May X St. Antoninus archbishop of florence, confessor
archbishop of florence, confessor
From the bull of his canonization, his exact life by Castiglione, a contemporary priest, canon of Fiorence and other writers of that age, collected by F. Touron, t. 3, p. 319. See Papebroke, Act. Sanct. t. 1, Maij, p. 311. And the history of his chapel in the Dominicans’ church of St. Mark of Florence, and of the translation of his body into the same in 1589, printed at Florence in fol. 1728. Also S. Antonini Summa Theologica cum annotationibus et vitâ auctoris per Fratres Ballerinos, Petrum et Hieronimum, sacerdotes Veronenses, 4 vol. in folio, Veronæ, 1740.
A. D. 1459.
St. Antoninus, or Little Antony, was born at Florence in 1389. His parents, named Nicholas Pierozzi and Thomassina, were noble citizens of that place, and he was the only fruit of their marriage. From the cradle he was modest, bashful, docile, and had no inclination but to piety, being even then an enemy both to sloth and to the amusements of children. It was his only pleasure to read the lives of saints and other good books, to converse with pious persons, or employ himself in prayer, to which he was much given from his infancy. Accordingly, if he was not at home or at school, he was always to be found at St. Michael’s church before a crucifix, or in our Lady’s chapel there. And whether he applied himself to that holy exercise in his closet or the church, he always kneeled or lay prostrate, with a perseverance that astonished everybody. By the means of a happy memory, a solid judgment, and quick penetration, assisted by an assiduous application, he became an able master at an age when others scarce begin to understand the first elements of the sciences. But his passion for learning was not equal to his ardor to perfect himself in the science of salvation. In prayer, he begged nothing of God but his grace to avoid sin, and to do his holy will in all things. F. Dominick, a learned and holy preacher of the order of St. Dominick, afterwards made cardinal, archbishop of Ragusa, and legate of the holy see, was then employed in building a convent at Fiesoli, two miles from Florence. Antoninus was wonderfully delighted with the unction of his sermons, and never went out of Florence but to converse with that apostolic man, to whom he applied at last for the Dominican habit. The father judging him as yet too young, and his constitution too tender for so strict a life of perpetual abstinence, frequent fasts, long watchings, and other rigors, advised him to wait yet some years, and bid him first study the canon law, adding, that when he should have learned Gratian’s decree by heart, his request should be granted. So dry and difficult a task would have seemed to another equivalent to an absolute refusal. However, Antoninus set about it, and joining prayer and severe mortifications with his studies made an essay of the life to which he aspired; and in less than a year presented himself again to the prior of Fiesoli; and by answering his examination upon the whole decree of Gratian, gave him a surprising proof of his capacity, memory, and fervor. The prior hesitated no longer, but gave him the habit, he being then sixteen years of age. The young novice was most exact in complying with every point of the rule, and appeared the most humble, the most obedient, most mortified, and most recollected of his brethren. Being advanced to the priesthood, he augmented his exercise of piety; he was never seen at the altar but bathed in tears Whether sick or well, he lay always on the hard boards; and so perfectly had he subjected the flesh to the spirit, that he seemed to feel no reluctance from his senses in the service of God. He was chosen very young to govern the great convent of the Minerva in Rome; and after that, was successively prior at Naples, Cajeta, Cortona, Sienna, Fiesoli, and Florence: in all which places he zealously enforced the practice of the rule of St. Dominick, and more by his actions than words. Besides his domestic employments he preached often, and with great fruit. The works which he published increased his reputation. He was consulted from Rome, and from all quarters, especially in intricate cases of the canon law. The learned cardinal de Lucca reckons him among the most distinguished auditors or judges of the Rota, though we do not find at what time he discharged that office. He was chosen vicar or general superior of a numerous reformed congregation in his order. He would not remit any thing in his austerities or labors when exhausted by a decay, of which however he recovered. Pope Eugenius IV. called him to the general council of Florence; and he assisted in quality of divine at all its sessions and at the disputations with the Greeks. During his stay at Florence he was made prior of the convent of St. Mark in that city, for which Cosmus of Medicis, called the father of his country, was then building a sumptuous church, which pope Eugenius IV. consecrated. After having established in this house the true spirit of his order, he visited his convents in Tuscany and Naples.
