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12 September

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  • ambrois@xtra.co.nz
    Celtic and Old English Saints 12 September =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * St. Ailbhe of Emly * St. Eanswythe of Folkestone
    Message 1 of 14 , Sep 11, 2013
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      Celtic and Old English Saints 12 September

      =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
      * St. Ailbhe of Emly
      * St. Eanswythe of Folkestone
      =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=


      St. Ailbhe, Bishop of Emly
      (Albeus, Elvis, Ailbe)
      -----------------------------------------------------------------
      5th or 6th century (died 526-540?). Although many are under the mistaken
      belief that Saint Patrick was the first to bring Christianity to
      Ireland, Saint Ailbhe was converted by British missionaries. Some
      traditions say that he was baptized by a priest while a boy in northern
      Ireland; another that he was baptized and raised in a British settlement
      in Ireland. In either case, he had travelled to Rome before Patrick's
      arrival-- and some say that he was consecrated bishop there.

      Upon his return to Ireland, he became the disciple of Patrick and,
      according to some, was consecrated the first archbishop of Munster by
      him. Ailbhe fixed his see at Emly (Imlech, County Tipperary, though the
      cathedral is now at Cashel), which is officially listed by the Vatican
      as being founded in the 4th century, making it the oldest continuous see
      in Ireland.

      He was known as a powerful preacher and a model of sanctity, who won
      many souls to the faith. Although he lived in the world in order to care
      for the souls of his flock, he was careful for his own soul, too. He
      made frequent retreats and engaged in habitual recollection. Saint
      Ailbhe especially loved to pray in front of the sea. King Aengus of
      Munster gave him Aran Island (Co. Galway) on which he founded a great
      monastery and established Saint Enda as abbot. He also drew up a still
      extant rule for the community.

      When in his old age he wanted to resign and retire to the solitude of
      Thule (Shetland? Iceland? Greenland?) to prepare for death, the king
      stationed guards at the ports to prevent his flight. Thus, Saint Ailbhe
      died in the midst of his episcopal labours and is deemed the principal
      patron of Munster.

      There are many accounts of Saint Ailbhe: that he baptized Saint David of
      Wales; that an angel showed him the "place of his resurrection"--Emly;
      that he was in constant dialogue with the angels. Even his name points
      to a legend: Ailbhe, said to mean "living rock" in Gaelic, was a
      foundling left under a rock and suckled by a she-wolf, and thus named by
      his adoptive family. The story continues that later, while he was
      hunting with some companions, an aged female wolf ran to him for
      protection (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopaedia, Farmer, Husenbeth,
      Montague).

      Another life:

      < http://www.alvyray.com/Ailbhe/AilbheSaint.htm >

      St Ailbhe comes from an uncertain and controversial period of Irish
      history. There is evidence that he is one of the first Christian
      missionaries in Ireland - before St Patrick! - but then the Patrician
      history contradicts this - perhaps with a political agenda? Who knows.
      Anyway, he is acknowledged to be the patron saint of the current
      Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly located in south central Ireland
      comprising parts of Counties Tipperary and Limerick. He is probably the
      founder of the first, ancient cathedral at Emly. A typical "history" of
      him can be found on the Cashel and Emly Archdiocese website, <
      http://ireland.iol.ie/~pjackson/acesaint.htm > which tells us that
      Ailbhe was able to save the wolf (see name list item above) when she was
      to be killed and that the wolf thereafter ate from his table.

      Learned information appears in a translation of the Life of St Declan of
      Ardmore < http://www.ccel.org/d/declan/life/declan.html > which clearly
      states that Ailbhe and Ciaran (both now Saints) preceded Patrick in the
      Irish mission, that the Life of St Patrick affirms this, that St Patrick
      came to Ireland only slightly after Ailbhe and Ciaran as a superior to
      them in the Catholic hierarchy. Unfortunately, the Life of St Declan
      contains obvious contradictions, so these facts are controversial. The
      Life of St Declan, by the way, appears to establish Declan as another of
      the pre-Patrician Irish Christian missionaries. Other candidates for
      membership in this elite corps are Ibar, Brigit, Senan, "perhaps Mac
      [son of] Cairthinn" (see Life of St Senan <
      http://www.solaw.com/jg4/senan/ > ). Another example of the confusion
      rampant here is evidenced by the Celtic baby name list item above which
      claims St Ailbhe lived in the 6th century. This is consistent with the
      website entry above for the Cashel and Emly Archdiocese which lists 528
      as his death year. The website points out that this contradicts the
      claim that he preceded Patrick who was in Ireland in the 5th century.
      But the Life of St Declan goes on and on about just how and when Ailbhe,
      Declan, Ibar, and Patrick met and interacted, both in Ireland and in
      Rome before that.

