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The Life And Writings Of Saint Patrick -Saint Patrick

Echu, son of Crimthann, who gave his name to the territory, was ruler of this sub-kingdom of Clogher at the time, and he seems to have been the chief king of all Western Oriel. In the Book of Rights he is described as ‘King of Leamhain, Ui Crimthainn, and Siol Duibhthire’; and these three sub-tribes, so far as we can judge, possessed at the time the district now known as the barony of Clogher. It is clear that Echu, at Patrick’s request, gave him a place for Mac Cartan’s monastery and church near his own royal dun; but it appears also that he did so with great reluctance, and it is not improbable that the reason of his reluctance was the fact that Mac Cartan, who was placed over the new foundation, was a stranger in that kingdom—a thing which the native chiefs greatly disliked there as well as elsewhere.

King Echu had two sons and one daughter, of whom special mention is made. ‘Cairbre, surnamed Damargait, believed, and Patrick blessed him and blessed his seed,’ in whom the royal race was continued; but Breasal, the second son, refused to believe, and ‘Patrick cursed him’; that is, he foretold that his offspring would not be enduring or prosperous. The maiden, Cinnu, the King’s daughter, however, was a child of grace, and the Tripartite tells a most touching story of her generous self-sacrifice in the cause of God.

Her father wished the maiden to wed a man of noble birth and great power, namely—Cormac, son of Cairbre, and therefore grandson of Niall the Great. This young prince might also be described as their neighbour, for the growing power of the Hy Niall encompassed the men of Oriel on all sides, and Cairbre ruled over North Longford as well as Drumcliff. The alliance, therefore, from every point of view, was one greatly to be desired.

Just then, however, as Cinnu was walking with her maidens near Clogher, she happened to meet Patrick with his companions; and Patrick, who never missed an opportunity of promoting the cause of Christ, preached to the royal maiden, and recommended her to unite herself to the spiritual Spouse, giving up her earthly love, and devoting herself thenceforward to His service. Thereupon ‘she believed, and followed Patrick, and Patrick baptised her afterwards,’ when she was properly instructed. Meanwhile, her father was urging her espousals to Prince Cormac. Thereupon both Patrick and the maiden, who had resolved to become a nun, sought an interview with her father, or, in the words of the Tripartite, ‘went to converse with him’ on the subject. Patrick asked her father to allow her ‘to be united to the Eternal Spouse’ by making her religious profession. Echu reluctantly consented; but it was on the condition that heaven were given to himself by Patrick in exchange for his daughter, and, moreover, that he ‘should not be compelled to be baptised’—at that time, as we must assume. Patrick promised to do these two things, although, the Tripartite naively remarks, ‘it was a difficult thing for him to do.’ Then the King allowed his daughter Cinnu ‘to be united to Christ, and Patrick caused her to become a female disciple of his’; and delivered her to a certain virgin to be taught, namely—to Cechtumbar of Drum Dubain, ‘in which place both virgins have their rest.’

The Life of St. Patrick abounds in beautiful and touching stories, but there is none more beautiful and touching than this; and its simple pathos is augmented when we read St. Patrick’s own account of it, for there can be no doubt that it is this royal maiden to whom he particularly refers in his Confession, when he wishes to show the zeal of the Irish men and maidens in devoting themselves to the service of God in religion. ‘One blessed Irish maiden,’ he says, ‘of full age, noble birth, and very beautiful, whom I myself baptised, came to me a few days after (her baptism) for an urgent reason, for she told me that she had received a divine inspiration urging her to become a virgin of Christ, in order that she might come nearer to God. Thanks be to God! Six days after, most religiously and zealously she realised that divine vocation, like so many other virgins of God, who follow the same course, not with the good will of their parents, but rather enduring contumely and persecution at their hands.’

Here, surely, we have a very striking picture of the infant Church of Ireland, and in the foreground must always stand the beautiful figure of the royal daughter of Oriel spurning an alliance even with a prince of the great Hy Niall race, and devoting herself, with all the peerless graces of her spotless maidenhood, to the life-long service of her Eternal Spouse.

It was truly a great sacrifice on the part of King Echu to part with such a daughter; and, it appears, if we can trust the Tripartite, that God forgave his ‘ignorances,’ half-pagan as he was; and for Patrick’s sake, and his daughter’s sake, saved him at last. We may safely accept the truth of the story, for surely Cinnu would be as dear to her Spouse in Erin as even Martha and Mary were in Bethany.

After many years, we are told, ‘the aforesaid Echu’ came to die; but he said to those standing around—“Bury me not until Patrick shall have come.” Now, Patrick, at that time, was biding at Saul in Uladh, where we know he lived much in his old age; and, having an inspiration about Echu’s approaching death, he resolved to journey all the way to Clogher. There he found that Echu had been dead for twenty-four hours. Then putting outside all the watchers around the corpse, “Patrick bent his knees to the Lord, and shed tears, and prayed, and afterwards said with a clear voice—‘O, King Echu, in the name of Almighty God, arise’; and straightway the King arose at the voice of God’s servant.” Patrick then instructed the King and baptised him, and furthermore offered him fifteen years in the quiet enjoyment of his throne, or, if he thought it better, he might at once go forth to heaven. Thereupon Echu said that even if he were to get the kingship of the whole globe, he would prefer to die and enjoy the glory of which he had seen a dim vision. So Patrick said—‘Go in peace, and depart to God, and thereupon his spirit went forth to heaven.’ Not for Echu’s sake, but because of his blessed daughter, Patrick did these wonderful things; and they are by no means of themselves incredible. Yet, perhaps, the true history of the case would be that Patrick, hearing of King Echu’s danger, went to see the old king at his urgent request, that he gave him the long-deferred baptism, and the resurrection from sin, which was in itself a foretaste of the joys beyond the grave, and so sent him straight to heaven.

These things took place, as we are expressly informed, at Clochar Mac Doimni—that is, at Rathmore palace—and those who bear them in mind, when they journey through that fair and fertile vale of Clogher, will, doubtless, look on the grand old rath with a far livelier interest than heretofore.






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