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524413 February

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  • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
    Feb 15, 2014
      Celtic and Old English Saints 13 February

      * St. Modomnoc O'Neil
      * St. Ermengild of Ely
      * St. Huna of Ely
      * St. Dyfnog

      St. Modomnoc O'Neil, Bishop
      (Domnoc, Dominic, Modomnock)
      Died c. 550. Modomnoc, descended of the Irish royal line of O'Neil, had
      to leave Ireland to train for the priesthood, since he was a student
      before the creation of the great Irish monasteries. His name is most
      likely to have been Dom or Donogh but the Celtic saints were so tenderly
      loved that "my", "little" and "dear" were very often added to the names,
      which completely altered their appearance. Another disciple from Ireland
      much loved by St.David was originally called Aidan, but usually appears
      in accounts of the monastery as Maidoc.

      He crossed the English Channel to be educated under the great Saint
      David at Mynyw (Menevia, now Saint David's) Monastery in Wales. All
      those who resided in the community were expected to share in the manual
      work as well as the study and worship, and there is a story which tells
      how one day Modomnoc was working with another monk making a road, when
      he had occasion to rebuke him for some matter. The other monk was seized
      with anger and took up a crowbar, but before he could bring it down on
      Modomnoc, SaintDavid, who was witness to the incident, stayed his arm by
      his spiritual powers and it remained paralysed.

      Modomnoc was given charge of the bees and he loved it. And so did
      everyone else--they all loved honey, but few like taking charge of the
      hives. Modomnoc liked the bees almost more than he liked their honey. He
      cared for them tenderly, keeping them in straw skeps in a special
      sheltered corner of the garden, where he planted the kinds of flowers
      best loved by the bees.

      Every time they swarmed, he captured the swarm very gently and lovingly
      and set up yet another hive. He talked to the bees as he worked among
      them and they buzzed around his head in clouds as if they were
      responding. And, of course, they never stung him.

      At the end of summer, they gave him much honey, so much that Modomnoc
      needed help carrying it all inside. The monks never ran out of honey for
      their meals or making mead to drink. The good Modomnoc thanked God for
      this, and he also thanked the bees. He would walk among the skeps in the
      evening and talk to them, and the bees, for their part, would crowd out
      to meet him. All the other monks carefully avoided that corner of the
      monastery garden because they were
      afraid of being stung.

      As well as thanking the bees, Modomnoc did everything he could to care
      for them in cold and storm. Soon his years of study ended, and Modomnoc
      had to return to Ireland to begin his priestly ministry. While he was
      glad to be returning home, he knew he would be lonely for his bees. On
      the day of his departure, he said good-bye to the Abbot, the monks, and
      his fellow students. Then he went down to the garden to bid farewell to
      his bees.

      They came out in the hundreds of thousands in answer to his voice and
      never was there such a buzzing and excitement among the rows and rows of
      hives. The monks stood at a distance watching the commotion in wonder,
      "You'd think the bees knew," they said. "You'd think they knew that
      Modomnoc was going away."

      Modomnoc resolutely turned and went down to the shore and embarked the
      ship. When they were about three miles from the shore, Modomnoc saw what
      looked like a little black cloud in the sky in the direction of the
      Welsh coast. He watched it curiously and as it approached nearer, he saw
      to his amazement that it was a swarm of bees that came nearer and nearer
      until finally it settled on the edge of the boat near him. It was a
      gigantic swarm--all the bees from all the hives, in fact. The
      bees had followed him!

      This time Modomnoc did not praise his friends. "How foolish of you," he
      scolded them, "you do not belong to me but to the monastery! How do you
      suppose the monks can do without honey, or mead? Go back at once, you
      foolish creatures!" But if the bees understood what he said, they did
      not obey him. They settled down on the boat with a sleepy kind of
      murmur, and there they stayed. The sailors did not like it one bit and
      asked Modomnoc what he intended to do.

      He told them to turn the boat back for Wales. It was already too far for
      the bees to fly back, even if they wanted to obey him. He could not
      allow his little friends to suffer for their foolishness. But the wind
      was blowing the boat to Ireland and when they turned back, the sail was
      useless. The sailors had to furl it and row back to the Welsh coast.
      They did it with very bad grace, but they were too much afraid of the
      bees to do anything else.

      Saint David and the monks were very surprised to see Modomnoc coming
      back and looking rather ashamed. He told them what had happened. The
      moment the boat had touched land again, the bees had made straight for
      their hives and settled down contentedly again. "Wait until tomorrow,"
      advised the abbot, "but don't say farewell to the bees again. They will
      be over the parting by then."

      Next morning, the boat was again in readiness for Modomnoc and this time
      he left hurriedly without any fuss of farewell. But when they were about
      three miles from the shore, he was dismayed to see again the little
      black cloud rising up over the Welsh coast. Everyone recognised the
      situation and the sailors turned back to shore immediately.