While employed in introducing the primitive discipline of his order in the province of Naples, the see of Florence became vacant by the death of its archbishop. The intrigues of several candidates protracted the election of a successor. But pope Eugenius IV. no sooner named F. Antoninus to the Florentines, as possessed of the qualities they had desired in their future bishop, namely, sanctity, learning, and experience, and his being a native of their own city, than they all acquiesced in his choice. Antoninus, who had then been two years absent from Florence, employed in the visitation of his monasteries, was equally surprised and afflicted that he should have been thought of for so eminent a dignity. And that he might escape it, he set out with the design of concealing himself in the isle of Sardinia, but being prevented in the execution, he was obliged to go to Sienna, whence he wrote to the pope, conjuring his holiness not to lay that formidable burden on his weak shoulders, alleging his being in the decline of life, worn out with fatigues and sickness; enlarging also upon his great unworthiness and want of capacity; and begging that he would not now treat him as an enemy whom he had honored with so many marks of friendship. He could not close his letter without watering it with his tears. The pope, however, was inflexible, and sent him an order to repair without delay to his convent at Fiesoli. He wrote at the same time to the city of Florence, to acquaint them that he had sent them an archbishop to their gates. The principal persons of the clergy and nobility, with Cosmus of Medicis at their head, went out to compliment him on that occasion; but found him so averse to be dignity, that all their entreaties to take it upon him were to no purpose, till the pope, being again applied to in the affair, sent him an order to obey, backing it with a threat of excommunication if he persisted in opposing the will of God. After many tears, Antoninus at last complied; he was consecrated and took possession of his bishopric in March, 1446. His regulation of his household and conduct was a true imitation of the primitive apostolic bishops. His table, dress, and furniture showed a perfect spirit of poverty, modesty, and simplicity. It was his usual saying, that all the riches of a successor of the apostles ought to be his virtue. He practised all the observances of his rule as far as compatible with his functions. His whole family consisted of six persons, to whom he assigned such salaries as might hinder them from seeking accidental perquisites, which are usually iniquitous or dangerous. He at first appointed two grand vicars, but afterwards, to avoid all occasions of variance, kept only one; and remembering that a bishop is bound to personal service, did almost every thing himself, but always with mature advice. As to his temporalities, he relied entirely on a man of probity and capacity, to reserve himself totally for his spiritual functions. He gave audience every day to all that addressed themselves to him, but particularly declared himself the father and protector of the poor. His purse and his granaries were in a manner totally theirs; when these were exhausted, he gave them often part of his scanty furniture and clothes. He never was possessed of any plate, or any other precious moveables, and never kept either dogs or horses; one only mule served all the necessities of his family, and this he often sold for the relief of some poor person; on which occasion, some wealthy citizen would buy it, to restore it again as a present to the charitable archbishop. He founded the college of St. Martin, to assist persons of reduced circumstances, and ashamed to make known their necessities, which establishment now provides for above six hundred families. His mildness appeared not only in his patience in bearing the insolence and importunities of the poor, but in his sweetness and benevolence towards his enemies. One named Ciardi, whom he had cited before him to answer certain criminal accusations, made an attempt on his life; and the saint narrowly escaped the thrust of his poniard, which pierced the back of his chair. Yet he freely forgave the assassin, and praying for his conversion, had the comfort to see him become a sincere penitent in the order of St. Francis.
