast out but found shelter with a swineherd and his companions, where she quickly settled into a new and peaceful life.

However, this was soon disturbed by Ewan; finding her alone one day, he violated Tannoch and she became pregnant. Discovering the shame of his unmarried daughter, Loth resolved to have her thrown down the sheer foot drop called Dunpelder on the south side of Traprain Law. As she fell, Tannoch was heard to call upon the Blessed Virgin Mary for aid. Her anguished friends, rushing to claim her body, found that she was unharmed and had sustained no injury. Still her father showed no mercy, so she was taken to Aberlady Bay and cast adrift in a coracle out near the Isle of May.

The tides and wind bore her up the Forth to Culross on the north shore, and it was here in AD that her son was born, close to the Christian community founded by the aged St Serf. Shepherds brought the mother and child to him, and an ancient manuscript tells us that 'The blessed old man was filled with spiritual laughter and his heart with joy' at the sight of the baby. Serf named him Kentigern, but he was often known by the pet name of 'Mungo', meaning 'my dear friend'.

His joyful community was known as 'Eglais ghu' or 'Glesghu', meaning 'dear church', and is now the city of Glasgow. But we can't verify that. After he was ordained, he left Ireland at the age of 42, possibly because of a family feud which resulted in the death of people which he was partly blamed for.

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Saint Brigid was born Brigit, and shares a name with a Celtic goddess from whom many legends and folk customs are associated. Brigid is celebrated for her generosity to the poor. In her case, most of the miracles associated with her relate to healing and household tasks usually attributed to women. The small cross usually woven from rushes.

Typically it has four arms tied at the ends and a woven square in the middle. After he was ordained, due to religious persecution in his native land, it was not possible for Olive Plunkett to return to minister to his people.

Garden of Celtic Saints

He soon established himself as a man of peace and set about visiting his people, establishing schools, ordaining priests, and confirming thousands. Oliver Plunkett was beatified in and canonised in , making him the first new Irish saint for almost years, and the first of the Irish martyrs to be beatified. St Ita is an interesting fish. Born at Decies, Waterford she refused to be married, and secured her father's permission to live a virginal life.

Ita was said to embody the six virtues of Irish womanhood — wisdom, purity, beauty, musical ability, gentle speech and needle skills. Yes, we said needle skills. But things were different back in the year Many extravagant miracles were attributed to her. In one of them she is reputed to have reunited the head and body of a man who had been beheaded; in another she lived entirely on food from heaven, which would save you a fortune on the weekly food shop. Ailbhe was a bishop, preacher, and a disciple of St.

In some records he is called Albeus and was noted for his charity and kindness, as well as his eloquent sermons. It was claimed that he was left in the woods as an infant and suckled by a wolf, sort of life Ireland's answer to Tarzan. Later, the legend goes an old she-wolf came to Ailbhe for protection from a hunting party, resting her head upon his breast. You can't beat cuddles with a she-wolf. The story goes that St Cataldus' monastery was in Lismore, Co. Coirpre Crom mac Feradaig. Lynn Lann , County Westmeath.

Durrow probable resting place. Cited as the fosterfather and teacher of Saint Columba. He founded the church of Kilcronaghan , which was named after him along with the local parish. Do Biu mac Comgaill. Ross Carbery Ros Ailithir. Fore Fobar , County Westmeath. Abbot of Iona , probably a Briton. Irish pilgrim who travelled to Breuil in Neustria. Alternatively, it has been suggested that he was a localised version of Findbarr moccu Fiatach, an Ulster saint. Reims , Saint-Gibrien , Chartreux.

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One of a group of Irish siblings including Abran who are said to have settled in the Marne region in Merovingian times. Gobhan - Gobban Gobban Find mac Lugdach. Old Leighlin Killamery Portadown. Senles or Ard Senlis. Mac Cuilinn mac Cathmoga , also Maculinus or Cuindid. First Bishop of Ferns , learned under David at Deheubarth. Athleague , County Roscommon. Ardagh Ardachad , County Longford, then in the kingdom of southern Tethbae. Bumlin, Strokestown, County Roscommon. St Mullins Tech Moling.

Mo Laga mac Duib Dligid.

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Mucnoe in Latin, Mucneus. Forgney Forgnaide , County Westmeath, resting place. Irish pilgrim saint and hermit in western Brittany, eponymous founder of Locronan and co-patron of Quimper , together with its founder St Corentin. Castlewarren County Kilkenny Ossory.