      The best information I have found comes from The Flowering of Ireland:
      Saints, Scholars & Kings by Katharine Scherman, Little Brown & Co, 1981
      (reissued 1999 for St Patrick's Day). Excerpts:

      p 83: "But he [Patrick] had predecessors. Through the nimbus of myth
      that surrounds early Irish church history there emerge four holy figures
      who were there when Patrick came. ... Not much remains to us but the
      names - St Ciaran of Saighir and Ossory, St Ailbe of Emly, St Ibar of
      Beg Erin and St Declan of Ardmore - and some lively legends of their
      miraculous activities."

      pp 84-85: "The figure of St Ailbe is almost as nebulous as that of St
      Ciaran. His life is said to have spanned 167 years, from 360 to 527. He
      is probably a composite: the saints of early years, the recording of
      whose deeds was dependent on the spoken word of recent converts steeped
      in the magic and mysticism of their pre-Christian youth, tended to blend
      together. Their deeds, later recorded in writing by monks themselves
      enveloped in the climate of unquestioning faith, took on a cloudy aura,
      and several saints merged into a single hyperbolic monument to
      saintliness.

      "Ailbe was born to a maidservant in the house of Cronan, lord of Eliach
      in County Tipperary. Cronan, for reasons unrevealed, disapproved of his
      birth and directed that he be exposed to 'dogs and wild beasts, that he
      might be devoured'[1] The baby was found by a wolf, who tended him until
      an unidentified passerby, possibly a Christian from Britain, noticed his
      beauty and his potential Christian grace, and took him away to be reared
      in the faith. After study and consecration in Rome, Ailbe was directed
      by the pope, along with 'fifty holy men from Ireland,' presumably
      recently converted followers, to proselytize the heathens in an
      unrecorded corner of Europe. Then, like 'a sagacious bee loaded with
      honey,' he embarked for Ireland with his companions in an unseaworthy
      boat. By blessing the sea, he brought them all serenely to port in
      northern Ireland, where he converted the king, Fintan, and brought back
      to life Fintan's three sons, slain in battle.

      Note [1]: "Quotations concerning the life of St Ailbe throughout this
      chapter are from Rev John O'Hanlon, Lives of the Irish Saints" [which I
      have not been able to find: 10 volumes, Dublin: J. Duffy & Sons, 1875].

      "St Ailbe traversed Ireland, as did St Patrick after him, converting as
      he went, and at last settled in Emly, County Tipperary, near the place
      of his birth. There he founded a church and a school, and promulgated
      the 'Law of Ailbe,' supposedly the first codification of ecclesiastical
      rule in Ireland. In the huge span of his life he was friend to many holy
      men, including, of course, St Patrick, who reputedly named him
      archbishop of Munster. When he was very old he wished to retire to Tyle
      (Thule), the island that is now Iceland, to flee worldly honours and to
      meditate among the holy hermits already established on that bleak shore.
      But King Aengus of Munster (converted by St Patrick) refused permission
      and placed guards at the seaports so he could not escape his
      responsibilities to the multitudes of his adoring followers. Ailbe is
      called 'the second St Patrick,' and he may be one of those whose deeds
      and persons fuse into the great shadowy form of Ireland's patron saint."

      p 86: "In Rome he [St Declan] had met Ailbe, already prominent, and they
      had formed a deep friendship that was to last their lives."

      p 94: "Apocryphal as are most of the stories around the hazy figure of
      Ireland's patron, it is historical fact that the framework of a
      Christian organisation modelled loosely on that of Rome began to take
      shape under the aegis of a single or composite strong, vibrant
      personality. It started, probably, when Patrick went to challenge the
      heathen stronghold of Cashel. (This was the seat of King Aengus, the
      over-king of Munster, which was one of Ireland's five provinces and at
      that time, with Tara, the most powerful.) Cashel was the traditional
      rival of Tara ... and Patrick knew that the conversion of its king was
      just as important for his mission as the convincing of king Laoghaire at
      Tara. The eloquent young man succeeded where his elders, Ireland's first
      four holy men, had failed. Aengus became one of his strongest
      supporters, and Cashel was the site of Ireland's first meeting of
      ecclesiastics, as Patrick summoned to him Declan, Ibor, Ailbe and Ciaran
      for the disposition of local ecclesiastical affairs."