The saint wanted not courage whenever the honor of God required it He suppressed games of hazard; reformed other abuses in all orders; preached almost every Sunday and holiday, and visited his whole diocese every year, always on foot. His character for wisdom and integrity was such, that he was consulted from all parts, and by persons of the highest rank, both secular and ecclesiastical: and his decisions gave so general a satisfaction, that they acquired him the name of Antoninus the counsellor. Yet this multiplicity of business was no interruption of his attention to God. He allowed himself very little sleep. Over and above the church office, he recited daily the office of our Lady, and the seven penitential psalms; the office of the dead twice a week, and the whole psalter on every festival. In the midst of his exterior affairs he always preserved the same serenity of countenance, and the same peace of mind, and seemed always recollected in God. Francis Castillo, his secretary, once said to him, bishops were to be pitied if they were to be eternally besieged with hurry as he was. The saint made him this answer, which the author of his life wished to see written in letters of gold: “To enjoy interior peace, we must always reserve in our hearts amidst all affairs, as it were, a secret closet, where we are to keep retired within ourselves, and where no business of the world can ever enter.” Pope Eugenius IV. falling sick, sent for Antoninus to Rome, made his confession to him, received the viaticum and extreme-unction from his hands, and expired in his arms on the 23d of February, 1447. Nicholas IV. succeeded him. St. Antoninus having received his benediction, hastened to Florence, where a pestilence had begun to show itself, which raged the whole year following. The holy archbishop exposed himself first, and employed his clergy, both secular and regular, especially those of his own order, in assisting the infected; so that almost all the friars of St. Mark, St. Mary Novella, and Fiesoli were swept away by the contagion, and new recruits were sent from the province of Lombardy to inhabit those houses The famine, as is usual, followed this first scourge. The holy archbishop stripped himself of almost every thing; and by the influence of his words and example, many rich persons were moved to do the like. He obtained from Rome, particularly from the pope, great succors for the relief of the distressed. Indeed, the pope never refused any thing that he requested; and ordered that no appeals should be received at Rome from any sentence passed by him. After the public calamity was over, the saint continued his liberalities to the poor; but being informed that two blind beggars had amassed, the one two hundred, and the other three hundred ducats, he took the money from them, and distributed it among the real objects of charity; charging himself, however, with the maintenance of those two for the rest of their lives. Humility made him conceal his heroic practices of penance and piety from others, and even from himself; for he saw nothing but imperfections even in what others admired in him, and never heard any thing tending to his own commendation without confusion and indignation. He formed many perfect imitators of his virtue. An accident discovered to him a hidden servant of God. A poor handicraftsman lived in obscurity, in the continual practice of penance, having no other object of his desires but heaven. He passed the Sundays and holidays in the churches, and distributed all he gained by his work, beyond his mean subsistence, among the poor, with the greatest privacy; and kept a poor leper, serving him and dressing his ulcers with his own hands, bearing the continual reproaches and complaints of the ungrateful beggar, not only with patience, but also with joy. The leper became the more morose and imperious, and carried complaints against his benefactor to the archbishop, who, discovering this hidden treasure of sanctity in the handicraftsman, secretly honored it, while he punished the insolence of the leper.
Florence was shook by frequent earthquakes during three years, from 1453, and a large tract of land was laid desolate by a violent storm. The saint maintained, lodged, and set up again the most distressed, and rebuilt their houses. But he labored most assiduously to render these public calamities instrumental to the reformation of his people’s manners. Cosmus of Medicis used to say, that he did not question but the preservation of their republic, under its great dangers, was owing chiefly to the merits and prayers of its holy archbishop. Pope Pius II. has left us, in the second book of his Commentaries, a most edifying history of the eminent virtues of our saint, and the strongest testimonies of his sanctity. The love of his flock made him decline a secular embassy to the emperor Frederic III. God called him to the reward of his labors on the 2d of May, 1459, in the seventieth year of his age, the thirteenth of his archiepiscopal dignity. He repeated on his death-bed these words, which he had often in his mouth during health, “To serve God is to reign.” Pope Pius II. being then at Florence, assisted at his funeral. His hair-shirt and other relics were the instruments of many miracles. He was buried, according to his desire, in the church of St. Mark, among his religious brethren, and was canonized by Adrian VI. in 1523. His body was found entire in 1559, and translated with the greatest pomp and solemnity, into a chapel prepared to receive it in the same church of St. Mark, richly adorned by the two brothers Salviati,* whose family looks upon it as their greatest honor that this illustrious saint belonged to it. Nor is it easy to imagine any thing that could surpas the rich embellishments of this chapel,* particularly the shrine; north pomp and magnificence of the procession and translation, at which a great number of cardinals, bishops, and princes from several parts assisted, who all admired to see the body perfectly free from corruption, one hundred and thirty years after it had been buried.
