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52366 February

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  • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
    Feb 7, 2014
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      Celtic and Old English Saints 6 February

      * St. Mel of Ardagh
      * Ss. Melchu and Munis of Lough Lee
      * St. Ina and St. Ethelburga
      * St. Jacut and St. Guethenoc
      * St. Mun of Lough Ree

      St. Mel (Mael, Melchno) of Ardagh and St. Melchu,
      Bishops and Martyrs
      Died c. 488-490. Mel and his brother Melchu (plus Munis and Rioch) were
      sons among the 17 sons and two daughters of Saint Patrick's sister,
      Darerca (f.d. March 22) and her husband Conis. While all of the children
      are reputed to have entered religious life, Mel and Melchu,together with
      their brothers Muinis and Rioch, accompanied Patrick to Ireland and
      joined him in his missionary work.

      Patrick ordained Mel and Melchu bishops. Patrick is reputed to have
      appointed Mel bishop of Ardagh, and Melchu to the see of Armagh (or vice
      versa). There is some evidence that Melchu may have been a bishop with
      no fixed see, who may have succeeded his brother. Some scandal was
      circulated about Mel, who lived with his Aunt Lipait but both cleared
      themselves by miraculous means to Patrick, who ordered them to live

      According to an ancient tradition, Mel professed Saint Brigid as a nun.
      During the rite, he inadvertently read over her the episcopal
      consecration, and Saint Macaille (f.d. April 25) protested. The ever
      serene Mel, however, was convinced that it happened according to the
      will of God and insisted that the consecration should stand.

      From the Life of Saint Brigid, 1 February

      Brigid and certain virgins along with her went to take the veil from
      Bishop Mel in Telcha Mide. Blithe was he to see them. For humility
      Brigid stayed so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be
      given. A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof ridge of the
      church. Then said Bishop Mel: "Come, O holy Brigid, that a veil may be
      sained on thy head before the other virgins." It came to pass then,
      through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the form of ordaining a
      bishop was read out over Brigid. Macaille said that a bishop's order
      should not be confirmed on a woman. Said Bishop Mel "No power have I in
      this matter. That dignity hath been given by God unto Brigid, beyond
      every (other) woman." Wherefore the men of Ireland
      from that time to this give episcopal honour to Brigid's successor.

      Most likely this story relates to the fact that Roman diocesan system
      was unknown in Ireland. Monasteries formed the centre of Christian life
      in the early Church of Ireland. Therefore, abbots and abbesses could
      hold held some of the dignity and functions that a bishop would on the
      Continent. Evidence of this can be seen also at synods and councils,
      such as that of Whitby, which was convened by Saint Hilda. Women
      sometimes ruled double monasteries; thus, governing both men and women.
      Bridget, as a pre-eminent abbess, might have fulfilled some
      semi-episcopal functions, such as preaching, hearing confessions
      (without absolution), and leading the neighbouring Christians.

      Nothing is definitely known about these saints; however, Mel has a
      strong cultus at Longford, where he was the first abbot-bishop of a
      richly endowed monastery that flourished for centuries. The cathedral of
      Longford is dedicated to Mel, as is a college.

      The crozier believed to have belonged to Saint Mel is now kept at Saint
      Mel's College in a darkened bronze reliquary that was once decorated
      with gilt and coloured stones. It was found in the 19th century at
      Ardagh near the old cathedral of Saint Mel.

      The various sources are rather confusing. It is possible that Mel was
      bishop of Armagh and/or that Melchu and Mel are the same
      person(Attwater2, Benedictines, Coulson, Curtayne2, D'Arcy, Delaney,
      Farmer, Healy, Henry2, Montague, Ryan).

      Troparion of Ss Mel and Mun tone 5
      Accompanying Ireland's Enlightener, your illustrious uncle,/ on his
      missionary journeyings,/ O blessed Hierarchs Mel and Mun,/ and being
      blessed with the gift of oratory,/ you inspired many to reject the
      darkness of paganism and to believe in Christ./ Pray for us, O holy
      ones,/ that the darkness of our sins may be blotted out by the mercy of
      our God.

      Kontakion of Ss Mel and Mun tone 2
      As streams of pure doctrine flowed from your blessed lips,/ O righteous
      Mel and Mun,/ pray to Christ our God that the streams of His compassion
      and forgiveness/ will be poured out on us worthless sinners.

