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524211 February

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  • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
    Feb 15, 2014
      Celtic and Old English Saints 11 February

      * St. Ecian of Ireland
      * St. Gobnet of Ballyvourney

      St. Ecian, Bishop in Ireland

      St Ecian or Etchen was a 6th-century Bishop and founder of the monastery at
      Clonfad, Co Westmeath. A school named in his honour gives this brief summary
      of his life:

      St Etchen the patron Saint of this school was born in 490AD. He founded a
      Monastery in Confad and is most famous for his ordination of St. Columcille
      to the Priesthood. St Etchen is honoured as a patron
      saint of ploughmen and farmers. Indeed the statue of St. Etchen in Clonard
      Church depicts him as a ploughman. He died on the 11th of February in 577ad.
      St. Etchen is buried in Clonfad Cemetry.


      St Etchen also features in the Life of St Colman, son of Luachan, (Colman of
      Mullingar), where he is said to have ordained the 3 Colmans - Colman, son of
      Luachan, Colman of Elo and Colman Comraire. Bishop Etchen is depicted as
      having been the tutor to Colman, son of Luachan, who 'read the psalms and
      the hymns and the whole order of the Church with him'. Angels would often
      come as far as the cell in which he was to converse with Colman, but the
      envy of the other students was aroused and Bishop Etchen sent Colman away to
      study with Mochuta of Rahen.

      St. Gobnata (Gobnet, Gobnait) of Ballyvourney, Virgin
      6th century One of the most popular of the saints of Munster, she was
      born in County Clare but had to flee from enemies and took refuge in the
      Isle of Aran, where there is a church at Inisheer, Kilgobnet, Gobnat's
      church. After a time an angel appeared and told her that this was not to
      be "the place of her resurrection" but she must make a journey until she
      came upon nine white deer and this would be the sign for her to settle
      and build a monastery.

      So she set out to search for the spot that God had chosen for her and
      she founded churches on the way, among them Dunguin in County Kerry and
      Dungarven in County Waterford. It was in County Cork that she saw three
      white deer near Cloudrohid; then at Ballymakeera she saw six and going
      further she arrived at Ballyvourney and found nine grazing near a wood.
      There she founded her monastery.

      Saint Abban of Kilabban, County Meath, Ireland, is said to have worked
      with her on the foundation of the convent in Ballyvourney, County Cork,
      on land donated by the O'Herlihy family, and to have placed Saint Gobnat
      over it as abbess.

      St Gobnat had a particular calling to care for the sick and she is
      credited with saving the people at Ballyvourney from the plague. She is
      also regarded as the Patroness of bees. Gobnata (meaning "Honey Bee",
      which is the equivalent of the Hebrew "Deborah") Of course honey is a
      useful ingredient in many medicines but she is said to have driven off a
      brigand by sending a swarm of bees after him and making him restore the
      cattle he had stolen. In fact she seems to have been very able in
      dealing with brigands. Set in the wall of the ruined church at
      Ballyvourney there is a round stone, which she is said to have used as a
      sort of boomerang to prevent the building of a castle by another brigand
      on the other side of the valley from her monastery. Every time he began
      building she sent the stone across and knocked down the walls, as fast
      as he could build, until he gave up in despair.

      There is a field near to the village called the Plague Field
      commemorating the area she marked out as consecrated ground, across
      which the plague could not pass. The "Tomhas Ghobnata", which is the
      Gaelic for Gobnat's measure, a length of wool measured against her
      statue, is still in demand for healing, and in the church a much worn
      wooden statue of the thirteenth century is preserved and shown on her
      festival. At Killeen there is Gobnat's Stone, an early cross pillar that
      has a small figure bearing a crozier on one side.

      A well still exists at Ballyvourney that is named after her. As with
      many Irish saints, there are stories of wondrous interactions with

      Her grave in the churchyard at Ballyvourney is decorated with crutches
      and other evidence of cures obtained through Gobnata's intercession.
      Among the miracles attributed to her intercession were the staying of a
      pestilence by marking off the parish as sacred ground. Another tradition
      relates that she routed an enemy by loosing her bees upon them. Her
      beehive has remained a precious relic of the O'Herlihys.

      There are some photographs of the statue and someone taking Gobnait's
      measure at this site:


      A second story from the same site gives a little more detail about the

      St Gobnait's Statue is of oak, and shows traces of five coatings of paint
      over a gesso base on the wood. It is twenty seven inches high. The back is
      hollowed out from shoulders to base. It is worn from being touched and its
      only surviving feature is one large eye. That it never fell into the hands
      of those who would destroy it shows how closely it was guarded.

      Only four similar statues have survived. They are - St Maolruain, Bishop of
      Tallaght, St Molua of Killaloe, St Mo-Cheallog and St Molaise, the Abbot of
      Inishmurray whose image is in the National
      Museum. All date from the 13th century, as is apparent from the large head
      and narrow shoulders.


      The round stone associated with her is still preserved. In art, Saint
      Gobnata is represented as a beekeeper.

      Troparion of St Gobnet tone 3
      As a spiritual child of the God inspired Abban/ thou didst worthily
      guide many into monastic virtue, most holy Gobnet./ Wherefore we entreat
      thee to intercede for us/ that we may be guided aright/ and be found
      worthy of the great mercy of Christ our God.

      Kontakion of St Gobnet tone 5
      Praise and honour are thy due/ O physician of bodies and souls,/ most
      pious Gobnet./ As thou, being blessed with the gift of healing,/ didst
      bring to many the wholeness and peace of Christ,/ pray now for us that
      our tormented souls/ may come to know the joy of godly healing.


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

      D'Arcy, M. R. (1974). The Saints of Ireland. Saint Paul,
      Minnesota: Irish American Cultural Institute.

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

      Flanagan, L A.(1990) Chronicle of Irish Saints.
      The Blackstaff Press, Belfast.

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

      Neeson, E. (1967). Book of Irish Saints. Cork: Mercer Press.

      O'Hanlon, J. (1875). Lives of Irish saints, 10 vol. Dublin.

      Sullivan, A. M. (1867). Story of Ireland. Dublin: M. H. Gill.

      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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