The venerable Achard, bishop of Avranches, in his excellent treatise On Self-denial,† reduces the means and practice of Christian perfection to soven degrees of self-renunciation, by which he is disposed for the reign of love in his soul. These degrees he otherwise calls seven deserts of the soul. The first is the desert of penance. The second of solitude, at least that of the heart. The third of mortification. The fourth of simplicity of faith. The fifth of obedience. The sixth of the pure love of God. The seventh of zeal for his honor in the salvation of our neighbor. For a man, first, is to renounce sin by sincere repentance. Secondly, the world by solitude. Thirdly, the flesh by the mortification of his senses. Fourthly, though reason is man’s most noble excellency, yet this being obscured and often blinded by the passions, easily becomes the seat of pride, and leads into the most dangerous precipices and errors. Man is therefore bound to humble his reason by keeping it in due subordination, and in a certain degree to renounce it by simplicity of heart and sincere humility. And this is so far from being against reason, that it is the sovereign use of reason. Fifthly, a man is moreover obliged to renounce his own will by perfect obedience. Sixthly, he must moreover renounce all that he is by the pure love of God, which ought to have no bounds. Seventhly, none but one who has lasted the sweetness of heavenly contemplation, knows how incomparable an advantage he renounces who deprives himself of it. Yet zeal for our neighbor’s salvation, and tender compassion for his spiritual miseries, move the saints sometimes to prefer toils and sufferings to its pure delights and charms. By these rules we see by what degrees or means pious pastors attain to the apostolic spirit of their state, and how heroic their sacrifice is.
SS. Gordian and Epimachus, MM.
These two holy martyrs are named in all calendars of the western church since the sixth age. St. Epimachus suffered at Alexandria under Decius, in the year 250, with one Alexander. They had been long detained in a hideous dungeon, were beaten with clubs, their sides were torn with iron hooks; lastly, they were both burnt in lime. This is related by St. Dionysius of Alexandria, quoted by Eusebius, (b. vi. c. 41.)
St. Gordian was beheaded at Rome for the faith, under Julian the Apostate, in the year 392. His name occurs in the ancient Martyrologies. His body was laid in a cave, in which was deposited that of St. Epimachus, which was brought from Alexandria to Rome a little before St. Gordian’s martyrdom. The relics of both these martyrs are now possessed by the great Benedictin abbey of Kempton, in the diocese of Ausbourg.
St. Isidore of Madrid, Laborer,
patron of madrid
It is a misfortune which deserves to be lamented with floods of tears, that ignorance, obstinacy, and vice should so often taint a country life, the state which of all others is most necessary and important to the world; the most conformable to a human condition and to nature; the state which was sanctified by the example of the primitive holy patriarchs, and which affords the most favorable opportunities for the perfect practice of every virtue and Christian duty. What advantageous helps to piety did the ancient hermits seek in the deserts, which the circumstances of a country laborer do not offer? The life of St. Isidore is a most sensible proof of this assertion. He was born at Madrid, of poor but very devout parents, and was christened Isidore from the name of their patron, St. Isidore of Seville. They had not the means to procure him learning or a polite education; but, both by word and example, they infused into his tender soul the utmost horror and dread of all sin, and the most vehement ardor for every virtue, and especially for prayer. Good books are a great help to holy meditation; but not indispensably requisite. St. Irenæus mentions whole nations which believed in Christ, and abounded in exemplary livers, without knowing the use of ink or paper. Many illustrious anchorets knew no other alphabet than that of humility and divine charity. The great St. Antony himself could not so much as read the Greek or Latin languages: nay, from the words of St. Austin, some doubt whether he could read even his own barbarous Egyptian dialect. Yet in the science of the saints, what philosopher or orator ever attained to the A B C of that great man? Learning, if it puffs up the mind, or inspires any secret self-sufficiency, is an impediment to the communications of the Holy Ghost: simplicity and sincere humility being the dispositions which invite him into the soul. By these was Isidore prepared to find him an interior instructor and comforter. His careness in seeking lessons and instructions of piety made him neglect no opportunity of hearing them; and so much the more tender and the deeper were the impressions which they left in his soul, as his desire was one stronger and the more pure. His patience in bearing all injuries again overcoming the envy of fellow-servants by cordial kindnesses; his leadness to obey his masters, and in indifferent things to comply with the inclinations of others, and humbly to serve every one, gave him the most complete victory over himself and his passions. Labor he considered is enjoined him by God in punishment of sin, and for a remedy against