      St. Ina and St. Ethelburga
      Ina, a descendant of Cerdic, was born at Somerton and was to rule the
      enlarged Kingdom of the West Saxons for thirty eight years. This Kingdom
      included quite a number of the old British inhabitants, now to be called
      Welsh, and Ina was the first of the Saxons to make provision for them in
      his code of laws for which he is most renowned. In fact his is the
      oldest collection of Saxon laws, apart from those of the Jutish King
      Ethelbert of Kent. Ina and his wife Ethelburga were devout Christians,
      and the foundation of St. Andrew's at Wells, later to become a
      Cathedral, and the creation of the new diocese of Sherborne, to which he
      appointed his Kinsman Aldhelm as bishop, are evidence of his Christian
      zeal. However, it is his love for Glastonbury that made that holy place
      his chief concern.

      Ina recognised Glastonbury as a most holy place and set about restoring
      the British buildings and extending them. S. Paulinus of York is
      credited with enclosing and protecting the original church with wooden
      panels and lead roofing, and King Ina added to this a "Wooden basilica
      dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Mother of God, Mary", and a new
      church dedicated to SS Peter and Paul. This church was in memory of his
      brother Mul, who had died in battle against the King of Kent and is
      buried in the Abbey of SS Peter and Paul at Canterbury. Ina gave over
      the church at Glastonbury to Rome and in return received the Privilege
      under the Apostolic Seal, which was to be the boast of the Abbey until
      the dissolution.

      There is a curious story told by William of Malmsbury. The King and
      Queen had been holding court in one of the royal residences, and on the
      night before they moved on, had held a great banquet. The following
      morning the royal party had gone only a few miles when the Queen begged
      her husband to return to the hall. There she showed him what she had
      done: she had ordered the servants to throw rubbish and cow dung in the
      hall, and had put a sow and her litter into the royal bed. Thus,
      Ethelburga pointed out to the King, the pomp of this world passes and
      the splendour of the world is as a breath that disappears.

      In 720 Ina resigned his kingdom and went to spend the last years of his
      life with his wife in Rome praying at the tombs of the Apostles. He was
      graciously received by Pope Gregory II who gave him a parcel of land
      near St. Peters, where he founded a hospice for English pilgrims with a
      church adjoining it known as St. Maria in Saxia. This is now covered by
      the large hospital of San Spirito, but the district is still known as
      "In Sassia". Ina and his wife Ethelburga died in Rome and are buried
      there, probably by the altar of St. Maria, but some say in the narthex
      of the old Basilica of St. Peter.

      St. Jacut and St. Guethenoc
      5th century. Sons of Saints Fragan and Gwen (f.d. July 5) and brothers
      of the more celebrated Saint Gwenaloe (Winwaloee; f.d. March 3--twin of
      Jacut), Jacut and Guethenoc became disciples of Saint Budoc (f.d.
      December 9), and like him were driven from their native Britain by the
      invading Saxons (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia).

      St. Mun of Lough Ree, Bishop
      5th century. Described as another nephew of Saint Patrick, who
      consecrated him bishop of what is now County Longford. He ended his days
      as a hermit on an island in Lough Ree (Benedictines).


      Attwater, D. (1983). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints,
      2nd edition, revised and updated by Catherine Rachel John.
      New York: Penguin Books.

      Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate.
      (1947). The Book of Saints. NY: Macmillan.

      Bentley, J. (1986). A Calendar of Saints: The Lives of the
      Principal Saints of the Christian Year. NY: Facts on File.

      Bowen, Paul. When We Were One: A Yearbook of the
      Saints of the British Isles Complied
      from Ancient Calendars.

      Chandlery, P.J. Pilgrim Walks in Rome.

      Coulson, J. (ed.). (1960). The Saints: A Concise Biographical
      Dictionary. New York: Hawthorn Books.

      Curtayne, A. (1955). Twenty tales of Irish Saints. New York:
      Sheed and Ward.

      D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul, Minnesota:
      Irish American Cultural Institute. [This is probably the most
      useful book to choose to own on the Irish saints. The author
      provides a great deal of historical context in which to place the
      lives of the saints.]

      Delaney, J. J. (1983). Pocket Dictionary of Saints, NY:
      Doubleday Image.

      Farmer, D. H. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
      Oxford: Oxford University Press.

      Healy, J. (1902). Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars.
      Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker.

      Henry, F. (1967). Irish Art During the Viking Invasions (800-1020).
      Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

      Montague, H. P. (1981). The Saints and Martyrs of Ireland.
      Guildford: Billing & Sons.

      Ryan, J. (1931). Irish Monasticism. Dublin: Talbot Press.

      For All the Saints: - new active link

      An Alphabetical Index of the Saints of the West - new active link

      These Lives are archived at:

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