      Once more the shamefaced Modomnoc had to seek out David and tell his
      story. "What am I to do?" he pleaded. "I must go home. The bees won't
      let me go without them. I can't deprive you of them. They are so useful
      to the monastery."

      David said, "Modomnoc, I give you the bees. Take them with my blessing.
      I am sure they would not thrive without you. Take them. We'll get other
      bees later on for the monastery."

      The abbot went down to the boat and told the sailors the same story. "If
      the bees follow Modomnoc for the third time, take them to Ireland with
      him and my blessing." But it took a long time and a great deal of
      talking to get the sailors to agree to this. They did not care who had
      the bees as long as they weren't in their boat.

      The abbot assured the sailors that the bees would give no trouble as
      long as Modomnoc was onboard. The sailors asked, if that were so, why
      the bees did not obey Modomnoc's command to return to the monastery.
      After much back and forth, the sailors were finally persuaded into
      starting out again.

      For the third time the boat set sail, Modomnoc praying hard that the
      bees would have the sense to stay in their pleasant garden rather than
      risking their lives at sea. For the third time he saw the little black
      cloud rising up in the distance, approaching nearer and nearer until he
      saw it was the same swarm of bees again. It settled on the boat once
      more. This time it did not turn back. Modomnoc coaxed his faithful
      friends into a sheltered corner of the boat, where they remained quietly
      throughout the journey, much to the sailors' relief.

      When he landed in Ireland, he set up a church at a place called Bremore,
      near Balbriggan, in County Dublin, and here he established the bees in a
      happy garden just like the one they had in Wales. The place is known to
      this day as "the Church of the Beekeeper."

      He became a hermit at Tibberaghny in County Kilkenny and some say he was
      later consecrated Bishop of Ossory(Benedictines, Curtayne).

      Troparion of St Modomnock tone 4
      Pomp and splendour held no attraction for thee, O Father Modomnock./ By
      leaving the glitter of the world, thou didst freely embrace thy poverty
      with the Waterman,/ praying for the salvation of all faithful souls.

      Kontakion of St Modomnock tone 7
      Retiring from the company of men,/ thou didst serve God in solitude, O
      Father Modomnock,/ and thy Father, seeing thy virtue in secret,/
      rewarded thee openly./ Therefore we glorify thy name/ and praise and
      bless thy righteous memory.

      St. Ermengild (Ermenilda, Erminilda) of Ely, Widow
      Died 703. The daughter of King Erconbert and Saint Sexburga (f.d. July
      6), Erminilda was herself a queen, for she married Wulfhere, King of
      Mercia, and used her powerful influence to remove the remaining pockets
      of idolatry in a land which had been the last stronghold of Anglo-Saxon
      paganism. By her virtuous example and unwearied kindness she won the
      hearts of her subjects; she had great pity on all in distress, and
      throughout her life she bore her witness as a Christian queen.

      Like her mother before her, the saintly Sexburga, the widowed Queen of
      Kent and abbess of Minster in Sheppey, she desired to be wholly devoted
      to God. On Wulfhere's death Erminilda joined her mother and succeeded
      her as abbess when her mother moved to Ely.

      Later, Erminilda, too, migrated to the abbey of Ely, which was the
      centre of a flourishing community, had the unusual distinction of having
      as its first abbesses a succession of three queens; for, before
      Sexburga, her sister, Queen Ethelreda (f.d. June 23) had held the
      office. Erminilda was the mother of Saint Werburga (f.d. February 3),
      and so this royal succession of Christian witness was carried into the
      fourth generation.

      In a primitive age these noble and saintly women by their selfless and
      devoted lives set before their people a high example of Christian
      service, and their gracious and ennobling influence had a far-reaching
      effect upon the period in which they lived. They are counted among the
      saints of England and take their place among the most faithful and
      distinguished followers of our Lord (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia, Gill).

      St. Huna of Ely, Monk
      Died c. 690. Saint Huna was a monk-priest of Ely under Saint Etheldreda
      (f.d. June 23), whom he assisted in her last moments and buried. Soon
      afterwards, he retired to a hermitage at Huneya in the Fens, where he
      died. His relics were translated to Thorney Abbey, where they were
      venerated from at least the 11th century (Benedictines, Farmer).

      St. Dyfnog
      7th century. Dyfnog was a Welsh saint of the family of Caradog.


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

      Curtayne, A. (1955). Twenty Tales of Irish Saints. NY:
      Sheed and Ward.

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

      Gill, F. C. (1958). The Glorious Company: Lives of Great
      Christians for Daily Devotion, vol. I. London:
      Epworth Press.

      For All the Saints: - new active link

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

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