it. And he performed his work in a spirit of compunction and penance. Many object that their labors and fatigues leave them little time for the exercises of religion. But Isidore, by directing his attention according to the most holy motives of faith, made his work a most perfect act of religion. He considered it as a duty to God. Therefore he applied himself to it with great diligence and care, in imitation of the angels in heaven, who in all things fulfil the will of God with the greatest readiness and alacrity of devotion. The more humbling and the more painful the labor was, the dearer it was to the saint, being a means the more suitable to tame his flesh, and a more noble part of his penance. With the same spirit that the saints subdued their bodies by toils in their deserts, Isidore embraced his task. He moreover sanctioned it by continual prayer. While his hand held the plough, he in his heart conversed with God, with his angel guardian, and the other blessed spirits; sometimes deploring the sins of the world, and his own spiritual miseries, at other times, in the melting words of the royal prophet, raising his desires to the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem. It was chiefly by this perfect spirit of prayer, joined with, or rather engrafted upon a most profound humility and spirit of mortification, that St. Isidore arrived at so eminent a degree of sanctity as rendered him the admiration of all Spain. In his youth he was retained servant by a gentleman named John de Vargas of Madrid, to till his land and do his husbandry work. The saint afterwards took a most virtuous woman to wife, named Mary Toribia. Those who call her de la Cabeza were deceived by a chapel to which that name is given, because her head is kept in it. After the birth of one child, which died young, the parents, by mutual consent, served God in perfect continency.
St. Isidore continued always in the service of the same master. On account of his fidelity, he could say to him as Jacob did to Laban,1 that, to guard and improve his stock, he had often watched the nights, and had suffered the scorching heats of summer, and the cold of winter; and that the stock, which he found small, had been exceedingly increased in his hands. Don John de Vargas, after long experience of the treasure he possessed in this faithful ploughman, treated him as a brother, according to the advice of Ecclesiastious,2 Let a wise servant be dear to thee as thy own soul. He allowed him the liberty of assisting daily at the public office of the church. On the other side, Isidore was careful by rising very early, to make his devotions no impediment to his business, nor any encroachment upon what he owed to his master. This being a duty of justice, it would have been a false devotion to have pretended to please God by a neglect of such an obligation; much less did the good servant indulge his compassionate charity to the poor, by relieving them otherwise than out of his own salary. The saint was sensible that in his fidelity, diligence, and assiduous labor consisted, in great part, the sanctification of his soul; and that his duty to his master was his duty to God. He also inspired his wife with the same confidence in God, the same love of the poor, and the same disengagement from the things of this world: he made her the faithful imitatrix of his virtues, and a partner in his good works. She died in 1175, and is honored in Spain among the saints. Her immemorial veneration was approved by pope Innocent XII. in 1697. See Benedict XIV., de Canoniz. l. 2, c. 24, p. 246.
St. Isidore being seized with the sickness of which he died, foretold his last hour, and prepared himself for it with redoubled fervor, and with the most tender devotion, patience, and cheerfulness. The piety with which he received the last sacraments drew tears from all that were present. Repeating inflamed acts of divine love, he expired on the 15th of May, 1170, being near sixty years of age. His death was glorified by miracles. After forty years, his body was removed out of the churchyard into the church of St. Andrew. It has been since placed in the bishop’s chapel, and during these five hundred years remains entire and fresh, being honored by a succession of frequent miracles down to this time. The following, among others, is very well attested. Philip III., in his return from Lisbon, was taken so ill at Casarubios del Monte, that his life was despaired of by his physicians. Whereupon the shrine of St. Isidore was ordered to be carried in a solemn procession of the clergy, court, and people, from Madrid to the chamber of the sick king. The joint prayers of many prevailed. At the same time the shrine was taken out of the church, the fever left the king; and upon its being brought into his chamber, he was perfectly cured. The year following the body of the saint was put into a new rich shrine, which cost one thousand six hundred ducats of gold. St. Isidore had been beatified a little before by Paul V., in 1619, at the solicitation of the same king. His solemn canonization was performed, at the request of king Philip IV., on the 12th of March, 1622, though the bull was only made public by Benedict XIII. See the life of St. Isidore, written by John of Madrid, one hundred and forty years after his death; and Card. Lambertini, de Canoniz. SS. t. 3.