      Troparion of St Ailbe tone 4
      When Ireland's Enlightener returned to his native land he found thee, O
      holy Ailbe, preaching the Faith at Emly,/ where at the bidding of an
      Angel thou hadst built a church./ O wise shepherd of souls and glorious
      ascetic,/ O friend of animals, and fellow missionary with the
      illustrious Patrick, pray to Christ our God that we might also become
      bastions of Orthodoxy/ and a shining example to our fellow countrymen,
      drawing them away from ignorance and error/ and into the true Faith that
      all our souls may be saved.

      The Rule of Saint Ailbe can be found in "The Celtic Monk: Rules & Writings
      of Early Irish Monks" Uinseann O'Maidin OCR, pub. Cistercian Studies Series
      Number 162, 1996. ISBN: 0879076623 (pb) and 0879075627
      (hb).
      The church at Emly
      http://membres.lycos.fr/stjeantheo/amdg5/emly070805a.jpg

      Graveyard at Emly
      http://membres.lycos.fr/stjeantheo/amdg5/emly070805e.jpg

      Saint Ailbhe's Well
      http://membres.lycos.fr/stjeantheo/amdg5/emly070805g.jpg

      Statue of Saint Ailbhe on facade of church
      http://membres.lycos.fr/stjeantheo/amdg5/emly070805b.jpg

      It's also possible to read a translation of St Ailbe's Rule online. The
      complete text is included in the appendix to a thesis by Dr Catherine Thom
      and can be found here:

      http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/digitaltheses/public/adt-
      acuvp26.29082005/03appendices_1-4.pdf

      or to make life easier:

      http://tinyurl.com/4ez2zh

      The Rule is Item L and starts on page 11 of the pdf.

      St Ailbe's Rule is addressed to Eoghan, son of Saran, abbot of
      Cluain-Caolain, in the county Tipperary, of whom the Martyrology of Donegal
      says on the 15th March:

      " I think this is Eoghan, son of Saran, of Cluain-Caolain, for whom Ailbhe,
      of Emily, composed the very hard Rule, which begins : 'Say for me to the son
      of Saran.' "




      St. Eanswythe of Folkestone, Abbess
      (also known as Eanswida, Eanswith(a), Eanswide, Eanswyth)
      ---------------------------------------------------------------------
      Died August 31, c. 640; this is probably a memorial of the translation
      of her relics; feast day at Saint Augustine, Canterbury, and Durham is
      celebrated on August 31.

      From her infancy Saint Eanswythe, the daughter of King Eadbald of Kent
      and granddaughter of King Saint Ethelbert, found delight in prayer.
      Rejecting the world and its foolish vanities, she refused all offers of
      marriage, which she felt would interrupt her devotions and
      contemplation. King Eadbald finally consented to allowing her to found a
      monastery on the coast near
      Folkestone, Kent, where she served as its abbess and died at an early
      age. It seems likely that she was trained in France and that hers was
      the first convent in England.

      The monastery was destroyed by the Danes, but restored by King
      Athelstan, then refounded in 1095 for the Black Benedictines. Part of it
      was swallowed up by the sea, and so the community was moved to
      Folkestone. Her relics were
      translated to the church built by Eadbald in honour of Saint Peter, but
      later known as Saints Mary and Eanswythe. In 1885, a Saxon coffer was
      found in the north wall containing the bones of a young woman, which
      were assumed to be those of Saint Eanswythe (Benedictines, Farmer,
      Husenbeth).

      In art, Saint Eanswythe is portrayed as a crowned abbess with a book and
      two fish. She is venerated at Folkestone (Roeder), where her image is
      incorporated on the town's seals (Farmer).

      Icon of our holy Mother St. Eanswitha, Royal Abbess of Folkestone
      http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/icons/Icons-Eanswitha.htm##1
      Larger size
      http://saints.oca.org/IconDirectory/LG/august/0803eanswuthe.jpg

      Service for our Holy Mother Eanswythe, Abbess of Folkestone
      http://www.orthodoxengland.org.uk/serveans.htm


      Sources:
      ========

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

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

      Encyclopaedia of Catholic Saints, August. (1966).
      Philadelphia: Chilton Books.

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

      Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.). (1928). Butler's
      Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints.
      London: Virtue & Co.

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

      Scherman, Katharine (1981, and reissued 1999 for St Patrick's Day)
      The Flowering of Ireland: Saints, Scholars & Kings.
      Little Brown & Co.

      Roeder, H. (1956). Saints and Their Attributes, Chicago: Henry
      Regnery.

      These Lives are archived at:
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celt-saints
      *****************************************
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