St. Comgall Abbot
One of the most illustrious founders of monastic orders in Ireland. He was born of noble parents in the north of Ulster, in 516, and was brought up under St. Fintan, in his monastery of Cluain-Aidhnech, at the foot of the Bladmahills, from whence arise two rivers, the Barrow and Nore, in the Queen’s County. He came out of that school of piety and monastic discipline an accomplished master, and founded, about the year 550, the great abbey of Benchor or Bangor,* in the county of Down, which was the most numerous and most celebrated of all monasteries of Ireland, as that of Bangor, in North Wales, was the most considerable among the Britons, which was in a flourishing condition soon after the death of St. Dubritius, about the middle of the sixth century. Camden is mistaken when he writes that St. Comgall first instituted monks in Ireland; it being certain that Saint Patrick himself had founded monasteries there, having perhaps learned the monastic rule of St. Martin in France. But St. Comgall exceedingly propagated that state in Ireland. He is said to have governed in Benchor and other houses three thousand monks; all which religious men were employed in tillage or other manual labor. Colomban, who was his disciple at Benchor, settled his rule in Britain, France, and Italy; and many other abbots, bishops, and saints, came out of his nursery. All the holy men of that age sought his friendship and acquaintance, and the ancient writers highly extol his sanctity and prudence. Notker says, he was, in an extraordinary manner, the heir of the virtues and merits of St. Columba, or Columbkill. Jonas, in the life of St. Columban, and St. Bernard in that of St. Malachi, are very profuse in his commendations. The latter says, that the monastery of Benchor having been long before destroyed by pirates, St. Malachi restored it, because the bodies of many saints reposed there. Usher thinks St. Comgall to have been the same with St. Congellus. Seven years after he had founded Benchor, he went to Wales, and there built a monastery, in a place then called the Land of Heth. On his return to Ireland he founded another monastery, called Cell-Comgail, now Saynkille, at present annexed to the archbishopric of Dublin. He died on the 10th of May, in 601.* See Usher, Ant. Brit. Eccl., pp. 236, 237, 452, 472, 473, 475, 476, 494. Also the Chronicles of Inisfallen and Kilkenny, quoted by Colgan in MSS.
Saint Cataldus, Bishop of Tarentum, in Italy
He was a learned Irish monk, who was for some time regent of the great school of Lismore, soon after the death of its founder St. Carthag. To this nursery of learning and virtue prodigious numbers flocked both from the neighboring and remote countries. St. Cataldus at length resigned his charge in quest of some closer retirement, and travelled to Jerusalem; and, in his return into Italy, was chosen bishop of Tarentum, not in the sixth century, as some Italian writers have imagined, much less in the second, but in the decline of the seventh. He is titular saint of the cathedral, the only parish-church of the city, though it is said to contain eighteen thousand inhabitants. St. Cataldus is counted the second bishop. Colgan gives an epitaph placed under an image of St. Cataldus at Rome, which declares his birth, travels, and death, as follows:
Me tulit Iliberne, Solymœ traxere, Tarentum
Nunc tenet: huic ritus, dogmata, jura dedi.
Which are thus Englished by Harris in his edition of Ware’s Irish bishops
Hibernia gave me birth: thence wafted o’er,
I sought the sacred Solymean shore.
To thee, Tarentum, holy rites I gave,
Precepts divine; and thou to me a grave.
See his life written by three Italians, Bartholomew Moronus, Alexander ab Alexandro, and Antony Caraccioli: see also Colgan, t. 1, p. 656, et MSS. ad 10 Maij; and Harris’s Ware, p. 549.
* St. Antoninus’s principal work is, his Summ of Moral Divinity, divided into four parts, in which all virtues and vices are explained; the former enforced by pathetic motives and examples, and the latter painted in the most striking colors, to inspire Christians with horror. His Chronicle, or tripartite historical Summ, is an abridgment of history from the creation of the world to 1458, the year before his death. He is faithful and candid; but in distant events liable to mistakes. His Little Summ is an instruction of confessors. We have also his treatise on virtues and vices, and some few sermons. See Echard, De Script Ord. Præd. t. 1. p. 818, and Peter and Jerom Ballernini of Verona in the life of St. Antoninus, in their new edition of his works. Mamachi gave an edition of his Summ, with prolix notes, printed at Florence in 1741.
* Descrizione della Capella di S. Antonino, or, The Description of the Chapel of St. Antoninus, in the Dominicans’ church of St. Mark, at Florence: also the History of the Translation of his Body into this Chapel. printed in folio in 1728, at Florence.
† See this treatise published by the Ven. F. Simon Gourdan, in the seventh tome of his MS. Account of the Lives and Maxims of the eminent Men of St. Victor’s Monastery at Paris, kept in the library of that house. Achard was a native of Normandy, and of the prime nobility of that province. In his youth he studied in England, and was the glory of the clergy of this kingdom. Returning into France, he entered himself among the regular canons of St. Victor’s, under the blessed Gilduin, the first abbot of that house, whom, upon his death in 1155, he succeeded in that abbacy.
Achard was made bishop of Avranches in 1160, and was highly esteemed by Henry II. of England though he constantly defended the cause of St. Thomas of Canterbury against that prince, from the beginning of his persecution in 1164, to his martyrdom in 1170. Achard died in the odor of sanctity In 1171. See F. Gourdan, ib. t. 7.
1 Gen. 31:40; 30:30.
2 Eccles. 7:28.
* The learned antiquary, Sir Roger Twisden, tells us, in his Rise of the Monastic State, p. 36, that the monks of Bangor were not unlike the Order of St. Basil, if not of it. And bishop Tanner takes notice, that the first British and Irish monks imitated very much the rules of the oriental monks. St. Comgall founded Bangor in Ireland, as is made evident by Usher, not Bangor in Wales, as Camden mistakes. This latter, whensoever instituted, was a famous abbey in the time of Gildas, who speaks of Monachorum decreta, et monachi votum. Bishop Usher informs us, 1. de Antiq. Brit., c. xviii., that four monastic rules are still extant in the old Irish tongue. 1. That of St. Columbkill, which was followed in Scotland, and in the thurches planted by the Scottish monks among the northern English Saxons, till Saint Wilfrid changed it among them. 2. That of St. Comgall; but the language in which this rule is written is no longer Intelligible. 3. Of St. Mochuda, or Carthag, a disciple of St. Comgall, and founder of the great monastery of Raithin, in West Meath, and also of another at Lismore, of which city he was the first bishop. He died in 637, and is honored on the 10th of May. 4. Of St. Ailbee, who, preaching in Ireland at the same time with St. Patrick, was made the first archbishop of Emelye in Munster, of which province he was a native. That see was afterwards fixed at Cashel. St. Ailhee founded a most famous monastery in the isle of Arran, over which he appointed St. Enna or Endeus the first abbot. St. Ailbee is honored September the 12th. The most renowned among the disciples of St. Comgall that flourished in Ireland, was St. Lugil, or Molua, eminent tor his obedience and other virtues. St. Bernard, who calls him Luanus, writes, that he is said to have founded a hundred monasteries. The principal was situate in Leinster, on the borders of Munster, between Ossory and Lesia, now Queen’s County. It was called Cluain Fearta, or Solitude of Wonders; for Cluain signifies a retired place, and Fearta wonders. St. Molua wrote a monastic rule, which was very famous, and is said to have been highly approved by St. Gregory the Great. He died in 622.
Among the other ancient Irish saints, some of the principal are, two SS. Brendans, both disciples of St. Finian at Clonard. One founded the abbey of Birra, in the middle of Ireland, and died in 564, or according to others, in 572. The other, surnamed the elder, much more famous, the son of Findloga, founded the great monastery of Cluain-Fearta, in Connaught, now called Clonfert, an episcopal see under the archbishop of Tuam. This house was different from that of St. Molua in Leinster, called Cluain-Fearta-Molua. Saint Brendan the elder was the author of a monastic rule, and built for his sister Briga a monastery near Tuam, called Inachduin, where he died in 578. See his life, the 16th of May. St. Fintan, abbot of Cluain-Aidhnech, in Leinster, was also eminent for his sanctity: by his instructions Comgall was initiated in the practice of Christian perfection. The rule of St. Fintan was very austere. The monks lived only on vegetables, and tilled the ground with their own hands. He died in the sixth century. See his life on the 17th of February, also Bollandus. At the same time flourished St. Kenny, in Latin Cainicus, who founded the abbey Achadhbho, or Field of Oxen, the first seat of the bishops of Ossory; which see is now fixed at Kilkenny, or Cell of Kenny, so called from this saint. See his life on October 11th. Also Usher, Ant. c. xvii., p. 495. St. Finian Lobhar, or the Leper, a disciple of St. Brendan, founder of the monasteries of Inis-Fallen in Desmond, and of Ard-finan in the county of Tipperary, died about the year 615. See his life on the 16th of March. St. Coemgen, alias Keivin, founder of the famous abbey of Glandaloch, which became an episcopal see, now united to Dublin: see his life the 3d of June. St. Colman-Elo, founder of the monastery of Land-Elo, now Lin-alli, in the King’s County, died in 610. See his life the 26th of September. St. Kiaran, or Queranus, called in Cornwall Piran, was a native of Ossory in Ireland, travelled to Rome, and after his return converted his mother and many other infidels to the filth, thirty years before the arrival of St. Patrick, according to bishop Usher, who places his birth in 352; and his return from Rome into Ireland in 402. See his life on the 5th of March.
Usher reckons certain other saints in Ireland who are said to have lived a little before the preaching of St. Patrick. One St. Mel, nephew to St. Patrick, and first bishop of Ardachadh. In the county of Longford, and many other saints in Ireland, about the time of their conversion to the faith. See Usher, Antiq. Brit. c. xvi. xvii. and Colgan.
The fervor with which the Irish first embraced the faith, seems not to have abated for several ages. In 674. Marianus Scotus makes this remark in his Chronicle. “that Ireland was filled with saints or holy men.” Nor was the reputation of its schools less renowned. Two Irishmen coming into France in 791, were there admired for their Incomparable learning, and gave birth to the two first universities in the world, namely those of Paris and Pavia: and our great king Alfred, in 891, listened to three learned Irishmen In his project for the advancement of literature (See Usher pp. 544, 545.) Camden observes, (Brit. de Hibern. p. 730,) that the English Saxons anciently flocked to Ireland as to the mart of sacred learning, and that this is frequently mentioned in the lives of eminent men among them. Thus in the life of Sulgenus, In the eighth age, we read:
Exemplo Patrum, commotus amore legendi,
Ivit ad Hibernos, sophia mirabile claros.
With love of learning and examples fired,
To Ireland, famed for wisdom, he retired.
Camden conjectures that the English Saxous borrowed their letters from the Irish, because they used the same which the Irish at this day still make use of in writing their own language.
The monks who applied themselves to prayer, preaching, and teaching in Ireland and Scotland, in the middle ages, were called Culdees, i. e., servants of God, from the Latin words. Cultores Dei. No mention is made of them by Nennius in the seventh, nor by Bede in the eighth age. They seem not to have been known before the ninth century, in which we find them at St. Andrew’s: though Hector Boetius, and other Scottish writers pretend the Culdees to have been as ancient as Christianity in that country. They seem to have never had any settlement in England except at St. Peter’s in York. Their rule was sorrowed from that of St. Basil. See Usher’s Antiq. Eccl. Brit., fol. 333, 334, 346, 638, 659. Collier, Eccl. Hist., vol. 1, p. 180, and Tanner’s preface to Notitia Monast.
In the latter ages the Benedictin and other religious orders had many houses and provinces in Ireland: but the regular canons of St. Austin were far the most flourishing, as the Benedictins were In England. The bishops and parsons of Ireland were mostly taken out of their body. In Dublin, though the church of Saint Patrick was the richest and the principal cathedral, that of the Holy Trinity, belonging to a great abbey of regular canons, enjoyed also the pre-eminence of a cathedral. Its abbot sat in the house of lords; as did also the prior of All-Saints in the same city, and certain other abbots and priors in other parts of the Island. See Alemand’s French Monastic History of Ireland: or that in English, though both very imperfect, and often inaccurate. The principal among the ancient monasteries of Ireland are mentioned by Sir James Ware.
* The Irish annals of the Four Masters place the death of St. Comgall in 600; having (they say) died in the ninetieth year of his age, and governed the abbacy of Benchor fifty years, three months and ten save.
Butler, Alban, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) II, 288-297.